Fannin County Museum of History


One Main Street, Bonham, Texas

Texas, Designed By the Carpetbaggers

Bonham Daily Favorite, September 5, 1993

Some waited. Others had left weeks before when it became evident that it would soon be over. Those who waited did so expecting orders of some kind, direction about what to do. Some even expected the enemy to come riding into town. After all this was the headquarters of the Northern Sub-District of the Confederate Army. So the few remaining officers still under the command of General Henry McCulloch waited. And the people of Bonham waited.

No word came. No troops arrived. Gradually each of the officers packed their few belongings, shook hands with their commander and rode away. Finally the General left one young junior officer to wait with instructions to remain for only two more weeks and then he was free to leave. Henry McCulloch made his way south to his home in Seguin.

Lieutenant Henry Askew waited with a copy of McCulloch's General Orders #12. Then Askew too left. The war that was to be won in a few short weeks was finally over.  An estimated one fourth of the Texans who had ridden and marched away four years before would not return. Locally, nearly half of Captain Stanley's Company of the Ninth Texas Infantry would die on the fields of combat.

The families who remained suffered personal loss. They endured hardships unimaginable. Foodstuffs were in short supply. Farming equipment was broken with no substitute parts to be had. Medicines were virtually non-existent. There was little to welcome home those who had been away for months or even years.

More ominous was the unknown. What was ahead for those who wanted to rebuild their shattered lives? Probably few imagined the retribution their captors would exact over the next nine years. Few could imagine the swarms of opportunists, criminals, and sociopaths who would almost completely control their lives for the forseeable future. This was the future of Texas designed by those who would come to be called "carpetbaggers."

As the soldiers made their way home from all over the South the face of Texas began to change. Under orders from President Andrew Johnson, General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island on July 19, 1865 and claimed control over the state by authority of the U. S. Government.

Granger's proclamation also served notice that all slaves were free, the Confederate army was to be disbanded, and further, any acts, laws, or rulings by the Texas government since the Declaration of Secession were illegal.

Two days later A.J. Hamilton was appointed provisional governor of Texas. The first steps were taken on the road to reconstruction.

Actually little is known about the reconstruction period and its impact on the day to day lives of the citizens of Fannin County. Some of the more dramatic events have been recorded and here and there in the annals of the county we find little shreds of information that enable us to have some understanding of the times.

One reason for this lack of information stems from the fact that Fannin County had no newspapers published in the area from shortly after the outbreak of the war until the establishment of "The Texas News" in 1867. Occasional articles can be found in the still extant copies of "The Standard" published at Clarksville. "The Standard" founded by Charles DeMorse in 1842 was the first paper published in the North Texas area. It continued in operation until 1888 and for many of those years served as a regional paper for the area .

By the end of the summer, after the surrender at Appomattox, military control was in full sway in Texas. All men who had fought in the Confederate army and those who were suspected of any anti-Union activities had been disenfranchised with the result that no elections could be held for local offices. Instead all county officials were appointed by the provisional governor.

It is unclear as to the qualifications demanded of those who were to serve. A case in point is the unusual appointment, in Fannin County, of Robert H. Taylor as County Judge. It may be remembered that Taylor had been elected a Fannin County delegate to the Secession Convention of 1861. During the Convention Taylor made a stirring and impassioned speech against the evils of secession and was one of a handful of delegates who voted against the declaration.

But with the declaration of war Taylor joined with the forces of the Confederacy, helped to raise three regiments and commanded one unit himself.

Taylor was a life long and staunch Republican. Perhaps it was his stand against secession and his Republican affiliation as well as his military experience and service in the legislature that worked to insure his appointment to the highest and most powerful office in county government.

As Taylor took his seat he commanded the other appointees to appear at the courthouse where they were expected to take the oath of amnesty and be sworn into office. On August 21, 1865 the following men assumed their appointive offices: County Commissioners, Alexander Moore, James M. Biggerstaff, John G. Jones, and C. C. Nelms. The two clerks of the county were County Clerk Samuel J. Galbraith and District Clerk A.P. Carter. The Sheriff was J.B. Anderson. The offices of tax collector and assessor were combined into one with E.B. Hicks filling the office. County surveyor was Richard Hunt.

At that initial meeting of county officials, the Commissioners as their first act issued an order to the county police patrols to "arrest all persons, freedmen, passing through the county without proper papers from their employers or for any illegal conduct."

As the people of the area were adjusting to the changes caused by occupation a rumor spread throughout the Red River Valley that President Andrew Johnson had been killed. Editor Charles DeMorse reported the story in an issue of "The Standard."

"From several sources, including a former resident of the county we learned that area newspapers reported accounts of the death of President Johnson who was killed in Washington City by General Grant in a personal altercation arising from Johnson's unwillingness to maintain in good faith the terms of the conventions entered into by Grant with Lee. The killing is said to have occurred in a private room at the State Department and without witnesses and all we hear is that General Grant said he was compelled to kill him"