Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas
Fannin County Has Tolerable Water and Shoutin' Methodists
Bonham Daily Favorite, September 6, 1992
When the Republic of Texas ceased its various land programs in the early 1840's it was expected that the tide of immigrants would lessen to little more than a trickle. The hardships experienced by the early settlers were reported to friends and families in former homes. An increasing problem with hostile Indians, particularly in the Red River valley, served as an effective deterrent to some.
Despite the absence of free or cheap land and other problems associated with frontier life, Texas still remained a magnet for the young and adventurous single man. In most cases life was not as romantically adventurous or as productive as imagined.
The existence of several letters written to the D. N. Taylor family of Indiana add another dimension to our developing panorama of Bonham in the nineteenth century. The correspondence from a Gilbert Trusler and Richard and Oliver Thomas spans the years 1851 to 1853 when Bonham was becoming a better established village and less of a frontier settlement.
The first of these letters was written by Trusler on September 7, 1851. These are his words: "I have enjoyed myself since I left that part of the world. I hav had the best health this summer I ever enjoyed in my life. I will just giv you a history of what I done.
In the first place I arrived in Texas, Bonham, April 26 where I remained for two weeks and circut cort bein in cession during these two weeks I got acquainted with Dr. Timothy Everts who got me a gob of work.
He had just put up a house 18 feet squair and he could knot git any carpenter to finish it off and I bein a kind of bautch got the job . . . I went to old Dickies and commenced working for my board and washing and I maid six bedsteds and one table and stand two battons. Now I am living at Dr. Everts and just a working a nuff to pay my board and that takes me all I can do to pay that for baording here is 10 dollars a month and 27 dollars is all I maid since I hav bin in Texas. It is the poorest place I ever seen for a young man to get anything to do unless he has got some profession.
Fannin County is notorius for rich soil, tolerable good water, shrubby timber and shouting Methodist. I say shouting Methodist because I was out at their camp meeting in August. I went out on a Saturday and staid til Tuesday and I suppose I seen some fifty at a time shouting and besides all the shouters I seen in the alter they was scattered round in the woods and in the praire in the east and in the west and north and south.
It is some six months since I left home and I hav not hugged a gall since I left but I hav written a letter to one here and I think when I get a letter I will go see her. There is some fine girls there as ever lived but heir is some blackeyed ones that is far superior."
Truster's love life did not improved as witnessed by a late December letter. "Christmas is over here and it was as about as dry a Christmas as I ever passed in my life. I hav knot seen any snow this winter. It is quit a plesant plaise to spend the winter only when it comes up a norther like it had today and then it blows like the devil and is as cold as Jupiter.
I must change my subject to something no half so interesting to you but it is all I can think about just now and that is in reference to galls. Although I hav but little to say about them I hav bin here some 8 months and I hav never had my arm around a galls waist and you may no by that Ive not had a hug.
The emmigration to this country this year through the town of Bonham has average about 50 families per week for the last 2 or 3 month and I think about one third of the mmigration of people that emmigrated through this town in blacks, all slaves. P.S. I would be glad to here from you but I do not expect to stay here till I could receive a letter for I am coming to see you."
Richard and Oliver Thomas also corresponded with the Taylors in late 1852 and 1853. The relationship between the two men is unknown although they made references to one another is their correspondence.
Richard's August 5, 1852 letter deals with the Fannin County crop productivity. In his open sentence, " I shall never rue my emigrating to Texas. The spontaneous productions of the earth is enough to give any person Texas fever."
Thomas caught the Texas bragging fever early on. He reported that sweet potatoes do best in Fannin County, better than any place in the world. "They grow so large that a person can sit one end and roast the other with convenience!"
He also commented on an arcane event which occured. "The mysterious knockings which is in vogue now throughout the world made its appearance in the Bonham neighborhood last night. I was there and saw some of the devil's performance, I suppose. We found five mediums. I would like you to write and tell me what you think it is. "
Oliver Thomas' letters dealt more with prospects for the area.
On November 26, 1853 he wrote of great things which were to come. "Texas is now one of the ten greatest states in the Union. Schemes are being devised for the erection of railroads to travel the vast and fertile prairies for which Texas is noted, which the facilitie of commerce possessed by other states will cover with golden grain And even now, we have as much refinement in society as any of the northern states. The sciences and arts are not left uncultivated here than with you and we will soon surpass you in wealth. There will be a greater emigration here this fall than ever has been before. The streets of Bonham are dark, crowded with wagons and slaves."
Next week a panorama of Bonham as seen through the eyes of two young impressionable boys.