The Baptist Oak, located at 248 S. Chilton Avenue in Goliad, Texas, is a true testament to religious freedom. It was here, in 1849, that the first Baptist Church west of the Guadalupe River was organized. The date was May 7th. Reverend John Hillyer, acting as the moderator, met with eleven others under the live oak.
His followers, who helped establish this church, were Mary Hillyer, the Reverend’s wife, their two children, Ann and Hamilton Hillyer, William H. Crow and his wife, Philania Crow, Pryor and Mary Lea, George G. Brightman, Emeline Russell and the Hillyer’s servants, Jacob and his wife, Eliza. Two years earlier, Reverend John Freeman Hillyer arrived from a pastorate in Galveston. A college-trained man from Georgia, Reverend Hillyer had four academic degrees.
Education was very important to the Reverend, who was also a physician and an educator. He came to Goliad to establish a college for women. He operated a female school in the old Aranama Mission. The school opened in February 1849 for ten month terms. Hillyer Female College, as it was called, offered instruction in Greek and Latin, piano, drawing, painting, and needlework. The college was only in operation for three years. It was then replaced by Aranama College.
Hillyer Female College would not have happened at all without the help of Baptists in Goliad. Hillyer thanked them by beginning the first Baptist Church in Goliad under the Baptist Oak. The Baptist Oak still stands strong and is open for public access. The Baptist Oak signifies religious freedom and the beginning of a strong Baptist presence in the Goliad area. It’s a great testament to faith and a wonderful reminder of a great man’s commitment to his religion and education.
People still visit the Baptist Oak today to remember the great creation of a Baptist church in Goliad. The tree stands tall and true much like the faith of the folks who built the original church. We, at Austin Tree Service, admire the strength of the tree and its symbolic representation of religious freedom. To have your oaks treated well, give us a call at 512-341-8888.