Where It All Began
Bonham is a city and the county seat of Fannin County, Texas, United States. The population was 10,127 at the 2010 census. James Bonham (the city's namesake) sought the aid of James Fannin (the county's namesake) at the Battle of the Alamo. Bonham is part of the Texoma region in north Texas and south Oklahoma.
One of Texas's oldest cities, Bonham dates to 1837, when Bailey Inglish built a two-story blockhouse named Fort Inglish about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the current downtown. Inglish and other acquaintances settled there in the summer of 1837, and the settlement was named "Bois D'Arc". The Congress of the Republic of Texas named the city Bloomington in 1843, but renamed it Bonham in honor of James Butler Bonham, a defender of the Alamo. On February 2, 1848, Bonham was incorporated as a city. A 1936 statue of Bonham by Texas sculptor Allie Tennant is on the courthouse grounds.
The Masonic Female Institute, a young ladies' seminary, opened in 1855. Carlton College began in 1867, consolidated with Carr-Burdette College in Sherman in 1914, and affiliated with Texas Christian University in 1916. Fannin College for men opened in 1883. Public schools opened in 1890, and new brick buildings were constructed for both black and white schools in 1928. Bonham Independent School District later absorbed thirty-two consolidated districts covering 230 square miles and five campuses.
The Bonham News, the county's first newspaper, was founded in 1866 by B. Ober. The Fannin County National Bank opened in 1874, the Steger Opera House (built in 1890) brought touring companies of performers, and major church denominations were represented by 1900. Bonham women founded numerous service and cultural institutions, among them the Current Literature Club (1898), the Bonham Public Library (1901), and a Mother's Club that became affiliated with the national Parent-Teacher Association in 1924. Allen Memorial Hospital was built in 1903.
Bonham was a division point on the Texas and Pacific railroad in 1873. The Denison, Bonham and New Orleans branch of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas line was built from Bonham to Denison by 1887.
After connecting to the Texas and Pacific Railway the city began to grow, and by 1885 there were six churches, three colleges, two public schools, three weekly newspapers, a sawmill, two grain mills, a power plant, and about 2,300 inhabitants. 1890 saw the addition of streetcars, an ice plant, and the opening of the Texas Power and Light Company, the area's utility provider. In 1925 the city was connected to natural gas lines.
Agriculture & Industry
By 1888 the town produced row crops including grain and cotton and had 117 businesses, three papers, a furniture factory, a sawmill, gristmills, and gins. The Bonham Cotton Mill, once the largest west of the Mississippi, was chartered in 1900. The Bonham Free Kindergarten opened in 1907 to benefit mothers working in the mill. The mill was sold for profit in 1920 but retained its workforce and local manager.
Work Projects Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps efforts during the Great Depression built the high school auditorium, gym, and other projects. World War II construction included a prisoner of war camp and Jones Airfield for pilot training (1941). Subsequently, row crops were replaced with pastures and small-grain farming, and Bonham farmers raised rabbits, poultry, beef, and dairy cattle.
The Southwest Pump Company, General Cable plant, a Coca-Cola bottling works, a cucumber-receiving station, and factories for ice, mattresses, brooms, mops, and ice cream employed local workers. In 1988 Bonham had 286 businesses, thirteen industries, a daily paper, an airport, an industrial park, the sixty-five-bed Northeast Medical Center, and a library facility completed in 1976. Bonham's population increased from 6,686 in 1990 to 9,990 in 2000, when it had 446 businesses.
In 1898, 1911 to 1914, and 1921 to 1922, Bonham hosted minor league baseball. The Bonham Boosters and other Bonham teams played as members of the Class D Texas-Oklahoma League (1911 to 1914, 1921 to 1922) and the independent Southwestern League (1898). Bonham teams featured a different moniker each season. Baseball Hall of Fame member Kid Nichols was Manager of the 1914 Bonham Sliders.
During the Second World War, a training camp and an aviation school for the United States Army Air Forces were in the vicinity of Bonham, as was a prisoner-of-war camp for German soldiers. Parts of the camp, approximately 0.5 miles north of U.S. 82, can still be visited today.
Noble People from Bonham, Texas
The most notable person from Bonham is former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Sam Rayburn. We are home to the Sam Rayburn Library and Museum and the Sam Rayburn House State Historic Site, Mr. Sam's former home. One of our new attractions is the Barn Quilt Trail. It's the largest in Texas and offers hours of sightseeing enjoyment.
Other notables from Bonham:
- Homer Blankenship, Major League Baseball pitcher of the 1920s
- Tom McBride, Major League Baseball outfielder
- Roy McMillan, Cincinnati Reds All-Star shortstop
- Jerry Moore, former head coach of Appalachian State Mountaineers football team
- Joe Morgan, Baseball Hall of Fame second baseman
- Sam Rayburn, politician, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
- James Tague, writer and a key witness to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy
- B. A. Wilson, NASCAR driver
- Scott Matthews, Drummer, Dixie Chicks, Dale Watson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, The Derailers, and Junior Brown
- Ted Blankenship, MLB pitcher of the 1920s
- Charlie Christian, pioneering jazz guitarist
- Roberta Dodd Crawford, lyric soprano and voice instructor
- Danny Darwin, Major League Baseball pitcher
- Karen Dalton, folk blues singer
- John Wesley Hardin, well-known outlaw and gunfighter in late 19th-century Texas
- Durwood Keeton, American football player
- Kenny Marchant, congressman, Texas 24th District
- Joe Melson, BMI Award-winning songwriter for Roy Orbison