Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas
The Size of Fannin County
In its 155 year history Fannin County has changed its size and configuration twice. At its creation in 1837 the area was roughly 65 miles east to west and sixty miles north to south. A year after these original boundaries were surveyed the western limit was moved 365 miles further to the west and the south limits
moved to 85 miles. With the creation of Hunt, Collin, and Grayson Counties in 1846 the present day lines were drawn.
By no means were the 1846 metes considered inviolable. In the early days of reconstruction after the Civil War a move was made once again to re-define Fannin County's boundaries. This move was just one of many proposed by the reconstruction authorities to exercise firmer control over the defeated territory.
At the Constitutional Convention of 1868 - 1869 a petition was presented from a group of citizens living in the eastern part of Fannin County requesting the creation of a new county encompassing an area bounded by the southern line of Lamar County at a point seven miles east of its western boundary then north to Red River.
The northern boundary was to follow the meanderings of the river to a point ten miles west of the Fannin County eastern line, then south to the border of Hunt and Fannin Counties.
The Convention, by declaration, created the new county to be called Webster. Neither the proceedings of the convention body nor the petition indicate why that name was chosen. An educated guess would be that among the petitioners were those with admiration for the great American statesman and orator, Daniel Webster. Honey Grove was designated as the county seat.
A delegation of the petitioners also appeared before the Fannin County Police Court (now operating under this reconstructionist label) with a petition listing certain persons to be appointed to office when the new county was organized. A request was made to the court to recommend these persons to the officials at Austin.
Representatives of the Fannin Court ordered Judge F.D. Piner to forward the list "with a statement of the facts, to the Govenor of the State that there may be no delay in the proper organization of the said county of Webster, when the proper time shall arrive."
The list of recommended officials was not recorded in the Fannin County annals nor do any other copies of the list seem to have survived elsewhere.
Of particular interest is the fact that of the petitioners who signed both the documents to Austin and Fannin County, not one person can be traced to a Lamar County residence.
So many declarations were issued by the Constitutional Convention that the proposed changes in state government threatened almost total chaos. From the first session on June 1, 1868 the ninety delegates were at odds over each proposal. These men were divided between the conservatives, the radicals (or more properly the moderates), the ultra-radicals, the carpetbaggers, and nine negro representatives.
The Convention was organized for one purpose, to re-write the Constitution of Texas. Intersectional fighting was evident from the beginning, resulting in little accomplishment of the mandated goals. In general, delegates used the meetings as an opportunity to broaden Republican control in Texas politics.
Most of the convention activities were essentially a contest between the radicals and the ultra-radicals.
Days were spent dealing with matters over which the Convention had no legal jurisdiction such as the proposed division of Texas, chartering of railroads, and other matters which should have been handled by the legislature. Because of the excessive wrangling, funds for the session ran out on August 31. A special and unpopular tax was then levied to complete the project with the second session opening on the first Monday in December.
On February 9 the Convention ended in disorder after the delegates had spent only ten days actually trying to frame the new Constitution. Only 45 of the assembled delegates agreed to sign the partial document. However, by an order of the Convention, which did have some judicial influence, an election was held in July when a majority of those voting approved the document.
Thousands of Texas stayed away from the polls.
Approval of this unfinished Constitution only created more problems, for each succeeding legislature had to deal with a number of declarations issued by the Convention, most of which were illegal under any new or previously enacted articles of the Constitution. One of these proposals which had no legal justification was the creation of Webster County. Ignoring the declaration, the representatives of the legislature failed to organize or legalize the county.
Those living in the eastern sections of Fannin County were not to give up on their efforts so easily. At a session of the Commissioners Court on January 22, 1876, S.A. Erwin, B.S. Walcott, A.G. Stobaugh, and Robert Price presented a petition signed by 48 men stating, "We the undersigned who reside in the limits herein after set out are qualified electors under the laws of Texas. . . would respectfully represent that on or about the first day of June 1868 the delegates elected by the people of Texas assembled at the city of Austin for the purpose of framing a Constitution. . . said delegates. . . by the proper vote and in form adopted a declaration or ordinance creating the County of Webster out of . . . (here the petition repeats the boundaries stated in the original 1868 document) Further represent and charge that by Section 3 of said declaration it is made that the County Court of Fannin County organize said County of Webster and order elections for county officers therein. . . "
The Fannin County Court composed of Chief Justice W .A. Evans, and Associate Justices T. J. May, W. E. Dailey, Sr, H. H. McClendon, and J. E Pace rejected the petition out of hand ending the third attempt at changing the bounds of the county.