Bonham 52 Years Ago
Written especially for The News by Judge W. A. Evans
In commencing a series of articles on the early days of Fannin County for publication in the Bonham News, we will speak first of the town of Bonham as it was 52 years ago and the men who then lived in Bonham. After that we will write of the other few little villages that we then had and of the men who resided therein. The we will take up the county in general and its men in general.
We are induced to write these articles because we believe that many of the present generation will be glad to know something of the men who paved the way and laid the foundation for the building up of one of the best counties in the States. Besides, there are many things pertaining to the past - men and events - that make interesting history.
We recollect that about twelve or fifteen years ago we heard one of the most interesting lectures to which we ever listened. The theme was "Fifty Years in Texas". The lecture was by Rev. John Conley of Trenton. He spoke of the early days and times of North Texas. He gave an account of the men, the manners and customs of the people. If he has the manuscript of that lecture, some of these days it will furnish to the people of this country a history of more value than gold or diamonds, for it will be a gem among the rich jewels of history.
Bonham fifty-two years ago , we beheld it for the first time, was quite a small village, having perhaps 250 inhabitants.
The block on the east side of the square had three buildings, one a stable belonging to a hotel which was also on the block. The other was a log jail house. The hotel was a long, shackling looking building, two stories high with a long porch fronting the street. The lower floor of this was made of rough brick, but the proprietor of that hotel was the politest man that ever engaged in the business. We will speak of him in the future, for we learned to esteem him highly.
The south side of the square had on its extreme north-east corner (now occupied by a part of the Hotel Alexander) a log house used as a saloon. The lot upon which it stood and the house were purchased by C. C. Alexander, who paid ten times its value in order to get the business removed from that part of town. About midway of the block was a long house of several rooms only one story high. It had once been used as a hotel, but was then occupied as a residence as well as a boarding house. On the northwest corner of the block was a small frame building, the office of Dr. W. S. Penwell. About fifteen feet south of this was a log building with a shed room on the south side of it. This log house was occupied as a store house by Nunnelee & Hoffar, where general merchandise was sold. On the south-west corner was the residence of Alfred E. Pace. The house still stands there, and is yet occupied as a residence.
On the block west of the square there were several buildings. On the north-west corner of the block, where the H. C. Alexander building now stands, stood two brick buildings, each two stories high. These were occupied by C. C. Alexander as store rooms. On the north-west corner of said block was the residence of J. W. Doss. South of the Alexander buildings fronting on the public square were the stores of Z. B. Simms and the drug store of McKee & Whitsett. Next to them were Dr. E. D. Kennedy's office, and W. A. Evans, law ofice. On the south-east corner was an old wooden building occupied by Richard Alderson as a cake and beer shop - not lager beer, but beer of his own brewing and not intoxicating. On the south-west corner was the residence of David Barnett.
The block now known as "Panther Row" on South Main Street had four buildings on it. One was an old log house on the lot now occupied by Rosenbaum's brick store house. The next building was the residence of Thomas Allen and also the post office, Mr. Allen being the postmaster. On the south-east corner where the H. E. Taylor building now stands was a frame dwelling house, the first place where the writer resided after coming to Bonham. From this corner down South Main Street was a log house occupied by John Sheffield; then came an old gin house un-used except as a place for the countrymen who came to town to hitch their horses. Immediately west of that and west of Main Street was the home of General Turner L. Green. This is now the property of S. B. Howard. All the rest of the land on till across Powder creek was grown up in fine timber. Where T. & P. depot now stands and where the switches and round houses and machine shops are situated, was once the hunting grounds of the writer. Ducks in the creek, squirrel and quail in the timber were plentiful.
Bonham extended no further though there was a brick yard on the hill south of Powder creek in a portion of the territory now occupied by South Bonham. The town extended west of 4th Street to about the street between two and three blocks from the square. It extended East on 4th to the lots now occupied by Mrs. John Ewing. On South Center Street, the first block on which are the Alexander brick store buildings, was the residence, servant houses and barns of C. C. Alexander. No other buildings were on South Center Street, timber intervening between the Alexander block and the old cemetery near the Katy depot.
Passing north from the square on the Wilson block was the residence and blacksmith shop of C. C. Ridings. On the corner of 6th and Center Streets was the residence of R. A. Burney. The next place on the east side of the street was a small frame church building 50x30 feet owned by the Baptists, on the same lot where now stands their beautiful church building. The house was the only place of public worship in the city, and the Baptist people permitted other persons to preach therein when not in use for their own worship. Next was the S. D. Nunnelee residence on the block now owned and occupied by Tom Bomar Brown - there the town stopped.
Going west from the square along 5th Street on the first block on the north was an old building occupied by Timothy Lidstone; then came the residence of Calvin J. Fuller; next the house of W. R. Baker, now owned by Mrs. Oliphint, an done other building west of that. Following Main Street north to 6th Street was the residence of E. D. Kennedy. Going west on 6th Street was the residence of Joshua Fuqua and where Mrs. J. B. Shortridge now resides there was a house belonging to Jas. B. Davis. On the north side of North Main Street and the corner of 6th Street was the residence of R. W. Lewis and the Sylvester family, now known as the Hoy place. Sylvanus Howell lived where John C. Saunders now resides. The block north of that, now owned by M. Rosenbaum and the C. P. Church, had one house abut the center of the block occupied by Thos. Ragsdale as a residence. The home of Gid Agnew across the . . . [rest of the article not obtained as an original. It is transcribed in the book available at the Fannin County Museum of History.]
In 1909 Judge W. A. Evans began publishing a series of articles in the Bonham News on the history of Bonham, rural areas of Fannin County, and its citizens. Although some pieces have never been found, most were transcribed and published in a booklet that is available for purchase at the Fannin County Museum of History.
We recently obtained an original of the first article, which is shown and transcribed here. Very informative!