Webster: The County That Never Was
Bonham Daily Favorite, November 29, 1992
The nine years that Texas remained under military rule after the Civil War, the reconstruct!on legislature, composed of opportunists, illiterates, freedmen, and outright criminals enacted enough legislation to serve Texas into the 21st century. Much of this legislation was pushed through the chambers of both houses by self serving politicians and those in the pockets of the outside opportunists.
While often the legislation was ruinous to those persons who had espoused the Confederate cause, many of the bills bordered on absolute stupidity. Despite the pro!iferation of these laws, there was an occasion humorous act slipped through the legislative procedure to be signed by puppet governors. While amusing when looked at from the distance of one hundred and twenty eight years, most of these bills were demanded by certain special interests.
Most of these acts reflected an attempt to restructure the state through a series of steps creating new counties, reorganizing old Republic boundaries, or simply slicing off portions of older established counties and adding them to newly designated areas. In some instances the only action taken was the simple renaming of an existing county in order to be "politically correct," a phrase unknown to nineteenth century politicians and social engineers.
Cass County created in 1846 from Bowie County was renamed Davis County, in 1861, in honor of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. It may have taken the political in group of the 1860's some time to discover why this particular county carried the name for it took the reconstruction legislature five years to rename the county for Lewis Cass.
Some of the infamous slicing off of territory took place a little closer to home when in 1870 one of the smallest counties in the state was created out of a small triangular section of land formed by the North and South Sulphur Rivers. Delta County owes its existence to the area carved from Lamar and Hopkins Counties.
Most of the new counties were reasonably created to answer the western migration within the state which took place in the late 1860's and early 1870's. The western reaches of the state held much promise to those who wanted to start over and many a prospective cattleman looked with interest on the vast stretches grasslands to the west.
In the proliferation of new laws one act almost slipped through the legislature in 1868 acting on a declaration issued by the Constitutional Convention. In the winter of 1868, General Winfield S. Hancock Commander of the Fifth Military District ordered an election to be held in each Texas county to determine whether a constitutional convention should be held and if so to elect delegates for the sessions. Political conservatives, who were opposed to the convention, suffered a resounding defeat by the radicals with a vote of 44,689 for the convention and 11,440 in opposition.
As the elected delegates assembled in Austin on June 1 the ninety delegates were distributed among 12 conservatives, eight carpetbaggers, six members of the Convention of 1866, and the remaining split between the radicals and the ultra-radicals. The delegates were instructed to simply write a new constitution for Texas.
From the beginning the delegates showed a marked tendency to stray outside the limits of their legal responsibility with the result that much of the time was spent in matters over which they had no jurisdiction such as the division of Texas into more than one state, issuing orders for the chartering of railroad construction, and other activities normally under the discretion of the legislature.
In Fannin County a group of citizens in the eastern section of the county saw the opportunity to wrest control from the elected officials through the creation of a new judicial entity. The minutes of the Commissioners Court on November 3, 1868 addressed the situation.
"It appearing to the court that the citizens of the eastern part of Fannin County and the western part of Lamar County are desirous to organize a county as set by the ordinance of the late Convention, and that they have elected certain persons to act as their officers in said County of Webster."
Apparently, a group of citizens primarily from Honey Grove and Ladonia circumvented the local judicial officials and managed to get a petition introduced into the Constitutional Convention where the delegates, illegally, issued a declaration creating Webster County. All the declarations which issued forth from the Convention had no legal standing since only the legislature was empowered with such activities.
The original petition suggested that the new county be created from seven miles of Lamar County running from Red River down to the southern boundary of the county. Ten miles were to be cut away from the existing Fannin County to be measured from a point at the mouth of Bois d'Arc Creek ten miles to the west, then south approximately thirty-six miles to the southern boundary shared by Fannin and Hunt Counties. The southern border was then to run from that stopping point east to connect with the established eastern border.
Nothing exists in the records of the Convention nor the state legislature as to why the name Webster was chosen, but it has been suggested that it was done in tribute to the great American statesman, Daniel Webster.
Forty-eight men signed the petition with about 80% of them being residents of Fannin County. Prominent among the signers were S.A. Erwin, A.G. Stobaugh, S.E. Bramlette, W.A. Ryon, G.A. Dailey, James Daley, and J.W. Piner.
This Constitutional declaration was sent to the legislature along with the myriad other declarations which issued forth from that group. The Webster County declaration was referred to committee of the 1870 Legislature where thanks to the efforts of Senator E.L. Dohaney and Representatives M.L. Armstrong and J.O. Austin it remained bottled up.
The original petitioners and others made one last attempt to see the creation of Webster County. At the January, 1876 term of the Fannin County Commissioners Court a delegation composed of S.A. Erwin, Robert A. Price,
B.S. Walcott, and A.G. Stobaugh presented a second petiion to the court stating that the original declaration approving the organization of the county also made it a duty of the Fannin County Court "to organize said county and order the election of officers." The application was "refuted by the court." Webster County was to fade from the scene
Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas