Some Changes That Time Has Wrought in the Capitol of Fannin County

Today we publish a view on the public square of Bonham as it was on the 5th day of April, 1872. forty-nine years ago. The scene will not look familiar to many today, for there are comparatively few who were here in 1872 who remember how things looked them.

The photograph from which this engraving was made was taken by J. L. Caylor and presented to S. D. McGee, how of Dodd City, but who was then a resident of Bonham.  The photo was taken because that was a day when there was a big gathering here, something over 100 men being here on horse back. Those horsemcn thought they had the best means of travel that would ever be had in the interior of Texas. They had not dreamed of the possibility of the auto and the flying machine.

The view shows the north side of the square as it was then. The building to the extreme right was occupied by Dave Rhine as a Dry goods store, and stood where the Elks Club room building now stands.  The next building to the left was that occupied by J. R. Russell & Co., general merchandise.  Next to it was Cox & Dorn, and the last building on the left was the law office formerly occupied by Sam Roberts, one of Bonham's early distinguished lawyers.

The men then in business in Bonham were Dave Rhine, J. R. Russel & Co., Smith & Oliphint, Cox & Dorne, Wash Doss, J. N. Nunn, C. C. Alexander, Ed Smith and Bro. T. R. Williams, Ben F. Hays, Stephens & McGee, F. P. Wells, W. A. Nunnelle & Co., J. L. Caylor and John Piner, the last named being editor and publisher of the Bonham News.  There may possibly have been some others.  V. A. Dwing was conducting a big blacksmith and woodwork shop.  J. W. Peeler came a few months later and opened a drug store.

​The only men who were in business here in 1872 who are now living are J. L. Caylor of this city, and S. D. McGee of Dodd City.  J. W. Peeler is still in business here, but he came a year after the photograph was taken.  The oldest business institution in Bonham is the Bonham News, which has been published continuously since the spring of 1866.  J. W. Peeler's is the next oldest house, having been established in 1873.  The Fannin County bank is the third in point of age, having been established in 1874.

When one sits down to count up the men and women who were in Bonham in 1872, he will find them very few in number comparatively speaking, here are more of those who were children then and who are still here, but even these are not great in number.  Forty-nine years is a good while as human life goes, and the passage of that time brings many changes, some pleasant to contemplate, some which bring only sadness and regret.  In 1872 Bonham was not as large a town as it is today, as those of us who were here then can well remember.  It had no railroad, and all the freight we got was hauled from Jefferson in ox wagons or with mule teams.  What Bonham had to market was hauled there to be sold.  It cost something then to get a bale of cotton to Jefferson, and it cost something to get goods from there.  There were men who made a regular business of freighting.  It would excite more wonder now to see one of old freight wagons hauled by five or six yoke of oxen or an equal number of mules than would be the finest train.

There was no roasted coffee brought here in those days, but some of the best coffee a man ever drank came in green in great sacks and the people who brought it did their own roasting. 

There wasn't any white sugar, but Louisiana put out a lot of sugar that was actually sweet and that was good to the taste.  A spoonful of it had more sweetness in it than a cupful of the kind we get today.  And Louisiana molasses was a more delicious thing to eat than any syrup that we can get now, though it may not always have been as clear and pretty as the corn product we usually get now when we buy syrup.

We didn't get any sugar cured breakfast bacon, but we had plenty of the best beef a man ever tasted, and a man who had a quarter could buy enough for a meal for his family.  We also had jerked beef and dried buffalo hams a plenty.  Venison was easy to get and wild turkey and prairie chickens were not a rarity.  All a man had to do was to take his gun and go out and kill what he wanted.

Lumber had to be hauled by wagon from the mills in East Texas, but it didn't cost as much then as it does now.  It was also a better quality when we got it than any we buy today.

​Bonham had some good stores in those days, but they carried few articles that could be sold today.  The writer has a copy of a paper published in Bonham that contains an advertisement for one store that had on hand a thousand log chains.  If a hardware merchant of Bonham were to buy a hundred log chains today his creditors would want him examined to determine his sanity.  We doubt if there are that many in the county.  The same merchant advertised a new shipment of blue jeans and hickory articles that not half of the people now even know the nature of.  He also announced that he could supple as many as a hundred kegs of wrought nails.  As a side line he carried White Mule in gallons and quarts, at fifty cents a quart. (Think of that, ye thirsty ones who now pay with anywhere from five to ten dollars a quart for it.)

In 1873 the Texas & Pacific railroad built into Bonham, and the wagon trains to Jefferson soon went out of business.  The stage coach also.  The old stage line ran regularly east and west before that, and a man could go some places if he wasn't in a hurry to get there.  If he was in a rush he generally rode on the hurricane deck of a fast pony.  When he made sixty miles a day he was considered to be doing some traveling - and he was.

Fannin County, Texas

Street Scenes in Bonham

in 1872 and in 1921

From the Bonham Daily Favorite, May 6, 1921