• Several months ago I got a call from Allen Rich, the publisher, editor, writer, reporter, photographer, etc. of the North Texas e-News in Bonham. The e-News is an electronic daily newspaper and a worthy lineal successor to the late lamented Bonham Daily Favorite.
  • In many ways, small communities are defined by people who seem larger than life. In Bonham, one of those people was Judge William E. McMahon. For reasons explained in the story that follows and another episode next week, I became the Judge's go-to driver when the choices of adults came up short.
  • Thanksgiving is the most American of our national holidays. By rights, that distinction should belong to July 4, but somehow the American Thanksgiving, with its ritual and legacies, seems more tightly woven into the fabric of our common experience than even Independence Day.
  • "He was just a local fellow who took pictures. He never really amounted to much." If you asked the old men who gathered on the bench on the south side of the courthouse in Bonham in the 1950s to chew tobacco, whittle and tell the stories old men tell, that would have been their general recollection of Erwin Evans Smith.
  • "In the childhood memories of every good cook, there's a large kitchen, a warm stove, a simmering pot and a mom." – Barbara Cositkyan, New York Magazine: 1984. Few things trigger memories of childhood and home like food. Those memories are with us always, waiting only to be recalled by a picture or an aroma or a taste. Once remembered they unlock times past, which, real or otherwise, seem more contented and less stressful than today or tomorrow. They are as much a part of who we are and what we have done than hard names and dates and facts.
  • Clyde Barrow looked nothing like Warren Beaty. The little killer and two-bit hold up man, along with his companion, Bonnie Parker, and a rotating roster of sidekicks, ranged over Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas in the early 1930s. By the time the outlaws' spree came to an end, they had murdered twelve people. Victim number four was grocery clerk named Howard Hall who worked in a neighborhood market in Sherman.
  • For the sake of this discussion, I suggest that there are two types of history—hard and soft. Hard history is about facts—times, dates, places, people, and events as recorded or generally accepted over time. Soft history is about impressions; it is about how people view many of those same times, dates, etc. but through the prism of their own experience. Over the run of things, soft history may be more important to understanding our past than the hard variety. It has been evident over the past twenty or so years that we have of more and more of less and less, more stores, but fewer real choices. Today, most retailers look alike, offer the same merchandise, and answer not to local demand, but to faraway corporate rules and directives. What we need these days is a good Dime Store.
  • Just maybe, if you are really still of an early morning when the sky in the east is sliding from inky black into the first pale light of the dawn, just maybe, you will hear the faint rumble of drums from the long roll and catch the first notes of a bugle calling the past to fall out for reveille from the barracks of Fort Washita. It will be only an echo of course, for the soldiers are long gone. The west barracks are nothing but empty stone walls now, and on September 26, 2010, fire destroyed the south barracks, which were built as a replica of the original 1849 building to illustrate army life on the frontier during the fort’s active life. So shadows and echoes and imagination have fill in the gaps. But still, if you are quiet, you might here those bugles all the same.
  • In 1875, the Indian Territory, in what is now Oklahoma, was a no man's land ruled by murders, outlaws, thieves, and all manner of miscreants who thought they had found safe haven from the law and civilization. This changed when a new judge sent two hundred U.S. deputy marshals into the territory. One of the most acclaimed of these lawmen was a former slave from Grayson County named Bass Reeves.
  • In 1875, Issac C. Parker became the judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, which included the wild environs of the Indian Territory. He brought hard justice to this previous lawless part of the country and earned a place in the annals of the West.
  • Voting in the 1950s was not as easy as pulling a lever or making an electronic check mark. It took a big paper ballot, a good dark pencil, and a lot of people to count the votes.
  • In the summer of 1923, a man named Will H. Evans of Bonham gave a party for the citizens of Fannin County -- all 60,000 of them. And what a swell party it was. 1918 American La France pumper truck in Bonham parade, Will Evans' party for Fannin County, July 10-12, 1923 - Image Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art © Erwin E. Smith Foundation
  • Barbed wire brought the end of the open range to cattle country, but it also ushered in a new era of scientific animal husbandry that changed the industry forever. Still, for many old timers, the wire would always be "Devil's rope."
  • Before barbed wire made its appearance in the United States, another product of North Texas and the Red River Valley was the fencing material of choice for farmers all over the country--the tree called the Osage Orange or Bois d'Arc.
  • Texas governor Ross Sterling supported by Texas Rangers faced off against Oklahoma governor "Alfalfa Bill" Murray and and the Oklahoma National Guard the Red River Bridge War of 1931.
  • Though born in Grayson County, Texas, William "Alfalfa Bill" Murray loomed large in the early history of Oklahoma.

  • Centenial commemorative stamp.
    Until 1858, transportation between Texas and the rest of the United States was haphazard at best. That changed for the better when the Butterfield's Overland Mail started regular service and brought passengers and mail over the Red River and through Sherman for the first time.

  • In the fall of 1874, three soldiers and two civilian scouts made a legendary defense against 125 mounted warriors in what became known as the Fight at Buffalo Wallow.
  • In the story of the struggle for dominance on the Southern Plains and its place in the history of the Southwest, there remains one principal chapter. It is the saga of the Red River War of 1874-75, and the final wresting of the area by the U.S. Army from the Comanche, Southern Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Arapaho who had dominated the region two centuries.
  • The evolutionary clash of competing cultures was not new to the Great Plains in the 1870s. It was but another cycle in the struggles for domination of the plains that had been going on for more than two hundred years, but it was the last chapter in that long and violent story.
  • For most of the Civil War, the Red River was a backwater to bigger events happening east of the Mississippi, but in the spring of 1864 that changed when Federal gunboats appeared on the river.
  • His name was just too much for the Texans under his command, so they called him "Prince Polecat," a nickname that delighted the general. In a Confederate army officered by men of all manner of backgrounds, Camille Armand Jules Marie, Prince de Polignac was still one of a kind.
  • Now long gone and almost forgotten, the Great Red River Raft was once a primary obstacle to settlement and transportation along the Red River in Texas and Oklahoma.
  • Following the early Spanish and French forays to the Red River, it would be more than six decades before the arrival of a new group of explorers and pioneers, the Americans.
  • As Fannin County residents await a series of formal discussions regarding possible restoration of the historic 1888 courthouse, a look back at the series of courthouses used by the county offers a glimpse into the fascinating history of a county that, according to Handbook of Texas, once encompassed 22 modern-day Texas counties. all images courtesy of Fannin County Museum of History