It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and we couldn’t agree more. We’ve asked Bryan residents to send us their historic photographs and tell us the stories behind them. It’s yet another way that we’re able to connect with our past.
1868: The Houston and Texas Central Railway's "W. R. Baker" locomotive and coal tender would have made many trips through Bryan in the late 1860s and 1870s. This photo was taken in Hempstead in 1868, just after the Houston and Texas Central Railway reached Bryan in 1867. Photo courtesy of the DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University
Circa 1870: Downtown Bryan with a team of oxen resting in the middle of Main Street.
1887: Bryan firemen in 1887 in Downtown Bryan.
1898: Two ladies wait in the wagon at the G.S. Parker Lumber Co. complex, which was located on Main Street between 20th and 22nd streets in Bryan. The lumber yard was on the east side of the complex and the cotton gin operations were on the west side.
Turn of the Century: Bryan Train Depot circa 1909. This depot was built in 1900 by the Calvert, Waco & Brazos Valley Railroad, which merged with the International & Great Northern Railroad in 1901
1910: Bryan in 1910. Main Street is still unpaved at this time, and there is a mix of horses, wagons, and the new automobiles.
William Joel Bryan was Stephen F. Austin’s nephew and inherited large land holdings when Austin died in 1836 at only 43 years old.
In 1859, William Joel Bryan granted right-of-way through portions of these land holdings to the Houston and Texas Central Railroad.
On April 9, 1860, he went one step further, deeding the land for the original 640-acre town site to H&TC railroad officials William R. Baker and Abraham Groesbeck for a price of $3,200. The town that they established was named “Bryan” in William Joel Bryan’s honor.
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1864 & 1867 – St. Andrew's Episcopal Church: St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Bryan, Texas, was founded as a mission in 1864 in Millican. However, to escape the yellow fever epidemic that hit Millican in 1867, most people packed up and moved to Bryan. At a meeting in Bryan on Dec. 10, 1867, 17 local men under the leadership of George Haswell organized the parish of St. Andrew’s. The Episcopalians built a clapboard church at the corner of what is today William Joel Bryan Parkway and Parker Street. By 1875 that building had been torn down and replaced by a brick one known as the “Old Church,” seen in this photograph. In 1907 the church purchased property at 26th and Parker streets for a new church to be built there. On May 30, 1912, the cornerstone of the new St. Andrew’s building was laid. The first service was held on Palm Sunday, April 5, 1914, and services continue to be held in the downtown landmark building today. Photo courtesy of Dr. Sylvia Grider
Early 1860s – Shiloh Baptist Church: Shiloh Baptist has roots that go back to the early 1860s. African American worshippers of different churches during this time would meet at the "Brush Arbor" on alternate Sundays. On March 2, 1870, two lots were purchased on E. 19th Street in northeast Bryan and a worship hall was built for the Bryan Baptist Church. The name was changed to Shiloh Baptist Church in 1885 when a new structure was built at this location. Seen here are members of the Shiloh Baptist Church Finance Committee in about 2010.
1866 – First Baptist Church: In its early days, the First Baptist Church met in a former tenpin alley and saloon, as well as in an auditorium with a partition down the center separating men and women. In 1884, the congregation moved to Burleson Drive (now E. 27th Street) and Washington Street, erecting a wood-frame building. A brick sanctuary was added in 1905 and the brick structure in this photo was added in 1927. First Baptist Church had the first pipe organ in town. it was a Lyon and Healy organ from the Watkin Music Company of Dallas. The public was invited when W. A. Watkin himself came to give the inaugural performance on July 24, 1901. In 2000, the church moved from Downtown Bryan to the Eastgate area near the Highway 6 Bypass.
1866 – Allen Chapel AME Church: Allen Chapel AME Church was meeting as a congregation by this time. The congregation was founded in the late 1860s with its roots predating emancipation. The start of Allen Chapel can be traced back to Emmanuel Hammitt, who preached under the "Brush Arbor" in Freedman Town to a Methodist congregation. Hammitt was sent to Galveston to be ordained a deacon, and was then sent back to Bryan to preach under the brush arbor. Photo courtesy of Brazos Valley African American Museum
1867 – First Presbyterian Church: Organized in November 1867, the members met for three years in Guy M. Bryan's warehouse by the railroad before building a church at the corner of Tabor Road and Lamar Street (now 29th Street). Adjacent land was acquired on Washington Street and in 1906 the sanctuary in this photograph was built. When modernization was deemed necessary, the Cavitts donated land for a new church. In 1956, the groundbreaking was held at a new site south of Gordon Street between 31st and 32nd streets.
1868 – First United Methodist Church: Organized originally as the Methodist Episcopal Church on land donated by William Joel Bryan, the original church building was located on E. 28th Street and cost $500. It was used until 1902 when the structure seen here was built. The sanctuary was destroyed by fire in 1906, but within two years, the church was rebuilt using the same plans and served the congregation until being replaced with the present sanctuary at the same location in 1951.
Late 1860s – First Christian Church: The First Christian Church was originally held services in in private homes and stores. The church's first building was located on the corner of 27th Street and College Avenue (now Texas Avenue) on property donated by W. J. and Corneilia Proctor in 1877. This building was deemed out of repair in 1907 and the church met in the Opera House in Downtown Bryan for a couple of years. The church building seen in this photo was completed in early 1911.
1890 – Temple Freda congregation established: By this time, a sufficient number of Jewish citizens lived in Bryan to organize an official congregation, which for several decades met in members’ homes for worship services, primarily on the High Holy Days such as Yom Kippur. Without ready access to an official rabbi, services were frequently sporadic and often lay-led. A synagogue building would not be dedicated until 1913. In a beautiful story of community cooperation, the Temple Freda building was built with contributions from Jewish families as well as donations from their Christian neighbors.
1896 – St. Anthony's Catholic Church: St. Anthony's was founded in 1896 with 100 Italian families. Its first sanctuary on Polk Avenue was a white frame building that was destroyed by fire in 1926. This sanctuary was built in 1927 at 306 S. Parker. St. Anthony's was added to the National Register of Historic Place in 1987.
1914 – St. Andrew's Episcopal Church: In 1907 the church purchased property at 26th and Parker streets for a new church to be built there. On May 30, 1912, the cornerstone of the new Saint Andrew’s building was laid. The first service was held on Palm Sunday, April 5, 1914 and services continue to be held in this building today.
1930s – Espiritu Santo Mission, Father Frank D. Urbanosky's church on wheels: The origins of Santa Teresa Catholic Church in Bryan begin with Father Urbanosky's traveling church unit in the 1930s. Father Urbanosky, also known as Padre Panchito, served the spiritual needs of thousands of rural Hispanics throughout Texas with his church on wheels. But his work here in Bryan was instrumental in the foundation of Santa Teresa Catholic Church in 1940.
1940 – Santa Teresa Catholic Church: Founded with the help of Father Frank Urbanosky, Santa Teresa was the first permanent church for the Hispanic Catholic community in Bryan.
“The Father of Brazos County”
Harvey Mitchell was one of Bryan’s first and most influential residents. He organized the first school in 1841 and served as its first teacher, holding class in the home of Richard Carter.
According to the Texas State Historical Association’s Handbook of Texas, he was also a justice of the peace, minister, hotel and store owner, surveyor and a blacksmith.
His crowning achievement occurred in 1871, when he arranged for the new land-grant college in Texas to be located in Brazos County. Today, we know it as Texas A&M University.