James Butler Bonham
“Faithful to his Trust”
James Butler Bonham, twice sent as a messenger seeking reinforcements for the garrison at the Alamo, broke through the Mexican lines on March 3, 1836, and rode under heavy fire back into the Alamo, becoming the last man to enter the doomed mission fortress.
Born in Red Banks, South Carolina, on February 20, 1807, he grew up as a classmate and close friend of William Barret Travis. He enrolled in South Carolina College, but was expelled with the entire senior class for rebelling against school regulations and food. He studied law and opened a practice in Pendleton, South Carolina. He was censured early in his career for physically ejecting an opposing lawyer from the courtroom for insulting Bonham’s female client.
By 1835, having earned military experience as a colonel of artillery, Bonham was invited by Travis to come to Texas. Closing his law office in Montgomery, Alabama, he joined the Mobile Grays, and arrived in Texas on December 12, 1835. He was given a commission as a lieutenant of cavalry, and arrived at the Alamo with Jim Bowie on January 17, 1836.
On the fifth day of the siege, Travis sent his old friend to seek reinforcements. Two days later thirty-two men from Gonzales broke through the Mexican lines and rode into the Alamo. Unable to persuade James Fannin to leave the presidio at Goliad, and fully aware of the fate that awaited him at the Alamo, Bonham turned his horse back toward San Antonio de Bexar, and rode to his own immortality.
A bronze plaque at the Alamo commemorates James Butler Bonham as one of the Masons who gave his life for Texas. Fire destroyed all the South Carolina Grand Lodge records in 1838, and with them any trace of Bonham’s lodge affiliation.
* From The Texas Mason
By Pete Normand, PM
Texas Lodge of Research
* The Texas Masons
The Fraternity of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons in the History of Texas
by Pete Normand, © 1986
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