Bryan, Louis A. (1826–1890)

By: Jennifer Eckel

Type: Biography

Published: March 24, 2008

Updated: January 29, 2016

Dr. Louis A. Bryan, physician and Texas state representative, was born in Newburn, North Carolina, on October 12, 1826, son of Lewis and Mary Bryan. Christened Lewis Bryan, the spelling of Louis's name was changed by his older sister who raised him following the death of his mother. Louis Bryan was raised mainly in Mississippi, and he attended college at the University of Oxford, Mississippi. Soon after graduation Louis, along with his father and sister, moved to Houston, Texas.

In Houston Louis studied medicine with Dr. S. C. Young. He then decided to attend New Orleans Medical College. Upon completion of the program Dr. Bryan set up a practice in Brownsville, Texas. He was elected to the State House of Representatives from Cameron County in 1851. Upon completion of his term Dr. Bryan returned to Mississippi to marry Carrie Dunbar; they had three children.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Louis Bryan volunteered and was appointed as a surgeon for the Confederate hospitals. Dr. Bryan followed Texas troops as they marched through Mississippi and Alabama and was the lead surgeon in charge of the Confederate hospital at the Battle of Vicksburg. Bryan returned to Texas after the end of the war, but his wife died in Galveston en route to their home in Houston. Bryan maintained a practice in Houston, but, as an expert in yellow fever, he left that city several times to help with epidemic diseases in other places. From 1866 to 1867 he was in Galveston, and in 1878 he traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, where he was much acclaimed for his work during the Mississippi Valley epidemic. In 1887 Bryan was named head of the state Quarantine Department under state health officer Rutherford, spending one season in Laredo, Texas. However he left his appointment early when called to help treat victims of a yellow fever outbreak in Jacksonville, Florida.

While he practiced medicine Louis Bryan also maintained a large cotton plantation on the Brazos River in the vicinity of Houston. In 1871 Bryan remarried to Bettie (Hillard) Harper; the couple had four children. Their son Chester became a prominent lawyer and a member of the Twenty-Ninth Texas Legislature. Bryan fell ill after his return from Jacksonville and died in Houston on October 30, 1890, after a protracted struggle with his health.

George Plunkett [Mrs. S. C.] Red, The Medicine Man in Texas (Houston: Standard Printing & Lithographing, 1930). History of Texas, Together with a Biographical History of the Cities of Houston and Galveston (Chicago: Lewis, 1895). Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1914).

  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Public Health Physicians
  • Fourth Legislature (1851-1853)
  • House
  • Military
  • Confederate Military
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Civil War
  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Jennifer Eckel, “Bryan, Louis A.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 24, 2008
January 29, 2016

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