Category Archives: Ancestry

My family, then and now.

Veteran’s Day – Buck Barry

After rereading Buck Barry’s, diary, edited in 1978 by James K. Greer, I thought the following tale of a battle fought over 160 years ago would be appropriate. Referencing Mr. Greer’s book and discovering more details on the internet, I’m pleased that I can summarize it. These men, Texans, all volunteers, responded to an urgent plea from an American General. Remember only two years before, Texas had been annexed into the United States, but old ties are strong.

Fight Along The San Juan River

Buck Barry, my 3G, Uncle was a veteran, a veteran of the Indian Wars, the Mexican War and the Civil War and was, I’m sure, a supporter of the fore runner of our Veteran’s Day – Decoration Day. Decoration Day began in Virginia in late 1863, with southern ladies decorating the graves of Confederate soldiers with red and white bunting. It quickly spread across the South, then the North and finally in 1867 was named, Memorial Day, a national holiday.

In 1846, before Decoration Day was even thought of, Buck had joined a company of volunteers in Franklin, Texas, under the command of Capt. Eli Chandler and the unit had made haste to south Texas, responding to the urgent request for reinforcements from Texas, from U.S. General (later President) Zachary Taylor. Arriving, ten days late for the battles at Resaca De La Palma and Palo Alto, the Texans, Buck included, were formed into a regiment of other Texas units and elected Capt. Jack Hays, who Buck had served with as a Texas Ranger in 1845, their Colonel and Samuel H Walker, their Lt. Colonel.

Digressing, Walker, a former Texas Ranger, was the inventor of the famous Walker Colt pistol, that until the .357 Magnum was introduced in 1935, was the most powerful, hand gun ever produced. Walker was later awarded a direct commission in the U.S. Army and served under Gen. Winfield Scott during the march to Mexico City. In 1847, Capt. Walker was killed by enemy fire while leading a charge into the Mexican city of Huamantla.

Buck and the Texans were the lead units of Gen. Taylor’s column heading up the San Juan River, a tributary of the Rio Grande, until their advance was stopped outside of Monterrey, by a regiment of Mexican Lancers and this led to a very, spirited fight!

The Texans had stopped for a break and unsaddled and were rubbing their horses down when the Lancers surprised them! Buying time for a hasty defense, Col. Hays rode out and challenged the Mexican Colonel to a saber duel. Hays mentioned to Buck that he knew nothing of saber dueling. The challenge was accepted and valuable time was gained when the Mexican officer removed all of his accoutrements and then rode out to meet Hays.

The Mexican drew his saber, and unceremoniously, Hays drew his pistol and shot him! At that breech of etiquette, the infuriated Lancers came boiling down the riverbank and charged the Texans! Hays ordered his men to fire from behind their horses using them as shields. The Lancers rode through the Texans three times, rifles and pistols were emptied and the fight continued with bowie knives against lances, until the attack was beaten off. Texan losses were one dead and many wounded and eighty of the Lancers were killed. Both sides suffered heavy losses of horses.

Buck said, “After that fight, I never called Mexicans cowards again!”

Chickamauga, The South’s High Point In The West

Having visited this battle field and walked over the ground my Great Grandfather (Paternal), Brinson Bryan, fought over. I was astonished that so many men could fight over so small an area for 2 days and on the second day, a charge and break through, still influence the outcome of the fight. They were tough guys!
Brinson, pictured around 1850, had come to Texas in 1846, joined the Texas Rangers, and had fought in the Mexican War with Bell’s Rangers, part of Zachary Taylor’s Army.

In the spring of 1862, he was visiting his Grandmother, just outside of Mobile and “joined up” with an Alabama, sharpshooter, Regiment, the 40th, and was later attached to Ector’s Brigade. He was back with his Texas boys!

With Ector’s Brigade, made up of Texas infantry units, Brinson’s portion of the 40th Alabama, took part in the Battle of Chickamauga, September 19 and 20. It was the largest, and the bloodiest, 2 day, battle, of the War, and was a resounding Southern victory. On both sides, over 34,000 men were killed, wounded or captured! Strange, but Chickamauga is an Indian word that means “River Of Blood”!

During the opening of this battle, Ector’s Brigade was sent to reinforce Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who’s units were fighting on the extreme right flank of the Southern line. This would be the first, and not the last, time Brinson would “Ride With Forrest” and through the heavy fighting of the entire 2 day battle, the Brigade held, prohibiting the Yankees from sending reinforcements to the main part of the fight that was raging less than one mile away, an important bridge, Reed’s Bridge, over Chickamauga Creek.

Still on the extreme right flank of the Confederate lines, on the second day of the fight, Ector’s Brigade charged and broke through the Union lines, causing the Union commander, Gen. Rosecrans, to withdraw a Division from his left to reinforce the break. At that opportune time, General Longstreet, with his Corps, just arriving by rail, from Virginia, smashed into the gap in the Union line, and the chase was on, all the way back to Chattanooga!

After the battle, General Forrest said, “When the Texans charged at Chickamauga it excited my admiration!” I bet it did!

Swimmin’ In The Trinity River

During the summer of 1848, my, 3G Uncle, Buck Barry, and some of his friends had an interesting swimming outing in the Trinity River. Earlier in the year Buck had sailed from Charleston, S.C. to Galveston, then bayou-boated up to Houston, where he hired teamsters to take him to Bazette bluff, on the Trinity River, east of the present town of Corsicana.

Buck Barry as a young man, probably near the time when he came to Texas.

Picking up Buck’s story from his diary, “Buck Barry, Texas Ranger And Frontiersman”, and condensing it a smidge, he and his friends had gone swimming in the Trinity when a man on the bank alerted them that an alligator was heading their way. Looking up river, steadily approaching us, we could only see the ‘gators eyes above water.

We “trolled” it on toward us, and then, the man on the bank shot the ‘gator. It floated for about a minute then sank in three feet of water. The bloody water and bubbles made us think he was dead, so we formed a line abreast and began searching for it with our feet. Soon, a stout young man, John O’Neil, stepped on the ‘gator and shouted, “Here he is! I’m standing on him. I’ll dive down and bring him up.”

John dived, but the ‘gator was very much alive and until the shore was reached, a lively fight ensued. First John was on top, then the ‘gator and we saw the shot had broken the ‘gator’s jaw and it couldn’t bite John, otherwise it would have drowned him.

The ‘gator then took full possession of the battlefield, swimming around in a circle, daring us to intrude on him again. Another shot took care of the gator and we knew it was fatal because the ‘gator sank without a struggle. We formed another line, found that it was dead, and brought it to shore.

Buck doesn’t say what they did with the ‘gator, but I’m sure it was eaten.

Today, the Trinity River is still “full” of ‘gators!

Wesley’s Turtle

This past Thursday, during our fishing trip to the San Saba River, Wesley found this turtle, identified as a Red-eared Terrapin, Trachemys scripta elegans, he sat it down and it didn’t move during the entire time we were fishing. I thought he had just left it there.

Saturday I drove to Conroe to visit a hospitalized relative, and coming back to Goldthwaite, I stopped in Gatesville to fill up. As the gas pumped, and the dollars increased, I glanced into the back of my pickup, and there was Wesley’s turtle looking back at me.

Unknown to me he had secreted the turtle under the truck’s, tool box, and I guess the long trip, had caused it to move around. As soon as I got home, I released it into my garden and haven’t seen it since.

Talking it over with Wesley, (age 9), Saturday night, he snickered and said, “Poppy, I just plain forgot to tell you about the turtle.” Enough said!

Boys will be boys!

Right Time, Wrong Place – A Memorial Day Rememberance

Being Memorial Day (tomorrow), the following story, written by my Son, Brad, tells about a scrape he got into in Iraq. Our troops are going through things like this daily and we should all take time to thank the Lord for them and the great job they are doing!

Right Time, Wrong Place

By MSgt Brad Bryan

In April of 2004, along with my unit, the 1-7 CAV, I had been in Baghdad, Iraq for about a month. As the Squadron tank master gunner I had several responsibilities. One of these was to assist our unit’s Civil Affairs team with their missions in our Area of Operations (AO). On 28 April 2005, just after lunch, everyone involved in this afternoon’s patrol met at our HUMVEEs for an Operations Order. The senior officer, a Major, briefed us on the afternoon’s mission. His briefing included the locations we were going to visit, primary and alternate routes, actions on contact, and order of march for the vehicles. We were going to check on several civil projects going on in our area, the last one being a meeting with the contractor who was refurbishing an old Republican Guard headquarters building near Baghdad International Airport (BIAP). The building was being remodeled into a state of the art medical clinic for the citizens of the Al Furat neighborhood.


L to R: Sergeants Rodriguez, Bryan and Presley in front of the AL-Furat clinic.

Before arriving at the clinic we had checked on all of the locations that we had been briefed on and the patrol, up to this point, had been uneventful. We arrived at the Al-Furat clinic, our last stop, and set up local security. We, the major and senior NCOs, met with the contractor and his brother. Both of these men, US citizens, had been born in Iraq and had come back from Houston, Texas, my home town, to try and make some money rebuilding the country.

After the meeting we mounted up on the vehicles and moved out for our return trip to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Falcon. I told the driver to switch places with me because I wanted to drive back to the FOB. The clinic is located on the west side of Baghdad near BIAP and Camp Slayer. FOB Falcon is located on the south-central side of the city. With the afternoon traffic (even in Iraq), barring any civilian accidents, it is usually a 15-20 minute trip.

It only took about 2 minutes for us to reach Route Irish, our way back to FOB Falcon. We hadn’t been on Route Irish for more than a mile when I noticed something strange. In the median to our left was an Iraqi army patrol looking my way, along with an American patrol that they apparently were conducting joint operations with. The Americans were behind the Iraqis and looking in the other direction. The Iraqis were all holding their weapons, AK-47s, level and at the ready oriented towards the freeway and us!

Right before we reached their position we started hearing small arms fire and then all the Iraqis opened up in our direction with their AK’s. The sound of small arms fire was augmented by the sound of rounds splatting on to our vehicles!


Typical afternoon traffic on Route Irish in Baghdad, but this scene, except for the shadow of a machine gun, could be mistaken for driving in Phoenix, Arizona.

We proceeded to speed our Humvees, about 65 mph, past the platoon of Iraqi soldiers all shooting their AK-47s at us, we thought. I’m thinking there is going to be hell to pay!

We quickly turned around and went back to the Iraqis’ position, ready for a fight. When we arrived there the American patrol leader on the ground was shouting colorful expletives at the Iraqi patrol leader.

It turned out the Iraq platoon had been engaged, drive by style, by a black sedan full of insurgents. When we passed their position they were returning fire on the insurgents, not engaging us. So, we had driven through the cross fire! Even if we had been rehearsing it, we couldn’t have timed it any better.

The vehicle that I was driving was hit twice in the hood and once in the windshield by rounds fired by the insurgents. One round passed through the soft top from behind the vehicle and struck the windshield frame about six inches above my head! That round was fired by one of the “friendly” Iraqis.

After all was said and done, no one was injured, but we sure were in the wrong place at the right time!


Humvee with armored doors and soft top. Looking closely, it looks like a trooper is bunking on top of the Humvee!

The Free State Of Van Zandt

The following story, one of my favorite family stories, has been handed down in my family since, I imagine, these events took place. On one occasion, I also saw a version of the story in print in the “Texas Co-op Power” magazine.

When the Southern soldiers returned from the War Of Northern Agression, they found a serious situation, carpetbaggers, crooked politicians and a general lack of law enforcement. The returning Van Zandt County soldiers gathered together and formed The Free State of Van Zandt. The Unionist quickly responded by sending Colored Federal Cavalry to suppress the “revolt”. Shots were exchanged and the Federal troops were driven off which ignited a party by the victors, causing most of them to become very drunk.

The Federals returned, and without a shot being fired, captured the entire lot of the revelers, hand cuffed them all and put them in a hastily built stockade. Big trouble for the former Confederates! However, during the first night, a violent rainstorm hit the stockade, causing the hastily built facility to, literally, come apart. Since the Federal troops had sought shelter from the storm and weren’t guarding it, and the stockade came apart, the Confederate prisoners simply walked out and went back to their homes. There were no further arrests and the matter was dropped, so ended The Free State of Van Zandt.

My Great Grandfathers, Levi Lindsey Sanders and Shaw Wallace, were former comfederate soldiers from Van Zandt County, and since another of my Great Grandfathers, Brinson Murrill Bryan, also a Confederate, was from directly across the Trinity River from Van Zandt County, and family legend has he never missed a fight or party. My family history doesn’t say if my Great-Grandfathers were involved or not.

These 3 were ardent Confederates and two of them from Van Zandt County, so the reader will have to draw his own conclusions.


Dusty Boots

My Dad told me the following story about him and about my family’s past association with the Klan, yes the Ku Klux Klan. It all began on the hot, dusty, smoke covered battlefield of Chickamauga, where our Southern, Army of Tennessee, routed the Union forces, driving them out of Georgia, back across the Tennessee River and into Chattanooga.

In early 1862, my Great Grandfather, Brinson Murrill Bryan, had been in Sumpter County, Alabama, visiting relatives when he enlisted in the 40th Alabama Infantry Regiment. He was a sharpshooter and was attached to and later permanently assigned to the 10th Texas Cavalry Regiment (Dismounted), and finished the war with them.

During the opening morning of the battle of Chickamauga, Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, became separated from his cavalry division and assumed command of Ectors’ Brigade (Texas), the 10th Texas Cavalry, Brinson’s unit, being part of this Brigade. They held a key bridge over a creek and prevented Union reinforcements from reaching the main breach in the Union lines. The tenacity and courage of the Texans excited Forrest, who later said, “When the Texans charged at Chickamauga, it excited my admiration.”

One year later, during Gen. Hood’s disastrous retreat from Nashville, Forrest was assigned to command the rear guard. His choice of troops for this grinding, week long battle was a Texas Cavalry Brigade and two Texas regiments of dismounted cavalry, the10th being one. The Texans won each battle and skirmish and was even recognized by Union Gen. Thomas, who said, “Hood’s Army on the retreat from Tennessee was a bunch of disorganized rabble. But the rear guard, however, was undaunted and firm, and did its work bravely to the last.”

After the war ended, the South was in chaos, Reconstruction was beginning and noticeably absent was law and order. Influential Southern leaders, Forrest being one, joined together and formed a protective association that grew into the Ku Klux Klan.

Brinson, who had “Rode With Forrest”, returned to Alabama to marry, and, if Bedford Forrest was a founder, that was all Brinson needed, and he joined this new association and for a time was an active member. My Dad told me that my Grandfather, Peyton Bryan, had also been a member.

When my Dad was 19, he joined the Klan in Falls County, Texas, and his first assignment was to take part in a Klan rally and march in a parade through the town of Marlin. My Dad put on his sheet and joined in the rally and parade. After the parade was over, the Klansmen removed their hoods and sheets and retired to the local saloon.

Soon the Sheriff entered the saloon and said, “There was no parade permit issued so I’m arresting everyone who took part in it! Everybody line up against the wall!” My Dad, being smart, said, “Sheriff, I have been standing at this bar during the parade, drinking this cold glass of butter milk and I’m not guilty of anything.”

Grabbing him by the arm, the Sheriff escorted him bodily to the wall and said to him, “Johnny, my boy, your boots are dusty. They didn’t get that way from standing at the bar! You’re under arrest!”

After spending the night in the Falls County Jail, the “paraders” were released and my Dad resigned from the Klan. He didn’t even get to finish his cold, butter milk.

What’s The H Stand For Johnny?

My Dad was a good man and a good Dad and he had “seen the elephant”! He was a character, very colorful, a great hunter and fisherman and everyone should enjoy these next few posts about him.

During WW I, when he was 16, my Dad, John Bryan, ran away from home and joined the Texas National Guard. That particular unit had been called up for duty in France. He was loaded on the train in Waco, headed for overseas training, when his Dad, My Grand Dad, Peyton Bryan, appeared and physically drug him off of the train. It took him 5 years and many letters to finally get a discharge from the Guard so he could join the Marines.

John H. Bryan was his name. “What’s the “H” stand for Johnny?” I heard his friends laughingly ask him this many times. Well, when he joined the Marine Corps, the Recruiting Sgt. told him “Son, you have to have a middle initial to join my Corps”. Puzzled my dad replied, “Sgt. my only name is John, but if I need a middle initial make it H, H for hellion.”

Pictured is Pvt. John H. Bryan, aboard the battleship U.S.S. Tennessee, on his first cruise after boot camp. He was one of “The Old Breed” U.S. Marines.


Daddy, as I called him, rose to the rank of Sergeant, E-5, in the Marine Corps and in the 20’s was the Marine, Fleet, middleweight boxing champion. My Dad also had combat experience in Latin America during one of the last “Banana Wars”. He tried to enlist with the Marines on December 8, 1941, but was told, even with his past record, that he was forty years old and too old to serve in the Corps. I remember him being very upset over this!

In the fall 1942 the movie “Wake Island” was released and shown at the Metropolitan Theatre in Houston. We went to see it on the premier night because Daddy wanted to see one of his old CO’s from the Corps. I met the CO, a Lt.Colonel, Chesty Puller, who ended up being the most famous Marine of WW II. He was on a war bond drive and temporarily back from Guadalcanal. My Dad would have joined back up that night also.

He finally matured and worked for the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company for 35 years, finally retiring as a mid level Manager.

I have always remembered one day after a real tough Dove hunt and we didn’t do very good and he gave me some of the best advice I have ever received. He told me, “Boy, don’t worry about today’s bad hunt. Just remember, if it were easy each time out, it would be called shooting instead of hunting!” Some days we have a world of success and some days are complete washouts, but the real fun is being out in God’s great outdoors!

Missionary Trip to Africa

My youngest son, Randy, was the “star” of “Buck Fever”, when he was a 12 year old beginner at Deer hunting. He is and expert at that sport now and an expert in finding and saving lost souls. Randy is presently the Pastor of The Fellowship Of San Marcos, Baptist Church, in San Marcos, Texas.

Last year he was called to go on a missionary trip to western Kenya, in east Africa, to spread the Lord’s word. Western Kenya is currently locked in an ongoing spiritual battle.

Two Massai warriors are pictured and he related the very unusual meeting he had with them. These two warriors were fiercely angry with Randy because they thought he had lied to them and the Lord gave Randy the courage to stand up to them and correct the misunderstanding. After their “tiff”, the two warriors, village head men and locals all became “best” friends!
After his safe return he penned the following thank you letter to his supporters:

“Post-Kenya Mission Trip Update

Kenya was such an incredible experience! First, about the power of prayer. I want to thank everyone for theirs. I knew God was with me and our team of 28 people before we even left the States. Once we arrived in Kenya, we saw Him move in ways we could not even imagine and we couldn’t have done any of this without your prayers and financial support. Read on and you will see why this trip was so amazing and why all of the prayers, time, and money that went into it were worthwhile. By the time we finished up in Kenya over 8500 Kenyans had accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior!

THE SCHOOLS: We shared the Gospel (‘Injilay’ in Swahili) with about 15,000 students. We went to the school campuses with the
Child Evangelism Fellowship of Kenya (CEF). They have a relationship with all of the schools there. They also ask the kids that accept Jesus to fill out a card so CEF can start Bible clubs on the campuses. By the time we left Kisumu, CEF had received 7337 cards back from students indicating that they had trusted Christ for the first time! CEF will help them grow spiritually and encourage them to get involved in their church, or find one if they do not have one.

THE TRAILS: Almost everyday, we hit the trails and went hut-to-hut sharing the Gospel. Sometimes, we just stood out on the trails and talked to people as they walked up. Almost every person we shared the Gospel with received it with joy and accepted Christ. They expressed much gratitude for the Good News that we brought. Many thanked us with tears in their eyes. I have been a Christian (for real) since I was about 20 years old. I have seen God do many great things but I, truly, never thought I would see so many people turn to Christ in such a short time. I never though I would see something like Acts 2:41: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” What I heard from the pastors we worked with was that all of East Africa is like that. After years of oppression and emptiness, so many people are hungry for God and just need someone to tell them the Gospel! It is exciting and humbling at the same time.

WARRIORS: We were waiting along a trail and up walked two Maasai Warriors, both surly and uncommunicative. We began telling them about Jesus and they changed dramatically, even letting us take their picture.

THE FIRST SERVICE: Most of our work sharing the Gospel was to start a brand new church in Kisumu called the Kasule (kah-soo-lay) Community Bible Church. The new pastor, Pastor Samson, had been trained over the past two years to lead this new church. He was completely overwhelmed with what happened at the first service that turned out to be a great place for any man or woman of God to be part of at that particular time. When we were out on the trails, we wrote down the names and addresses of each person who accepted Christ. On Sunday, at the first church service, we gave this list of over 1100 people to Pastor Samson! We called it his “Church Directory.” It was awesome! There were about 400 people at that first service! Including about 10 or12 Maasai warriors!

There are two other amazing stories that I want you to know about.

One involves how so many Maasai came to the first service. The Maasai are a brave and proud people and other Africans are terrified of them. They usually are resistant to the Gospel, but God opened the door for us and many of them accepted Christ! It is an amazing story. Our church in San Marcos, Texas, may adopt them as a people group to take them the “Injilay.”

The other story is when two thieves stole a camera from us. The ENTIRE village that was present chased them down, dragged them back to the church, and wanted to kill them at the church for stealing from us. The pastors were able to convince them not to do it. Both thieves later accepted Christ.!So did their parents and the guards who were later assigned to the church. It was an amazing story.

God bless each of you for your prayers and monetary support. God called on you to help and we couldn’t have done it without you. Please pray for God to continue to work in East Africa and around the world. Also, please pray for our church, The Fellowship Of San Marcos, as we plan more trips to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Christ’s Love,

Randy Bryan, Pastor
You can contact Randy at:
email: [email protected]
phone: 512-353-3909

Grandma Bryan’s Tea Cakes

On August 12, I posted the story, “The Magical Wood Stove” about My Grand Mother, Ella Bryan’s, cooking ability on her old wood stove. Her Tea Cakes were wonderful and were my favorites, but I bemoaned the fact that her recipe for them was lost, leaving me only memories of those treats.

Last week while I was in Manassas, Va. playing in a National Championship, Senior Softball Tournament, I received an e-mail from one of my Cousins, and attached was Grandma Bryan’s recipe for her Tea Cakes. It had been stashed away with one of my Aunts, Myree (Bryan) Turner’s, other recipes and my post had jogged my cousin’s memory as to its whereabouts.

The Tea Cakes were so good, I will now make this cherished recipe available to my readers.
Grandma Bryan’s Tea Cakes

Sift together,
3 cups flour
3 TSP baking powder
1-1/2 cups sugar
a pinch of salt.

Then, with a pastry blender, cut in 1 “scant” cup of Crisco. I have been told that a “scant” cup, means not packed down.

Add 3 eggs and
Either 1 tsp vanilla or lemon flavoring, then mix well.

Use rolling pin and roll dough to approx. ½” thickness.

a large glass, iced tea size, and flour the rim, then cut raw cookies
out of the dough and place on a greased cookie sheet. Keep the scraps
and re-roll and re cut. Your last cookie may be funny looking.

Cook at 350 deg. Until done, light brown.

Sprinkle sugar on top,

Then eat and enjoy!