Explored Texas With
(Interview of John
Neely Bryan, Jr.)
By W. S. ADAIR
JOHN NEELY BRYAN, JR.
Neely Bryan, Jr. of Charlie, Clay County, eldest son of John
Neely Bryan, who built the first house at Dallas, was a visitor
in Dallas last week. "I was born here January 9, 1846,
six months before the county was organized, and W. W. Glover,
now living on Dallas rural route No. 3, was the first white child
born in the county after it was organized," Mr. Bryan said.
who was of Irish descent, was born in Lincoln County, Tennessee,
December 24, 1810," Mr. Bryan continued. "At
that time, Tennessee may be supposed to have been something of
a wilderness, but to the frontiersman, it had become effete.
My father crossed to Arkansas in 1827. He knew the
language of several of the Indian tribes, and this knowledge,
and a wide acquaintance with the Indians, enabled him to get
into the Government service in connection with the Government
trading post at Preston, on Red River, now in Grayson County.
Indians brought to Preston the most glowing accounts of the region
lying south of Red River, which filled my father with a desire
to explore it. It seems that he was unable to find a white
man to accompany him into an unknown region, inhabited by hostile
tribes. He found many who were interested and who expressed a
wish to invade it, but when the time came, it invariably turned
out that they had exaggerated their readiness for the plunge.
Finally, in 1839, my father entered Texas with a single
Cherokee companion. He explored the country for a considerable
distance, west and south, but selected the forks of the Trinity
for the site of his projected settlement.
Used Neolithic Plow.
not know that he erected a monument of any kind on the spot to
notify the world 'to keep off,' but rather think he did not,
since he could have had little fear of trespassers. He
returned to Preston, wound up his affairs there, and in 1841,
set out alone to seek his fortune in Texas. He rode his
Indian pony, Neshobia, or Walking Wolf, carried a flint-lock
rifle and a knife, and was followed by his bear dog, Tubby. Arrived
at his destination, he erected a cabin of cedar logs on the bank
of the river near the Commerce street bridge. With the
exception of such communication as he may have had with wandering
Indians, he was alone for more than a year.
a crop of corn where the courthouse now stands. He made
a plow of pieces of bois d'arc timbers spliced together, cut
strips of buffalo hide for harness, and made Walking Wolf pull
the plow. It was a very primitive way of tilling the soil;
such, as we are told, was in fashion in Neolithic times, 20,000
years ago. I remember the plow well, for it lay about our
back yard until I was almost grown. Bois d'arc, you know,
is as enduring as flint.
the time my father had fairly established his settlement, or
rather, hermitage, or perhaps earlier, the Government established
an army post at Bird, now in Tarrant County. The post was
named for Major Bird, commandant. Fort Bird was inclosed
on three sides, by the water of a horseshoe-shaped lake, which
made a natural moat for the stronghold, and the loopholes were
so placed, as to render the open heel the very last place an
attacking party would select.
First Settlers Very Welcome.
Bird, it seems, had found the solitude of the wilderness oppressive
and was trying to induce white settlers to locate near him. In
1842, he got wind of a party of emigrants form Illinois, coming
into Texas, via Preston. He immediately dispatched a squad
of soldiers to intercept and invite them to Fort Bird. It
appears my father had his ear to the ground, too, and catching
the rumblings of the wagons of the emigrants, set out to meet
soldiers beat him to them, but he managed to secure an interview
with them before they had unloaded their wagons at Fort Bird,
and, by what arguments, I know not, he induced them to visit
the forks of the Trinity before deciding on a location. Whether
he out-talked Major Bird, or whether the powers of the air, as
ever since, were then looking after the Bryan settlement, there
is no way of knowing, but certain it is, that in a few days,
the immigrants broke camp at Fort Bird and moved to the Bryan
Beeman, Adam Haught, Tom Ratton and Howard Cox headed the Illinois
party. The following year, 1843, my father was married
to Margaret Beeman, daughter of John Beeman. The next party
of settlers to arrive in this part of the country, located at
Farmers Branch, but I can not be certain as to the year. The
Marshes, the Mooneyhans and the Keenans, were in this party.
the accession of the Beeman party, my father established regular
trade relations with the Indians. He brought from the trading
post at Preston, beads, red calico, and such other merchandise
as attracted the Indians, and exchanged them with the Indians
for dressed buckskins and buffalo hides. The Indians were
experts at dressing hides. The buckskins prepared by them
were a standard commodity, and the buffalo hides, which they
dressed with the hair on them, and decorated with various designs
in paint, on the inside, were no mean achievements in art, and
were in great demand. The Indians had a weakness for loud
colors. They were ready to pay any price within their power
for red calico, but would hardly accept as a present, the paler
colors. The commerce between the settlement and Preston
was carried on by means of pack mules.
were not more than six or eight families here, when I started
to school. I can not now recall the name of my first teacher,
but the second, who, for some reason now unknown to me, I remember
well, was Professor Elijah Spellman. The schoolhouse, a
log affair, of course, was at the present intersection of Elm
and Ervay streets. Later on, my teacher was Harry Peak.
After that, Mr. and Mrs. Meyers kept a school. Mr.
Meyers taught the boys, and Mrs. Meyers, the girls. Mr.
Meyers' initials have escaped me.
earliest recollections are mixed up with Indians camped all around
the settlement. They came to barter furs and hides for
the merchandise of the white man. It was slow business
clinching a bargain with Indians. They did not consume
the time in haggling; the trouble was, they simply could not
come to a decision. I do not recall that there was ever
any trouble between the Indians and the settlers. I often
saw herds of buffalo grazing on the hills west of the river,
but never a single buffalo east of the river. But, my father
told me that when he first came, he killed buffaloes east of
remember when Dallas was incorporated in 1856, and Dr. Samuel
Pryor was elected the first Mayor. I suppose the contest
over the location of the county seat served to impress the events
of the time on my memory. Cedar Springs, Duncanville, Hord's
Ridge and Dallas were all candidates for it. When Dallas
was finally selected, my father donated the site for the courthouse
and ninety town lots, with the stipulation that the county seat
was forever to be located here.
- June 25, 1922, The
Dallas Morning News,
time of the election, my father had a crop of corn growing on
the courthouse square, and, in order that his corn might not
be destroyed, the courthouse, a round, cedar log affair, 14x14
feet, was built on the northeast corner of the lot. There
were no churches here at the time, and the courthouse served
for several years, the double purpose of a courthouse and a church.
When he first located, my father got a headright survey
of 320 acres of land, and when he married, he took, as was his
right, an additional 320 acres, contiguous to the first tract.
This body of 640 acres was bounded on the west by the river,
and roughly on the north by Gibbs street, which is just north
of the brewery, whence the line ran south through E. M. Kahn's
store, the old Dallas Club Building, the Dorsey Building, through
the old Masonic Cemetery, thence to Wall street, and on Wall
street to Alexander street, and to the river. The Dallas
News block and old Windsor Hotel block are on the original Bryan
During the Civil War, John Neely
Bryan, Jr., served as a member of Company B, Nineteenth Texas
Cavalry, Parson's Brigade. He saw fighting at Pleasant
Hill and Yellow Bayou, La., and at Poison Springs, Ark. "I
left Dallas in 1872 to engage in the cattle business in Uvalde
County," said Mr. Bryan. "The Kickapoo Indians were
still on the warpath in that region, and in 1872 and 1873, the
ranchmen and cowboys had a number of brushes with them, but no
encounter rising to the dignity of a pitched battle. I
located near Charlie, in Clay County, in the early '80s, and
have since lived there, engaged in farming and stock raising.
My brother, A. L. Bryan, lives near Fort Sumner, N. M.,
and my sister, Mrs. Lizzie Dillon, lives at Milton, Ill. My
father and mother had five children, two of whom died in infancy.
"The original Bryan cabin
was moved by me to Markham's Ferry, eleven miles southeast of
the city, for a farm dwelling. I, afterward, sold it to
W. J. Rupard, who moved it to his farm, east of Dallas, and in
turn, sold it, along with the land, to Josiah Pinson. The
Pinson farm was finally acquired by Dr. R. C. Buckner as a location
for the Buckner Orphans' Home. The cabin was preserved
by Dr. Buckner, and I understand it is still intact at the home."
Fiction Section, p. 6.
- o o o -
Transcribed by M C
Toyer, 3 February 2001 - All Rights Reserved.