SFA Story: The History of Stephen F. Austin State University

Historical Markers

Karle Wilson Baker

Marker Text: In the early and mid-20th century, Nacogdoches was the home of a notable poet, writer and woman of letters. Karle Wilson, daughter of William and Kate (Montgomery) Wilson, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in October 1878. Her parents moved to Nacogdoches by 1900, and after attending college and teaching, Karle moved to Nacogdoches in 1905. In August 1907, she married local banker Thomas E. Baker, and the couple had two children.

Karle Wilson Baker first published in 1903 with a poem in Harper's magazine. In the 1910s, she became the most frequently published poet in the Yale Review. Yale University Press published her first collections of poems, Blue Smoke and Burning Bush, and Old Coins, a book of fables. These publications established her national reputation. In 1924, the Dallas News labeled Baker "The Poet of Quiet Things," and Southern Methodist University awarded her an honorary doctorate of letters. Baker showed versatility, writing poems, essays and novels. The State Textbook Commission adopted her children's history reader, The Texas Flag Primer. Her 1931 collection of poems, Dreamers on Horseback, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Two of her successful historical novels, Family Style (1937) and Star of the Wilderness (1942), were set in east Texas.

When the State Board of Regents dedicated Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College on April 30, 1924, Baker read two poems, "Within the Alamo" and "The Pine Tree Hymn," and the latter became the college's first school song. She began teaching at the college in 1924 and taught there ten years. Stephen F. Austin State University houses the majority of her papers. Baker wrote in her diary that "writing my poems is seldom more laborious than skimming the cream from my thoughts. It just needs time and quiet to rise." (2007)

Karle Wilson Baker Marker Dedication

Charlotte Baker Montgomery
Charlotte Baker Montgomery stands beside the Texas Historical Marker dedicated to her mother, poet Karle Wilson Baker.
Principle Guests
From left Diane Baker, Jerry Baker (grandson), Carol Willis (grand neice), Charlotte Baker Montgomery (daughter), Valerie Ertz (Chair, Board of Regents), Dr. Baker Pattillo (President of SFASU), Sarah Jackson (speaker & biographer), Dr. Jere Jackson (Chairman, Nacogdoches County Historical Commission).
Dedication Crowd
Sarah Jackson, author of Mrs. Baker's biography, speaks to the assembly of family, friends, faculty, Regents, and President Pattillo at the dedication on December 14, 2007.