An Old Town!
Bonham is one of the oldest settlements along the Red River. It began its life as Bois d'Arc, a name taken from the creek that runs on the
east side of town (and a very prolific tree in the Cross Timbers). Anchored by the private Fort Inglish, the first Anglo settlers appeared in
the late 1820s. Though both pioneers and Indians used the Fort as a trading post and pit stop on their way west, many Anglos decided to
stay put and farm in the fertile valley.
By 1836, the area had lost its native Caddoan population, which had merged with the Wichitas (further upstream) after the Caddoans had
been decimated by smallpox. However, bands of Comanches seemed threatening enough to warrant a larger fort. Fort Warren was built,
which now lies under a filed in the small town of Savoy. The fort once had been considered as county seat for Fannin county. But Bois
d'Arc, which was renamed Bonham in 1844 in honor of the Alamo fighter James B. Bonham, became the choice because it seemed to be the
more stable town.
An Old County!
Fannin County had been carved out of Red River County. It encompassed a huge area in the years of the Texas Republic. Within its
boundaries were several counties that, when named years later, read like a who's who of the Red River Valley: Grayson, Collin, Cooke,
Denton, Montague, Wise, Clay, Jack, Wichita, Archer, Young, Wilbarger, Baylor, Throckmorton, Hardeman, Foard, Knox, Haskell, Stonewall,
King, Cottle, Childress, and parts of Hunt and Collingsworth counties (maybe I should have named my website Fannin Valley Historian? Just
During the Civil War, Bonham voted for secession unlike neighboring Paris, and became the headquarters for Henry E. McCullough's
regiment. The ladies in Bonham also nursed southern soldiers back to health in the local Confederate Hospital.
The industrial age was both kind and bittersweet for Bonham. The city became a busy trading center for farms north and south of the river,
served as the division point of the Texas and Pacific railroads (with lines to Denison and lines to Dallas), and operated the largest cotton
mill west of the Mississippi. But economic downturns also hit the city hard. Crop failures, rapid farm method modernization, and
competition by larger, corporate farm holdings held Bonham in the farming slump that dogged most of rural Texas from the early 1920s
until World War II.
Bonham's Favorite Child
Luckily, Bonham had a friend in a very high place. Sam Rayburn, the longest serving Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives called
Bonham home. Born in 1882 in Tennessee, he pioneered to Texas as a toddler with his family, and eventually studied at East Texas Normal
College (today's Texas A&M University - Commerce). He began his political career in 1913, and played a part in many of historic events of
the 20th Century. He served for 48 years and determined the fate of this country through World War I, the Great Depression, World War II,
and the Cold War. Imagine - his 92 years of life encompassed more change than most of history saw within a 500 year span.
Rayburn helped the Red River Valley region in numerous ways. He was instrumental in building Lake Texoma, Lake Lavon, and several
Veteran's hospitals, as well as modernizing Perrin (Sherman) and Jones (Bonham) air fields during WWII. In his career, he was closely
associated with two men with ties to the Red River Valley - John Nance Garner, FDR's vice president, who was from Detroit (Red River
County), and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was born in Denison. Rayburn's ties went even deeper - he was baptized at the
Primitive Baptist Church in tiny Tioga (Grayson County).
When Rayburn died in 1961, Bonham played host to several prominent men. John F. Kennedy, Lydon B. Johnson (whom Rayburn
mentored), Eisenhower, and Harry S Truman were among the many who attended his funeral.
A City that Knows Its Heritage
Today, Bonham is pround of its past, and it shows. Fort Inglish has been rebuilt and is available for touring. The beautiful train station is
home to an informative county museum, Bonham Lake State Park offers fishing and mountain biking, and the city hosts Trade Days every
first weekend of the month. Sam Rayburn is just about everywhere, too. His library, opened in 1957 and part of the Texas State library
system, houses his vast collection of books and papers, as well as a duplicate of his congressional office, and his childhood home is a
State Historical Park. The original courthouse unfortunately became 'modernized' in the 1960s and now sits nondescriptly in the middle of a
|The former train station is now the county museum.
|What to Do and See:
Fort Inglish: *At the Trade Days Site, eastern edge * (903) 583-3943
Fannin County Historical Museum * Inside the Depot * (903) 583-8042
Sam Rayburn Library * On TX 56, west side of town * (903) 583-2455
Sam Rayburn House Museum & State Historical Site * On TX 56, west side of town past Bonham * (903) 583-5558
|Bonham lies on US 82 between Paris (east) and Sherman (west). From Dallas,
you can take Highway 121 north and follow it to Bonham. Or, just go to the map.
|Bonham - City with Connections
|Bonham's drive in theater on TX 56.
|The foundation pit of the Texas & Pacific
roundhouse sits next to the remains of the
mill lake in a park in downtown Bonham.
|The mechanic's pit and the outlines of the work sheds
for the Texas & Pacific Railroad as seen from Google
|Bonham's old jail has been torn down.
|Last passenger train through Bonham, 1950 (T&P Archives)
|Inside Mill Lake Park next to the depot
lie the ruins of the lake's dam. The
lake was part of a cotton gin complex.
|The Bonham roundhouse and depot in the 1920s (T&P Archives).
|I bet everyone knew your name at this Bonham Saloon. (NE TX
Archives @ TAMU-C)
|A two story blacksmith shop in Bonham during the late 19th century
(NE TX Archives @ TAMU-C)
Sam Rayburn's funeral in Bonham was attended by several illustrious
men - John F. Kennedy (at that time, the current president); Lyndon
B. Johnson; Dwight D. Eisenhower (whose hometown was Denison)
and Harry S Truman. (Briscoe Center, UT)