Fannin County Museum of History


‚ÄčOne Main Street, Bonham, Texas

A New Decade, A New Publication

October 23, 1994

Why Thomas J. Langdon chose to terminate his efforts to bring the first newspaper to Fannin County is unknown. As a point of fact nothing is known about Langdon himself. He was the first of several mystery men of journalism in the Fannin County of the nineteenth century.

We have only Langdon's name listed as editor and publisher of The Bonham Sentinel in notices of publication to be found in the probate records of Fannin County. We are even unsure of exactly when The Sentinel started publication, how many editions were issued, and why Langdon sold out to Charles DeMorse.

We do not know where he set up shop, where he came from, or where he went. None of the legal records of Fannin County contain his name. It is most likely that DeMorse chose to buy out Langdon's publication merely to eliminate any competition.

When DeMorse began publication of his The Northern Standard in Clarksville he had the northeast corner of Texas fairly well sewed up in terms of journalistic dominance. No other publications in the area were in operation for almost four years.

There is nothing to indicate that DeMorse continued to issue The Sentinel after its purchase and probably did not do so for in 1846 he began the simultaneous publication of The Standard in Bonham and Clarksville probably occupying the former offices of The Sentinel.

DeMorse's foray into Fannin County journalism established the need for a local publication and opened the door for the arrival of another experienced and talented editor. Records indicate that about the time that he ceased publication of The Standard in Bonham he sold The Sentinel to Joseph A. Clark and John Shaffer.

In reality it appears that he sold the equipment and perhaps the subscribers list to Clark and Shaffer. For obvious reasons DeMorse did not continue publication of a rival newspaper to The Standard.

It also seems that Clark and Shaffer may have revived the Sentinel name when they took over operations for again publication notices in probate files show them to be "proprietors" of The Bonham Sentinel . By the end of 1847, however, their publication was being called The Western Argus.

John Shaffer is not known to have had any prior newspaper experience before acquiring The Sentinel. His participation may have been strictly from a financial investment. His partner Joseph A. Clark , however, brought considerable experience to the partnership.

Clark began his career in journalism when as a young man he became the associate of George Bonnell, editor of The Argus, a Selma, Alabama journal which was probably the source of the name for the Bonham publication. After leaving the Selma paper, Clark studied law but later re-entered the newspaper field and by 1837 was editing an Aberdeen, Mississippi paper. He briefly issued a paper in Titus County, Texas before moving to Rusk County where he edited The Rusk Pioneer, another Whig publication. After severing his connection with the Bonham offices he became publisher of the Trinity Advocate in Palestine. In 1850 he was associated with The Galveston News. Two years later he left the field of journalism turning to religious work as an evangelist in the Disciples of Christ movement. In later years he ended his experience in newspapers after establishing the Texas Christian, a publication of the Disciples of Christ church.

Despite the fact that we have no extant copies of The Western Argus it must be assumed that Clark left the newspaper in a healthy state as he moved to a new position in Palestine for the publication seemingly continued to prosper for another year or more until its equipment was moved by new owners Matthewson and Latimer to Paris.

After Matthewson (Matteson) and Latimer moved the offices of The Argus to Paris, Fannin County was probably without a newspaper for a short time. Another probate notice published in May, 1949 lists the publication source as The Bonham Advertiser, Richard S. Hunt, editor.

Hunt was not alone in this enterprise. For the third time, Charles DeMorse became a journalistic influence in Fannin County. Seemingly Hunt and DeMorse teamed up to fill the newspaper void in the county.

Nothing in Richard Hunt's background indicates any prior experience in the field. Hunt, a Canadian, who lived for many years in New York, had studied law and surveying before coming to Texas. Before settling in Fannin County he and partner Jesse Randel had produced an influential publication which was responsible for attracting uncounted numbers of immigrants to the newly organized Repubic of Texas.

In 1838, Hunt and Randel, calling on Hunt's skill as a surveyor, and utilizing other survey maps of the Texas territory, published a small booklet which was issued throughout the United States. The booklet contained a wealth of material on land availability, weather data, crops, soil conditions, etc. all designed to bring in new citizens to the struggling republic. Contained within the booklet was a detailed map of the country and featured for the first time a rendition of the vast territory which then made up the old Fanni n County.

DeMorse's intent may have been to stay with the publication until Hunt had gained enough experience to continue on his own. By the end of 1849 DeMorse had sold his interest in the paper to his partner.

Hunt, when he first came to Texas settled in Houston and was a Houston resident while he worked on his immigrant prospectus. While he was there he evidently became acquainted with Sam Houston or was at least exposed to Houston's political expertise and statesmanship for Hunt became a long time supporter of Houston.

In an era in which newspapers often carried feuds with each other in their own printed pages, Hunt gained the enmity of the staff of the Texas Republican, published at Marshall, for his unflagging support of Houston, particularly after Houston's espousal of the principles of the Know-Nothing Party.

In 1853 Hunt sold The Bonham Advertiser to Joseph Moody and N.P. Clark. The new owners planned to change the name to The Western Star but rethought the move and kept the original name and retained Hunt to continue as editor. The paper was moved to Paris in the late 185 0's. Two copies, 1851 and 1853 are at the Library of Congress and two copies from 1849 are owned by the Fannin County Museum of History.