My history writing buddy, Marvin Gorley, has never understood my dislike of this county being named for Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, even though our most famous artist alumnus, William Henry Huddle, and his cousin, F.J. Fisher, painted both the former Republic of Texas president and his brother, Lucius Cincinnatus Lamar.
But, there are many negatives with the personality and actions of the president, not to mention Parisians and even those from his home area of Richmond, Texas, have never been able to decide upon just how to pronounce his name. It was with great relief when the shopping center moguls in East Paris decided to take his name off the signs. New announcers at local radio stations will never have to go through the pain of trying to say My-ree-bo, Mear-a-bo, or even the worst, Mare-a-boo.
We Texas history researchers can’t see how the discussions went leading up to such a decision to name this faraway county after the revolutionary hero, antagonist to the popular Sam Houston, and enemy of the “first people” of Texas, especially the Cherokee Indians. Study the plight of Chief Bowles and his last moments. The county should have been more locally named for the families with the names of Emberson, Carter, Denton, Fowler, Moore, Fulton, Cravens, Wright, Glass, Chisum, Johnson or a dozen other families who came here first. Heck, Lamar never traveled through here. He did not even sign the bill of creation, having left the Capitol heading to New Orleans for treatment of a terrible hemorrhoids outbreak. Vice President David G. Burnet put his pen on the line.
Outbreak and rebellion by both whites and Indians would have followed the selection of Calhoun, one of the instigators of the Trail of Tears from the large Choctaw Nation residing north of the Red River. They were given Southeast Oklahoma and the Anglos were kicked off due to the orders of Bureau of Indian Affairs creator Calhoun. That would not have been a good economic name.
Red River was actually what was left of Miller County, Territory of Arkansas, but the two Wright brothers, Travis in Little Rock, Arkansas, George in Houston, changed all that with one quick vote. Miller dissolved. The United States would get it eventually, so why argue the point in 1836? Red River would eventually become 19 counties. Fannin broke off first, then on December 17, 1840, Red River’s representatives—W.N. Porter, C.R. Johns and Albert H. Latimer—and Sen. Robert Potter, not exactly uncontroversial himself, decided on a name.
The notes, minutes or memoirs are long gone. If they are in Austin, none of us have found them. See my book “47 Years, Gammel’s Laws,” or some printed journals. George Wright had a house fire in 1868, where I suspect most of his papers perished. I don’t have them here in my possession, three generations later. Bowie County folks were having the same struggle splitting off and grabbing a name. At least Jim Bowie roamed around Southwestern Arkansas a bit. Recently I edited a book on John B. Denton, who simply died in that county’s area. There is no discussion anywhere in Austin on why his name was worthy of a county.
We can thank Lamar for instigating the function for support financially of the educational structure of the State of Texas. That won’t change my mind — we don’t need any memorials in honor of Lamar. Just let the man fade off in history.
As for the miniature of his home, it is still here, in a changed form. Corner of East Sherman and South Main. Gorley can explain that.