Politics Calculated to Preserve

Bonham Daily Favorite, November 27, 1994

The murder of John Crane, editor of The Bonham Independent was not the only death in the Red River Valley that could be attributed to the violence generated by the Southern fear of a slave revolt. Nor was his death the only one attributed to his editorial support of a sometimes unpopular stand. Three years after his death another veteran of Bonham's attempts to have a newspaper of the first rank was slain outside his news office in Sherman.

After his purchase of The Bonham Advertiser in 1856, E.J. Foster moved the paper first to Paris, for an unsuccessful stay, and then to Sherman. Foster's paper The Sherman Patriot had for some time espoused the attempt by Sam Houston to stem the rise of secessionist actions by many Texans. Foster, a long-time proponent of the Whig Party, now was identified in many minds as a radical journalist.

After the murder of a popular citizen of Grayson and Cooke Counties, Colonel William C. Young, Foster, in his publication, made a number of inflammatory statements including one which held that the death of Colonel Young was one of the best things that had happened in North Texas in a long time.

Several days after the publication of this paper, Foster was leaving his Sherman offices one evening when he was accosted by three young men on horseback. One of the men was the son of the murdered colonel. Jim Young demanded a retraction from Foster who then declared that he had made the statement only because of its truth.

One of the men with Young pushed a double-barreled shotgun against Foster's side and pulled both triggers. The three men made their escape and Foster was carried into his newspaper office where he died shortly after. Young and one of the men were tried for the murder years later and both were acquitted.

John Crane's death on the streets of Bonham failed to silence his assault on the suspected abolitionists from the Northern Methodist Church. The Clarksville Standard on May 14, 1859 printed an article under the headline THE BONHAM WEEKLY ERA.

"We have received the new issue from the types of the late Independent offices and find a journal which is in our estimation a material improvement upon the former issues. The new publishers are DeLisle and Phelps. Mr. DeLisle, a young attorney of capacity and gentlemanly character. We hope the new Era may do well. It is larger than the Independent was and is issued in the usual journal form.

It is published at $2.00 per annum, in advance, which is a low price - too low for the publisher to profit by. The politics of the editor are Democratic Conservative; politics calculated to preserve, not to destroy. We predict that the Era will be acceptable to the community in which it is produced."

This item from The Standard indicates that between Crane's death and May 14th attempts had been made, to continue the publication under a new name but with the same aims; since the inventory of Crane's estate lists the press and equipment of The Bonham Independent as being fully mortaged, we assume that DeLisle acquired this equipment from Crane's widow or possibly his creditors. Phelps, who previously was the printer for Crane's publication, seems to have assumed a new and more prominent position. According to The Standard, Phelps now shared the billing as Publisher with DeLisle.

DeLisle must have determined that his occupancy in the former offices of The Bonham Independent were just reasons for continuing John Crane's strong anti-abolitionist campaign. In fact DeLisle seems to have been as much a fire brand at those angry meetings held at the Fannin County courthouse as had other agitators.

As in the case of the Independent, there are no known copies of The Bonham Era and the examples of what we have are those verbatim items reprinted again in The Central Advocate and later in The Texas Methodist Historical Quarterly.

The confrontation with the suspected abolitionists continued to occupy much of the space in the newspaper for more than a year. To Delisle and Phelps credit was their willingness to allow participants in the incident space in which to present differing viewpoints. Bishop Janes of the Arkansas Annual Conference wrote in detail his impression of all the events that took place and seemingly the paper printed these impressions uncut and uncensored.

Colonel Samuel Roberts essayed to do the same thing and his accounts were presented in a likewise manner and with no attempt to weigh in favor of either side by the paper staff. These letters were copied by the St. Louis Christian Advocate and The Texas Methodist Historical Quarterly.

The Texas Advocate seemingly followed events in Fannin County for the next twelve or so months. One telling event reprinted by The Texas Advocate was taken completely from the pages of the Era when DeLisle reported the murder of a six year old son of Alfred Pace by a female slave of Pace's. After describing the woman's summary execution, either DeLisle of Phelps continued to keep the abolition conspiracy alive by stating that it was believed that "emmisaries still linger in the area and it is supposed to be not altogether improbable that some friends of said conference are seeking vengance by stirring up slaves to commit such deeds as that we have just chronicled."

Whatever plans DeLisle had for his new endeavor were to be short lived. Whether from his need to devote more time to his law practice or whether he felt no need to continue the strong anti-abolitionist current he had set in motion, DeLisle divested himself of ownership of the paper soon after the publication of the articles from Bishop Janes and Colonel Roberts.

In the summer of 1860 several probate notices were published in the pages of The Bonham Weekly Era and when the bills for publication of these notices were submitted to the Fannin County Probate Court the deposition of authenticity were signed as Matteson and Company. One other such bill was submitted and signed as "Richard S. Hunt, Foreman." Dr. Marilyn Sibley states that DeLisle sold the publication to Matteson and Hunt in July, 1861.

Matteson is probably the Robert C. Matthewson who bought the Bonham publication The Western Argus from Clark and Shaffer in 1847. Hunt, of course, was the originator, along with Charles DeMorse, of The Bonham Advertiser. The paper continued publication until sometime in the Spring of 1861. The last mention of the paper is found in a probate notice dated April 4, 1861. DeLisle joined The Stanley Light Horse Cavalry unit later that summer and no further information on him is available.

Fannin County Museum of History


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