A Thousand Causes for the Act, A Thousand to Restrain

December 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Yesterday was fall-term graduation day at UT. Our daughter, Samantha, graduated (with high honors) along with nearly 400 others from the College of Liberal Arts. It was a happy, even giddy, day for thousands of students, parents, siblings and extended family. Perhaps it’s because I have been reading Jesse Sublett’s superb novella noir, Grave Digger Blues, but in the midst in all the rejoicing, somehow I am reminded of UT’s first suicide, a brilliant young law student who killed himself just a couple of weeks before his graduation, fall term, 1890. Such a tragic waste of a young life with so much promise. It makes me that much more grateful to have a graduate daughter with a sense of purpose, direction and self-discipline.

November 25, 1890



A Day Off and Heavy Losses at the Gaming Tables Wreck His Mental Powers and Lead to the Terrible Act.


Saturday afternoon he was seen more than once by a reporter and he was slightly under the influence of liquor. That afternoon at about three o’clock, with a friend, he visited a prominent jeweler and purchased a diamond ring and a diamond stud, paying for the same $165 each, the payment being made by a check on B.W. Bonner of Lufkin for the sum of $330. Sunday afternoon the community was shocked by the report that Bonner, a student in the law Department of the University, had committed suicide by taking either laudanum or morphine.

Leaving the jeweler’s with his gems he continued to drink, and at three o’clock Sunday morning, shorn of his costly jewelry and plucked of all his money, he was considerately loaded into a hack and sent to his boarding house on San Marcos street, where he went to bed.

The Sleep of Death.

At about 9 o’clock Sunday morning, Mr. T.O. Martin, his room mate, awakened him and asked him if he wanted breakfast, but he only mumbled out a few words and turning over dropped off to sleep. Mr. Martin went down to the breakfast table and when he returned again woke him up and asked if he wanted breakfast, but he said no. Mr. Martin then left and came downtown, where he got his mail, and returned to his room, where he found Mr. Bonner sitting at a table in his night clothes writing.

It was now about 10 o’clock.

Mr. Martin sat down and began writing and a moment after Mr. Banner quit writing, got up from the table, dressed himself and started out of the room. He stopped, however, at the door, and returning to Mr. Martin, said, “Have you got half a dollar? I want to mail some letters.”

Mr. Martin gave him a dollar and he went out. In about an hour he returned and passing Mr. Martin, who was seated on the gallery, he went into his room. In about fifteen minutes Mr. Martin went into the room, and picking up a notebook started out again.

Where are you going?” asked Mr. Bonner.

Back to the gallery,” Mr. Martin replied.

Mr. Martin noticed that Bonner spoke hoarsely and looked sleepy, but attributed it to his being up late the night before.

Shortly after reaching the gallery, Messrs. Kirkpatrick and Hood, university students, joined Mr. Martin, and all three went into the room, where Bonner was lying on his bed. He raised up and Mr. Martin introduced Mr. Kirkpatrick to him, after which Bonner, who have seemed to be very drowsy, laid down.

About this time the little son of Mrs. Graves, the land lady, came in and said to Mr. Bonner, “I went to see Doctor Willard, but he was not in, and won’t be back for an hour. Did you see him?”

No,” Bonner replied.

The boy then left, and Bonner dropped off to sleep.

Martin, Kirkpatrick and Hood went out on the gallery, and remained there talking until about 10 o’clock, when the visitors left, and Martin returned to his room, where he found Bonner sound asleep and snoring heavily.

In about twenty minutes Mr. Hertzberg, a student, came into the room, and he noticed the heavy breathing and snoring of Bonner and spoke about it to Mr. Martin. Mr. Hertzberg took a seat and he and Martin engaged in conversation, and some time after both noticed that the heavy snoring of Bonner suddenly ceased. Mr. Martin suggested that Bonner had fallen into a peaceful sleep, but Mr. Hertzberg was suspicious and got up and went to the sleeper’s bedside.

Bonner was dead.

Mr. Hertzberg at once raised the alarm and Mr. Martin felt Bonner’s pulse and over the heart. But life was extinct. Doctor Wooten was hurriedly called in, but his services were not needed. Bonner was cold in death.

Some Letters.

Four letters, evidently written during the morning, when Mr. Martin went down to the post office, were found on his table. One was addressed to his landlady, Mrs. Graves, kindly thanking her for past favors. One was addressed to Mr. Martin, and contained a check for $2 he owed him. One was for Mr. Brooks, a student, requesting that he draw on Mr. B.F. Bonner for the amount due him. The fourth was addressed to his brother, Mr. B.F. Bonner, of Lufkin. Under the table on the scrap of paper bearing no address or signature were these words: “There are a thousand causes for the act, there are a thousand to restrain – may God help and protect you.”

A photograph was found in one of his pockets on the back of which were the words: “Good bye, brother.”

Mr. Bonner was a brilliant young man and popular with all who knew him. He was a nephew of Col. Tom Bonner of Tyler. He was about 24 years of age and would have graduated from the law department this term. He has been drinking more or less of late and frequented the gambling rooms when under the influence of liquor.

Saturday night he lost heavily at cards and it is stated borrowed from a sporting man named Dennis $150, giving as security the diamonds he purchased during the afternoon. This money he lost and he was kindly sent home as has been stated. Justice Fisher held an inquest and his verdict is in accordance with the foregoing. Exercises were suspended at the University yesterday, and a mass meeting of the students was held at 11 o’clock. The remains were forwarded to Lufkin last night.

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