• 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.
  • One of Sherman's most distinctive landmarks for 80 plus years has been the collection of red brick buildings high on a hill off FM 1417—The Woodman Circle Home. Recently, a music video got permission to shoot at the site using the abandoned buildings as backdrop. There have also been several pieces on local and area television about the home. Here is the story of an extraordinary page in Sherman's history, that may gone, but is not forgotten.
  • One could argue that the small town newspaper was the soul of the community. Certainly it provided the framework for a town's history and memories. It was communication on a far more personal level than a big city paper, no matter how many people read it each day, could provide. So it was with The Bonham Daily Favorite during the time it was my hometown paper.
  • With the rise of instant, and often irrelevant, information available at the click of a mouse or the swipe of a cell phone, we forget how important newspapers were to small towns up until a few years ago. They still are, but no paper from the New York Times to the smallest weekly has really figured out how to deal with the changes that have come along. But there was a time...
  • The first train to connect Texas to the North was a spur of the moment thing. By the time the first official run was made the next day, rails across the Red River were almost old hat. Pat Tobin brought that second train across, and over years, he laid claim to the being in the cab on the first run as well. He probably was indulging in the recreated memories old men often construct. It didn't really matter, by Christmas Day, 1872, Texas was linked to the rest of the country by steel rails, and Denison was on its way to becoming the gateway to the Lone Star.
  • Few establishments are more evocative of small town American than the barber shop on the corner. Every town had them, and each was much like the others. The names might change, the minor details might vary, but for the most part, if you plug the name of the shop in your town into the story that follows, the recognition will be instant.
  • Long before the first Europeans and then the Texans discovered the bountiful country along the Red River, it was the home to the Caddo people who flourished in a culture build on agriculture and trade. By the time the first Anglo settlers arrived south of the river, the Caddo were gone, driven deep into the East Texas woods to escape the attacks and slave raids by the Osage of northeast Oklahoma.
  • If you hauled freight or passengers by rail from Texarkana to Sherman along the Texas side of the Red River Valley, you rode the high iron of the Texas & Pacific. The rails connected Bowie, Red River, Lamar, Fannin, and Grayson counties before dipping down through Denton to Fort Worth. By the time I signed on the boomer trail as an extra board brakeman in the summer of 1963, the passenger service along the Trans Contenential Division, as the northern leg of the T&P was called, had long since disappeared, but the freight traffic was still substantial, enough to support half a dozen or more trains daily all dispatched out of Bonham.
  • It was December 24, 1863, the third Christmas of a war that was supposed to have been over in three months. Sherman's Grande Dame, Sophia Coffee Butts, had come to town from her mansion at Glen Eden Plantation near Preston Bend for the Christmas party at Ben Christian's hotel. It was all but certain to be the event of the season. Most of the county's leading citizens were there, and the holiday revelers were having a grand good time until men with guns rudely and violently interrupted them. The interlopers were the border guerrillas of William Clarke Quantrill, come down from Kansas to winter away from the war, and...but wait, that is getting ahead of the story.
  • Is Fort Worth where the West begins? Think again. If cowboys and longhorns and the iconic Texas image of cattle herds trailing north count for anything, the West of our history and our imaginations began here, in Fannin County, in 1852 with two men from Illinois and belt full of gold.
  • Judge McMahon was in his late 70s or early 80s when I knew him. He was average height but big, like a bear. He had bushy eyebrows like John L. Lewis, a deep, gruff voice, and the charm of a bygone era that was multiplied by age and Southern gallantry.
  • 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.
  • "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.