While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


William S. Powell

BRYAN, FRANCIS THEODORE (1823–1917). Francis Theodore Bryan, soldier and engineer, the son of John H. Bryan, was born at New Bern, North Carolina, on April 11, 1823. In 1842 he graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina and in July 1842 was appointed from that state to the United States Military Academy, where he graduated sixth in his class in 1846. As a lieutenant in the Topographical Engineers, he served during the Mexican War on the staff of Gen. Zachary Taylor, was wounded at Buena Vista, and was decorated and brevetted first lieutenant for gallant and meritorious conduct. In 1849 Bryan was sent to Texas to explore a northern route from San Antonio to El Paso via Fredericksburg, the San Saba River, and the Guadalupe Mountains. Upon reaching El Paso on July 29, 1849, he reported on the feasibility of the route and recommended sinking wells along the road. In the next few months he made numerous reconnaissance tours between San Antonio and Fort Belknap, Fort Belknap and Fort Graham, and San Antonio and Dona Ana and opened a wagon road between Austin and Fort Mason. He was promoted to first lieutenant in July 1851 and to captain in July 1860. With the outbreak of the Civil War he resigned his commission, on June 10, 1861, and started to return to North Carolina but was arrested so that he could not join the Confederate Army. After the war Bryan went into business in St. Louis. In 1891 he presented to the University of North Carolina a collection of rare books on engineering, architecture, and biblical and classical literature. He died in St. Louis on October 24, 1917.

Kemp Plummer Battle, History of the University of North Carolina (2 vols., Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton, 1907–12; rpt., Spartanburg, South Carolina: Reprint Company, 1974). A. B. Bender, "Opening Routes Across West Texas, 1848–1850," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 37 (October 1933); continued as "The Texas Frontier, 1848–1861: Government Explorations in Texas, 1851–1860," ibid. 38 (October 1934). Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1903; rpt., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965). Raleigh News and Observer, October 26, 1917. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, William S. Powell, "BRYAN, FRANCIS THEODORE," accessed July 06, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbral.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...