"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
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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