Fort Inglish - The Start of Bonham
By John Frair
During the summer and autumn of 1838, 3 forts were constructed as places of refuge for the Fannin County pioneers and settlers from Indian attacks. A stockade was built at Warren for the settlers along Red River and Choctaw Bayou near the present-day Ambrose.
The families in the North Sulphur section of the county built a fort in the southwestern part of Lamar County, about 10-miles east of where Ladonia is now located. It was named for its commandant, Captain Isaac Lyday and called Lyday's Fort.
The settlers on Bois d’Arc and Timber Creek depended on the protection available at Fort Inglish.
Bailey Inglish arrived in Fannin County in March of 1837 and received 1280 acres of land. He claimed it on both sides of Bois d’Arc and Powder Creeks. This area included all the eastern half of present-day Bonham.
When the Inglish family arrived on the banks of the Bois d'Arc, the 1st thing they did was to build living quarters. Inglish described his home as "Having excellent set of guard dogs, (we didn't have to pay tax on dogs then) I went to preparing my house for defense. I hewed out slabs for doors, made the walls of tbs house bullet proof, and cut port holes in the walls so that in case of an Indian attack I would be prepared to shoot. My door fastened securely on the inside."
In late 1837 trouble with the Indians increased along the Red River as more and more settlers encroached upon the lands claimed by the Indians. Bailey Inglish called together his neighbors and proposed they erect a blockhouse for the defense of the area, on land that he offered to donate. The location of the fort is assumed to be about where the main building of the Veteran's Hospital is now located.
The original fort was a log structure of peeled oak or Bois d’Arc logs 16 by 16 feet and topped by an 4 foot overhanging story that was 25 feet square. The 2nd floor was not completely floored but was constructed with catwalks on each aide with acceas by ladders.
On both floors portholes were cut in the walls and gave a clear view in all directions. The 2nd floor overhang gave a clear view of anyone trying to break into the lower floor.
It was probably surrounded by a stockade fence that was 10 or 12 feet high with the tops of the pickets sharpened to points. The pickets also would have had small portholes and a catwalk around the inside perimeter.
The exact size of the stockade compound is unknown but several reports mention that cattle and horses were sometimes driven into the stockade for protection.
A well was dug in tho center of the compound to provide water in case of siege.
Inglish had been joined in September, 1937 by John P. Simpson and Mable Gilbert who settled near the fort. Gilbert settled 2 miles south of the fort and later moved to John Neely Bryant's settlement in Tarrant County and became one of the founders of Dallas.
John P. Simpson became, among other things, the early historian of the county and much of the lifestyle of the time is from his writings. Another early settler in the area was William Onstott who built his home on Bois d’Arc northeast of Fort Inglish.
One of the stories Simpson related was about when he had to leave Fort Inglish to hunt for meat. “When at Fort Inglish, our supply of meat ran short, and having no hogs to make meat, I had to resort to hunting, killing bear, deer and turkey to supply the demand. Not having much meat for supper, I knew our rations were about exhausted; so the next morning I rose early and started before daylight, in order to be sure of a successful hunt, notwithstanding it was dangerous times of Indians."
Simpson left the fort early and by sunup had traveled about 3 miles south of the fort. As he walked through the area, slowly and silently so as not to scare the game he was hunting, he suddenly came upon a hear of mustang horses.
"I crept as sly and still as possible, having the wind of them until I found myself in the midst of the herd-thought strange they didn’t nin-when lo! I saw they were hobbled, and were Indian horses. If a shock of electricity had have been applied to my system it could not have been more sensational. I supossed the Indians close by, and watching by movements. I looked in every direction for Indians, but could not see any; I sat down by a large tree to hide myself as much as possible and to listen for the sound of Indians-expecting every moment to hear the war-whoops of the savage, but was happily disappointed, for I could neither see nor hear anything of them."
After getting up his courage Simpson decided he would steal the Indian's best horse as revenge for the Indian's best horse as revenge for the Indian's thefts from the settlers.
"I looked around for the best horse and caught it - cut what we old people called a hickory withe, threw the end under my foot and twisted it, tied the twist in the horses mouth, drew my butcher knife, cut the hobbles and bounded in his bare back in double quick, and away I went, keeping a sharp lookout behind me for Indians, rejoicing and happy, elated in my feelings that I had taken their best horse and hoped to make good my escape with it."
Judge Simpson rode the horse to Squire Mable Gilbert's house where he was informed by Gilbert that the horse he had stolen belonged to some Cherokee Indians that were friendly to the whites of the area.
Gilbert had built himself a block house and because he had several boys he was able to defend his house against Indians.
Judge Inglish described the life at the time. "We were determined to defend ourself or die in the attempt. My place and Gilbert's being outside houses were consequently greatly exposed to Indian depredations."
He continued describing the day when he walked outside to find an Indian at his gate. “I discovered an Indian and a pony, about 10 paces off, equipped with bow and arrows in a panther skin on his back. I was not long in running into my house, where I got my rifle and tried to get ahead of the yellow scamp to give him battle."
Inglish relates the Indian galloped around the fence and up Powder Creek. Being afraid the Indian was a decoy to draw him out of the house he retreated back to the house and kept a sharp lookout for the rest of the day.
There is only a single documented raid that took place at the fort. In 1841 General Tarrant had raised a militia of about 250 men to push the Indians further to the west and away from the more populated areas. That evening when the main body of the militia was away from the fort in search of 2 boys who had been kidnapped by Indians, the same band of Indians staged a halfhearted raid on Fort Inglish. Bailey Inglish and a few elderly men and their families were the only defenders. The raid was short lived and the only casualty was an old squaw.
Tom Scott, in The Fort Inglish Story tells the significance of the fort.
"by 1843 the Indian threat had diminished to the extent that Fort Inglish was no longer necessary, but of major significance was the fact that the fort had served as a nucleus for the development of a new village that was in the prime location for a new county seat.
"As the influx of settlers grew to a steady stream, more and more homesites were established in the vicinity of Fort Inglish. By 1840 the village, now called Bois d’Arc, had achieved enough of a status that the Texas Post Office department determined that a new post office was needed to serve central Fannin County."
In 1843 the county seat was moved from Warren to Bois d'Ard and a petition was sent to Congress asking the name of the town be changed to Bloomington. The Texas Congress instead decided to honor one of the heros of the Alamo and the town's name was changed from Bois d’Arc to Bonham in honor of James Butler Bonham.
The following article is from the
Bonham Daily Favorite, September 13, 1992