151–175

From the construction of the state’s first public university in College Station to the swearing in of Governor Rick Perry for a third full term in Austin

151 | Texas A&M Is Founded

Old Main, northeast of Legett Hall; College Station | October 4, 1876

Prompted by the Morrill Act of 1862, which dedicated proceeds from the sale of public lands to the establishment of agricultural and mechanical colleges, the Legislature authorized the construction of the state’s first public university. A site in Brazos County was chosen, just outside Bryan on the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. The first building constructed at this “college station” was called Old Main. It was erected northeast of present-day Legett Hall, and the opening day was filled with celebrations, including a speech by Governor Richard Coke. Soon forty or so students—all men—listened as six professors—also all men—lectured on engineering, agriculture, and military tactics. The first class of Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College (more commonly known today as Texas A&M) was born. — HWB

152 | Aggies light the first Bonfire

Simpson Drill Field, College Station | 1909


Cushing Library/Texas A&M University

Texas A&M’s first on-campus Bonfire was a modest affair: just a small pile of scrap wood and trash. No photographs of the blaze exist (the picture above is from 1925), but David Chapman, the university’s archivist, believes that it was held on or near Simpson Drill Field. “According to Ernest Langford, class of 1913, the Bonfire burned ‘the night before we went to Austin,’ ” Chapman says. “One could logically assume that it was specifically lit for the Texas game.” Not until World War II did the Bonfire grow in stature, both literally and figuratively. It remained at Simpson Drill Field until 1954, when it moved to Duncan Field. In 1992 the Bonfire was relocated once again, to the Polo Fields, where it remained until the campus tradition was ended by the Bonfire collapse of 1999. — PC

153 | Texas declares independence

Along FM 1155, Washington-on-the-Brazos | March 2, 1836

In a rickety house with no doors and only cotton cloths to block the freezing wind, 59 delegates met at Convention Hall in Washington-on-the-Brazos, on present-day FM 1155, seven miles southwest of Navasota, where a replica stands today. The men had gathered to decide the future of Texas. Five delegates—George C. Childress, Edward Conrad, James Gaines, Bailey Hardeman, and Collin McKinney—drafted a Declaration of Independence, and on March 2, it was motioned for adoption by Childress. It was unanimously approved within one hour of its first and only reading, according to the diary of a lawyer named William Fairfax Gray. One hundred and seventy-five miles away, the Alamo was in the eighth day of its siege, so Sam Houston—the newly appointed commander in chief of the military—sent news to William B. Travis that “independence is declared, it must be maintained.” The delegates began drafting a constitution, but

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