A beautiful prairie bluff, fronting on the north bank of Little River, near the west line of Milam county, was chosen by Benjamin F. Bryant, Texas pioneer, as the site for the Indian station which he established at the behest of Sam Houston, President of the Republic of Texas. The place in early records is referred to as Bryant’s Ferry or Bryant’s Fort for evident reasons. When this treading post was established, the Indian and the buffalo were seen daily in the vicinity. Howling wolves, wild cats, and more dangerous animals were often encountered. Coon-skin caps and rawhide moccasions (sic) were common articles of clothing, and branding irons, lariats, and mustangs were words often heard. Rawhide-bottomed chairs, corded bedsteads, and spinning wheels were familiar articles of furniture around the large cabin fireplaces, where skillets, pots, and kettles were used for cooking. Indian tribes were troublesome, threatening, beggarly, and insolent, and were restrained by presents, forbearance, and policy. The government had not force enough to awe them. General Houston had to use all of his ingenuity to avert catastrophe.
Strong men were needed as Indian agents, and Benjamin F. Bryant possessed the qualifications necessary. His leadership in the recent San Jacinto campaign, and his dominant personality were well known to the president of the Texas Republic. In writing he commissioned Bryant to establish a trading post and station to keep back from the Capital at Washington on the Brazos the tribes that frequented this section. Upon receipt of this commission from Houston, this hardy pioneer struck out into the wilderness to attend to his assigned duties with the Indian wards of the Texas Republic and to chose for himself and family a new home.
I have not the record of this adventurous journey into the wilds of untried and virgin territory, but in very early surveyors’ records is to be found the name, Benjamin F. Bryant, and a description of the land that he chose. It was a body of “eighteen and four-tenths labors of land, situated on the North side of Little River, fronting the same, and he is entitled to part of the land by virtue of Certificate No. 103, issued by the Board of Land Commissioners for Robertson county, which was created December 14, 1837, and organized 1838. The land begins at S.E. Corner of a survey, made for John Smith, on a box elder tree, from which a mulberry bears N. 86 W. 3 1-2 varas an oak, running with meanders of Little River and to embrace more than three thousand acres of land.” Surveyed by George B. Erath, Henry Katterhorn and Guy Stokes, chain carriers, and Benjamin F. Bryant himself was the marker or “blazer.”
Around the rude cabin home and fort which he built for protection from the Indians, the little village of Bryant Station grew. This became a center of commerce for the pioneers who came with Sterling C. Robertson’s Colony into Texas wilds. Bryant’s Station in the early forties became a village of consequence.
A picture of the home of the founder taken in the days of its decay accompanies this article. This home sheltered his large and growing family and was a center of hospitality. Preserved among the treasurer of the Bryant household were the canteen and powder horn which the owner had carried through the campaign of San Jacinto. A daughter, Mrs. Amanda Fetterly, who lived in Bartlett in 1931, still cherished these articles. She could tell of many well known Indian chiefs and their bands who came to the station
Picture of Old Bryant Home
The stores of the village boasted such wares as were then needed by those who traded there. Hides of ox and buffalo were bartered for luxuries of the times.
The Freemasons organized and owned their hall. Stores, trading posts, blacksmith shops, and the post office gradually merged into a community center.
As time went on, the people began to feel secure from the Indians, but not before many hardships had been endured. In the Indian fights Major Bryant was a trusted leader.
A brief account taken from DeShields “Border Wars of Texas,” of an Indian fight is here given.
“In 1839 maurauding (sic) bands of Indians raided the white settlements and drove away the horses, and the Marlin and Morgan families who lived near the present town of Marlin were tomahawked and scalped and their houses robbed. Then days later the Indians came again. Major Benjamin F. Bryant with 48 men took up the Indian trail and followed it. They crossed the Brazos River near where the Morgan’s lived and found a deserted Indian camp, and by trail signs they thought there were 64 Indians on horseback and some on foot. The noted chief, Jose Maria, was in command. Major Bryant was wounded in the first charge; and his men, thinking they had gotten the best of the fight that followed , were thrown into confusion by the wily old Indian chief. The Indians, making a second attack, this time Major Bryant and his men were almost routed and were hotly pursued by the Indians for four miles. Ten men were killed and five wounded. The Indians lost about as many. Subsequently, the Indian raids became more daring until later checked by a signal defeat near Little River, known as ‘Bird’s Victory.’
“The old Indian chief visited Bryant Station years afterwards and offered Bryant his pipe to smoke. Bryant insisted that Jose Maria should smoke first, as he had won the fight, and the old chief proudly followed the suggestion.”
The following is a true copy of an Indian treaty now in possession of Mrs. C. H. Slone, a great granddaughter of Colonel Bryant, whose address is Rule, Texas, addressed to the Agent of the Lipans. The spelling of the original treaty is preserved.
“To the Agent of the Lapans:
We the Chiefs of the Shawnees and delawares and quappaus have this day met the Lapans and have held a Council and made piece and hope that it will be everlasting piece as to our part wee wish piece with all nations. The Lapans wish to trade with us but we wish the concent of the Agent in this case beefore wee make annay trade with them. If it is agreeable to you, please give the Chief a permit to trade with us and all will be right with us.
Your friends and brothersJohn Connore Capt
From the diary of A. W. Moore, a Mississippi planter, who traveled through central Texas looking for a permanent home to which he would bring his family and his slaves, the following records of a day’s stay in the neighborhood of Bryant Station is clipped:
“May 27, 1846. Traveled up the pararie to Briants (sic) 14 miles land poor and rocky for ten miles then rich and muskeet and post oak. timber mean and almost none worthless for anything but firewood. In the evening went with Bryant up the river five miles. Land rich. Timber a little better. Some fine springs of water. 1st Bottom land 2nd weed pararie, 3rd hog wallow pararie(sic) 4th Elm and Muskeet and smooth pararie (sic) land-all very rich and most of it with pebbles on surface but very little under the surface. Size from a partridge egg to the size of a child’s head. Staid all night at Bryants left on the 28th for fall of the bassos (sic) 35 miles.” (Dairy published in Southwester Quarterly, April 1927.)
If old papers had been preserved, many interesting manuscripts would throw light on the history of the period. Scores of Indian stores might be added here if Major Bryant or the men he led had taken time to record their daily dealing with the troublesome red men. Changing times gradually removed the necessity of dealing with Indian bands, and village life in Bryant Station became pleasant and secure. Some of those who had homes in Bryant Station were the families of Bryant, Hale, Sypert, Reid, Blankenship, Murray, Cook, Clark, Rice and others.
Bryant Station was an important stage crossing on the road to Austin, which place had now become the Capital of Texas. Much of romance might be gathered if space permitted. The arrival of the mail by stage or on horseback in early days was quite an event, and often notable men of Texas and travellers from the far places came through Bryant Station.
The history of the Post Office of Bryant Station, Milam County, Texas, is as follows:Etsb. Jan. 5, 1848, John C. Reid, postmaster.
In March, 1862, Captain G. R. Freeman’s Confederate Company was organized at Bryant Station with the following officers: Captain G. R. Freeman, 1st Lieutenant, Lon Walker; 2nd Lieut., Piper White; 3rd Lieut. John Harris; Sergeant, Willis Mangum and Corporal, Tom Carpenter.
Each man of the Company furnished his own horse and gun. At Hempstead this company was mustered into Confederate service as Company D., Colonel D. C. Gidding’s Regiment, and they served gallantly throughout the Civil War. Some of the men returned to their homes near Bryant Station at the close of the war to help rebuild their neglected home, some sadly bereft by war.
General H. P. Hale had a large store at Bryant Station after the Civil War. A young school teacher, Emerson M. Scarbrough, who came from Alabama to Texas, was his clerk. At his death in Austin, Mr. Scarbrough was the senior member of the E. M. Scarbrough & Sons, one of the largest department stores in Texas. In late life, E. M. Scarbrough liked to relate interesting incidents of pioneer life in the village of Bryant Station.
About this time hard and bitter feelings were rampant. Many new citizens came into this section shortly after the war, and in a few years a railroad was completed which brought about more changes. Buckholts absorbed the trading interests of the section. Old landmarks have passed. A small graveyard on the high bluff overlooking the River held the graves of the founder of Bryant Station and of his wife, but they were recently re-interred in the State Cemetery in Austin.
(Picture of Mrs. Vera Ashcraft Pate, grandmother of Major Benjamin F. Bryant.)
The name Bryant Station lives only in the splendid school, which is maintained in the community. On March 10, 1931, the entire school with a great number of prominent citizens of Milam county went to Austin, where many of the Bryant relatives had assembled to attend the ceremonies incident to the reinterrment (sic) of the bodies of Benjamin F. Bryant and his wife.
Among the relatives assembled from different sections of Texas was one who came from the Lake Grove Indian Mission to Navajo Indians in Thoreau, New Mexico - Mrs. Vera Ashcraft Pate, who is still carrying on the traditions of the Bryant family for dealing faithfully with the Indian wards of the government just as her grandfather, Benjamin F. Bryant, did when he established Bryant Station in Milam county shortly after his activities in the San Jacinto campaign.
The following address was delivered by former Governor Pat M. Neff in the House of Representatives March 10, 1931, at a joint session of the House and Senate, on the occasion of the reinterment of the remains of Major Benjamin Franklin Bryant and his wife, Roxana Price Bryant:
“Members of the Legislature and Friends of Texas:
“One hundred and thirty-one years ago this week, in an unpretentious home, nestled among the red hills of Georgia, a baby boy was born. The parents of this child christened him Benjamin Franklin Bryant. The fact that the child was named Benjamin Franklin is strongly suggestive that he was born in a home of patriotism, culture and refinement.
The years passed, and this lad migrated to South Carolina. There, with buoyant hopes and ambition beating high, he wooed and won the hand and heart of Miss Roxana Price, one of South Carolina’s charming daughters. The years passed on, and when this Georgia youth had reached thirty-four years of age, eighteen months before the Declaration of Texas Independence, possessing as he did, the pioneer spirit, he with wife and children, journeyed in a wagon from South Carolina and settled in Shelby county, Texas, then a province of Mexico, in the faith that the “home of the brave” would finally be “the land of the free.”
“In 1836 information reached Mr. Bryant at his Shelby county home that General Sam Houston and a little band of Texas soldiers were retreating before the onward and triumphant march of Santa Anna’s destructive army. Gathering resolution from hope and courage from danger, Mr. Bryant made a Paul Revere ride among his neighbors in Shelby county, calling them to arms. He organized a company and, hastily kissing his wife and children goodbye, rode with his men on swift-footed horses, to come in contact with Houston’s retreating army. They rode through the marshes, through the pines, through the wilderness, and out on the open prairie, until they found Houston’s army on the east bank of the Brazos River near Washington. Bryant there and then gave the General Houston his hand and pledged to him his life and his fortune, as he and his men plighted to fight by his side for the freedom and independence of Texas.
“On the field of San Jacinto Major Bryant and his Shelby county neighbors, forming a part of the volunteer army of Texas, fought with becoming gallantry and marked distinction in the epoch-making battle that won for Texas her freedom. When the battle was over, the victory won, and Santa Anna captured, with the star of a new republic shinning (sic) in the sky, and peace abounding everywhere, Major Bryant, true to the impluses (sic) of a patriotic citizen-soldier, returned to his family and friends in Shelby county.
“It was not long until General Houston, knowning (sic) his courage and bravery, conscripted his service to guard the Mexican border and to protect the people of Texas from Indian depredations. Major Bryant for years rendered brave and patriotic services in dealing with the Indians. He handled them by peaceful methods when possible, but when the occasion demanded, he took his faithful rifle and made “good Indians” out of them.
“In 1839 near the town of Marlin, Major Bryant commanded fifty-two Texas men in a bloody, hand-to-hand fight with a band of Indians. Fifteen of his men were killed, and he himself was seriously wounded. In this way, for many years he stood as a bulwark between the homes of Texans and the wigwams of the Indians. When peace was restored, Major Bryant retired with his family to Milam county, where he became a landowner and a home builder.
“In 1857 he joined his comrades in ‘the silent halls of death’ to which mystic realm his wife of sixteen years later followed. They were buried in what was then known as the ‘flower garden’ of his farm, now owned by a highly respected Bohemian family. From this primitive burial place, the sacred dust of Mr. and Mrs. Bryant, in the dual casket now before us, has been brought here to this Legislative Hall, to be placed by legislative enactment in the State Cemetery.
“Many members of the Legislature here assembled will recall that two years ago you made provision for re-interring in the State Cemetery the remains of the patriotic heroes of Texas, who were sleeping in unmarked and unknown graves scattered throughout the State and the nation.
“L. W. Kemp, a native of Texas has been for two years by your authority devoting much time and energy to the location of the burial places of these Texas heroes, in order that their sacred ashes might be brought to Austin and placed in the State Cemetery. This is the sixteenth reinterment that (the next part of sentenced was printed upside down) has occurred here during the past (printed correctly from here) eighteen months, among the number being Richard Ellis, author of the Declaration of Texas Independence. Pinckney Henderson, President of the Texas Republic, and Robert Williamson, known as “Three-Legged Willie,” whose judicial decisions gave solidity and direction of the Texas Republic. These distinguished and patriotic heroes with the other immortals, who, nearly one hundred years ago, fought, bled, and died in the founding of this wonderful government, should have their burial places and their monuments here in the State Cemetery, the Texas Hall of Fame.
“I want to pause here long enough to trumpet my tribute to L. W. Kemp, who, as a private citizen, has given his patriotic and unstinted services in gathering historic data, preserving historic shrines, and in digging from neglected graves ‘where valor proudly sleeps’ immortal names, and placin (sic) where they rightly belong in the ‘silent city’ of the honored dead.
“The man who preserves history deserves a niche in the “Temple of Fame’ by the side of those who make it. “Peace hath her victories no less renowned than those of war.’ He who fans the flames of patriotism and preserves in peace the institutions of his country, is a hero none the less than the man, who marched down the dusty road to battle, when war shakes its bristling bayonets and snaps its iron jaws.
“After Sir Christopher Wren had finished the beautiful St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, with all its wonderful architectual (sic) designs, and had filled it with the statuary of England’s honored dead, a stranger, walking through the cathedral and reading the epitaph supon (sic) the chiseled monuments of the country’s great, turned to the guide and asked, “Where can I find the monument to Sir Christopher Wren?’ The guide answered, “if you want to see the monument to Sir Christopher Wren, you have but to look about you.’ In the generations to come, when students of patriotic thought walk through our State Cemetery, reading the epitaphs of our heroes, and pause to inquire, where in this cemetery can be found the monument to L. W. Kemp, the guide will say, “To see his monument, you have but to look around you.’
“Fellow workers of the State, Texans all, can we pause today amid the pressing duties of the House and Senate to pay our tribute to Mr. and Mrs. Bryant, heroes of a hundred years ago. A people should never forget their historic and romantic past. A people who do not respect the herioc (sic) achievements of their ancestry, will not of themselves accomplish anything worthy to be remembered by posterity. A people who do not now and then take a backward glance at the landmarks of the past, will not develop a vision sufficient to see very far into the future. We must keep an eye on the Texas caskets of yesterday, if we would rock aright the Texas cradles of tomorrow. It is wonderful and inspiring to live in a country and belong to a people that have a rich, romantic, and heroic past“Give me a land where the battle’s red blast
“Texas is a land of ‘battle’s red blast.’ Texas is a land of ‘legends and lays.’ Texas is a land that has graves in each hallowed spot, and ‘names on those graves that shall not be forgot.’
“Mr. Bryant was one of those star actors of nearly one hundred years ago, when our forefathers, with Texas for a platform and the world for an audience, enacted the greatest drama in human history. From March 2 to April 21, 1836, our forefathers wrought out, measured by results, more deathless history than was ever made in any other fifty consecutive days in the march of man. In those fifty destiny-determining days, the Declaration of Texas Independence was written; the Alamo fell-the Alamo, where the Texas heroes shook hands with martyrs! Fannin and his men died at Goliad-Goliad, where Texas martyrs kissed the lips of immortality! The Constitution of a new country was written; the President of a new Republic was elected; the Commander-in-Chief of a victorious army was commissioned; the battle of San Jacinto was fought and won; the Napoleon of the West was conquered; the tide of Anglo-Saxon civilization was turned; the map of the Western continents was remade; the boundaries of civilization were extended from the Mexican Gulf to the Canadian border. All this growth and glory was wrought out by such men and woman as Mr. and Mrs. Bryant and their co-workers, who one hundred years ago carved out of the wilderness of the West this wonderful land of ours. No tongue is eloquent enough, no pen is powerful enough, and no genius is gifted enough, to weave into a fitting story the romantic history of the Texas pioneers, who laid broad and deep the foundations of the Texas government. There is nothing in fiction so fascinating as the facts of Texas history.
“The most picturesque, the most commanding, the most challenging character that has ever walked across the pages of history is the Texas pioneer, who with axe and rifle and Bible, trecked (sic) his way through the forest, braved the dangers of the wilderness, and build at last his rude, romantic, log hut on the open prairies that stretched in silent wonder toward the setting sun. These Texas pioneers were no ruffians, desperadoes, or outlaws. They were scholars, statesmen, and patriots of far-reaching vision. They plowed with their rifles on their shoulders and worshiped with their guns stacked at the churchhouse (sic) door. As they build their rude cabins, they also laid broad foundations for the churchhouse (sic), the schoolhouse, and the courthouse.
“More honorable it is to link your lineage with the pioneers of Texas, than to trace it back to the purest paladins of knighthood, because beneath the tomb of every Texas pioneer there sleeps the mouldering dust that has enriched the fields of civilization around the encircling earth.
“Let us not forget that Mrs. Bryant, who at the marriage alter back in South Carolina plighted her love to young Bryant, who joined him in all his adventures, who braved with him his dangers, who suffered with him his hardships, who waited for him during watchful days and wakeful nights, whose loving hands at last placed him in his grave, and who bore his name until her death, shares jointly in the honors of this hour.
“The world has never given woman her rightful place in history as a pioneer. Through the ages she has struggled by the side of man in the conquest of the wilderness. Our foremothers, as well as our forefathers, crossed the chartless ocean, and a woman’s feet were first to press the bleak New England shore. With faith and hope and courage, woman climbed by the side of man the Allegheny Mountains, crossed ’the Father of Waters,’ scaled the Rockies, and was standing by man with her face still toward the West, when the flag of civilization was unfurled on the Pacific shore. Into the wilderness of Texas she same, and with our forefathers endured the sorrows, the struggles, and the sacrifices incident to pioneer life. Mrs. Bryant fought none the less because she carried no arms, for which each click of the trigger in fight on the San Jacinto field could be heard the click of the shuttle in the loom of the Shelby county home, and as she gathered the little ones about the fireside at eventide and battled with danger through the long night, she proved herself as courageous and trustworthy in the home as her husband on the field.
“The empire builder of the world is woman. Men, in the contest and conquests and conflicts of civilization may forget those high and moral ideals of the home that make a country great-but woman never. Man, in his struggle for greed and gold and in his scramble for place and power may turn his back on the beautiful, the noble, and the true-but woman, never. When woman has once given her love and devotion to a cause, she loves on until the end, as the heliotrope turns to the sun at the close of the day in the same look that it gave when it rose.
“Standing here today in this sacred presence, I pay to the pioneer women of Texas the tribute of my tears and the homage of my heart. Somewhere on Texas soil, fashioned by Texas hands, from Texas granite, should be a statue erected in memory of the pioneer women of Texas. Among the monuments of the State, this one representing the motherhood of pioneer days should tower so high that it would be first to catch the caressing beams of the morning sun and last to behold the glories of the departing day as it kissed the coming night farewell.
Mr. and Mrs. Bryant were typical Texas pioneers. They represented the everyday citizen and soldier who gave historic and glorious color to those primitive days when Texas was in the making. It is this average citizen of a country that adds stability to a government. It is always and everywhere the everyday man on whom the country can rely to fight her battles in times of war and pay her taxes in times of peace. Mr. Bryant wore neither the titles nor the tinsels of a king, but on his brow glistened the beads of honest toil, nobler jewels than a monarch ever wore. In his veins flowed not the blue blood of royalty, but his every heartbeat answered to the rich, red blood of the pioneer spirit that prompted him to plant here the seed of Saxon civilization, which has ripened into the glorious land we call the Commonwealth of Texas. Mr. Bryant must have been that typical pioneer Texan that prompted Van Dyke, in ode to Texas to say:“There came to Texas
“There are many State institutions here in the Capital City. Our State Cemetery will become, in the years to be, by the placing of our Texas heroes in it, an institution of patriotic learning. There is grandeur in graves, and there is glory in gloom. We gather both information and inspiration as we stand amid the tombs of a worthy ancestry.
“Alexander the Great, standing at the grave of Achilles, his patriotic forefather, declared that he would for the good of his country conquer the world. It was the custom of Pericles, when he held in his hands the keys of Athenian greatness, to take the youth of the land out to the cemetery amid the monuments of the honored dead, and there have them with uplifted hands plight their love and devotion to their country. Thus, in the generations to come, well might the youth of Texas be gathered in the cemetery of the State, and here, as a part of their patriotic education, be taught the highest and noblest lessons of devotion to country. Themistocles, while looking at the monument erected by his countrymen in honor of the services of Miltiades, resolved that he would never rest until he too had rendered some unselfish and patriotic service to his country. Let us here today, fellow-workers for the State, as from our forefathers’ falling hands they fling the torch and bid us carry it high, resolve that we will never rest until we, too, have helped in some way to make our country a better place in which to live. ‘The workman dies, but his work lives on.’
“Now, Mr. and Mrs. Bryant, whose sacred ashes mingle together in the casket before us, Texas once more with knightly courtesy salutes you, and Texas once more with filial devotion bids you farewell. Peace be forever to your sacred dust, as we place it today with loving hands in the Texas Pantheon of the Great.”
Benjamin Franklin Bryant - Texas State Cemetery
Roxanna Price Bryant - Texas State Cemetery
We must say a special thank you to Nancy Osburn Pace of Lloyd, FL, for typing the above for use on the Milam County TXGenWeb site.
Created on 24 Aug 2005 and last revised on ____________