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 »


Lillian Childress

BRYAN, WILLIAM JOEL (1815–1903). William Joel Bryan, son of James and Emily (Austin) Bryan (see PERRY, EMILY AUSTIN BRYAN), was born at Hazel Run in Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri, on December 14, 1815. He attended school at Potosi until 1830. In 1831 he moved to Texas with his mother and stepfather, James F. Perry. He lived in the eastern part of Brazoria County before moving in 1832 to Peach Point Plantation, where Bryan was instructed by a governess at home while his father looked after the plantation, cattle, and property of Stephen F. Austin.

Bryan served in the Texas Revolution in 1835 with the Brazoria County Volunteers and was with his uncle, Stephen F. Austin, during the siege of Bexar. He was with Sam Houston in the retreat of the army across Texas, but was ill with measles at the time of the battle of San Jacinto. He served as an overseer at Peach Point between 1836 and 1839, for which he received $800. In April 1840 he married Lavinia Perry, his cousin by marriage, and settled at Durazno (Spanish for "peach") Plantation, an extension of Peach Point Plantation given to the couple on the occasion of their marriage. There the couple's seven children, four of whom later joined the Confederate Army, were born. The death of Bryan's daughter Eliza at the age of five or six occasioned the opening of Gulf Prairie Cemetery. Durazno Plantation raised cotton, cattle, and, by the 1850s, sugar, but made only a single sugar crop between 1852 and 1858. By 1860 Bryan had real property valued at $176,000, personal property valued at $62,320, and thirty-eight slaves. During the Civil War he fed Confederate troops stationed at the mouth of the Brazos at his own expense. In 1865 he granted the Houston and Texas Central a right-of-way through his land in Brazos County, and a projected townsite, later called Bryan, was named in his honor. Bryan gave the town financial assistance and helped to establish its bank. He dreamed of the development of a deepwater port at the mouth of the Brazos and was involved with George L. Hammeken in promoting the Brazos and Galveston Railroad from Galveston Bay to the Brazos River and in developing municipal real estate at Austinia, near the site of present Texas City. Emily M. Perry deeded fifty-five of the 122 blocks of the town to Bryan and Hammeken on January 16, 1839, and the remainder on February 1. Bryan was a member of the Texas Veterans Association and a Presbyterian after 1894. He died on March 3, 1903, and was buried in Gulf Prairie Cemetery at Peach Point.

Nanetta Key Burkholder, The 1860 Census of Brazoria County (Brazosport, Texas: Brazosport Genealogical Society, 1978). Abigail Curlee, "History of a Texas Slave Plantation," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 26 (October 1922). C. W. Raines, Year Book for Texas (2 vols., Austin: Gammel-Statesman, 1902, 1903). Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Texas Collection, July 1953.

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, Lillian Childress, "BRYAN, WILLIAM JOEL," accessed August 09, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbrat.

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...