Bryan, Francis Theodore (1823–1917)

By: William S. Powell

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: November 1, 1994

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.

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

William S. Powell, “Bryan, Francis Theodore,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 16, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994