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BRYANT, CHARLES GRANDISON

BRYANT, CHARLES GRANDISON (1803–1850). Charles Bryant, architect and military adventurer, was born in 1803 in Belfast, Maine, the only son of Charles and Elizabeth Hatch (Lowden) Bryant, Jr. Bryant's family moved several times in his youth, but eventually settled in 1806 in Belfast, where his father worked as a shipwright. After his father's death around 1812, Bryant learned the trade of house builder, probably from a local craftsman or during a stay in Boston. By 1825 he had established himself as a builder in Bangor, Maine, where he adopted the middle name Grandison (from Samuel Richardson's novel Sir Charles Grandison). In October 1827 Bryant married Sarah Getchell; the couple had seven children.

By 1830 Bryant had a flourishing building practice and had begun to call himself an architect, evidently the first man in Maine to do so. During the 1830s he designed and built a wide variety of structures in Bangor, many of them in the reigning Greek Revival style, and in 1834 he produced a development plan for the city. He also joined the local militia and rose quickly through the ranks. Buoyed by his success, he began speculating in real estate but lost heavily in the panic of 1837. By September of that year he had abandoned his architectural practice and, with two Bangor militia officers, Col. Richard Bartlett and Maj. Joshua Norwood, opened a military school for "instruction in the different branches of the Science of War." The school soon developed into a center for recruiting and training volunteers for the Canadian Rebellion of 1837. Bryant, who supported the Canadian separatists, was arrested in July 1838 for breaking the newly passed neutrality law, but he jumped bail to help prepare for a scheduled invasion of Canada in November of that year. When the invasion began, however, Bryant, who had begun to call himself the "Grand Eagle," held his small force back. After the invasion failed, he returned to Bangor in disgrace.

Deeply in debt and hounded by creditors, he closed his military school and went to Texas with his oldest son, Andrew Jackson Bryant. They arrived in Galveston in the fall of 1839, and by 1840 Bryant had been hired by the San Luis Development Company as an architect and builder. He constructed a Greek Revival house for Charles K. Rhodes (1840) in San Luis, but after the company failed in the summer of 1841 he returned to Galveston. During this time he joined the Galveston Fusiliers and spread the story that during the invasion of Canada he had been captured and sentenced to death but had managed to escape. He served in the Fusiliers during the invasion of Rafael Vásquez (March 1842), then returned to Galveston in the fall of 1842. Unemployed and destitute, he worked at chopping cedar for a time at Hall's Bayou. In 1847 Bryant once again returned to the practice of architecture. He designed St. Mary's Cathedral, Galveston (1847–48, listed in the National Register of Historic Places 1973), and the Galveston County Prison and Court Room (1847–48, razed). The two buildings, both executed in the Gothic Revival style, were among the first large, architect-designed structures in postcolonial Texas.

By 1849 Bryant, now a major in the Texas Rangersqv, was mustering officer and commissary for three companies called to respond to Indian depredations on the western frontier. On January 12, 1850, after crossing Chocolate Bayou ten miles from Nuestra Señora del Refugio Mission, the rangers encountered a raiding party of Lipan Apaches. In the skirmish that followed, Bryant was killed. In recognition of his service, the Texas legislature awarded his heirs 640 acres of land in Montague County.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Charles G. Bryant Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. James Mundy and Earle Shettleworth, Jr., The Flight of the Grand Eagle: Charles G. Bryant, Maine Architect and Adventurer (Augusta: Maine Historic Preservation Commission, 1977).

Christopher Long

Citation

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

Christopher Long, "BRYANT, CHARLES GRANDISON," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbrcb), accessed August 31, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.