Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas
The Warren Store Ledger
Bonham Daily Favorite, February 19, 1995
We are a throw-away society. All across the country landfills are closing almost on a daily basis because they have exceeded their legal capacity. All of the throw-aways crowding these landfills are not the plastics or the non-biodegradable substances. Paper products constitute a large portion of our trash. I have no idea how many tons of paper is discarded by the citizens of Bonham and Fannin County daily but it must be a staggering amount.
I wonder what our pioneer settlers would think if they could see the paper we discard. Why is this a concern? Think for a minute what was probably involved for those pioneers to have writing materials. Admittedly many of those settlers were illiterate but they depended on their clerks, elected officials, attorneys, etc. to do their writing for them because writing materials were just as important then as our PC's and word processors are today.
There was, however, a distinct absence of your corner stationers or office supply store. How then were writing materials obtained. The pioneers made or grew most of the necessities of life and for those wares they were unable to produce they had to turn to the few trading posts and primitive general stores in the area. It is highly unlikely that many of these merchants carried a large supply of paper, pens and ink, so the pioneer had to use and re-use every scrap of paper that came his way.
It is almost amusing to examine the estate files of the Fannin County courts. These early files contain every imaginable kinds of scraps of paper which were presented as claims against the specific estate. The legal entities seemed to favor a pale blue lined paper and even the later printed forms of the county government were printed on this lined paper. The area merchants submitted their claims on fragments of every kind of paper.
Even the official records of the county show a remarkable re-use of paper products. There are some records of transactions which were actually written in the margins of previously used and voided records. To read the existing records one must turn the page in a circle for the entries were written in a circular manner around the margin.
The county government was able to obtain, at great difficulty I'm sure, a few large ledger books in which to record the official business of the county. Records of the Fannin County Commissioners Court show payment to suppliers in Houston for these materials. But the materials were scarce enough to cause the more frugal clerks to use every available resource for records keeping. Most notably in Fannin County is the lack of marriage record books during the days of the Texas Republic. Instead Fannin County marriages were recorded in the back of the Commissioners Court minutes.
Another of the more interesting double uses of official record books was recently pointed out to me when photocopied pages from Grayson County's first District Court Minute book were sent to the museum. These Court records were actually entered in the back of a ledger that had been orginally used in a general store/trading post type of operation.
The entries in the original ledger cover the period 1838 to 1840. This of course is still in the formation period when present day Grayson County was actually a part of Fannin County. It is that period when Fannin County stretched for 385 miles from east to west.
In the store ledger are recorded 154 names. These names read like a census of the first settlers of Fannin County. Settlers who arrived here when the Red River valley was still claimed by Mexico. Settlers who fought in the Texas revolution. Settlers who commanded the frontier militias in the war against the raiding bands of Indians.
One interesting fact stands out. A large majority of these names are persons whom we can identify as being settlers in and around the Fort Warren area. Putting this fact together with the known information about merchants in village of Warren we can arrive at a reasonable conclusion that the ledger was from the general store of Henderson and Montague.
Henderson and Montague's enterprise was in operation at least by August 8, 1837 (this information comes from the probate file of Preston Kitchings) and the establishment was still operation in May of 1839 when Montague submitted a a statement for militia provisions during the Indian skirmishes.
It is unknown who the Henderson partner was. We don't don't even have his first name. The Montague was of course noted pioneer Daniel Montague who probably founded the town of Warren around the fort/trading post constructed by Abel Warren.
Many of the names in the ledger will be familiar to those who have read Fannin County history. Such names as Holland Coffee who was shot down on the streets of Warren; Silas Colville accused murderer of Captain John Hart; George and Jefferson Ivy who according to Dr. Daniel Rowlett were among the first settler of the area; Bushnell Garner Isaac Camp, and David Alberty, all of whom were murdered by Indians within the time frame that this ledger was kept.
Some of the names are unfamiliar. A check of land records, tax rolls, and other early materials have failed to turn up references to these persons.
Three females had accounts under their own names, Mag Baley, Sarah Colville, and Widow Parker. This may be Martha Parker, who was administrator of the estate of Stephen Parker when she applied for a land grant under his name for emigration in September of 1836.
John Trimble who is credited with having the first school in Fannin County, established at Warren, during this period was a customer.
Men who were the leaders of Grayson County after its founding in 1846 are also listed in the ledger, Spencer Asbury. the Shannon brothers, James and Thomas and Richard Mclntire who fed and housed the members of the Snively Expedition in 1843 were all customers at the store.
The Republic of Texas and the Texas Government are separate listings from the ledger. These charges may be some listed by Montague for provisioning the local.
It would appear that at least one Indian was a customer. There is a listing for "Big Ax". The designated tern "Ax" was often a white man's nickname for certain Indians.
We'll look at purchases made at the Warren store in next week's column.