Brady, Peter Rainsford (1825–1902)

By: Marilyn Carroll Smiland

Type: Biography

Published: May 1, 1995

Updated: April 25, 2019

Peter Rainsford Brady, surveyor, soldier, and public servant, was born on August 4, 1825, in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., the son of Peter and Ann (Rainsford) Brady. He entered Georgetown College at the age of twelve and served in the United States Navy (1844–46) and on the United States Coast Survey before moving to San Antonio, Texas. In 1847 he joined the surveying party of J. J. Giddings and surveyed part of the Fisher-Miller Land Grant designated Giddings District 3, which included almost all of what is now McCulloch County and parts of Concho, Menard, and San Saba counties. According to Thomas Brown, a member of the party, Brady mistakenly identified a creek as the Concho River during the survey, and when the error was discovered the creek was designated "Brady's Creek" (now Brady Creek). According to family legend, however, Brady found the creek when the party was searching for water, and the stream was named in his honor. Over a quarter of a century passed before McCulloch County was organized and its county seat named Brady City.

Brady was recruited by Lt. Col. Peter Hansbrough Bell in November 1847 and served in the companies of William B. Crump and Samuel Highsmith protecting the western frontier of Texas. He was discharged on September 30, 1848, and after joining the California gold rush returned to Texas to serve as first lieutenant in Capt. W. A. A. (Bigfoot) Wallace's company of Texas Rangers in 1850–51. In 1853 he joined the surveying party of Andrew B. Gray, formed to survey for a route from Texas to California for the Thirty-second Parallel Railroad Company. When the expedition ended in 1854, Brady formed the Arizona Mining and Trading Company and settled in Arizona, then a part of New Mexico Territory. With the advent of the Civil War he found himself a minority in his allegiance to the Union and moved to Sonora, Mexico. From there he traveled, engaging in intelligence activities and locating supplies for the Union forces. During the years following the war he served in many public offices, including treasurer and sheriff of Pima County, Arizona; sheriff, treasurer, school trustee, and surveyor of Pinal County, Arizona; chairman of the Board of Commissioners for the State Prison System at Yuma; special agent of the United States Private Court of Claims; and member of the Eighth, Sixteenth and Nineteenth assemblies of the Arizona Territorial legislature, from which he retired in 1898 as the oldest member at age seventy-three. In addition to his many years of public service Brady was a pioneer in the development of the Arizona mining and cattle industries and, as a charter member and officer of the Arizona Pioneers Historical Society (formed in 1884), was active in preserving the area's heritage.

Brady married Juana Mendivil (Mendibles), and they had four sons and a daughter. Later widowed, he married María Antonia Ochóa, and they had three sons and a daughter. Bearing his name are not only Brady Creek and the city of Brady but Brady Lake, Brady Mountains, and the Brady Bend of the Colorado River in Concho County. He died on May 3, 1902, ten years before Arizona became the forty-eighth state. On July 3, 1993, artist Frederick Hambly presented portraits of Peter R. Brady (his great-great grandfather) and Ben McCulloch to the Heart of Texas Museum at the Heritage Days celebration in Brady.

Jessie Laurie Barfoot, History of McCulloch County, Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1937). Jessie Laurie Barfoot, "The Early History of McCulloch County," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 26 (1950). Francis P. Brady, "Portrait of a Pioneer," Journal of Arizona History 16 (Summer 1975). Reminiscences of Peter R. Brady, Who Accompanied the Expedition (Los Angeles: Westernlore Press, 1963).

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

Marilyn Carroll Smiland, “Brady, Peter Rainsford,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995
April 25, 2019