Political History, Fannin County, Texas

 

The first election held in this county, of which there is any record, was in 1853. This was about seventeen years after the declaration of Independence of Texas and eight after its admission to the Union. Of course there were elections held in the county previous to that date, as 'evinced by the memory of many of the older citizens, but the records if any were kept, have been lost or destroyed.

There are many amusing incidents connected with the early elections and campaigns of this county. The canvass was generally made by the candidates for office on the Davy Crockett plan. "Manifact terbacker and a good artickle o' licker" was an object, and dirty faced children were legion. A candidate was never happier than when he was armed with these articles, and seated on top of a load of hay, talking politics to the sturdy elector at his elbow and picking ticks off his shins ; or seated in front of a voter's cabin among the children, distributing striped candy and discussing the striking resemblance of this or that young Arab to the delighted parents, and endeavoring to convince them: what his party would do for them in the all important matter of public education.

They were not troubled with such issues as the "free grass, and "penitentiary" questions then. Every man's sheep, cattle, hogs and horses had a carte blanche to roam and graze from the Sabine River to the Rio Grande. The counties, for a long time, looked after their own prisoners, hence these big issues were unknown. In national politics, the people were as much interested as they are now, although the circulations of newspapers were indeed limited. As the election approached, the interest and zeal of the settlers waxed warmer. Any remarks reflecting on the character or reputation of a favorite, were taken by his friends as a personal affront, and resented accordingly; not with the dastardly pistol, or knife, but with a hand-to-hand set-to, which generally terminated with only a black eye and a cry of ""nough".

From the best data to be had, it seems that the first attempts at party organization proved abortive; conventions were held by the op posing parties, and, as is the case today, to some extent, the local party leaders manipulated the conventions and nominated men who were, in some instances, not the people's choice, whereupon they would kick out of the traces and demand a free race. Since then however, the royal elector is better trained, and generally stands to party and principle, man or no man.

At the election in 1853, the total vote of the county was 642, and it is fair to presume that a full vote was polled, as the field was full of candidates for local and state offices; indeed nearly every voter must have had a kinsman in the race for office. From this time on, elections were regularly held, even during the war, and until 1867, after which there is another 'skip' in the record of returns until 1873, when Coke defeated Davis for Governor of the state, at which time the people got control of the state government. Since 1873, the election and installation of democratic county officials at regular intervals have never been interrupted. Previous to that time however, and during the interregnum before referred to, the political situation was one not to be desired. The average high-minded Texan was not disposed to subscribe to the iron-clad oath of allegiance, submitted to him as a condition precedent to his right to vote, by the powers that were, hence the appointment of persons to fill the various county offices.

For the last ten years, the political sea of Fannin County has been one of icy smoothness, with but one or two exceptions. The republican party, for want of numerical strength and party organization, is so insignificant as to have dispensed with party organization in the democratic ranks, but for an independent party which has come to the surface in the past year or so, and which might, by coalition or fusion with the republicans, possibly defeat an unorganized democracy. It is this independent party and an apparent pre-disposition to cling to party usages that keeps alive party organization among the democracy of the county.

The people, notwithstanding the prevailing idea that 'life is short' and that every available moment must be given to the industrious and energetic pursuit of money and what it will bring, can and do manifest a decided interest in the political campaigns. Besides being an industrious, money making people, they are an intelligent, reading people, and do dearly love a barbecue and political eloquence. When national and state issues between the two parties are clearly defined, when the local field is well filled with candidates and when the wheat is harvested and the weather propitious, the average elector waxed warm in political feeling, and in the language of Balaam," will get him upon his ass and flee" for miles to a barbecue and public speaking, or to vote for men and principle.

Since the first election of which there is any record, the voting population has increased from 642 to 4.900, and the greater portion of this increase has accrued since 1873. It is estimated that only sixty tour per cent of the voting population voted in 1884, Which would make the present voting population about 7500, and doubtless these are correct figures as they represent a reconciliation of the election returns and the assessors list of parties subject to poll tax.

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