Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas
On the Square 1885: Shoes, Beer, Plows & Coffins
Bonham Daily Favorite, February 28, 1993
The 1885 Sanborn map discussed in last week's column did not indicate dwellings unless they happened to be within the defined limits of the business area of Bonham. In general such dwellings were few in number as opposed to earlier days when some homes were actually on the courthouse square or immediately off the square.
Last week we stopped our walking tour at the corner of Main and Mason(Seventh) Streets. Today we cross to the west side of Main as we head back toward the square. In the block between Mason and North Streets we find a dwelling at the north end, one dwelling in the middle, and one on the south end. A short distance behind the south building is a small structure labeled "School House." Once again, using a little detective work we might assume that this school was possibly one operated by either Job Donohoo or his daughter Jane Cuadras. In the articles on the Bonham Masonic Female Institute we know that Donohoo had once leased the school from the Masonic Lodge and we also know that Jane Cuadras had also rented space in the building for school purposes. The 1880 census tells us that the Donohoo family also resided in this block.
The next block south on Main Street is also sparsely built. From the north end to the center of the block is completely vacant. In the middle is a hardware store and to the south a doctor's office. The next two lots are vacant and the block ends with a two story building on the corner labeled Auction House. This building had been built before the Civil War by C.C. Alexander as a storehouse from which he supplied several general stores he operated throughout northeast Texas.
Crossing Front (Fifth) Street we see that the entire west side of the square is completely occupied as was the north side. As we shall see both the east and south sides were slow to develop. On the north end of the block is a grocery occupying the large two story building constructed by C.C. Alexander at the same time he constructed his warehouse across the street. The next two buildings were each divided into two facilities containing a shoe store, hardware, another grocery, and a clothing store. Next was a drug store. This was the same building which was later occupied by J.W. Peeler Drugs. The exact date at which Peeler moved from south of the square to the west side is in doubt and the fact that the map shows a drug store in the same location as Peeler's first location seems to indicate that this establishment was not his.
The map also indicates that at the rear of this drug store was located Western Union Telegraph. This contradicts some earlier information which said the telegraph service did not come to Bonham until late 1888 or 1889. This location may also give us a clue as to the location from which Major Charles Grace fired off his infamous telegram to the mayor of St. Louis.
South of the drug store other buildings were occupied by other groceries, a jewelers, dry goods, cigars and liquors, a saloon, and hardware. Second from the south end was a confectionary. Shortly before the Civil War this site had been occupied by Dick Alderson's cake and beer shop. On the corner was an fairly large frame building housing a store selling dry goods, boots and shoes, and notions.
Photographs in the Museum archives show the west side of the square in 1868 and 1876. Many of these same buildings were still there in 1885. The most notable exception being the large brick building belonging to Thomas R. Williams. Williams general store was downstairs and Constantine Lodge occupied the second floor. In 1872 this building was destroyed by fire.
Only the west end of the south side of the square was built up in 1885. Beginning at the west end we find a building housing a grocery store, cotton sample rooms, and sleeping rooms on the second floor. This lot in 1876 was occupied by the large general store of W.A. Nunnelee.
Whether or not the building of 1885 is the same is unknown. Moving down the block we find the usual run of restaurants, dry goods and two buildings occupied by furniture stores. Since the buildings were adjacent it may be that it was only one business. Newspaper ads from the early 1890's show the Bonham House Furnishings in this space and may be the store indicated on the map. One saloon was also located on the south side with sleeping rooms on the second floor. From about the middle of the block to the east corner the map shows only piles of lumber, possibly from the razing of some old buildings.
The most imposing structure on the east side of the square was the beautiful and impressive Fannin County Bank building. This building was probably the most imaginatively designed Victorian structure in the city. Anchoring the south end of this block the building stood alone with nothing to its immediate north and the street to the south. Constantine Lodge occupied the second floor as its meeting hall
The middle of the block contained J.H. Ewing's wagon yard and to the north of that were several buildings to the front and rear of the block which housed V.A. Ewing's wagon and carriage factory. Ewing specialized in conveyances built from the nearly indestructible bois d'arc wood and his products were in great demand throughout north Texas.
At the corner was the two story Burden Hotel with its stab!e to the rear.
The focal point of these areas of commerce was most certainly the tallest and largest structure in the town, the Fannin County courthouse which sat in majesty in the center of the public square. *
The building was erected in 1860 by William P. Seitz for just over $12,000. The structure was designed by Sylvanus Howell, two story surmounted by a cupola and "observatory." Bois d'arc and oak timbers were used throughout. Each of the four entrances were topped by a portico with some architectural detail added. The building was of brick but no color specifications were issued. The only known photo of the building does not provide even a guess as to the color brick.
In 1885 the courthouse was not the only structure located on the grounds. In 1870 the Commissioners Court had given permission to James Q. Chenoweth and R.M. Lusk to construct offices on the west side of the building to be used by both men as law offices. The map shows these buildings plus two similar buildings on the east side. None of these structures is identified as to occupant. The building on the northwest corner is labeled real estate and law offices. The other three are only labeled "office."
On the northeast corner is another imposing structure which was built in 1881 to house the district and county clerk's offices. A photograph of this building shows it to be rectangular, very tall, but not two storied, and faced with decorative stone and brick. This building was erected because of the cramped space in the main courthouse. The historical marker on the courthouse grounds today mistakenly calls this a courthouse built in 1881 to replace the 1860 structure.