Ebeneezer Lafayette Dohoney

13 Oct 1832 - 29 Mar 1919

Captain, Co. H

9th Texas Cavalry, CSA

Historians Remember Eben Dohoney

©By Skipper Steely, 1999

Featured in THE PARIS NEWS, Sunday, December 13, 1998.

For years busloads of tourists and hunters of history have driven through Evergreen Cemetery. All stop at the Willet Babcock monument to view the so-called Jesus in boots statuary atop the furniture-maker's large marker. It is impressive, but Babcock, as influential as he was to Paris life in the 1880s, does not hold a candle to the man buried behind and to the north of him.

Eben Layfayette Dohoney is the most intriguing character among the many buried at Evergreen. The late Texas historian Clarence Wharton decades ago called the politician, lawyer and advanced thinker one of the 50 men who had exerted the greatest influence in Texas. Quite a statement for one who is little known by Parisians today but under whose idea of local option for the sale of liquor still guides all Texans. The Handbook of Texas editors found Dohoney important enough a part of Texas history to include almost a half-page of his resume.

Born in Adair County, near Columbia, Kentucky, in 1832, Dohoney was the oldest of eight. He began teaching at 19 to obtain college money and by 1854 delivered the valedictory address at Columbia College. He entered the law offices of Bramlette and Cravens, then entered the law department of Louisville University, graduating in the spring of 1857. Apparently looking for a place to improve his health, Dohoney, his brother Robert and a neighboring friend came on a spring wagon to Paris in October, 1859, arriving at a tumultuous time when conversations were constantly on national politics. John Brown had just made his raid on Harper's Ferry. Sam Houston was professing that if Texas were to secede, then do it as a new Republic and a separate country.

Dohoney was canvassed in the 1860 census as a resident of the William Bramlett home, so perhaps there was an Adair County, Kentucky-to-Paris connection through the Bramlett family. With enthusiasm Dohoney began to canvass Lamar County with his ideas of Unionism and despite his youth and newness to the county did it without much apparent animosity toward him. However, most of what is known about that time period comes from his own biography called An Average American, so the outlook is a bit skewed in his favor. Despite being against secession, he joined with the Confederacy as an officer of Company H of the 9th Texas Cavalry. He became ill and disabled in Corinth, Miss., and returned to Paris in late 1862. It was then he became a permanent Parisian by marrying the daughter of Dr. A. S. and Frances Johnson. The surviving eight Dohoney children would find their father to be no boring old man. He served the remaining years of the war effort as a part of the local commissary and quartermaster departments.

In 1865 Dohoney was appointed as attorney for the 8th Judicial District by Union Gov. A. J. Hamilton and attempted to bring to justice criminals who had acted against the laws both then and prior to his assignment. He fought to save cotton reserves grown after the war and to prosecute those who had cruelly hanged citizens near the Sulphur River during the previous years.

On Feb. 8, 1870, Dohoney met in Austin as a state senator from our area. He became the father of the Homestead Law of 1871. He also voted for the prohibition of allowing persons to enter churches, school rooms and special gatherings wearing a gun, knife, etc. But Dohoney enjoyed being the Father of Prohibition most of all. He continued his long-term belief that social problems were caused by liquor.

Another "far-sighted" belief he tried to legislate, but failed, was to gain a vote for women. He later did his best to bring this issue to the public's mind. Dohoney fought the legal sale of liquor and saloons all his life and in 1873 brought up a bill which would hold liquor dealers responsible for all injuries resulting from the sale of intoxicating beverages. It did not pass, being 100 years before its time.

An active proponent for public school education, Dohoney as a member of the 13th Legislature even called for examinations for teachers. He was not entirely successful in the quest for state-funded public education, even when he was a member of the 1875 constitutional convention. Though amended tens of times, that document is the one used by Texas today. Dohoney succeeded in placing a prohibition act into the constitution. It was backward from how done currently, but basically it gives entities a local option vote on the subject of wet or dry. There were several saloons in Paris then, revealing how trusted Dohoney was to be elected in the first place.

At the convention Red River County delegate Charles DeMorse immediately spoke up for open records, advocating that the debates be printed in at least condensed form in the newspapers. Thus, a vast amount is known about what transcribed during that fall of 1875. They argued about railroad subsidies, which Dohoney favored in the form of land, not cash payments. The delegates heard Dohoney talk and submit as a member of the Legislative Committee a plan to have 31 senators and 93 members of the House, a number that could rise to as many as 150. Dohoney was in the middle of the argument to have a poll tax, but he said that suffrage was not a natural right, instead a conventional one. The poll tax was favored by those who thought poor, hard-working, honest voters should be "protected" from those irresponsible, floating populace who "were a disgrace to the state." DeMorse disagreed with Dohoney on this, saying that a poll tax would act as a disfranchisement to a large body of voters. Dohoney replied in debate that payment of a poll tax as a prerequisite for voting was not contrary to the Bill of Rights and denied that sovereignty was an inherent right. It took 90 years to have that way of thinking thrown out by the Supreme Court.

In the public school argument Dohoney tried hard to convince the delegates that the state should provide at least four months of education. Of course, there would be separate facilities for whites and coloreds. The argument against was an old one: "The people of Texas were too poor to build up an adequate system of free schools just then." It was a decade later when the free system finally began to catch on. Some of the delegates insisted education was a private duty, that the government had no right to take that from the parent. Dohoney had a strong reason to educate the masses-it reduced crime. He lectured the body, saying "The perpetuity of free government depends upon the virtue and intelligence of the people." He went on to spout out statistics showing the vast numbers of people in prison had no education, thus housing them was expensive compared to education of the 300,000 students in Texas then.

In 1888 he became a member of the first Paris school board, four years after public education began under the supervision of the city council. Though a newspaperman himself, Dohoney became miffed at times when his colleagues would examine newspaper "gossip" too closely. He felt that it was below the dignity of the Convention to be paying attention to everything the newspapers published. But when the gathering came to an end in late November, 1875, the group had a lasting document, thanks in great amount to the efforts of Dohoney. Citizens approved 136,606 to 56,652.

After leaving the Democratic party for the Grange movement, he affiliated with the Greenback Party in 1882. He later became a leading member of the Prohibition Party of Texas and in 1891 the People's Party. He was well enough respected around Texas to receive 200,000 votes in a failed candidacy for chief justice of the court of criminal appeals. With 43 saloons in the county seat of Paris, Dohoney had a tough haul around the turn of the century trying to eliminate what he perceived as the root of evil. He fought some powerful local influences, including the DeShong family who later turned their venture in that business into a fortune in other mercantile enterprises. But in 1905-07 votes and upholding court decisions began to reduce most of the legal sales of intoxicating beverages in the city and county. Dohoney lived to see the 18th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States pass in January 1919, which prohibited the sale of liquor.

Spending spare time writing, Dohoney put down his thoughts in various pamphlets. However, his copies burned in the 1916 fire, and few exist today. After the fire Dohoney told the local newspaper that his past life was wiped out and that his political and literary careers were ended. He lost his $6,000 residence and $3,000 worth of books, four typed manuscripts, historical files, etc.," of which no money value can be placed."

Suffering a light stroke in the summer of 1917, he was confined to his daughter's home. Mrs. E. B. Norment and Ike Holt, a long-time family servant, cared for the old man until he died March 29, 1919, at 86 and one-half years of age. Dr. L. C. Kirkes of Central Presbyterian Church called Dohoney "a stimulating thinker...a man who lived in the future as well as the present." Nice words for a man who had left the Presbyterian group for the Christian Church years before. The newspapers across the state viewed him favorably. The Christian Courier wrote, "He was a man of such pleasing personality that all right-thinking people loved him whether they agreed with him or not." A nice reputation to leave behind."


March 31, 1919

"The funeral services for Col. E. L. Dohoney will be held at First Christian church at 4 o'clock this afternoon, and will be conducted by Rev. Ben M. Edwards and Rev. L. C. Kirkes. The burial will be at Evergreen cemetery.

When death called Eben L. Dohoney on the evening of March 29 he took from life here to life hereafter a great intellect which had for more than eighty-six years animated the body of a man who measured up to every standard of citizenship--one who loved his God, his fellow man, his country and his family. Born in Adair county, Kentucky, Oct. 13, 1832, of Colonial stock-men and women who before the Revolution came from England, Ireland and Scotland to Virginia, where they might order their lives without the behests of kings and whose descendants went over the mountains into the fertile valleys of Kentucky, the advance guards of Pioneers who laid the foundation for our great inland empire. Eben Dohoney spent his youthful years on his father's farm, getting such education as was them available in the new country. Later he taught the country school and afterwards completed his education in Columbia college and the Louisville law school. He was admitted to the Kentucky bar but deciding that greater opportunity lay in the great west he came in 1859 to this state and having friends here in the families of the Williams, Ryans, Long and other Kentucky families who had preceded him, he settled in Paris.

Even then the cloud was gathering from which sprang the lightning that for four years split apart the north and south, and believing that the Union formed by the fathers was one for all time he stood for the maintenance of that Union, speaking against secession and having the satisfaction of seeing Lamar county vote against it.

When Texas spoke, however, and aligned herself with the other southern states, he went with her and organized a company, which entered the service of the Confederacy. In 1862 his health became too impaired for work in the field and he was invalided home, where for the remainder of the war he served the government in a civil capacity. Soon after returning home he married Miss Mary, daughter of Dr. A. S. Johnson, and for nearly fifty years they lived their lives together, rearing a family whose members are living examples of the influence of such parents.

Under the federal administration of affairs in Texas, Capt. Dohoney was appointed district attorney, his office having jurisdiction over a large part of northeast Texas. Following this he was elected to the state senate in 1872 and took a part in the legislation that finally brought Texas back under her own government. He was elected a member of the convention which framed the constitution under which Texas made her ____ growth, and wrote and urged the section under which so many Texas counties banished liquor from their homes.

He was instrumental also in shaping the sections providing for our great public school system, and he always believed that only an educated people were the really free people. Retiring from public life as far as office was concerned, Capt. Dohoney did not lose interest the public affairs.

He practiced law and devoted some time to his farming interests, but above and beyond all he was an advocate of the common peoples' welfare. Finding himself hampered by the hard and fast tenets of the democratic party, he cut loose from his affiliations there and from time to time aligned himself with those organizations which were trying to bring about reforms along economic lines. Often laughed at as a dreamer, or fanatic, he lived to see many of his then-called theories put into practice, and to see in some degree their benefit. His most ardent wish was for national prohibition and woman's suffrage, but like Moses of old who was permitted to view the promised land from a distance he lived to see but the beginning of these two great forces in our national life. At his own expense, Capt. Dohoney brought Miss Frances Willard to Texas nearly forty years ago, and entertained her in his home while she urged the cessation of the liquor traffic. This was but one of his many personal accomplishments for the general good in the doing of which he was continually engaged.

Of his brothers and sisters only one survives, Miss Kate Dohoney, who lives with relatives in Alabama. His children are Mesdames E. B. Norment and C. I. Broad of Paris and W. P. Wood of Providence, R. I., Judge A. P. Dohoney of the 62[nd] district court, E. L. Dohoney, Jr., chief clerk department of education at Austin, R. H. Dohoney, a merchant and farmer at Direct, Frank J. Dohoney, a merchant of Paris, and W. B. Dohoney, in business at Amarillo, all men and women prominently connected with the social and business life of their homes and with the privilege of recalling to memory a father who was a man among men, honest, fearless, always for the right, here and hereafter."

He is buried next to Mary Johnson Dohoney at Evergreen Cemetery, Block J-04SW-04, Paris, Lamar County, Texas.

Information from Jack Chapman Williams, 3910 El Capitan, Temple, TX 76502, phone 817-778-4773:

Ebeneezer Lafayette Dohoney was born near Columbia, Adair County, Kentucky and was a son of Peyton Dohoney and Mary Hindman. He married Mary L. Johnson, daughter of Dr. A. S. Johnson of Paris, on 7 Oct 1862 as recorded in Lamar County Marriage Records. They had the following children, all born in Paris, Lamar Co., Texas:

1. Fannie born 16 Aug 1863,

2. Annie born 9 Aug 1865,

3. Alfred Peyton born 1867,

4. Ebeneezer Lafayette, Jr. born 1869,

5. Nell born about 1870,

6. R. H. "Bob" born 3 Jun 1872,

7. Frank Johnson born 9 Sep 1874,

8. William Bird born 24 Aug 1876.

From the records of Lamar #258 United Daughters of the Confederacy: Awarded Cross of Military Service on May 2, 1904. He served as Capt., Co. H, 9th Regiment, Texas Cavalry Volunteers.

©Ron Brothers, All Rights Reserved, 1999.

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