In 1936 Texas threw itself a party that inspired a visit from President Franklin D. Roosevelt and kicked off heritage tourism throughout the state. 1936 marked perhaps our most important milestone—the 100-year anniversary of our independence. The Texas-sized celebration allocated millions of our state budget, almost as much in federal contributions - during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.
Festivals and commemorative events took place across the state in cities large and small. Dallas landed the highly prized Texas Centennial Exposition, and used this platform to showcase the city on the national stage for the first time; it also changed the face of the city for many years in the future. “Dallas wouldn’t be the city it is today without the Centennial,” local historian Darwin Payne said. The Fair Park multi-million dollar exposition occupying 50 buildings (many still survive as Fair Park).
On the other side of the Trinity, Amon Carter secured Billy Rose, Broadway’s premiere showman to mount the Fort Worth exposition, which was considered more entertaining for its "Winning of the West" theme. Amon Carter chooses Broadway producer Billy Rose to choreograph Fort Worth’s Frontier Centennial, perhaps the grandest wingding that Cowtown had ever thrown. Carter also wrangled government funds for the city to build Will Rogers Auditorium and Coliseum, the foundation of today’s cultural district. The complex was built on the centennial grounds and named for Carter’s late friend Will Rogers, who died in a plane crash in 1935.
Centennial resources also created a lasting impression on many, many other Texas towns. More than 1,000 granite markers were placed throughout Texas' 254 counties commemorating their establishment and history. These markers tell stories of some of the most fascinating moments in Texas history. Yet after 75 years these markers have experienced various degrees of vandalism and deterioration from the elements.
As part of the celebration, various pieces of art were commissioned. One of those is the statute of James Butler Bonham on the southeast corner of the courthouse square in Bonham, which was renovated by the Fannin County Historical Commission in 2014.
As part of the centennial celebration, the Texas State Highway Department erected markers in every county of the state. In 1936 the Fannin County marker was placed about three miles east of Bonham in what was then a highway rest stop on Highway 5. The rest stop is no longer maintained by TXDOT and the marker was vandalized.
The vibrant and active Fannin County Historical Commission has restored both of these relics within the past two years. The Bonham statue was refurbished and is “shiny as a new penny” on the southeast corner of the Courthouse. With permission of the Texas Historical Society, the roadside monument was relocated to the northwest corner of the Courthouse and Fannin County Historical Committee replaced the missing plaque; Thursday, June 2, 2016, the rededication was held.
In June 2015 the Fannin County Historical Commission asked the Fannin County Commissioners for permission to move the monument to the Courthouse grounds, and this permission was granted. A new medallion was ordered to replace the old medallion which had been stolen. The movement of the monument presented problems because of its placement and size. In April 2016, Commissioner Dean Lackey and his crew moved the monument to the northwest corner of the Courthouse grounds, and the Historical Commission arranged for the cleaning of the monument and the installation of the new medallion.
Commissioner Lackey recently attended a historical seminar in Austin, and said Fannin County’s Historical Society has impressed officials statewide. “They pointed out the accomplishments Fannin County Historical Society has done with the limited resources they have. With their small budget, they use the funds wisely. And their members are all active, interested and vibrant in the community.”
Many of these markers have missing wreaths and stars, damaged granite, are leaning or sinking, have algae stains, graffiti, and cattle damage due to rubbing. Some markers have been barricaded or encased in fencing, knocked down, and even buried by the current landowner. The location of some markers has changed significantly in the past 75 years and many are now in undignified or threatened locations, placed in storage, or moved to a location without historical relevance.
Texas celebrated its history in 1936, with huge crowds of Texans marveling at the accomplishments of the state in the first 100 years since independence from Mexico. Now we must ensure that our 1936 Centennial Markers survive to the Texas Bicentennial and beyond.
On June 2, 2016, the Fannin County Centennial Monument was re-dedicated at a ceremony of the Courthouse grounds, the new resting place for the monument.
The following story and the photograph to the right are from the Fannin County Leader. Thanks to Mavis Duncan of the Leader for this great article.
See photos of the original location of the monument.