Bonham, Fannin County, Texas

 

"The seat of Justice" of Fannin County is situated on a scope of table-land, perhaps nearer the geographical center of the county, than any other location of the same size and equal advantages. Bonham, like all the towns of any size in the state, with but few exceptions, has a large public square, around which the city is built up. The north, west and south sides of the square are fronted with massive buildings of brick and stone which present an appearance that might be envied by older and larger cities. In the center of the square, amid a grove of mulberry trees, neatly trimmed, and planted so as to form avenues, spreading their branches over a growth of native grasses, stands the temple of Justice, a huge pile of masonry, bearing the evidence of architectural skill, to be found in the west as far back as the fifties. To the northeast of the court-house, about twenty yards, is a fire-proof building, erected in 1881, having two departments divided by a hall, and handsomely finished. In these two compartments are kept the records of the courts and of the county. Nowhere, in or out of the state, are valuable records safer and better kept. The east side of the square is not built up like the others, having been kept back, by want of a street to the south. However, this evil has been remedied, the city having recently opened, and put in good condition for use, a wide street leading out across the creek which divides Bonham and South Bonham.

Except on South Main Street, from the depot to the square, there are very few business homes off the square. Leaving the square for the east, north or west, are thoroughfares leading past beautiful cottage homes, large residences, and palatial estates, while colleges, academies, high-schools and churches with "heaven-reaching" spires, greet the eye on every side.
The corporate limits extend a mile each way from the center of the square, and at the rate of improvement for the past four or five years, this space will soon be occupied even to a lot. Powder creek, a turbulent stream in the rainy season, running east and west, parallel with the railroad, cuts off from the main city on the south about half a mile of its territory. This creek has a very narrow bottom land on either side and the town begins almost on the banks of both sides. South Bonham is composed mostly of neat residences, owned or occupied largely by the local employees of the railroad.

What would the fathers think of old Bois d'Arc, if they could shake off the dust and mould of forty years and come forth? Forty-five years ago, the little village of Bois d'Arc, occupied but a small portion of this two miles square. Forty-five years ago, a little log-hut situated just south of the square, and another of equally small pretension, in the rear of the opera house, constituted the town of Bois d'Arc, which took its name from the creek running east of town about two miles, and flowing into Red River. After it was selected for the county seat, the name was changed to Bonham, as stated in the chapter on the "Courts of the County" and it at once assumed some respectability. Bonham is called an old city; in contra-distinction to other western towns, this is to some extent true, but really the rapid increase in size, population and wealth is decidedly modern.

While its site was among the first settlements of the county no town began to show itself, until after the archives of all the courts were moved here in 1843. At that time, the timber on the east side grew up to the edge of the prairie, along where the Fannin County Bank and the Ewing wagon manufactory stands. All to the, west and north was prairie, and to the south and east was timber.

Before the building of the Trans-continental road hi 1878, Bon-ham did a large commercial business from the adjoining counties, but her business capacity was never really tested, her business boom never came, until this road was built. Then her commercial and business life may be said to have fairly begun; then it was that property in her limits and for miles around, ascended the scale of values one, two, three, four and five hundred per cent. Then it was that labor, skill, capital and immigration, began to pour into her limits, and a business hum pervade her streets. From the laying of the first brick in this city, its improvement and up building has been sure and steady. While there has been nothing of the tortoise movement in its growth, it has ever been free of mushroom tendencies.

The business men of Bonham, most of whom were comparatively poor ten years ago, have seen themselves grow suddenly rich, and to-day are able to count their, wealth by the thousands, in money, bank stock and real estate, Carpenters and common laborers, who came here ten and twelve years ago have a goodly income from rents and other sources. Up to date, business success in Bonham has crowned every man of industry, application and economy.

The town has three chartered institutions of learning, six churches of different denominations, the buildings of which are large and elegantly finished; two splendid church buildings for the colored population; and several high schools and academies for the primary education of both races.

There are two banks, besides other private corporations, for the public convenience, which are mentioned in their proper places; a large flouring mill; a wagon manufactory, a large work shop run by steam, cigar manufactory, and several wholesale dry-goods, grocery and hardware establishments. Some idea of the business and business capacity of Bonham, may be had by reference to the business directory of the town.

The population at present may safely be estimated at 3,000. The increase since the United States census of 1870, has been wonderful. The wealth of Bonham is estimated at $1,000,000.00 and this from the city assessor's rolls. To give an idea of the rapid advancement in the prices of city property, a recent case may be cited. Seven years ago, in 1877, a gentleman, living in Bon-ham, bought a lot on the west side of the square for $1,500.00, on which he spent an additional sum of $500.00. He rented the lot and building for an average rent of $600.00 per year, for seven years and sold it. in May of this year, for $8,000.00. This is only an instance. Other transactions of equal magnitude and profit are occurring continually.

Bonham only needs an out let by rail, north and south to take the lead in size and business, of all towns in north Texas, north of Port Worth and Dallas.

The round-house and machine shops of this division of the T. & P. road are situated at Bonham, making quite an addition to the wealth, population and appearance of the city.

Movements are on foot for a line of street railway, with the very probable addition of gas works. Many smaller towns, of much less wealth have these conveniences, but Bonham in these matters will doubtless take her time, as she has heretofore in all other enterprises, but when they are completed the incorporators need have no fears of their failure.

Every season, when business opens in September, a committee of the business men offer premiums to cotton raisers in the form of tickets to a grand drawing for a series of prizes, the aggregate value of which is from five to six hundred dollars, as an inducement for them to bring their cotton to her markets.

The age of improvement, enterprise and business is laying hold on the prosperous and beautiful little city of Bonham. The old foggy ideas and dogmas are giving place to broader and more progressive ones. The man who does not keep pace with this progression, push and vim, will be sadly left. These times are calling soberness, industry, activity, integrity, and capacity to the front. Immigration and wealth continue to pour into Fannin County, and with continued increasing wealth, population and business spirit, a few years will find her among the most prominent cities of North Texas.

All that Bonham needs just now to push her on in the road where her natural advantages have placed her, is public-spirited, progressive and thinking men to manage her government, and more live dry goods, hardware and grocery men, who by their activity and sharp business judgment will bring back the trade which has left here for other towns of the county. No disparagement to the present city government, or the businessmen of Bonham, is meant for considering the close-fisted nature of many property owners, the former have done tolerable well, while the latter, considering the enormous freights on this road, and the prevailing credit system, are entitled to much credit. But it must be clear to one who will take the trouble to look into it, that a vigorous, progressive administration of the city government would be happily felt, both in and out of the city, and equally clear that greater competition in every line of trade and industry would prove advantageous and. beneficial to all.

Visitors from other cities express much surprise at the rapid strides of improvement and wide-a-wake appearance presented by Bonham. They say her trade is above the average, and that the improvements and valuation of property are steadily and surely increasing. The prosperous condition of the banks and other private corporations as well as the agricultural and small manufacturing interest are further evidence of Bonham's boom and prosperity.

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