Fannin County Museum of History


‚ÄčOne Main Street, Bonham, Texas

The Cleanest Town in Texas

Bonham Daily Favorite, August 8, 1993

When W.A. Spangler took office, in April 1913, as the newly elected mayor of Bonham, he sensed an interest on the part of the citizens of Bonham to make an extra effort to improve their surroundings.  Beginning with the plans of landscape architect E. D. Harden for beautifying the courthouse park and extending to the construction of new and impressive structures in the business area to the construction of new and impressive structures in the business area.  This extra effort began to grow and Mayor Spangler determined that the time was right to ensure that the momentum continued.

The first of his plans were contained in a brief notice in the middle of the front page of the July 1, 1913 edition of The Bonham News: "We are informed by the mayor that Bonham will enter a contest for a clean city and plans will soon be given to the public on how and what to do. A more extended notice of this will be given later."

Official records do not reveal whether this proposal was all Spangler's idea or whether he was acting at the behest of others. But for what ever reason this short announcement kicked off a six month flurry of activity throughout the town.

Four days after the initial announcement, a banner headline in the July 4th edition of The Bonham News spelled out for the citizens what was to be done and what was expected.


"Holland's Magazine last year offered prizes for the cleanest town in the state.  Bonham did not enter the contest last year but this time she had thrown her hat into the ring and is going to work to win that prize.  The Mayor and city health officials are back of the movement.  They are interested not only in the appearance of the town but in the health of its citizens.  The weed covered yard, gardens and alleys, the rubbish on the premises, the filth stable lots, and foul cesspools caused by draining water into the streets go to make an unsanitary city as well as an unsightly one.

Every citizen ought to take pride in aiding to make Bonham the cleanest city in the state. The city authorities are going to do their part by furnishing wagons to haul off the refuse matter that cannot be burned.  The wagons will begin to clean up their premises and abolish all unsanitary places. Those who fail to do so will have to answer to the city authorities for their failure.

Now let every man get busy and clean up and beautify his property.  It is no more than his duty to his family and to the public."

Over the next few weeks, Bonham began to make specific plans and assign particular duties.  Commissioners of the clean up were L. E. Dicus, J. Balch Moor, L. C. White, F. M. Gibson, Virge Dearing, Pete Henderson, Jack Biard, Charles W. Lindsey, Bruce Johnson, J.D. Locke, and Tom McKee.

It was announced that the ladies of the town had organized into a special woman's committee.  The businessmen of the town joined ranks.  The Boy Scout Troops were to take on special duties, and all the children of the various Sunday Schools were to be organized into a clean-up brigade.

On July 29, details of the contest were announced by Holland's. Sixty-two towns in Texas and eight in Oklahoma had entered the contest and each town would be subject to surprise visits by members of the inspection teams.

Two insure a fair contest the contest was divided into five classes. In Texas the Class A division was composed of towns of 5000 and not more that 12,500. Class B was composed of towns of 2500 and not more than 5000. Class C, towns of 1250 and not more than 2500. In Oklahoma Class D was made up of towns of 5000 and not more than 10,000 and Class E ranged from towns of 2500 to not more than 5000.

The magazine also announced that judging of the towns, their appearance and real conditions would begin on the first day of the contest and continue until all towns had been inspected and scored.  Towns which scored very close together would be subjected to second and third inspections.

Holland's also added an additional incentive by announcing that each town making the best score in its class would receive a sanitary drinking fountain for each public school building in the corporate limits.

Details of the judging criteria for residences, public buildings, and commercial structures were published in all the local newspapers.  The women's committee called on each merchant, performed a pre-inspection check and then gave that merchant their own scoring and suggestions for improvement.  The criteria designated by the magazine were rather rigorous.

Mayor Spangler organized the city crews and volunteers cleaning up the streets, ditches, etc.  The Bonham News reported that the mayor and the crews had been cleaning Powder Creek. "The brush has been cut* the trees have been trimmed, the work done has transformed the place into a nice grove and has improved the appearance of that part of town wonderfully.  (As Katherine Campbell and rev. Ted White can attest years later, history does indeed repeat itself.

In September Holland's announced the prizes to be awarded. The winner in each category would receive $1000. The award, in 1912, had been a top prize of $300.  The magazine additionally stated that winning the prize would also be of great value to the town from a commercial standpoint attracting new businesses and the like and most importantly, according to the contest director, the winner will be a healthful spot where the citizens can live in happiness.

The clean-up committees remained active throughout the fall months.  Bonham received its initial inspection in late August. Because of close scores, another inspection was made the last week in November.

On December 2, Dr. M.M. Carrick, contest director and head of the medial and health department for the magazine, announced that Bonham was at the head of the list in its category.  All but give cities had been eliminated, Bonham, Denton, Abilene, Marshall, and Brownwood. Entered originally in Class A were Amarillo, Corpus Christi, Hillsborough, Houston Heights, San Angelo, Greenville, McKinney, and Sulphur Springs along with the finalists.

In Dr. Carrick's announcement he also praised the women's committee for their extraordinary work and he had high praise for the soon to be completed new Bonham High School  for its innovative approach to modern education.

The city was given one final inspection in early January. At that time Drs. Carrick and C.E. Cantrell who was assisting in the inspections of the contestants met with a large, enthusiastic crowd at the Firemen's Club rooms.  Each man complimented Bonham on her beautiful and healthful condition and the work of the people to achieve such excellent results.  They also offered some suggestions for continued improvements.

Finally the long awaited day arrived. Holland's Magazine was released on January 20; 1914. The boldface headline in The Bonham News told it all:


"Bonham has won the first prize of 1000 dollars as being the cleanest City in Texas.  Brownwood which won this distinction and honor last year follows BOnham as a close second, there being only 3/10 of 1 % difference in the scores.

The winner in Class B is Gonzales and the winner in Class C is McGregor.

Scoring in Class A is as follows: Bonham; 1st Inspection 96; 2nd Inspection 96.5; and 3rd Inspection 97. Brownwood; 1st Inspection 95; 2nd Inspection; 96.5; 3rd Inspection 96.7."

So, the pride was there; the leadership was there; the willingness was there; the effort was there; It paid off.  Can it happen again?

Incidentally, despite the long held belief the ornamental lamps which used to be on the courthouse grounds were not the prizes in the contest, the $1000 prize money was used to purchase them.