Fannin County, Texas

Chapter I

     The tearing down of one of Bonham’s oldest landmarks—the dormitory of old Carlton College, erected in 1867-68, has led the Herald to ask me to write a series of articles relating to the history of the town and county from the time of the first colonies, until the present time. It will be remembered by most of the Herald’s readers that the first permanent settlement made in the county was led by Dr. Danial Rowlett, which arrived in a boat that brought the colonist up Red River to the mouth of Bois d'Arc Creek, at which point it arrived in either March or April, 1836. The second colony to arrive was one led by Bailey Inglish and composed principally of residents of Arkansas.  Inglish had made a scouting trip into what is now Fannin County in 1835, and was so pleased with the land that he returned home and persuaded a number of his neighbors and relatives to come with him to make a new home in a rich section. It was in the spring of 1836 that the colony arrived and selected home sites in Bois d'Arc Creek in the east part of what is now Bonham. There were only two families living in the county at the time and the county extended from Bois d'Arc on the east to Dallas County on the south, and to Wichita County on the west. It was some county but had a very, very few citizens who were not Indians.
     These articles will constitute only a small part of the history of Fannin County, and will be partly historical, partly biographical, partly stories of incidents that I may consider of interest to today’s young people.
     No authentic history of Fannin County has been written, I am sorry to say. Much of value and of interest was left us in the letters of John P. Simpson, who, with Bailey Inglish, gave the land on which Bonham was built. His letters, many of which were published in the Bonham News in the seventies or early eighties, were concerning Indian raids and depredations and of the customs and privations and dangers of the men and women of that period  [portion not available]


and published “A History of Constantine Lodge, No. 13, A. F. and A. M.,” in which he gives sketches of early days, and biographies of the splendid citizens, members of the Masonic Lodge, who virtually controlled, by reason of their ability and courage, the county government in its early stages. A few years Tex Strickland, at much labor and considerable expense, wrote an accurate and comprehensive history of Fannin County from 1836 to end of 1843, but has not, so far as I know, every completed the work.  That would require more work and expense than any one man can undertake.
     There have been efforts made by several amateurs to write a history of the county, but their productions have -been so inaccurate that it were better they had not been written.
     Years ago a newspaper editor named Carter issued ‘‘Carter's History of Fannin County." It is out of print now, but individuals have saved a few copies. If you have one you want to sell, you can find a buyer at a fair price. One thing peculiar about “Carter's History of Fannin County" is Mr. Carter did not write a line of his history. My father wrote the introductory section, and the remainder of the matter was made up entirely of the letters of Judge J. F. Simpson and published in a rival paper, “The Bonham News!"

     “Old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.”

      At no time in the world's history has the biblical quotation given above been so naturally true as it has been in the past fifty years, and it is today. There has been change from the first hour of creation until this moment, but there have been more, and greater, changes in man's affairs on this globe in the past half century than in twenty times that period in any past centuries. Things that were considered revolutionary even to the grandfathers of today's men are now considered, normal; and other things they considered miraculous are but common place, accepted facts.

Man has been slow to believe truths long hidden when, to men of rare genius, have been revealed things that God had in store for man's good as soon as men were ready to receive them. Men have ever been slow to accept new truths. The world laughed in derision when Newton announced his discovery of the law of gravitation; it made sport of the belief that a hidden power lay in steam; it thought the man crazy who believed he could use electricity to send messages across continents; how we of this age chortled at the thought of the man who said men would talk long distances over a wire; and how hillarious we became over the announcement that a man could talk to another across the globe without having a wire to talk over! Such things were held impossible, but men discovered how to do all these things, and more.
     Patient searchers discovered (though few of us understand how) that there is in matter a thing no eye can see, so small it is; they called it the atom; they discovered that in that atom is locked up an inestimable amount of power if it could be released. Vain were the efforts to release that power, until great need of that power came to man. A great sum of money was given learned men to erect machinery that enabled them to “crack the atom" and .harness its released power and make it do man's bidding—for man's good or for his evil.
     Hundreds of other things have I been discovered that brought marvelous change in men's surroundings, in his way of living, and acting and thinking. Some of these changes have convinced many skeptics that there is a Supreme Being who created a universe, as He created man, and that He is so pleased with man's creation that He is constantly but slowly revealing to men good things He has in store for His creatures, and that they are revealed through man just as men•will accept them, and has need of them.  There have been so . . .  {portion not available]

generation that have before hidden from man that one can no longer prophecy what is yet to be made known in the days to come.
     Change is everywhere, in everything—except Truth. That changes not.
     But it is well to remember that because ‘'old things are passed away” it does not mean that old things have not played their part in making ready for the newer things that were so soon to come. They did not, and do not, pass away until their mission of helping carry out the great plans of man's Creator for the advancement and perfection of the human race have been fulfilled. Old things are worthy of respect, and veneration, when they have served the purpose for\which they were created. Earth's richest mines are hidden in the records of the world's old things, and her most precious lessons are gleaned from the experiences of the past.
     This may seem a long introduction to the story of some modern changes that we have seen develop in the last seventy-five years, which covers the period of the writer's recollection, or of changes that others, just before his day, told him of. Perhaps some of these at least will interest present day readers. In the next issue of the Herald we will record the passing of one of the last three old landmarks of Bonham. So far as I know only two older landmarks remain to tie the Bonham of today to the Bonham of 1860. Men are now tearing down the girl's dormitory at what once was Carlton College. There are only two older landmarks in Bonham's structures that I know of that were built prior to the erection of the Old Carlton home in 1867. One is the old Tom Coward home place in the northeast part of town which was built in 1839 or 1840. It was remodeled years ago. but some of the original walls still stand. The other old landmark is the home erected in the forties by Col. Samuel Roberts.  It stands on the present high school grounds and is used as a home by the caretaker of the school building grounds.  In the next letter I will write of the old school building erected by Chas. Carlton, and of the part it has played in the history of Bonham and of the influence it has exerted on all North Texas and Oklahoma.  The changes have been many that have come in the part three-quarters of a century.  Som of them will be mentioned in future letters.


Chapter 2
     Last week we told briefly the work of tearing down the old Chas. Carlton home and  girls' dormitory of old Carlton College on East Tenth and Chestnut Street. The west section of the building was erected by Mr. Carlton in 1867-8. It was a two-story frame structure, with large rooms and high ceilings. It was modem in its day, but aside from the fact that it was well ventilated and comfortable it had little to meet the demands of the modem family.  It was built of fine lumber hauled from the mills of East Texas. After some thirty-five years had passed the whole building was remodeled, and enlarged by the erection of an east wing, and modem conveniences installed. 
     Could that old building talk it would unfold many a tale of sweet romance, some stories that all but ended in tragedy, it could reveal many a heart made glad by success, and many others made sad by failure; it could tell of the high hopes of hundreds of young girls who spent years of study and work within its portals, and of happy, useful, noble lives after school days ended; or of ignoble; selfish, sorrowful lives that  followed their departure from the old school. Fortunately there were many of the former but few of the latter. Life in that old dormitory was but an earnest of the life that was to be the future. But Carlton College was not a school for girls only during the first fifteen years of its existence. The man who established the school believed in co-education, and.he gave the boys and young men of that day an opportunity to acquire an education. .Many of those who came were young men fresh from the battle fields of the civil war; They were hungry for knowledge; and here they found where they could obtain what they sought. Some of these young soldiers made a record in later life that showed more courage, more devotion to the welfare of their countrymen than all their acts on battlefields show. They helped powerfully in making the people of Texas and other states a healthier, saner, stronger people physically, morally and mentally. They had a great part in making the state what it is today. Brave and true were most of those boys from the prairies and the forest, from the ranches and from the mills, from the country and the towns. And matching those boys in brain power, equaling them in fidelity, and excelling them in grace and beauty were the girls and young women who came here to better fit them for the great tasks that were to be theirs.
     On one day in the week the young ladies were permitted to receive the company of the young men in the parlors of the girl's dormitory. Many a love story that ended happily began at those meetings, and ended only—at death. Success, happiness, ambition, effort, triumph, all came out of those old parlor meetings. What stories will be whispered by the dream ghosts that, for all we may .know, may come back to gather at the place where the living boys and'' girls of past years were gathered! Who can tell? But if we can't tell what the “ghosts of other days do”, we can tell a lot of things that the boys and girls who attended Carlton College have done for Texas.
     Always when'there is successful plantations, a prosperous manufacturer, a great school, or vibrant growing church, there will be found some dynamic big-brained-hard-working man or woman acting as a main spring to keep the works growing. The speed at which they move depends on the strength of the .main spring. In the case of Carlton College the moving power that kept the work growing was Charles Carlton, an Englishman by birth, an American by adoption. A strong, vigorous man he was, physically, mentally and spiritually. For sixty years he was a teacher in the school room and an active preacher of the gospel on Sundays and a zealous evangelist during the months when he was not busy at school work. For his sixty or more years of service in the pulpit he received little cash remuneration. He taught school for a living and preached for love of God and his fellow-man.
     Charles Carlton, son of Charles and Mary Carlton, was born in England, County of Kent, August 25, 1821. As a boy he was given an opportunity to attend good schools, but like many other boys, he did not take much advantage of his opportunities. He did, however, love reading. Before he was fifteen years of age he knew almost by heart the story of Robinson Crusoe, Pilgrim's Progress and the Bible. His parents were regular attendants of the Baptist church and Sunday School and required their son to attend all services. This training shaped the course of his after life. But Charles loved adventure more than he loved the school room; and when only fifteen years of age he ran away and went to sea as a cabin boy. In the first ten months or so at sea he received rough treatment from the captain and the crew, so he concluded he had enough such adventures and left his ship when it landed at a home port. It was not long, however, until his love for the sea led him to take a place on a ship running between Hamburg and the northern coast of Scotland. There he worked for about two years, when he shipped on a brig coming to North America for a cargo of lumber. The treatment he received from the officers of the ship was too rough for him, so he left the vessel and went to Nova’Scotia, where he went to work in a ship yard.
     After three years he decided to go to Canada. He came by way of Boston, arrived there on July 4, 1844. He witnessed for the first time a celebration of Independence Day, and so fired with admiration that he decided to become an American citizen which he promptly did.  He turned aside and went to Fredonia, N. Y. to work on a farm. His employer “took him on trial" at three dollars a week and board and lodging.  He did his work so well, and gave such evidence of his desire for more knowledge that his employer encouraged him to attend school. He was a member of the Baptist Church and desired to preach. Friends aided him to attend school and prepare for the ministry. He attended school at Clear Creek Academy for two years. He was employed to. preach for a church at St. Clairville. A friend named G. W. Lewis, at Fredonia, had discovered the young man's earnestness and his abilities, persuaded him to go to Bethany College in West. Virginia to complete his education: Bethany College had been established by Alexander Campbell, who was still its president. It had won a high rating among schools of that day. But lack of means prevented young Carlton from attending, until his friend gave him a hundred dollars to help defray expenses. With that and with work of any kind he could get to do, he managed to complete his college course in two years and to graduate with the degree of B. A. on July 4,1849. On his graduation he went back to Fredonia and married a Miss Harriet Taylor, who was born in England but had come to America when as child. To them were born one son, Chas T. Carlton; and three daughters, Ella, Grace and Sallie Jo, who later in life gave their time and talent to teaching. Only one, Ella, gave up teaching the children of others to bear and teach children of her own. The others taught until Carleton College finally closed its doors in 1919 for want of financial support. For fifty-two years its work prospered. It had had as pupils in that time from six thousand to seven thousand boys and girls

     These articles are not offered as a history of Bonham, but as sketches of men and events, without orderly arrangement. The parts covering the fact stated are correct, but where statements are from memory alone there may be grounds for dispute. A memory that reaches back for seventy-five years is liable to have blank spaces in it into which errors creep.  Don't rely too far on what old men tell you. A memory that firmly retains some things gets tangled upon others.

     I shall have more to say of Chas. Carlton and of Carlton college because of the work they did and the influence they have had, and yet exert, in Texas.  I can tell that in part only.


Chapter 3 Mr. Carlton Comes To Texas

     While Mr. Carlton was attending college at Bethany, West Virginia, he became, greatly impressed by the teachings of Alexander Campbell, so much so that he decided to join the movement then under way to bring about the union of all of Christ's followers. That led him to unite with the body known as The Disciples of Christ. On his graduation from school he received an invitation to preach for the church at Georgetown, Ky. From there he went to Van Buren, Ark. where he taught school in a house built from timbers felled by his own hands. His school was soon noted for the thoroughness of its work and its high standard. While in Van Buren on one occasion the wife of Governor Pendleton, of Missouri visited the school and also heard Mr. Carlton preach. She was so impressed with his ability and the great energy he displayed that she invited him to come to Springfield, Mo., offering as an inducement funds necessary for the erection of a school building. He accepted the offer, but only in part. He would accept aid only after he had exerted himself and with the labor of a few friends who volunteered. With his own hands he cut and hauled the stone for a commodious school building. That was in 1852. Mr. Carlton taught there with success until unsettled conditions following the declaration of war between the states made it imperative to close the school. He decided to come to Texas. He arrived in Collin county in the fall of 1861, where his wife had relatives. After one year in Collin county he moved to Dallas to establish a school. There was no vacant building in town, but there was a large vacant hall over a blacksmith shop. In that room he not only taught school, but he taught a Sunday school, and on Sundays he preached there. There he organized the first congregation of Disciples in Dallas.
     Out of that small beginning has grown a number of large congregations.

     After the war ended in 1865 Mr. Carlton decided to go back to Springfield to reopen his school. He loaded his family and household goods into wagons and had traveled on the way as far as a village (Kentuckytown) in Grayson county. There he met a party of refugees from Springfield who convinced him that it would be folly to go back there at that time. He secured a building in the village and opened a school in September 1865. He soon had all the students he could accommodate. He taught there two years and his strength as a teacher was noised abroad.

The Bonham Female Institute
     Three years after Bailey Inglish had settled at Bois d'Arc this first school was opened at Warren, in the northwestern part of the county. Seeing the need of a school for the pioneers who had followed Inglish and Dr. Rowlett, a man by the name of Trimble opened a school to teach primary essentials. He could find no building to house his pupils but a stable built of logs. He cleaned that out, cut windows for light and seated it by putting legs on logs split and smoothed on one side with a broad axe. Soon after that a school was opened in a little building on east Eighth street in Bonham on the lot now occupied as a home by Eugene Risser. There only reading, writing and mathematics were taught, but these gave a number of boys and girls the foundation for an education. Some of the pupils built well on that foundation while others stopped with only the foundation.
     In 1855 the population of the town and county had grown until there were a number of prosperous families with growing daughters who desired and needed schooling of a high grade.
    In 1855 a number of our leading citizens met and decided to erect in Bonham a suitable building and secure from the older states a suitable school executive and competent instructors. S. E Brownell of Maine was chosen head of the head of the faculty of competent teachers.  Soon after the school was opened the building burned and the school was moved to the Baptist church. Through the efforts of citizens from town and county, assisted by the Masonic Lodge No. 13, A. P. and A. M., the erection of a new brick school building on a plot of four acres of ground donated by Bailey Inglish as a site for the erection of a building for the education of “females”. In June 1855 the cornerstone of the new building was laid by the Masonic lodge with appropriate ceremonies. It was a two story brick. The lower story was divided into two rooms of equal size; the upper story had only one big room. Years later a wooden addition of a bell tower was added to the front of the building was thus a little enlarged. The building stood there and was used for sixty years.
     Brownell resigned as superintendent after three years, and Mr. and Mrs. Curais, New York teachers, with a faculty of teachers took charge of the school for a year. They were followed by Soloman Sias as head of the faculty, his wife and the other teachers, two from New York and one from Maine, constituted the faculty. They were well educated, cultured men and women. The school flourished until the war broke out in 1861. Then all the teachers, save Mr. and Mrs. Sias, resigned and went back to their homes. Mr. and Mrs. Sias stayed until the war closed in 1865, but only comparatively few pupils remained to be taught. They were followed by a Mr. Cole one year and by Mr. Keeler one year. The Bonham Seminary was without either head or faculty in 1867.

Chas. Carlton Comes to Bonham

     It was a time when teachers of ability were difficult to secure. The whole union was in a state bordering on chaos. .Teachers from the North and East were no longer wanted. Sectional feeling was bitter. The people of Bonham wanted a good school directed by some one in sympathy with the South.  The report of the ability and learning of Chas. Carlton at Kentucky town had reached Bonham months before. It was deci ded at a meeting of the citizens in the summer of 1867 that a committee should be sent to Kentuckytown to ascertain if Mr. Carlton would come to Bonham to take charge of the school here. A committee consisting of Col. Jack Russell, Thos. H. Williams and William Hendricks was sent to consult with Mr. Carlton. He agreed to come to Bonham if he could have a suitable home for his family and a suitable dormitory for pupils who might come from a distance. The agreement was later ratified by the citizens, and the home dormitory built.
     During the conference between Mr. Carlton and the committee, one of the committee, wanting to be sure that neither Mr. Carlton nor the citizens of Bonham should have grounds for complaint, asked Mr. Carlton if he were not a “Campbellite” minister. If so, he told Mr. Carlton there were few, if any of that denomination in Bonham. To make clear his position, Mr. Carlton replied that he was a minister, as well as a teacher and a citizen; but he said, “As a citizen I ask only the rights every citizen enjoys; as a teacher I teach only science and literature to the best of my ability, while in the pulpit I preach what I believe to be truth as revealed in the Bible, and teach it without fear or favor.”
      That met approval of the committee, and Mr. Carlton was employed. He arrived in Bonham in a short time, and in September school opened with a goodly number of pupils, boys and girls.


Chapter 4 School Property Purchased
.     When Mr. Carlton came to take charge of the school, the agreement was that he should pay a nominal rent of two hundred dollars a year for the use of the building; the money to be .spent for the education of children of Masons. Mr. Carlton was then to have full charge and be accountable for all expenses. It depended on him to make the school pay - its way and support the family.
      The school prospered the first year and the trustees were so well pleased that they proposed to sell the property to Mr. Carlton for fifteen hundred dollars, hoping thus to retain his services permanently. Later on complaint was made that the trustees had no right to sell the property, nor to permit the teaching of any but “Female”' pupils. After ten years litigation in the courts the Supreme Court ruled that the property must be returned to the proper trustees.
      The school was removed in 1880-81 to the building of the First Christian Church on North Center while the erection of a new school building on the corner of East Ninth and Center was going on. The teaching of both boys and girls continued until 1886, when a charter was obtained and the name of the school changed to Carlton College, and girls only were taught.
     In 1895 a new three-story building with auditorium, class rooms and some rooms to be used as a dormitory, was erected on East Tenth St. just south of the old Carlton home and dormitory.  This building was destroyed - by fire started by a disgruntled girl student. r
    In March 1902, Chas. Carlton died. That was really a death blow to Carlton College. His son, Chas. T. Carlton, and his two sisters, Misses Grace and Sallie Joe, assumed the burden of carrying on the work. For a number of years they were comparatively successful, but the competition of state supported, or endowed church schools, could no longer be met. In 1916 the school closed finally, though Miss Sallie Joe continued to teach piano and voice until her death in July, 1943.

     As a teacher of music this able woman was for years one of leaders in a cultural way in this section of the state. She did more to raise the standard, and to make good music popular among the people of Bonham than any other one person has done. In the field of painting, her sister, Miss Grace did in part what Sallie Joe did for music. These two departments attracted many pupils to Carlton College for years. They contributed a great deal to the cultural growth of the community. To them belongs the credit of bringing much to the success of Carlton College for Women.

A Vanishing Type
     Carlton College was a type of schools that served well their purpose and their day. The world missed something very fine and valuable when changing customs and changed conditions made mass education imperative. In a modern high school with a thousand, or thousands of pupils, it is impossible for a superintendent, or principal, or a teacher, to come in personal contact with even half the pupils. The influence of a great teacher on the lives of pupils is greater as he comes in direct contact with those taught. That was possible in a college of a few hundred. Charles Carlton knew practically every pupil in his school. He knew their capabilities, their strength and their weakness, their problems and their needs. He led the way in arousing their ambition to learn and furnished the incentive for the greater attainments. He led a blameless life before them. Stressed the value of a good character above even learning. No one seeking earnestly for knowledge was ever turned away from his door.
     He would find a way for the seekers to receive an opportunity to learn. Out of his own insufficient funds he paid the expenses of many students. He believed that the moral and spiritual life were as much in the need of cultivation as is the mental life. Every morning he held a brief service in the school auditorium. He read from the Bible, and commented briefly, and opened with prayer. Those who heard were always impressed by the intense earnestness.  Such a teacher could but impress his pupils, and lead them to a well rounded education. His own life was the secret of his success as a teacher and leader.
Outside Labors
     Charles Carlton was a preacher as well as a secular teacher. When he arrived in Bonham there was no congregation of the Christian Church here; there were scarcely a dozen members. He began to preach each Sunday in the auditorium of the school, without any remuneration. In a year there were enough to organize a congregation. In a few years they built a commodious church building. The work grew and the congregation increased. Charles Carlton preached to that congregation for thirty-five years, until his death in 1902. Only near the end of his ministry did he receive any salary.
     It was not exceptional learning, nor exceptional ability to teach, nor his splendid executive ability that made Charles Carlton a great man in Bonham, but it was these, combined with his life, that made him revered by many and respected by all.
    A volume of good size could be written on Charles Carlton and Carlton College, and on his main helper for many years—his wife, whom everybody called Aunt Sallie, as everybody called her husband, Uncle Charlie. The influence her work has had in Texas is much to her credit.
Some Results
     The only way to estimate the value of any man’s labors is to measure the results. The material benefits to Bonham of Carlton College was its attraction to scores of families who moved here to educate their children. Some of these families remained a few years; while others remained permanently and helped build the good little city of today.. It also brought many students here to be hosed and fed.  But these benefits were small compared to the characters of the thousands of men and women who went from its doors to do honorable and conspicuous work in life. Some of Texas’ ablest lawyers, doctors, surgeons, bankers, teachers and preachers went out from old Carlton College. Some of its ablest statesmen and public officials were students of Carlton College. A number of earlier schools were established and taught by men who received their training at Carlton College. To cite one particular case as an example was the school established in the late seventies at Thorpe’s Spring by Addison and Randolph Clark. Both studied, and afterwards taught in Carlton College. Both brothers were noted preachers as well as teachers. Out of the school they established at Thorp’s Springs ADD-RAN College grew the present Texas Christian University at Fort Worth, Texas. There thousands of men and women are now being educated for citizenship for greater usefulness. Of a truth it can be said of Chas, Carlton and Carlton College, that “the worker is dead, but the work goes on.”
   There is very much more that could be told of this old school, but this is enough to give present-day Bonham citizens some idea of the part played in Texas history. To give them this brief information is the purpose of devoting as much space as I have used in these reminiscences. There are scores among the older residents who may say— truthfully—that an adequate history has not been given. Carlton College and Uncle Charles Carlton are still dear to their hearts. The late Dean T. U. Taylor, for fifty years head of the engineering department of Texas State University, and as an old student of Carlton College once wrote me: “All that I am as a student, an instructor and a citizen of character, I owe to Uncle Charlie's influence and guidance."

    There are scores of men and hundreds of women yet living in Bonham, or in other towns and cities in Texas, Oklahoma and other states who gladly acknowledge the debt they owe to this pioneer teacher and preacher, and to his school.


GO TO CHAPTERS 5-9











Sketches of Early Times In Our Home Town and County

By Ashley Evans

From the Bonham Herald, 1945

Chapters 1-4