Fannin County Museum of History


‚ÄčOne Main Street, Bonham, Texas

Change, Catastrophe, Closing

Bonham Daily Favorite, April 18, 1993

The announcement, in December, 1873, that Bonham had been selected as the site for the establishment of a university under the auspices of the Disciples of Christ Church, must have galvanized a number of the locals to action. From the published stories it would seem that what the Church authorities had in mind was to take over an existing educational institution as the foundation for the proposed university.

Whether from direct knowledge or assumption on his part, Charles Carlton acted directly upon the news with the insertion of the following advertisement in the January 17, 1874 edition of THE NORTH TEXAS ENTERPRISE:


The first annual session will commence on first Monday in September next, and continue ten months closing June 18th 1875 .

The Faculty will spare no labor or expense, to make the Institution worthy in all respects, of the patronage of the whole country.

Charles T. Carlton,

The exact purpose of this announcement is unclear but as previously stated the decision to locate the college in Bonham fell victim to some politicizing maneuvers when Ad-Ran College in Thorpe Springs became the selection.

The Carltons continued operation of the former Masonic Institute even with the threat of disposession hanging over them. After the lose of the suit instituted in 1871 and the unsuccessful appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, the Carltons relinquished control of the school property and severed all ties with the institution in April of 1881.

In order to complete the school year, which evidently the courts made no provision for, the scheduled classes were moved to the building occupied by the First Christian Church. It seems that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were unable to continue the classes and in all probability all the students who were enrolled followed the Carltons to the temporary location at the church.

Unwilling to see his fourteen years of educating the young men and women of Bonham come to a halt, Charles Carlton in just a few days of capitulating to the court's decision, purchased a large double lot on Ninth Street between Center and Main Streets from Samuel A. Galbraith. Within a few days of acquiring the property Carlton had workmen on the site beginning the construction of a new educational facility.

By the beginning of the Fall term the building had been completed. The facility was two stories tall, "T" shaped and containing six classrooms with the main entrance in the center on the north side facing Ninth Street. A large covered porch was over the entrance.

A new charter was applied for and received as Carlton College "for the education of young men and women." The first session opened with an enrollment of two hundred and one students. Of these 94 were males, 101 females, and 6 special students in music.

The first catalogue was not issued until the 1882 -1883 term. Two courses of study were outlined for prospective students. The first educational plan was designated as the English Course. The curriculum for this program follows the lines of what has generally been perceived as a Liberal Arts program containing course in English grammar, Literature, math, science, and Bible studies. The second course followed a program popular in the 19th and early part of the 20th century for those students more inclined to deeper academic pursuits.

This program dubbed the Classical Course was heavy with courses in Latin and Greek, Etymology, Philosophy, advanced mathematics and sciences, logic, and Biblical studies.

During the 1886 L 1887 session, Carlton reluctantly came to a decision regarding the scope of the college. The catalogue of the next session along with announcements in local and regional papers carried the following announcement: "The next session will be marked by a change in the class of students to be admitted to the courses of study. There has been, for years, a marked tendency to separate boys and girls in the college, and following this indication, there will be no boys received over the scholastic age, thus making the College a school for girls."

With the changeover the more stringent Classical Course was de-emphasized and more emphasis placed on the Liberal Arts curriculum with an attendant increase in offerings in music and art. The college continued to grow despite the changes and by 1894 new and larger quarters were needed. The building on ninth Street was raised and the materials used to erect a new three story building on east Tenth Street and Chestnut opposite the Carlton's home. The new structure contained twenty-three rooms and three halls.

In 1900 the College suffered a severe blow with the death of Mrs. Sally Carlton who had stood by her husband through thirty-eight years of striving for academic excellence for the students who had come to the Carltons seeking an education. The next blow came two years later when the founder and guiding spirit of Carlton College, "Uncle" Charlie Carlton died bringing to an end an educational odyssey that began in Eythorne, England eighty-one years before.

Like many another nineteenth century school built around the special qualities of one individual, Carlton College began to decline with the death of its founder and mentor. Charles Taylor Carlton, the founder's son assumed the presidency on the death of his father.

For a few years the college continued to prosper to some degree. A new wing was added to the Carlton home doubling the space for boarding students. The dining hall was enlarged, and a special building was constructed for the popular kindergarten training program which had been instituted some years earlier

Shortly after Charles Carlton's death, Dr. E.V. Zollars, president of Texas Christian University contracted with Charles T. Carlton to make the college one of a series of junior colleges which would serve as feeders to the university. The program proved to be unsatisfactory and control of the college was returned to the Carlton family.

In 1910 a fire of suspicious origin completly destroyed the main classroom building built in 1895. The college continued operation on a restricted scale until 1914 when a proposal was made to combine the school with Carr-Burdette College in Sherman. This plan too proved unfeasible and in the fall of 1916 Carlton College closed bringing to an end nearly a half a century of quality education in Bonham.