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First train to Bonham
By media release
Nov 22, 2023
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Editor's note: Bonham recently celebrated the 150th anniversary of the first train into Fannin County, so we wanted to run this 90-year-old article in the Bonham Daily Favorite about the first train pulling into Bonham on October 12, 1873.
Bonham Daily Favorite
Thursday, October 19, 1933: page 1
When The First Train Came to Bonham
October 13 marks the anniversary of a day that had much to do with the history and progress of Bonham, for it was on October 12, 1873 that the first railroad passenger train came Into Bonham. On that day the Texas & Pacific ran a train from Fort Worth into the town.
Strange as It may sound, the buildings of the road had commenced at Texarkana on this branch of the Texas & Pacific, building west, and yet it turned out that the first train into Bonham came from the west instead of the east. The explanation is that two building crews started simultaneously at Texarkana and ah Fort Worth, and the Fort Worth crew built into the town months before the Texarkana crew completed Its work.
The arrival of that train was a signal for the immediate growth of the town. Also that train brought into Bonham two men who were to play Important parts in the future of Bonham Two young men from Georgia arrived in that train. They were J. W. Peeler and Zac Smith, both seeking their fortunes In a new country. Both found it here. In 1874 J. W. Peeler established the drug business which he conducted with ultimate success until his death a few months ago.
Zac Smith is still with us, though he retired from active, business some years since. He was Just a young lad when he landed In Bonham sixty years ago on the 12th of this month. He was induced to come to Bonham by the fact that two of his brothers had come here before him. His eldest brother, Luke Smith, was practicing law here, and served as district attorney for a number of years. He then left Bonham to accept a partnership with T. J. Brown, of Sherman, who afterward became chief Justice of the Texas supreme court, a place he held with much honor for many years. Mr. Smith later went to St. Louis and then back to Dallas, where he died. The other brother was Joseph M. Smith, then engaged in the drug business. In later years he went west and for some years engaged in the newspaper business. A few years ago he sold his newspaper at Pampa, Texas, and having profited much by investments in West Texas oil fields, he retired. He celebrated his eighty-third birthday only a few years ago, and is enjoying his declining years amid plenty.
When his kid brother, Zac, landed in Bonham he had learned telegraphy and the Texas & Pacific offered him a place as telegrapher in its offices here. He was a good telegrapher, as he was good at everything else he ever did. He worked for the railroad a number of years. In 1879 he was united in marriage with Miss Erva Nunnelee, a daughter of S. D. Nunnelee, one of Bonham's pioneer merchants. The year following he became a partner in the firm of S. D. and W. A. Nunnelee and he remained with the firm for many years. Just to show that good men make mistakes sometimes, it must be recorded that for some time before he married he bought an interest in a newspaper, the Bonham News, and worked as a newspaper writer for a time. He was wise enough however, to see that the newspaper promised a young man but few opportunities to accumulate a competence, so he sold his interest in the newspaper—and thereafter prospered.
After his mercantile experience ended, he went into the First National bank and was active as an officer in that until he retired. He still retains his interest in a number of businesses in Bonham, as well as in Fannin County land.
For sixty years Zac Smith has been one of the solid, useful, progressive citizens of Bonham. He has contributed much to almost every line of endeavor whether it is business. education, social life or religious work. If he has lacked in anything it has been an inclination to "toot his own horn." He hasn’t had any of that spirit. He hasn’t claimed for himself the praise he deserves But he has been friendly with all men, helpful when occasion arose, encouraging others to strive for better things—and setting them a modest example. There have been many changes in the sixty years since he landed in Bonham. Few are left who were here when he came. Only one man yet in business was in business here when he came. That man is A. B. Scarborough of the First National bank. The two have been fast friends. There are others who remember his coming, but they were young when he came or have long since gone out of active business of any kind.
As Zac Smith has been a friend to Bonham through so many years. Bonham is now a friend to him for all the years to come.