Bryan, the county seat of Brazos County, is located in west central Brazos County and is crossed by State highways 6 and 21, U.S. Highway 190, Farm roads 158, 1179, 1687, and 1688, and the Missouri Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads. Along with College Station, the home of Texas A&M University, which adjoins Bryan to the south, the city is the urban center of Brazos County. The area around the future site of Bryan was settled by members of Stephen F. Austin's colony in the 1820s and 1830s. In 1859, when the Houston and Texas Central Railroad graded a railroad bed through the area, a nephew of Austin, William Joel Bryan, donated land for a townsite to the railroad company. The townsite was named in his honor and was platted that same year. Construction of the railroad was halted at Millican, eighteen miles southeast of Bryan, during the Civil War, but a community of some 300 inhabitants grew up at the townsite. A post office was opened in Bryan in 1866, and that same year the county voted for Bryan to replace Boonville as the county seat. The railroad reached the community in 1867. That year also saw the arrival of telegraph service and the first general store. Many residents of Millican and Boonville moved to the new county seat in the 1860s, and the first courthouse was built in 1871. Though the city voted to incorporate in 1867, it was not formally incorporated until 1872, when it adopted an aldermanic government.
The Bryan News-Letter became the first newspaper in the community in 1868, followed in 1869 by the Brazos Eagle, the weekly Brazos Pilot in 1877, and the Bryan Weekly Eagle in 1889. The Eagle became a daily in 1913. A number of other newspapers have been published in the community over the years. The Bryan Independent School District was established in 1877, though the first school was not ready until 1880. The first black public school was also opened in 1880. Several colleges and seminaries flourished for a time in the city in the late nineteenth century, including the Bryan Male and Female Seminary, the Texas Odd Fellows University and Orphanage, Bryan Academy, and Allen Academy. Texas A&M College, which was eventually of great importance to Bryan, was opened in neighboring College Station in 1876. By 1884 Bryan had an estimated 3,000 inhabitants, who supported Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Christian, and Episcopal churches, two schools, two banks, an opera house with a seating capacity of 500, a cotton gin, an Odd Fellows hall, two planing mills, and two wagon and buggy factories. In 1889 the city obtained electric lighting and a waterworks, and in 1900, when Bryan had a population of 3,589, a second railroad, the International-Great Northern, was built through the community. A Carnegie Library was founded in 1902. The Villa Maria Ursuline Academy was moved to Bryan in 1901, and two Baptist educational institutions, Texas Women's College in 1902 and Bryan Baptist Academy in 1909, followed soon after.
In 1910, when Bryan's population reached 4,132, the city built an interurban railroad to College Station, which operated until it was replaced by bus service in the 1920s. In the early decades of the twentieth century the community was a major cotton-shipping point for the region. In 1917 Bryan adopted the commission form of city government. The city continued to grow, reaching 6,307 inhabitants in 1920, 7,814 in 1930, and 11,842 in 1940. In the 1930s the North Oakwood subdivision, lying between Bryan and College Station, voted to incorporate with Bryan and established the boundary between the adjoining communities. Though some local businesses were hard hit by the Great Depression, the community received some economic stimulation when State Highway 6 was completed through Bryan and College Station in 1936. Bryan Army Air Field, built during World War II as an aviation-training center, brought further growth to the community. By 1950 the population of Bryan was 18,072. In the 1950s and 1960s shopping centers began to attract business away from the central business district. Stimulated in part by the dramatic growth of Texas A&M since the 1960s, Bryan's population increased rapidly, from 27,542 in 1960 to 33,141 in 1970, 44,337 in 1980, 55,002 in 1990, and 65,660 in 2000. Many Bryan businesses moved to the south to take advantage of College Station's growth. In partnership with College Station, Bryan developed various university-related businesses. Local industries include defense electronics, high-tech manufacturing, and agribusiness. Among the local attractions are the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural Science, the Messina Hof Winery, and many turn-of-the-century homes, a number of which are on the National Register of Historical Places or are registered Texas historical landmarks. See also CARNEGIE LIBRARIES, ELECTRIC INTERURBAN RAILWAYS.