Editor’s note: This is the first part in a series of columns detailing the history of Tom C. Bean by Dusty Williams.
This year I will be teaching at Tom Bean Independent School District, and it suddenly dawned on me that I have not written a history of this interesting little community. Furthermore, I had this topic on my “to-do” list for my new book, “9 Generations of Grayson County History.” So it would appear, my friends, that this unique story is ready to travel through my pen and into the minds of you as readers.
When we examine the namesake, Thomas C. Bean, it is not a far stretch to label him as unique or possibly even unusual for his time. In fact, when referring to Mr. Bean, various histories use and reuse the word “eccentric.” There is very little known about Thomas C. Bean prior to his migration to Texas in the 1840s, having arrived here as a surveyor. In exchange for his work for the state, or the Republic of Texas at the time, he gathered up portions of land and boasted eventually that he had so much land that he could ride from his home near Bonham all the way to Austin without ever leaving his property. A similar story exist from James P. Dumas of Sister Grove Farm near Cannon, whereas he boasted that he could ride to Denison without ever leaving his land.
The biggest mystery of Thomas C. Bean was his journey to Texas. Some records suggest that he was wanted for murder and changed his name to avoid the law. Another story ensues that he was the groom in a shotgun wedding and decided to make a quick getaway to Texas. According to previously written histories, Bean left Sandwich, New Hampshire, to escape this fate. Legend says that Bean’s own recollection of his early years consisted of the following line, “I woke up one morning and found myself in a bean patch, so I named myself Tom Bean.” While many of these items may be true and are possibly factual, from henceforth we will look at evidence that I have uncovered.
According to the Fannin County census records that I have viewed, Thomas C. Bean was born in Washington, D.C. In fact, this is also proven by examining his tombstone in Willow Wild Cemetery at Bonham, with the stone reading “Born in Washington City, D.C.” According to the census records, Bean was born about 1822. Bean was so private that on his tombstone there is no birth date, rather it simply states, “Aged about 73 years.”
Bean died on July 24, 1887 and on July 26, The Galveston Daily news ran the following article:
“Bonham, Tex., July 25, — Tom Bean, the wealthiest, one of the oldest, and altogether the most eccentric of the residents of this county, died here. … Mr. Bean came here in 1840 or 1842 as a surveyor, and while lands were cheap and surveyors scarce surveyed on shares thereby securing thousands of acres of the most valuable land in Fannin county and north Texas. He lived in poverty and seclusion, being an old bachelor, and never sold a foot of land except for the payment of taxes. It being generally known that he would not sell, parties were continually applying to him for leases, which he always refused, saying he wanted it to remain unfenced for poor people’s stock. His net estate is estimated at $1,000,000. He claimed to have no relatives. He was accustomed to tell those inquiring after his family that he found himself a good big boy in a bean patch and called himself Tom Bean. A young man came here from California several years ago, claiming to be a nephew, but Mr. Bean disowned him. W. W. Russell, Sim Wineller, John Sparks and Judge Evans, requested by the county judge to act as a committee to take charge of the papers belonging to the estate as yet have found no will. It is believed by many that he had a will, and that it is in the vaults of some bank away from here. Several who had been acquainted with him longest-everybody knew him- insisted that he should dispose of his property by will, but he would always decline. He is supposed to have been about 70 years old. An old musty Bible was found, … but no record of his birth or family history has been found. People are curious to know what will become of his immense landed estate. Proving of heirship will be in order. …”
Dusty Williams is a ninth-generation Grayson County resident, author and local historian. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org