Wayland grandchildren share stories with WBU freshmen
October 12, 2010
PLAINVIEW – “To all of you they were Dr. and Mrs. Wayland, but to us, they were just mamaw and papaw, and we saw them every day of our lives,” said Linda Lees Adkins, granddaughter of Wayland Baptist University founders Dr. J.H. Wayland and wife Sarah.
Holding up photo portraits of her grandparents, Adkins and her brother Bill Lees then shared several stories about the man behind the university and the more personal side of their lives as part of the real Wayland family. Adkins and Lees addressed two University Life classes on Monday in the Heritage Room of the Mabee Learning Resources Center, a fitting backdrop with its shelves of old medical books and framed antique photographs of the pioneer doctor and his family.
Both living in Plainview, Adkins and Lees are the children of the late Mary Wayland Lees, one of the Wayland daughters and a “real pistol” according to her own children. Though both were only 10 and 9 when their grandfather Wayland died in 1948, the two have vivid memories of those years and lots of stories passed down from generations of those who knew the doctor and Sarah when they were much younger and more active.
“By the time we knew him, Papaw was older and sick and he’d lost a leg already to diabetes, so he was a little grumpy,” Lees said. “But we always knew he loved us.”
The pair passed around their own personal Wayland family scrapbooks for the students to peruse while they shared stories, each replete with old photographs, newspaper clippings and the other memorabilia. But the students found most fascinating the stories shared of the more candid moments in the Wayland family.
Lees shared how Dr. Wayland converted to the Baptist denomination when he fell in love with Sarah, whose parents were staunchly against their children marrying anyone who wasn’t Baptist. He kept the secret of the switch from his Methodist parents for several years, until they came to live with the couple in Plainview and he couldn’t hide the truth any longer.
“If it wasn’t for the love of that beautiful woman, what do you think this university might be called today?” Lees asked with a smile. “Wayland Methodist University.”
Adkins shared how her grandparents left Parker County, Texas, for the drier plains of West Texas with all their belongings on three rail cars, including the lumber and goods to build a home since Sarah had announced she would not live in a dugout. They arrived in Amarillo and pointed their horses and buggy south to Plainview.
“There were no roads, no trails, no telephone poles to guide the way, but to them it was beautiful,” said Adkins. “They were starting out on the most wonderful adventure of their lives.”
Adkins and Lees said while the Waylands were active churchgoers – founding members of Plainview’s First Baptist Church – and involved in many civic events, their children were busy doing what children do: getting into trouble. He related a story about his own mother, Mary, getting into trouble after she and sister Sarah and brother John pushed a cow up the stairs at Gates Hall then couldn’t get him to come back down. Linda shared how Mrs. Wayland often had to drag a teenaged Mary out of the dance halls in Plainview because Dr. Wayland didn’t believe good Baptist girls danced.
“They were always having to apologize in chapel on Monday for things they had done,” laughed Lees.
From the yearly ritual of eating ground sulphur mixed with black molasses – a surefire cure for Spring Fever – to Sunday dinners of fried chicken and whatever random church guests the doctor brought home, life was never dull around the Wayland home. The grandparents had a sense of humor and loved doing things for people.
“Papaw had three main loves: his family, his God and this college,” Bill said. “At his funeral, one of the officiants came down off the platform, touched his casket and said, ‘No matter what else you’ve heard here, he was a good man.’ And that was true. There were no skeletons in his closet; he was just a good man.”
Both Lees and Adkins agree that the doctor’s commitment to starting the school which was then located on the outskirts of Plainview was a lifelong one that involved his entire family. He took his financial pledge seriously and the rest of the family helped chip in to pay the debt he felt he owed, above and beyond the initial gift of $10,000 and 25 acres of land to start the college.
“Their children never saw a monetary heritage because granddad spent every penny he had on the college,” Adkins said. “But they received a greater heritage to pass along to their own kids.”
University Life classes are required for freshmen and most transfer students to Wayland and cover vital study skills, life skills and leadership lessons that help students make the transition to college life. The history and heritage of the university are part of those lessons, usually covered by a video produced during the centennial of the university in 2008-09.
But when instructor Kevin Leggett learned that two Wayland grandchildren lived in Plainview and had stories of their own, he opted to let them share the heritage of their grandfather with students in his class. A section of the class taught by Donnie Brown joined them for the living history lesson on Monday.