Southwestern Historical Quarterly
JAMES BUTLER BONHAM: A CONSISTENT REBEL
MILLEDGE L. BONHAM, JR
Protracted research in this country, England and France has
failed to determine positively the origin of either the name or the
family of Bonham. Either or both may be of French, English
or Irish extraction. Most probably the name is an anglicization
of the French bonhomme, though it also appears in England as
a corruption of Boni Homines, the name of a minor monastic
order, the Friars of the Sack, which entered England in the
reign of Henry III (1216-1272). The name of Stephen Bonum
occurs in Kent as early as 1200. Both Bonum and Bonham are
found in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Wiltshire in the four-
teenth century. By the second decade of the sixteenth century,
this name was well known in various parts of England, while be-
fore the end of the next century it was quite common in Ireland.'
Though "Nicholas de Bonham" and "Sir Nicholas Bonham"
appear in various parts of England from the fourteenth to the
twentieth centuries, it is probable that the original Bonhams in
America, whether they settled first in Virginia or Massachusetts,
were Puritans of the lower middle-class, or of the peasantry.
Even the date of the arrival of the family in the New World is
obscured by scarce and incomplete records. We are safe, how-
ever, in beginning with Nicholas Bonham, who on January 19,
1659, was married at Barnstable, Massachusetts, to Hannah, the
daughter of Samuel Fuller, who had arrived as a lad in that
capacious transport of ancestors, "The Mayflower."2
The subject of this essay was the fifth child and third son of
'Anon., The Norman People (London, 1874), 165-166; Burke, Sir J. B.,
Peerage and Baronetage (London, 1868), 111; (London, 1929), 317; Ibid.,
Landed Gentry of Great Britain (London, 1894), I, 181; Ibid., Landed Gen-
try of Ireland (London, 1912), 62; Calendar of Close Rolls: Richard II
(London, 1895), 176; Curia Regis Rolls of Richard and John (London, 1922),
176; BMtencourt, Noms Feadaux (Paris, 1826), I, 133, 136; Publications
of the Huguenot Society of Jondon (Lymington, 1890), IV, 29, 36, 60;
VIII (Lymington, 1893), 26; Little, A. G., "Friars of the Sack," English
Historical Review, January, 1894).
'Savage, J., Genealogical Dictionary of First Settlers of New England
(Boston, 1860), I, 210; II, 218; Davis, W. T., Ancient Landmarks of
Plymouth (Boston, 1883), I, Pt. ii, 115; Otis, A., Genealogical Notes
of Barnstable (Barnstable, 1888), 371; Bradford, William, History of
Plymouth Plantation (Boston, 1912), II, 409.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 35, July 1931 - April, 1932. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101092/. Accessed May 6, 2015.