By Charles R. Inglish in the Bonham Herald.
Printed in the Honey Grove Signal-Citizen, February 7, 1941
Down on Bois d'Arc Creek, a mile and a half east of Bonham, are the remains of a toll bridge that flourished about the time the Civil War was on, and which was still being used several years after that affair.
The “remains” of the structure are the posts in the ground on which the structure rested. The bridge commenced on this side of the bottom and went to the foothills on the other side of the creek — a half a mile long, easily.
It was narrow all the way, except at intervals when a wide place was encountered. This was for one wagon to drive into and wait for the other wagon. and thus "saw by " as railroaders call it. |
In the heydey of the bridge when people hauled freight, by wagon from Jefferson, Texas, it was a busy undertaking. Bailey Inglish saw the need of such a structure, and so he built it. In the settlement of his estate — he was granted 1280 acres by the Republic of Texas — Thomas Cowart's wife, who was Eliza Inglish, was awarded the land on which the bridge stood, and of course, the bridge.
Thomas Cowart was killed during the closing days of the Civil War, so when his family heired the property one of the Cowart boys was always Horatius at the bridge. All of them—and there were several — might have taken a hand in bridge watching and toll collecting, but finally the bulk of the toll fell to Frank and Charley Cowart, who took turns at it.
Frank was matter-of-fact, and when his day’s work was over he went home; and Charley did not work overtime at the job, either, but he always saw the joke, if there was one — and many times there was. One day a smart alec came along — the breed was in the land then as now.
Young Cowart saw at once he was a braggart and a smarty, and after talking to him awhile, to get a good line on him, he bet the fellow that he (Charley) could cut the smart boy’s hat to pieces and put it together again.
The young fellow was finally persuaded to wager five cents on the proposition. After working a long time, trying to put the hat together (after cutting it into ribbons), Cowart told the young fellow he just couldn’t put the hat together, and paid the bet. It cost 10 cents to cross the bridge, and the young fellow got over for 5 cents—and his hat! He also took a good razing from Cowart for being so dumb.
One of the men who hauled freight from Jefferson over that bridge — and the crowd that did was a big one—was Joe Fitzgerald. Joe had eight yoke of oxen he worked to his wagon and it did not matter how deep the mud was anywhere along the line — he pulled the mudholes. Sometimes he dragged the wagon literally, with his oxen, but no mudholes ever stuck him!
He drove his oxen with a long whip which he merely popped. His steers were actually driven by talking to them. And Joe always said he could turn the wagon around in a short space, simply by yelling at his steers, the lead steers coming around at a hard gallop, while the wheelers merely walked in a slow walk, for an oxen even. Joe Fitzgerald lived sometime after his wagoning days were over.
Mr. Fitzgerald afterwards had a team of horses, Selim and another horse, that he could drive to a wagon without lines, merely speaking to them, so great was his influence over them.
Back to the bridge: The posts have been in the ground all these years, and every now and then some one takes one out and it is found to be in a wonderful state of preservation — they are bois d’arc and were cut from choice timber. The bridge was just east of the Lipscomb place on the creek.
It is somewhat of a stretch of the imagination from the old toll bridge to the magnificent concrete bridge that now adorns Highway 72 over this turgid stream that in big overflows is nearly a mile wide. The builders of the first bridge would view this last one with open-eyed wonder, no doubt.