Fannin County Museum of History


One Main Street, Bonham, Texas

The Evolution of Fannin County

Bonham Daily Favorite, June 7, 1992

​The westward expansion of nineteenth century America more often than not created boundary disputes as the result of territorial claims by certain governing authorities.

The line between Mexico and the United States had long been In dispute when many Anglo families, in 1815, began to emigrate to the area of northeast Texas and southern Oklahoma establishing communities on both sides of Red River.

An act of the Territorial Legislature of Arkansas, in 1820, created Miller County which embraced most of the section of northeast Texas which today includes the area from Bowie County westward to Fannin County. The county seat was fixed at the Gilliland settlement, north of the river, until 1831 when it was changed to Jonesborough on the south bank.

In 1836 Texas became a republic and Arkansas a state.  Most of the residents of Miller County along the south bank considered themselves to be citizens of the new Republic. For a time the residents elected representatives to both the Arkansas Legislature and the Texas Congress.

When Red River, one of the original counties of Texas, was organized, it covered that territory south of the river that had been part of Miller County. In retaliation for this act, the Arkansas Legislature made it a crime for a citizen of the area to held any office in the Republic of Texas.

In turn, the Texas Congress of December 14, 1837 created Fannin County from the western reaches of Red River County. The organization of this new county effectively silenced any further claims by Arkansas.

Fannin County was, to some degree, also created in response to a petition circulated in the autumn of 1837.  The petition, which suggested the approximate boundaries for a new county, expressed the need for a seat of justice, courts, and other governing entities available to the large number of persons who were residing to the west of Jonesborough.

The suggested boundaries, which remained basically unchanged in the enacted bill, began the east county line at the cabin of Carter Clifft on Rocky Ford Crossing on Bois d'Arc Creek at the mouth of Red River, extended south for thirty miles, westward to the Cross Timbers and then north again to Red River. This included present day Fannin County, Grayson County, and about half of Cooke County. Additionally, the petition claimed the new county would encompass an area of more than 900 square miles and claim as residents more than 100 free male inhabitants above the age of 21 years.

One hundred eighteen man signed the petition. Of title number, eighty signers were to eventually locate their headright certificates for land in the new county.

The Texas Congress further prescribed certain conditions for the organization of the county. The first court was to be held at the residence of Jacob Black on the last Monday in January 1838, and thereafter on the first Monday in March, June, October, and December each year. Black's cabin was located on Red River just east of the Highway 78 crossing.

A year later Congress "better defined the Boundaries of Fannin County," in another bill. The western boundary of Cross Timbers was defined as being too vague. The new measurements began, as before, at the Clifft cabin but now extended to the south for sixty miles. The southern border then ran In a straight line some 385 miles before curving back to join Red River in present day Collingsworth County in the Texas panhandle. Twenty seven present day counties were to be formed from the old Fannin County limits.

In 1839, Congress ordered the county seat be permanently located at fort Warren on Red River.  There it remained until 1843 when a new location was selected at the village of Bois d'Arc, as the town that was to become Bonham was then named.  

​Texas entered the Union on December 29, 1845.  Less than two months later Grayson, Collin, and Hunt Counties were created and the boundaries of Fannin County were reduced to their present limits.