1836, as Texas colonists faced the largest Army in North America,
no one of European decent lived in what would become Brown
But the struggle against Mexico
had a lasting impact on the future 956.9-square mile political subdivision
along the as-yet-unnamed tributary of the Colorado that later came
to be called Pecan Bayou. The Texas Revolution set in motion events
that eventually shaped the county's property lines and attracted
some of the men who guided the county's early governmental, religious
and educational development.
trigger pull that changed history came when a rag tag assemblage
of men with guns who thought themselves an army routed the previously
victorious Mexican troops under Gen. Antonio Lope de Santa Anna.
On May 4, 1836, not quite two weeks after the
battle that assured Texas independence, Oliver T. Brown (no
known connection to the future namesake of Brown
County, pioneer Henry S. Brown) sat down to write his parents
in Pennsylvania. He had come to Texas, he said, "to fight the Mexicans."
"I have been in two battles," the young man wrote, "one on the 20th
of April [the skirmish preceding the main battle] the other on the
21st. You will find in print after some time. The most victorious
battle ever fought in the known [illegible] to be down in the space
of 18 minutes."
Brown described the battle and then waxed on with equal enthusiasm
about what he had been fighting for: Land.
"The recompense from the Government of Texas," he began without
pausing to plant commas, "$20 per month from the time we enrolled
¼ of a league of land which is 1111 acres 2/3 of a league of land
which is 2900 acres will in all make about 4000 acres which is supposed
in less than two years will be worth at least $2000. General
Houston says we may rely upon it every man who was in the battle
shall have two leagues of land but the above we are sure of."
of those who charged
the enemy at San Jacinto found extra spring in their steps in
revenging the Alamo
most fought for land and the liberty that would go with it.
"As to the country," Brown continued, "it is a warm pleasant country.
In the month of Jany. peach trees in full bloom - land very level
tolerably well watered - prairie very extensive rich as can be.
I think it is the best place in the world for a young man commencing
on nothing to get rich."
But Brown never
got his piece of Texas. Last heard of guarding Mexican soldiers
captured after the battle, he disappeared from history, his service
at San Jacinto
and his letter home his only known legacies.
men who played a role at San
Jacinto ended up in Brown
County: Greenleaf Fisk and Noah Byars. Fisk is listed as among
those having been assigned to stay in the rear to guard the sick
and equipment. Byars wasn't there in person, but he literally had
a hand in the victory. A blacksmith from Washington-on-the-Brazos,
he chopped up horseshoes and other metal objects to make the grapeshot
used with such deadly effect by the two guns that came to be called
the Twin Sisters.
those who served in the revolution quite generously, at least in
terms of what land is worth today.
Texas General Land Office, Texas conveyed 5,354,250 acres in 7,469
bounty grants to veterans of the revolution. Each three-month hitch
netted 320 acres, up to 1,280 acres. Texas also offered 240 acres
to men who guarded the frontier, early day Rangers.
Veterans could qualify for additional grants for taking part in
a specific engagement. San
Jacinto vets, including guards like Fisk, got 640 acres. Texas
issued 1,816 of those donation warrants, amounting to 1.16 million
acres. Soldiers who arrived in Texas after the March 2, 1836 declaration
of independence and before Aug. 1 that year also qualified for grants
of one league of land. So did permanently disabled soldiers and
the heirs of those who fell at the Alamo
Fisk first saw the land he one day would help settle in 1838. He
survived an Indian scrape and while he made several other trips
to the area, he did not come to stay until 1860. That was four years
after the Legislature created Brown
County - at least on paper -- by carving land from Comanche
and Travis counties.
Through his grants and cash, Fisk acquired considerable acreage
in the county. And having fathered 15 children, he helped to populate
it. When he died at 82 in 1888, the Dallas Morning News called him
a man "of wonderful energy and enterprise." Noting that he had donated
the land for the original Brownwood
town site, the newspaper pointed out that Fisk had held "...nearly
every office within gift of the people, except sheriff and that
he would not have."
his contribution to the county as well, helping to organize the
First Baptist church and spearheading the effort to establish a
Baptist college in Central Texas. Howard Payne, the school he had
envisioned, opened a year after his death - also in 1888.
December 7, 2016
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