To date, Burleson has four historical markers, placed in 1968, 1970, 2006, and 2009. Other markers will undoubtedly follow as those pursuing Burleson’s past make the time to do right by their ancestors and those who follow them.
This page draws from material in the 1981 book Burleson - The First One Hundred Years and the writer's personal knowledge. The first historical marker in Burleson, erected in 1968 at the site of Red Oak Academy, came to pass by the efforts of a devoted group of residents, including my great-aunt, Lorena Mercer Hardgrove.
Red Oak Academy
Reproduced from Burleson – The First One Hundred Years, Dallas, Taylor Publishing, 1981.
Written by Lorena Mercer Hardgrove
Although this site did not become involved quite so early as 1879 with the higher education movement, it “inherited” in later years a school that began that year. This school, the first operated in the vicinity of Burleson, was a 30 by 40-foot frame building erected at Brushy Mound. Its first teacher was J.T. Galloway. Succeeding teachers at Brushy Mound included a Mr. Heuskden, Fisher Rector, Berry Stout, Will Pearson (a graduate of Add-Ran College), a Miss Taylor and A.P. Thomas.
During the superintendency of Thomas, there was a movement to obtain a better school for the locality. Among civic leaders interested in this were J.H. Bills, J.W. Haskew, D.I. Murphy, T.N. Pierce, T.K. Stone, and J.A. Thompson. Rock Creek and other small communities were canvassed, and it was found that there were many citizens interested in better educational facilities.
At a meeting on April 17, 1885, in the Baptist Church in Burleson, it was suggested that the school should be in Burleson. But Brushy Mound people were putting up most of the money, and wanted it in their community, so it was situated there, only a few miles away from Burleson.
D.I. Murphy, a leading citizen, gave $7,000 to start the fund, and canvassed Fort Worth and surrounding towns for contributions. In a building completed in November, 1885, the new school opened under the name of Alta Vista College.
A.P. Thomas was president; the staff was composed of Thomas, a Mr. Miller, and Miss Sofia Shannon. For a while the school seemingly was going well. But as it had no funds other than the contributions of its patrons, finances had become a great problem.
Meantime, Burleson was growing; it needed a good school, and proposed to move Alta Vista College into town, but was met with the opposition of Brushy Mound people. In 1889 Burleson people decided to build their own school and withdrew patronage from Alta Vista. This further weakened the college, and Mr. Thomas resigned to accept a better position elsewhere.
In spite of its difficulties, Alta Vista College kept operating until 1893, when it was transferred to the ownership of Red Oak Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and became Red Oak Academy – about the equivalent of a junior collerge.
The Rev. L.C. Collier was named president. There were boarding houses for both girls and boys (the boys’ operating under the name of “The Hamontree House”). The oldest student on record was a man of 40; the youngest admitted, a girl of 15.
The great event of 1898 was the dropping out of three boys to enlist in the Spanish-American War.
In the fall of 1898, the Rev. D.C. Ellis succeeded Mr. Collier as president. In the spring of 1899, disaster struck in the form of a typhoid fever epidemic. Fatalities included several students and two of the teachers, Misses Sallie Gerard and Clyde Houston. There were three students who remained in school long enough to graduate that spring, but the school closed early and never again reopened. The property reverted to the ownership of the Brushy Mound Community.
In 1900, largely through the ownership of G.W. Bransom, the schoolhouse was moved from Brushy Mound to Burleson, on wagons. The two-story building was constructed of the heaviest timbers, and the low bid of $350 proved deficient when the work of moving began. This was cancelled, and a new contract made at $500.
In Burleson the structure was joined to an existent school building, to form the plant for Burleson High School, of which E.T. Genheimer was then principal. In 1909 this building burned and had to be replaced.
During its years of service as Alta Vista College and as Red Oak Academy, this pioneer educational center probably enrolled about 500 students. Many of these became teachers, and through their work extended the influence of the pioneer academy and college far beyond the primary circle of its contacts.
Alta Jack, for example, studied here and later in Waco and in Europe, and spent a long teaching career on the Baylor faculty. Floy Houston (later Mrs. Gordon) taught in Cleburne and in Kansas.
Amy Porter, after her days at Brushy Mound, continued in school until she received the degree of doctor of medicine.
George Murphy transferred from Alta Vista in 1889, and after further education became county auditor of Johnson County, an office in which he served for many years. Henry Bills, alumnus of the school at Brushy Mound, became a successful lawyer, his brother and schoolmate, Brent Bills, was the postmaster at Gotebo, Oklahoma.
The pioneers who established this school and maintained it as such sacrificed cost for 14 years deserve the gratitude pf Texans, for they did a worthy work.
Reproduced from Burleson – The First One Hundred Years, Dallas, Taylor Publishing, 1981.
By Mrs. Royce Baker (Wynetta Baker)
The Renfro-Clark Home is located at 128 North Clark Street in Burleson. This house is located about 200 feet from the street. It was built in 1894 by Mrs. H.C. Renfro, who was the widow of Henry C. Renfro, and their only daughter, Mrs. Margaret Annette Baker Clark.
When the MKT Railroad wanted to come south from Fort Worth, a Mr. Dodge, who represented the railroad, asked Mr. Renfro if he would sell the land to the railroad. Mr. Renfro was not in favor of selling all the land to the railroad, preferring to sell them only every other lot. However, he finally agreed to selling all the lots if he could name the town. The deal was confirmed and he was given permission to name the townsite Burleson after his very good friend, Dr. Rufus C. Burleson, then President of Waco Classical College. Prior to that time, Mr. Renfro had named his only son James Burleson Renfro after his friend.
Mr. Renfro lived south of town at that time and he never lived in the town of Burleson. After he died in 1885, his widow, Mary R. Renfro, and his daughter decided to move into town. So it was then they built the house presently at 128 N. Clark Street.
The house took approximately six months to complete. It was copied after a house that is presently located between Burleson and Alvarado. At the time the house was built, it was one of approximately six houses on the east side of the MKT Railroad. It was the first house to be built in the M.A. Clark Addition.
The builder of the house was a Mr. Pribble, who was a master carpenter. The structure of the house is late Victorian. The house is topped by a cupola and originally it had two back porches that have been enclosed. The ceilings of the house were high and some have been lowered.
The wood used in the house came from Dallas and was carried to Burleson by wagon. The nails used were square. Most of the lumber contained no knots.
Since it was built 76 years ago, it has been in the same family and four generations have lived in the house. First, there was the widow of Mr. H.C. Renfro, her daughter, Mrs. M.A. Clark, and her grandchildren, James Renfro and Mary Pearl Baker. Mary Pearl married Hugh Clark and raised 8 children (one of whom died in infancy). James Renfro Baker still lives in Burleson, Texas.
The street in front of the house was named for James Clark, who was the husband of Margaret Annette Clark. He was Pearl Clark’s stepfather and he was no relation to her husband.
The main street through the town was named Renfro Street after H.C. Renfro.
Renfro-Clark Home, owned by Barry Phillips of Burleson
December 28, 2008
Text of the marker, in full:
At the turn of the 20th Century, the Northern Texas Traction Co. found success with an Interurban Railway that operated between Fort Worth and Dallas. In 1911, a group began planning a new Interurban that would run from Fort Worth to Cleburne by way of Everman, Burleson, and Joshua. By that time, Burleson had approximately 700 residents and an active business district, and the city incorporated in 1912. The Fort Worth Southern Traction Co. came to town that year seeking employees and arranged with businessman and community leader Albert H. Loyless to be their location representative. He moved his Loyless-Robbins Pharmacy from a two-story wooden building across the street to a new brick building at this site. The traction company constructed an electrical plant and freight dock behind the building, and the pharmacy, complete with soda foundation and Interurban ticket counter, occupied the front of the orange-brick structure.
The first public run of the electrical train line came through Burleson on September 1, 1912. From that date until 1931, the train carried people in and out of town, brought goods to them from other cities, and helped make the pharmacy a community center. In 1935, a few years after the Interurban ceased its service and motor coaches and automobiles took its place, Loyless, accepting the position of Burleson Postmaster, moved his business next door to the post office. Robert Deering bought the former pharmacy building and from it published his newspaper, the Burleson News (later Burleson Dispatcher). The city later purchased the building for use as a visitor’s center.
Local historian Michael H. Beard thoroughly researched the Loyless Interurban Drugstore and the Northern Texas Traction Company's involvement in Burleson and Johnson County over a six-year period. He received assistance from Dorothy Schwartz of the Johnson County Historical Commission in applying for the marker. The City of Burleson graciously installed the marker at the Burleson Heritage Visitors Center, 124 West Ellison Street, on July 25, 2006. A formal dedication was held on Founders Day, October 14, 2006.
Michael H. Beard and Alicia Duvall (daughter of newspaper publisher R.G.K. Deering)
attend the dedication ceremony for the historical marker, October 14, 2006
Text of the marker, in full:
The First Baptist Church has served Burleson's residents since 1884, shortly after the town was founded. In 1881, the town organized when the Missouri, Kansas & Texas (MKT) Railroad arrived. By 1882, the town had a post office and several businesses and residences. Settlers soon began to worship at the schoolhouse, but moved later to a store and then to a hotel. The First Baptist Church was organized at the hotel in 1884. Dr. R.C. Burleson, an educator, Baptist Minister, and later President of Baylor University, and the man for whom the community was named, moderated the organizational meetin. Twenty-six women and twelve men presented letters from their former churches, declared themselves in fellowship with one another, and became charter members of the Baptist Church of Burleson. The church began to meet monthly under the leadership of the Reverend D.I. Smith. Grenville M. Dodge, a railroad financier and speculator, donated the church site, and a church structure was constructed by 1885. A new building that could be used by other denominations when not in use by the Baptists was constructed in 1895. In 1907, Rev. A.E. Boyd became the church's first full-time minister, and additional buildings were added beginning in 1917.
The First Baptist Church has had a long and dedicated focus on mission work. In 1940, members opened an African American church north of Burleson. Additionally, two pastors became foreign missionaries, serving in the Philippines and in Colombia. Other community programs begun by the church include a bus ministry to provide transportation to church services, a day care center and the Christian Counseling Center.
Thanks to Brenden Burden for tipping me off to the marker. Now, which church will follow in the Baptists' footsteps? Hmm...