Editor’s note: This is the third part in a series of columns detailing the history of Tom C. Bean by Dusty Williams.
From here I set out on a mission to prove some of the circumstances that were produced from Mr. Saunders and his claims. Oxford, Mississippi, is in Lafayette County and I began there by looking at the 1880 census. James W. Saunders is listed as being aged 62 and born in Virginia. While he states that he was born in Virginia, his children and wife all state that they were born in Tennessee. This indicates that his parents were from Virginia, but migrated to Tennessee, thus collaborating to his claim that his family were Tennesseans. I will also provide this information: 1880 Fannin County, Texas, Thomas C. Bean does not list a place for his birth. An 1870 Fannin County census states that he is a lawyer and a county surveyor and was born in the District of Columbia. The 1869 voter registration list also states that he was born in Washington D. C. However, on the 1850 Fannin County census, Thomas C. Bean states that he was born in Virginia. This collaborates with the time and birthplace of James W. Saunders and warrants a suspicion that Tom Bean fabricated the story that he was from Washington D. C. in later years.
W. W. Russell of Bonham was a good friend of Tom Bean and was appointed as the temporary administrator of his estate. Speculation continued from residents who insisted that Thomas Bean was always a Bean. The Bean family proclaimed that they had proof of this and would provide the evidence at the right time. By the end of September it was reported that the Bean case would be extended into the November term. In the meantime, there were several other individuals who stepped forward and proclaimed to be Tom Bean’s heir. Colonel M. Leeper of Sherman stated that Tom Bean’s name was in fact Tom Bean, he was from Fayetteville Arkansas and had a brother Oscar who lived in California. Dr. H. P. Howard was granted administrator of the will in mid-October, thus insinuating that he had proven his relationship to Tom Bean. Howard was a postmaster for San Antonio. Howard claimed that his mother was a cousin of Tom Bean and in fact on his death certificate in 1913, it stated that he was born in Washington D. C. and that his mother was Nancy Bean.
In late November, Robert English who was supposed to be the oldest citizen in Fannin County testified that he had known Tom Bean since 1843. He also stated that he knew Tom Bean’s father and knew that he was buried in Bonham as was stated in the earlier claims. English stated that he had heard Bean say that he was born in Washington D. C. and that he was satisfied that Tom Bean’s father’s name was Colmer Bean. He also said that he had heard Tom Bean state that he had lived in Palmyra, Missouri, where he moved from Washington D. C. and then on to Fayetteville, Arkansas.
I’ve mentioned this because I was actually able to find some information on Colmore Bean. On November 28, 1812 Colmore Bean married Winefred Murray in the District of Columbia. In 1820, Calmore Bean is living in Northumberland, Virginia, which might account for why Tom Bean listed Virginia and Washington D. C. as his birthplace on census records. In 1840, 1850, 1860 and 1870 a Colmore Bean is living in Maryland stating that he was born about 1796 in Maryland which would make this Colmore too young to have married Winefred Murray in 1812. I will also mention this, which is probably the most important piece of evidence: 1844 Fannin County Tax records list a Colmore Bean. This would possibly mean that the Colmore Bean on Maryland census records was a relative of Colmore Bean of Fannin County. It would further be surmised that Colmore Bean in Fannin County is the same Colmore Bean that married in Washington D. C. and was living in Virginia in 1820 before migrating west.
During the trial, residents of Missouri claimed that they personally knew Col. Moore Bean (Colmore) and his three sons, John, Thomas C. and Oscar from 1836 to 1839 at which point the family moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas. Also introduced at trial was the oath of allegiance of Col. Moore Bean to the Republic of Texas. There were also affidavits from Arkansas which confirmed the existence of the Bean family.
Claims of heirship continued to swarm into Fannin County. The Galveston Daily News reported the following claim on May 25, 1888: “Whitewright, Texas, May 24-N. S. Scott, an intelligent mulatto, about 30 years old, who recently came to this city, claims to be a son of the late Colonel Tom Bean, the millionaire of Fannin County. Scott has a pretty fair education and says that Colonel Bean gave him money at different times to educate himself with. He will go to Bonham soon to put in a claim for his part of the vast estate.”
There was also a report of a Mr. Bean coming from Kentucky to lay claim to Tom Bean’s estate. He stated that he was kin to Tom Bean, although he did not know to what degree.
On September 19th, a deed was read at the trial from John B. White and O. Dickinson to Colmore, John and Tom Bean, having been dated January 30, 1836. There was also introduced into evidence a copy of a contract made with the building committee of the Episcopal Church at Palmyra and Colmore, John and Thomas Bean. There were also letters introduced that were written from Thomas C. Bean from Fayetteville to his father, Colmore Bean at Bonham. Other letters introduced into evidence were letters from Oscar Bean at Fayetteville to Thomas C. Bean and his father Colmore. There were also letters from John Bean to Thomas and Colmore Bean of Bonham. Affidavits from citizens in Washington D. C. claim that Colmore left there in 1820.
Another strong piece of evidence entered into trial on this day was an affidavit of George W. Headley, of Headleyville, Virginia. It read “I have been in North Cumberland County, Virginia (Northumberland), all my life. I knew a Colmore Bean and his family. Bean was a carpenter. I knew two of his sons, John and Thomas; went to school with them about the year 1828. Don’t recollect Colmore Bean’s wife, but have heard the boys speak of their mother.” Remember, we have previous established Colmore Bean in Northumberland County, Virginia in 1820 after the marriage record in Washington D. C. Based on the affidavits from Washington, it appears that the Bean family moved to Virginia in 1820.
Dusty Williams is a ninth-generation Grayson County resident, author and local historian. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org