George W. Bonnell, frontier journalist in the Republic of Texas




Wallace, John Melton

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Journalists in the Republic of Texas tended to be eccentric, untamed, and unpredictable. George William Bonnell, editor of the Texas Sentinel at Austin in 1840, was no exception. Rumor has it that Bonnell once bit off a man's nose in a fist fight in Mississippi. Yet that same man, who may or may not have maimed the Mississippian, helped organize a society in the Texas capital devoted to caring for widows and orphans of Texans who had fallen in battle. He also wrote about Texas: "Cities are growing up, in places which a few years ago, were only inhabited by the wild beasts, and wilder savages, and civilization and refinement are rapidly taking possession of the wilderness and bringing it under the dominion of man." Journalists in the Republic tended also to be gregarious, restive, and blessed with a multitude of interests. George Bonnell was first a newspaperman, but he was also an Indian fighter, an author, a public official, an adventurer, a participant. He was enthusiastic about Texas and was one of her most eloquent spokesmen. He was not a native. Extraordinary as he was, however, Bonnell did not dominate; he did not overshadow his contemporary journalists by any means. Men such as George Teulon, Samuel Whiting , Gus Tomkins, John Henry Brown, Martin Carroll Wing, and many others -- colorful newspapermen heretofore hardly touched upon by the historian -- lie fallow waiting in Republic of Texas graves for the life-bringing stroke of a writer's pen.