I love Elmo, but I can only take so much Sesame Street. When I’ve had enough and need to get out of town, my granddaughter gets to be my #getlost adventure partner. One of our recent daytrips took us to Independence, Texas.
We headed out with the goal of visiting The Antique Rose Emporium (a place that needs to be on your Central Texas must-see list).
I feel certain that my mom and dad tried to educate me about Independence years ago. I also feel certain I must not have been paying attention to the Texas history lesson as we drove through what I thought of as another tired town without a mall (the mark of a cool town to my pre-teen way of thinking).
Country Driving and History Lessons
In more recent years, the community has done a decent job of highlighting the area’s past. Stopping to read the historical markers and appreciate the old buildings, which includes the Texas President Sam Houston’s, family home, I found a wealth of interesting history.
And then I looked around and saw the town for what it is now—and what it might have been.
Actually, town is a generous description. With a population of 140, it is an unincorporated community. The retail locations in this rural community include one general store–restaurant–gas station, The Antique Rose Emporium and … that’s about it.
It used to be the wealthiest community in Texas (way back in 1845). It was also the birthplace of what is now the University of Mary Hardin Baylor (now located in Belton, Texas) and Baylor University (now located in Waco, Texas).
So what happened to Independence?
The community said no to progress. When the Santa Fe railroad wanted to come through the town, the founding fathers and the school leaders refused—and sealed the town’s fate as a rural community. Students had a hard time getting to college, commerce circumvented the area, and eventually, what was left was ranch and farmland.
I’m not saying that was the wrong decision. Plenty of towns along those same Santa Fe railroad tracks now lie in varying states of dilapidation and gentrification. Independence looks rural—as if it were never much more than what it is now. And maybe that’s better than having been something great only to waste away as a ghost town like so many others that dot Texas highways.
Honestly, the people who call Independence, Texas, home now probably enjoy the quiet and don’t regret the choice. Rural is all they’ve ever known the town to be. And when a “big shop” is called for, there’s a Wal-Mart in Brenham about 20 minutes away.
Thursday is Chicken Fried Steak day.
The general store, like any decent country mercantile, sells a variety of essentials, including PVC fittings, energy drinks, and gasoline. As I circled the town that afternoon, stopping to take pictures and noticing the details of the community, one of the things that surprised me was that the general store was hopping. Vehicles, mostly trucks, lined both sides of the road. When we stopped in later after our visit to The Antique Rose Emporium, I learned that it was chicken fried steak day, clearly a fan favorite.
I left the store with a ham and cheese (sliced American) sandwich and an orange and headed down Hood Hotel Road for a quick picnic at Baylor Park, a pretty site honoring the town’s very early days and what might have been.
If for no other reason, I’ll go back to the area to visit The Antique Rose Emporium and enjoy the flowers, water garden and simple beauty. If you’re looking for some new plants for your garden or just want to take a nice country drive, a route through Independence, Texas, might be in order.
Learn More before You Go
http://www.independencetx.com — Find out what’s going on now in Independence, Texas.
https://antiqueroseemporium.com — If you haven’t been to this beautiful nursery and event venue, put it on your must-visit list. Even if you have been, put it on your list, because there’s always something new blooming!
https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/independence-tx-washington-county — Discover more about Independence’s history.