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Bono, a once thriving community
By: John Watson

The intersection of FM 2331 and CR1121 (Woodard Ave.) in downtown Bono.
Looking east on Cr 1121.

About seven miles west of Cleburne on the north side of HWY 67 sits the Bono Volunteer
Fire Department. A short distance farther down the road is a sign that says "Bono 1" with an
arrow pointing to the right. After turning down Farm Road 2331 you soon pass the Bono
Cemetery; and then you come to the intersection of FM 2331 and County Road 1121
(Woodard Ave), which was once downtown Bono. There is an old deserted house on the
southeastern corner and a nice well kept mobile home on the northwest corner of the
intersection. The other two corners are vacant. A few other houses are scattered about the
area. This is all that is left of what was once a thriving community.

Bono was originally settled in the 1860's on the old Cleburne-Glen Rose Road, which ran
westward from North Granbury Street, along Woodard Avenue, on to Glen Rose.

Agents promoting Texas had cast the lure of limitless rich lands, "salubrious" climate,
fortunes to be made from cotton - truly a land of opportunity! Magic phrases were: "town
lots, water privileges, railroads."

Mr. C.L. Jones and Mr. B.H. (Ben) Williamson were the first permanent settlers in the Bono Area.

Mr. Benjamin H. Williamson (young Ben), came from Skipperville, Dale County, Alabama
in December, 1874 and built a little log cabin. He bought 160 acres for $640 on Robinson
Branch south of the present site of Bono.

In 1876, Mr. C.L. Jones, from Mississippi, bought 363 acres for $820 and established his
home about one mile southwest of the present site of Bono where there was a grove of trees
and a spring. The old Chisholm Trail passed within one-half mile of his home.

Many other families followed these early settlers and within two years, the settlers saw the
need for a town where a school and churches could be built. Mr. C.L. Jones talked with
neighbors whose properties bordered his near Robinson Branch.

The result: Mr. A.T. Johnson and Mr. E.J. Cooper each donated 20 acres of land. It was
matched by Mr. Jones. This made 60 acres - a good beginning. The 60 acres of land was
subdivided into lots from one to five acres and offered to anyone who would build - make it
his home and lend his influence in establishing a fruitful climate for families. Sixteen acres
of the sixty was set aside for school and church sites. The land was donated by Mr. E.J.
(Jimmy) Cooper for such. So, there was no picnic to advertise and sell lots. These were to
be free if lived on to contribute to the cultural life of the town - its school and churches.
(The lots were laid off running east to west.)

Mr. C.L. Jones invested in a general store and the federal government established the post
office there. The year was 1877. The mail was brought by hack from Cleburne. Since this
location was the old Cleburne-Glen Rose highway, the route later came to be known as the
Glen Rose Star Route. Since then, the rural mail carriers have served Bono residents well.
RFD started in 1896.

Since Texas, or Tejas, was the Spanish pronunciation of a Caddo Indian (and variant of other
Indian) word meaning "friends" and the state motto was "friendship", Mr. C.L. Jones took a
word from the Choctaw (Indian) language and called the post office Bono - meaning
"friendly." Mr. Jones is thus credited with naming the town. Bono was born - the year was 1877.

As more people moved into the area, a need was recognized for a community burial ground.
Mr. H.L. Russell set aside a portion of his land - six acres in a meadow for that purpose.
(Mr. Hickman gave an additional amount after he owned the land.) The Bono Cemetery is
located 1/2 mile south on FM 2331.

The donation of land for school and church purposes showed that these men were interested
in promoting brotherhood and fostering morality, so the principles of the Masonic Lodge
fell on fertile ground. A "Blue Lodge" of Masonry (No. 448) was organized. The Lodge was
organized sometime before 1876, the exact date is uncertain. The meetings were held
upstairs in the old A. Davis general store.

The Woodmen of the World Organization was a fraternal one that was popular among rural
people in the early 1900's. The drawing factor to membership was that life insurance was
available. This insurance provided protection to many families over the years. Bono had a
W.O.W. hall where the group held monthly meetings. The meeting hall was upstairs over
the A. Davis general store.

"On a Sunday afternoon, May 4, 1890, the Williamsons were sitting in the log part of the
house when there suddenly came a roar of wind which blew away the lean-to and part of the
other roof, leaving only the ceiling which immediately began to leak, for a cyclone
(tornado) sweeping in from the northwest was accompanied by rain and hail. It tore down
2/3 of the houses in the settlement, injuring many people and killing some."

(The above paragraph was researched by Mrs. Horace (Erlene Ewing) Moore in the Eugene
C. Barker Library, University of Texas, Austin.)

Exodus 9:24 might have read - "very heavy hail, such as had never been" (in Bono) and
verse 25 as "The hail struck down everything that was in the field" - every plant of the field
and shattered every window and roof. This was near the close of school (late May) 1930, in
the middle of the afternoon. The hail accompanied a heavy rain. Vegetables were
pulverized; leaves and bark were stripped from the trees; birds and rabbits were dead on the
ground; the oat crop was completely devastated. The hailstones were not the usual shape,
but rather sharp pointed slabs of ice (spears) that seemed to drop through the roof.

Summer was timeless and peaceful. Night fell suddenly and the yellow lights quivered in the
houses. The season was hot with little rain. Precipitation dwindled to morning dews. The
creek was low, (sometimes dry), and the frogs croaked. Flies, mosquitoes and gnats
swarmed in the drowsy afternoon sun.

The dogs walked with heads down, tails sagging, panting - tongues dripping. Forty of the
hottest days from July 28 - September 5 were called "Dog Days."

The land was flavored by the time honored tradition of cotton, and though cotton was KING,
almost all farmers had some oats and corn, a garden, a cow, some hogs, and beasts of
burden - either oxen, horses and/or mules.

Wages for picking cotton was by the 100 lb. Before WW I, 35-40-50 cents was paid. Later,
one cent a pound was paid for years. As much as $2 per 100 has been paid.

Men could pick about 15 pounds an hour. A skilled fast picker could net 300lbs. a day and
sometimes more. A good picker could net more than 200lbs, but most pickers did less than 200lbs.

The first gin was built in a field on Mr. D.W. Boyd's farm. A later gin was on what is now
FM 2331. In 1929 this gin was struck by lightning and burned rather quickly. After the fire
the gin was rebuilt, served its usefulness, was closed down in 1944 and torn down by J.C.
(Jay) Woodard in 1947 or 1948.

This building was once the Bill Brown Service Station and
Grocery Store on Hwy 67 near the site of Bono.

From 1900 up until the 1940’s, Bono was a nice sized town. Over the years, they had 2
general merchandise stores, a cotton gin, telephone office, blacksmith shop and three
churches. As early as 1925, their school enrollment was 171.

Pupils came from all the surrounding communities - some great distances - since there was
no closer high school - none at Lone Willow nor Godley. They came from the McClung
Ranch on the county line on the west and the Lebanon Community on the east.

In the early days of the old west it is said that many towns became ghost towns when the
railroads passed them by; Bono, on the other hand, is not considered a ghost town but they
lost their businesses when the highway moved away and left them with no traffic through town.

In 1938 the State Highway Dept. built a new Highway 67 starting about two miles west of
Bono; veering south and passing Bono one mile to the south. This connected with the old
Meridian Highway at the point where Park Road 21 now turns south. This marked the
demise of Bono.

The old house on the south east corner of FM 2331 and CR 1121.

(Just a note about the house on the south east corner of FM 2331 and CR 1121. My dad
knew the man that grew up in that house. Dad said that the man told everyone that he helped
build the house that he was born in. How could this be, you ask? Here is the story. Shortly
after his mother and dad married they started to work building a new house, doing the work
themselves as a lot of young families did in the early days. The woman was pregnant during
the time she was helping her husband build the house and the baby was born shortly after
the house was finished. Therefore, he told everyone that he ‘helped’ build the house he was born in.)

Bono School

The Texas public school system was established by the Fifth Legislature in 1854. The first
apportionment by the state to public schools was for the school year 1854-1855 - 62 cents per capita.

The Constitution of 1869 established free schools for all between 6 and 16 years of age.
Compulsory attendance was set at 4 months.

The Constitution of 1876 eliminated compulsory attendance, but provided free schooling for
those 8 - 14 years of age. In their frontier situation, parents thought it dangerous to send 6
year olds on the long and often hazardous walk to school. Boys over 14 were needed to
work on the farm and girls over 14 were needed at home to help with the housework.

The first school at Bono, built of logs and boards, hewn from timber, in 1878, had one large
room with Mrs. Lottie Bradford as the first teacher. It stood by the road by the creek,
Robinson Branch.

There were large classes and yet students learned to read. The alphabet was learned in
sequence. This was the era of the McGuffey Readers, the Blue Back Speller and Ray’s
Higher Arithmetic.

In that one room students were taught Reading, Writing, Civics, Geography, History,
Arithmetic, English and Orthography (Spelling). Remember, also from the chorus, - “Read-
in’ and ‘Ritin and ‘Rith-me-tic taught to the tune of the hick-ry stick?” There was a routine
of read and recite.

Rather than the opening and closing of school, the expressions were; when will school “take
up” and when will school “let out”. The terms were short - 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 months - for the
children helped gather the crops.

The beginning and end of the school day, along with recess and lunch (best loved parts of the
day) were signaled by the clang of an old hand bell. There was no lunchroom, everyone
carried their lunch from home and ate at their desk. Supplies needed were slates, chalk,
paper and pen staffs. (Desks had a hole for the ink well - later a bottle of ink.)

Some of the girls wore their hair braided in two ‘pig tails’ and it has been known that
sometimes a boy sitting behind a girl with ‘pig tails’ would dip the end of her pig tail in the
ink well.

In 1894, there were 76 pupils with R. H. Crank as teacher and the apportionment was $285.
Scholastic age was 8 - 17.

There were far too many small rural schools in Johnson County, so after the turn of the
century consolidation into larger districts took place. District No. 50 was created (in 1906-
1907) by the union of the Bono, Chaney Chapel, Belknap and Harmony districts. It
retained the Bono name and the merger meant “better housing facilities, more modern
school equipment, better classification of students, longer school terms and more efficient
instruction” as stated by Miss Nelle McCorkle in her thesis: A History of Education in
Johnson County, 1930, page 129. (Mr. G. E. Warren was County Superintendent from 1900-1906).

This consolidation meant more pupils, hence a larger building, so a two-story frame building
was erected at a cost of $8000 in 1906-1907. There were 5 classrooms and an auditorium
(upstairs). It had telephone service and a small library (250 books in 1907-1908 to be
doubled in 1908-1909). It was located west of the businesses and west of some residences
and the churches - close to where the road turned back south. This white building faced
south and the yard covered 2 or 3 acres and had sheds to stable horses and mules. The only
known “school bus” was the kids feet, neighbor’s “spring wagon”, some buggies, and
horseback with two or three aboard!

Scholastic age from 1907-1930 was 7-17.

Pupils came from all the surrounding communities - some great distances - since there was
no closer high school - none at Lone Willow nor Godley. They came from the McClung
Ranch on the county line on the west and the Lebanon Community on the east. The school
welcomed Albert Cook and the Landers from Camp Creek, the Vaughans from the
McClung Ranch, the Andersons from near Lone Willow, the Hopkinses from across the
Nolan, the Honeas from southeast of Bono, the Myres, Elliots, Hudgins (Vinnnie), Pinson
(Vernon) from George’s Creek and Fort Spunky.

Raymond Ellioll was born and reared near George’s Creek, Fort Spunky.
and across the fence from McClung Ranch. A graduate of the University
of Kansas, he also studied in Chicago and New York City. His college
textbooks have been used in all fifty states and several foreign countries.
He is listed in several Who’s Who in America, and in the Dictionary of
International Biography, published in London and Dorthmouth, England.
In Retirement, he was Music Professor Emeritus at Texas Tech University.

Raymond Elliott, quoting from his ‘A Sprig of Grass’ says: “Two teachers at Bono made a
lasting impression. One was I. G. Kennon who asked us to turn to a certain page and follow
his reading. Fixing his eyes on the class, he began to read from memory, ‘Of man’s first
disobedience, and the fruit of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste brought death into the
world, and all our woe......’ He continued throughout the class period, reading long
passages from memory. I concluded that, if this was important enough for him to
memorize, it must hold some significance for me. During subsequent class periods, Mr.
Kennon read many literary passages from memory and assigned a large number for us to
memorize. The slow, uninterrupted eight-mile horseback ride twice daily offered excellent
opportunity for such memory work as well as a profitable way to pass the time. Thus began
an interest in literature.”

“Another teacher at Bono to leave a lasting impression was Miss Addie Moore, my music
teacher. She came from Cleburne 2 or 3 days a week and taught privately in the school -
because of the convenience, I began to take piano lessons from her. After hearing me play,
she said, ‘Raymond, you have the soul and feeling of a musician, but the music you are now
playing is probably neither interesting nor challenging. Let me play for you’, she said,
motioning me from the piano bench. I stood there spellbound and awed by her technical
mastery. ‘That, my dear fellow - Chopin’s Polonaise in A - is your new assignment,’ she
announced. At that moment my interest and determination sky-rocketed and, as it turned
out, Miss Moore had launched my career in music.”

In 1924, a new red brick building (2 story) was erected. Before it was completely finished
students went to school in the two churches. Mr. G. P. McElroy, W. M. Hickman and S. P.
McGee were names of trustees on the cornerstone.

Miss McCorkle in her thesis (pp 129-130) said: “A six room brick building of modern design
and construction well equipped for school purposes. It offers instruction through nine
grades and provides an eight month term.”

It had a long hall from one end of the building to the other and a huge assembly room (with
stage) upstairs. The school was heated with a big round coal stove. The boys carried the
coal in from a bin which was built in the back of the school.

School was last held in 1956 with Jimmy Gilliam and Billy Woodard being the only two
graduating from the 6th grade. Mr. Anderson was their teacher. The building was torn
down in 1957 and Mr. & Mrs. Hugh Jones built a lovely home in 1960 west of Bono using
brick from the 1924 building.

These men served as Trustees of the Bono School: L. C. Jones, Jr.; Calvin McGee; Dave
Mackey; Bart Payne; Alfred Kennon; Tom Smith; Eaphy Southerland; J. D. Strickland; Coll
Williamson and Jim Vincent.

Rayborn Sartor named these as helpful custodians: David Brand, A. B. McCoy, Moon
Mullen, R. O. Sartor, and Edgar Vidler.

As more people left the farm and moved to town the school at Bono met the fate of most of
the other country schools in Texas. By this time all the businesses had closed and now just
the memories are all we have left.