The Female Institute Troubled Times
Bonham Daily Favorite, February 7, 1993
The Civil War and its aftermath including the beginning of Reconstruction must have taken its toll on the Bonham Nasonic Female Institute. Early in 1866 the Constantine Lodge had rented the school room to Job Donahoo with the understanding that he would undertake some repairs to the building. No teachers are listed but it is known that Donahoo's daughter Jane had been trained as a teacher and her husband Joaquin Cuadros had been associated with the school before the outbreak of the war, so it is entirely possible that the institute was a family run facility at this time.
A resolution presented to the lodge membership later that spring states that the Bonham Female "Seminary" had never been completed and at the present time was in a state of major disrepair. The resolution went on to state that the stockholders (unnamed) in the school had agreed to transfer this stock to Constantine Lodge and the Bonham Royal Arch Chapter #52, with the understanding that these two organizations would finish the building and make whatever changes were deemed necessary. The rooms then in use for school purposes were to be kept for that purpose and the entire facility would be under the control of both groups.
By summer both organizations had agreed that the funds for an expansion of the school would be difficult to obtain and it was agreed that sufficient monies would be appropriated for repairs to the building and that the facility would be rented to someone who would establish a school and pay rent money to the two organizations.
In early 1867 a report was submitted stating that repairs were not completed by that date but a principal had been hired. The principal J.R. Cole and the masonic organizations agreed that Cole was to take charge of the school, conduct two sessions of five month duration each per year for a contract of five years.
Cole was also responsible for the hiring of a "suitable" number of competent teachers. The rental fee was fixed at $200 per year along with the understanding that any repairs essayed by Cole would be in lieu of payment.
At the same time that this agreement was being finalized, another joint committee was entering into another agreement with Jane Cuadros to rent the room on the lower floor of the building for a sum of $5 per month. It would seem that two different educational programs were housed in the same building, one organization sponsored and the other a privately run facility.
Cole either could not or would not abide by the terms of his agreement. On July 27, 1867 the school committee reported that Cole had been relieved of his duties for failure to keep the building in repair and his failure to employ any assistant teachers.
Once again the committee began the search for a new administrator to take charge of a rapidly failing attempt to educate the young ladies of Bonham. The committee's initial search did not take them far from home for just a few miles away at Kentuckytown, in Grayson County, was a deeply respected educator who offered the promise of a first class institution to the committee.
Charles Carlton and his family had fled the strife of war as it raged in Missouri and had settled at Dallas in 1862. There Carlton had established a school along the lines of his own educational philosophy. In 1865 he was induced to leave Dallas for the move to Kentucky town and the development of a school in that community.
Carlton moved his family to Bonham and in September 1867 took charge and opened the school as directed by the Masons. At this time a name change evidently came into effect for ads in various newspapers refer to the Bonham Female Seminary.
Seven months after Carlton took charge the lodge decided to remove itself from control of the school and the previously appointed committee was given the authority to negotiate a sale of the property for whatever price would enable the lodge to be completely free from the indebtedness it had incurred in repairing the building. One stipulation was that the facility would be used only for educational purposes. In May the lodge officers voted to sell the institute to Mrs. Sally Carlton, wife of Charles Carlton.
However the matter was far from being settled. Almost immediately protests were heard from some of the lodge members. Reasons given for the protest were that the lodge only held the land, upon which the school was built, in trust for the stockholders of the Masonic Female Institute. This stipulation had been written into the deed in trust drawn up when Bailey Inglish donated the land where the school was to be located. It was also pointed out that the stockholders had earlier subscribed funds only because the lodge had promised to keep and maintain a first class female seminary.
The word female in this formal protest is a clue as to what was probably the real reason for objections to the sale.
When Charles Carlton came to Texas he had an educational philosophy somewhat alien to the then prevailing sentiments about education. He believed firmly in the benefits of co-education. Although the records do not show it, it is generally believed that from the beginning of his tenure as director of the school he had admitted young men to the courses of study.
One other object to the sale hinged on the premise that under law a female could not contract nor be held to the performance of such contracts. Such a situation, it was believed, would prevent the lodge from insuring that terms of the sale could not be enforced, i.e. as insuring the education of females solely.
The protests were ignored by the school committee which reported to the lodge membership, in November, that the institute had been sold to the Carltons for the sum of $1500. The school then evidently became known as Carlton College.
The controversy did not end with the sale. For nearly the next ten years the Carltons and Constantine Lodge were in the courts in an attempt to settle the disagreement.
Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas