A Three Day Party for All the County
Bonham Daily Favorite, July 29, 1994
Sometimes it becomes a little difficult to image that the downtown area of Bonham ever bustled with a abundance of activity during the hot summer months of June, July, and August, but there was a time when summer was the time to gather downtown for a variety of entertainment activities. For years members of the Bonham civic bands performed concerts on the courthouse lawns. Several candy kitchen/soda fountains lured the sweet tooth afflicted with promises of cold creamy delights. The movie theaters with their cool "washed air" offered a respite from the sun's rays.
The summer of 1923, for undetermined reasons, had an abundance of things to see and do for the Bonham resident. Probably the most unusual and still remembered event was a project conceived and directed by local businessman, Will H. Evans.
Evans, a Fannin County native, was long noted for his unabashed support for Bonham and his continuous attempts to see that Bonham received, according to his way of thinking, a measure of fame far and wide. Over the years Will Evans dreamed up and promulgated any number of promotional activities praising Bonham and all the city had to offer. His crowning achievement came in the spring and summer of 1923.
Part of his unflagging support for Bonham and Fannin County came fro his heritage. He was the great grandson of pioneer physician Dr. Daniel O. Rowlett who brought the first group of ten families to settle in the area in 1836, just a few weeks before Texas fought for its independence from Mexico. Evans' grandmother, Nancy Rowlett and her husband Richard Locke were part of the original Rowlett party. their daughter Lucy married John C. Evans at the Locke home in northwest Bonham in 1870.
Will Evans, the oldest of the children, was born on a farm near Duplex, a part of the Republic of texas land grant awarded to Dr. Rowlett. At an early age, not particularly fond of farm life, he came to Bonham seeing a course of action that would lead him to a successful career. He went to work for J. W. Peeler in his drugstore and also studied for a time at Fannin College. IN 1893, he opened his first office over the First National Bank where he dealt in real estate and insurance.
He continued his studies by reading law with Judge W. A. Bramlotte and in 1896 was admitted to the bar. Later that year he was married to Miss Beulah Newman of Bonham. The union produced two daughters, Lois and Helen.
Always a successful businessman, Will Evans found time to devote to any number of civic endeavors as well as public service. He served two terms as City Secretary in the early years of this century and one term as City Attorney. When offered the attorney's post for a second time, in 1913, he declined in order to pursue other areas of improvement for his adopted hometown.
He was president of the Bonham Board of trade, forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce, for three terms. During his tenure and under his guidance, the city wide sewer system was installed and the streets of Bonham paved for the first time.
Early in 1923, hints began to appear in the Bonham newspapers that Will H. Smith was planning something big for the citizens of Bonham and Fannin County and something big it was. In the June 4, 1923 edition of The Bonham Daily Favorite the following announcement appeared:
"Will H. Evans of Bonham, Texas is going to give a party. Many men have had parties, but so far as we have ever heard, no man has ever had a party like the one Mr. Evans is going to have.
Mr. Evans says, "I have lived in Fannin County all of my life. I have labored with its citizenship, as a businessman for thirty years. The people have been good to me, and whatever I have accomplished I owe the credit to the people of my home county.
My home folks know that I never expect to be a candidate for any office and this makes it possible, it seems, for me to give this party without anybody thinking that I have an axe to grind or seek some special preferment. My part is to last three days and three nights. I want every man, woman, and child in the entire county, I mean the entire sixty thousand to come and enjoy the entertainment I shall provide for their pleasure.
My party is not to include anything but entertainment, no meals or refreshments of any kind, but the programs will be worth coming to see and hear.
The opening date will be July 10th and the closing date will be the night of the 12th, with a grand climax for the folks in Bonham.
I have postponed my party until the above dates in order to permit the farmers to get their crops laid by, for the schools to close, for the protracted meetings to close - I want a clear track.
My party will be divided into eleven programs. I intend to set aside certain programs to certain groups of people so that everybody can get a seat. I expect to make the program fit the audience. For instance one program will be open to all the boys and girls of the county down to the tots. Another will be open to all mothers an women over the age of 18 and the entertainment will fit these people.
I have arranged for some big men and women to speak on the different programs, I have secured the services of as good musicians as the country affords. I have selected some of the highest class pictures that are to be seen upon the screen, and also some good entertainers. Each program will have music, entertainment, speakers, and pictures. It will be the equal of any chautauqua that has every come this way.
I want to give this party as I can say THANK YOU to all of the people for their kindnesses to me, and for their many words of encouragement. This party is not given for any special crowd, but for ALL and I want EVERYBODY to enjoy it.
I hope the people will watch the papers for the different programs and come at the times I have arranged for them. I am asking the Bonham people not to come except when their program is provided as I want everybody to have a seat. The part will be held at the R and R American Theater and those who expect to get a seat should always be on time.
Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas