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Merle R. Hudgins

BONUS, TEXAS. Bonus, near the junction of Farm roads 102 and 2614, fifteen miles north of Wharton in northern Wharton County, was established in the mid-1890s, when the construction of the Cane Belt Railroad (chartered by William Thomas Eldridge, W. L. Dunovant, and others) terminated at the plantation site owned by Eldridge and Dunovant in Wharton County. An extension of this line ran to another plantation owned by Eldridge and Dunovant just a few miles south and west of Bonus. In 1896 the community applied to the postal department for a post office and requested the name Alamo, but that name was not approved. Reportedly the name Bonus was chosen instead because the railroad owners were promised a bonus for building a line into the area. The Bonus post office opened in 1896. Bonus initially had relatively few white residents. Little mail was received at the community, and its post office was discontinued three times before being permanently discontinued in 1940, when local mail was routed through Eagle Lake or Egypt.

The syndicate and partnership of Eldridge and Dunovant encompassed land in the area running from Eagle Lake to Garwood in Colorado County and to Bonus in Wharton County. In the early 1900s a prison camp was established of Bonus, and prisoners were contracted to work the land and perform other agricultural jobs. The Dunovant-Eldridge partnership dissolved in 1901; Dunovant took the lands in the Eagle Lake area, and Eldridge took the Bonus plantation. In 1902, Eldridge shot and killed Dunovant.

Eldridge and Dunovant had brought black families to Bonus to work the large fields of sugarcane, cotton, corn, and rice. By 1905 a local school black children had fifty-seven pupils and one teacher. Nedra School, a small black school east of Bonus, eventually merged with Bonus to form the Bonus-Nedra district. In 1926 the district had four schools, four teachers, seventy-five white pupils, and 110 black pupils. In 1958 the district was consolidated with the Hungerford Independent School District, and in 1973 this area became part of the East Bernard ISD.

In 1936 Bonus had two businesses and a population of fifty, which declined to a population of forty-two by the 1980s, when no businesses were reported . The Eldridge-to-Bonus rail link was abandoned in 1940, and the rail bed was converted into a county road. In 1992, the main Cane Belt service line was terminated; the tracks, ties, and gravel bed were removed. In 2000 the population was forty-two.

J. O. Graham, The Book of Wharton County, Texas (Wharton?: Philip Rich, 1926). Annie Lee Williams, A History of Wharton County (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1964).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Merle R. Hudgins, "BONUS, TX," accessed June 01, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hnb60.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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