The Town Has Put On Railroad Airs in Profusion
Bonham Daily Favorite, October 18, 1992
Despite the failure of the election to provide a subsidy of $25,000 to the Texas and Pacific Railway Company, work continued on the Transcontinental Line through the spring and summer of 1873 as the line was being built from Sherman eastward.
As a part of the land donation provided by Bonham city officials, railroad officials lived up to the stated agreements between the two parties and constructed a combination passenger and freight depot in Bonham. In early January 1 letter was received in the mayor's office stating that both Main and Center Streets would be kept open permanently. One of the objections to the proposed depot location south of the square was in reaction to a rumor that these two streets would be closed severing the connection between south and north Bonham.
By early May The North Texas Enterprise was reporting that citizens of Bonham expressed little concern over the possibility that the rail line would not be complete to Fort Worth by the end of the year. They were most interested in the fact that the roadbed between Bonham and Sherman had been graded and prepared and the laying of the iron would begin very soon. The paper went on to surmise that the road was already benefiting the town by "scattering money among the citizens. A great many people are employed at high wages to cut and haul trees, scrape dirt, etc."
At some point in the late spring or early summer construction was begun on Bonham's first depot. Several news accounts in local papers made references to occurences at the depot. In June a menagerie and animal act present shows in a tent "across the street from the depot." By July The Bonham News was agitating for the city to construct a boardwalk from the square to the depot to insure that travelers and citizens of Bonham alike could make their way in the rainiest of weather.
When the depot was completed there were no provisions for meals for the passengers and none of the trains had dining cars. To rectify this situation several private eating rooms variously styled as T & P Dining Hall, Railroad Cafe, etc. were within a half a block of the depot along Main Street. The T & P Dining Hall at Main and 2nd Street used to send a porter to meet the trains ring a large dinner bell as the passengers alighted, announced the dinner menu and then led the way to the restaurant.
On July 19 The Enterprise reported that the laying of the rails had begun at Sherman but progress was very slow since the only construction train was a handcar. The depot was finished by this time but had no trains to serve it. Unfortunatley no photos of this depot are known to exist. The only information about the building comes from a series of Sanborn Insurance maps. The building was of frame construction with a wood shingle roof. The exact dimensions are unknown but judging from the map layouts the building was about one third the size of the present building. The interior consisted on one large waiting room. There seems to be no provision for a ticket window. Possibly a counter and desk were in some part of the waiting area. The east part of the building contained a freight warehouse. The building was surrounded by an elevated dock. Adjoining on the east end and running to the end of the block was a wooden freight dock covered by a roof but with open sides. Across three lines of railroad tracks was a large cotton shipping platform where bales of cotton were stored awaiting transport.
Track laying reached Savoy by the middle of August and with the addition of a proper construction train the pace picked up. Sometime early in October the rails reached Bonham. Publication of The Enterprise had been suspended during part of August and all of September so that precise information in unavailable. In the October 25th edition a short editorial appeared on the front page. "The Transcontinental track from Sherman to Bonham was completed and the first train arrived On October 12, 1873." Editor Burnett went on to comment, " during our absence many important changes have occurred in the city and its surroundings. New houses have sprung up everywhere and the town has put on railroad airs in profusion. The Transcontinental has been completed and trains come thundering along every few hours. Our merchants and business men have acquired an additional spring in the heel, and claw and hammer coats and four story tops of the latest distress parade the streets in droves. We hardly know the place and fear we shall have to fly around briskly (with pencil behind ear) to keep up with the times and season."
Burnett reported on the 25th that the line was as far east as Robert Johnson's farm four miles west of Honey Grove. It was announced that the stagecoaches would stop there and mails would be transferred to the trains at that time.
Honey Grove received the construction car on the 28th and the rails reached the county line on November 1st. The 54.5 miles from Sherman to Brookston was completed by the end of the year. At Brookston passengers had to make connection with the Fulton Stage Line to continue their journey to the east. Those on the stage traveling west connected with the train at Brookston. The days of the stage coach were numbered with each mile of railroad construction. The Fulton line originating in Arkansas provided service for the Red River counties all the way to El Paso.
About two weeks after the completion of the rail line to Brookston the stage was held up halfway between there and Paris. An employee of a Paris bank was on the train and stage with $10,000 for the bank. It was surmised that the robbers were aware of this money shipment although they also robbed the other passengers of their valuables. The men were caught a few weeks later.
At the same time the Sherman - Brookston section was completed the Marshall - Texarkana section was also finished. Work stopped at this point on construction. A group of businessmen from Dallas, Fort Worth and Abilene had persuaded railroad official, with promises of additional capital, to move the main line to a point south of the completed construction so the line would stretch from east of Marshall through Dallas, Fort Worth and westward.
The 8.78 miles from Brookston to Paris was finished in 1875 and 90.44 miles from Paris to Texarkana were completd in 1876.
The remainder of the Transcontinental line from Sherman to Fort Worth was not constructed until 1880 finally providing the link-up with the now principal line of the Texas and Pacific Railway.
Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas