Category Archives: Ancestry

My family, then and now.

Living History

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Today is Memorial Day, that had its beginnings in 1863, as Decoration Day, when Confederated dead were remembered in the South, with red, white and blue bunting, placed upon their graves. I thought it fitting that I post this story from my family’s history. This story was first told to me by my Uncle, Roy Bryan, who was an eye witness to the events of December 7, 1941. Roy passed away several years ago and I believe that his story should be recorded and retold


By Jon Bryan

How could this have happened? That was the Nation’s question on the morning of December 8, 1941. Roy Bryan’s question was how did I, a civilian, end up in a shallow trench on a beach on the island of Oahu, with a 16 gauge, Winchester, sawed off shotgun, watching the sun come up over Diamond Head, waiting for the inevitable Japanese invasion?

It all started on December 6, a Saturday. Roy, 25 at the time, was a carpenter and had been doing some interior work on a Battleship for the Navy where he had become friends with some of the Sailors. There was a big party in Honolulu that night and he was going to it with his Sailor friends. He hoped it wouldn’t be an all nighter, because he had also planned to go fishing later in Aiea Bay, eat an early breakfast and sleep most of Sunday.

The Bryan family has always had an urge for new, different things and to keep moving west. Roy was my Dad’s brother, and my Uncle, and his urge caused him to leave Texas and migrate to Hawaii in 1939. By then, he was already, like his Dad, Peyton had been, a skilled carpenter and there was plenty of work available in the Islands.

The party, like all big parties, was loud and crowded, but the exceptionally pretty girls kept him there to almost midnight. His Sailor friends invited him to come back to the ship with them and spend the night there. He replied, “No thanks buddies, I’m going fishing in the bay and sleep most of tomorrow. I’ll see all you all on Monday.”

The fishing was good as usual and he had a nice “mess” for supper that night. The morning was breaking and he enjoyed the sight of Ford Island and Battleship Row across the bay from him and thought it was a good time to be rounding up his gear and heading back. From out of the north he could hear airplanes, not unusual because our Country was beefing up our Pacific defenses since our relations with Japan were worsening.

The planes kept coming, and when they cleared the hills, he could see they weren’t the big, B17s, that had been ferrying in, just single engine planes that didn’t look like the F4F’s or SBD’s that flew off of our Carriers. Strange, but as the planes came screaming in, he could clearly see the red ball on the wings and fuselages, just as the first bombs and torpedoes were released, their targets being our Battleships – Japs!

Feeling the concussions from the thunderous explosions, his first action, with his mind racing, as the Battleships were being hit, was to get behind a Coconut tree and peer around and watch the spectacle. He clearly saw the Arizona, or the ship berthed beside it, being hit and a great explosion and thought of his friends aboard who had invited him to spend the night with them. The poor guys! Then, the torpedo planes had finished their work, and along with their fighter escort, were leaving.

He moved to gather up his gear, when he heard more planes approaching from the east. More Jap planes and he snuggled down behind his tree and watched the bombers pound our Pacific Fleet. The harbor was all confusion, ships exploding and maneuvering to keep the channel clear, fires raging on the ships and on shore, sirens screaming and black smoke spiraling skyward! A scene from hell! And, even though he had watched every minute of the attack, but for fate, he could have been more in the middle of it and doomed on the U.S.S. Arizona!

The Japs flew away and Roy thought, we are at war with Japan. Finally moving off of the beach he tried to drive toward Pearl Harbor, but the roads were closed. He was stopped and told to report to “such in such place” and await orders. Martial law had been imposed and he guessed all able bodied men had been “drafted” into service.

The officials were positive the Japs would invade the Islands, Oahu especially, and, he was right, all able bodied men were guarding the beach for the next several nights. No invasion, but the World and the Hawaiian Islands, along with Roy, would forever change after that day, December 7, 1941!

A True Texan

I recently posted stories on my blog about my Great Grandfather’s, Brinson Bryan and Shaw Wallace. No reminiscence of my youth would be complete without a mention of my Grandmother, Linnie Ross (Sanders) Wallace.

Pictured in 1946, is my Grandmother, Linnie Ross (Sanders) Wallace, 1866-1953, my Mother, Ruth (Wallace) Bryan, 1895-1979, my Sister, Helen Ruth Anthony 1923-2003 and my Niece, Cheryl Anthony 1944-1964. Four generations of Wallace women. Because of at least 2 house fires, this is one of the very few pictures of my Grandmother Wallace.

My first memories of her were singing to me and telling me the story of the following song, author unknown:

“Backward turn backward o time in thy flight,
Make me a child again, just for tonight.
The tears on my pillow, thy loving watch keep’
Rock me to sleep Mother, rock me to sleep”.

Her mother died in 1877 when she was 11 years old.

Linnie’s Father, Levi L. Sanders, spent 3½ years fighting with the 6th Texas Cavalry during our Civil War. Being born in 1866, she was a “Civil War Baby Boomer”. She was a Texan and a “Rebel’s Daughter” and taught me the First verse of Bonnie Blue Flag”. It was first the Regimental song of the 8th Texas Cavalry, Terry’s Rangers, and later the anthem of the Southern States.

“Bonnie Blue Flag”, by Harry McCarthy

“We are a band of brothers and native to the soil,
Fighting for our liberty, with treasure, blood and toil.
And when our rights were threatened, the cry rose near and far,
Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.

For southern rights hurrah,

Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.”

She also made sure that I knew what “Decoration Day”, now known as our Memorial Day, was and how it started. Before the end of the Civil War, in the Spring, Southern ladies began placing red, white and blue “bunting” on the graves of the Confederate dead. This practice spread all over the South and in 1868, in the North, May 5, was officially designated Memorial Day.

Our family legends say that during the latter part of our Civil War, some type of significant event occurred between her Dad, Levi Sanders and Sul Ross, the Brigade Commander of the Texas Cavalry Brigade and future Governor of the State of Texas, causing Levi to say that he would name his next child after him and Sul replying he would pay that child’s way through college. Legend doesn’t say what the event was, but my Grandmother, Linnie Ross Sanders, born in 1866, was named Linnie Ross, and she told me that Sul Ross paid her way through college at Baylor, then located at Independence, Texas.

Another very interesting story that she told me several times, and was recently verified by another of her Grandson’s, George Pyland, my Cousin, was that when she was 5 years old, of her seeing Cynthia Ann Parker. Cynthia Ann was captured by Comanches in 1836, lived as an Indian for 24 years until she was re-captured in 1860 by Sul Ross leading a company of Texas Rangers. Cynthia Ann had 3 children, her oldest son being Quannah Parker, the last War Chief of the Commanches. Quannah surrendered to Col. Ranald McKenzie, “Three Fingered Kenzie” being his Indian nickname, and then Quannah led his people to the reservation in Oklahoma and later became and extremely successful businessman.

Cynthia Ann’s Brother, Issac Parker, was a neighbor in Van Zandt County, Texas, of Levi Sanders, Lennie Ross’ Dad, and she tells of seeing Cynthia Ann several times and how she “scared” her. Never re-adapting to civilized life, Cynthia Ann Parker died of a “broken heart” in 1871.

Linnie taught school in East Texas for several years before marrying Dr. Harmon Elliott Wallace, my maternal Grandfather. Before the turn of the 20th century, Linnie and Harmon moved to west Texas where he practiced medicine for over 20 years. They had 8 children, 7 surviving to adulthood, including my Mother, Ruth Wallace Bryan. Their oldest son, Horace Harmon, was not in this 1915 era picture. He was away playing professional baseball. I visited the house in the background in 1949 in Ovalo, Texas, west of Abilene and at the foot of Bald Eagle Mountain.

Linnie Ross was a fine Christian lady, a good Grandmother to me and a credit to our state!


This story has been passed down through my family for well over 100 years. I have heard it from my Dad and his Brothers and Sisters. Brinson and Fannie Bryan, who were living near Riesel, Texas, McLennan County, were my paternal Great Grandparents and their son, Peyton Bryan, was my paternal Grandfather.

The Dogs were raising a racket outside, waking Brinson Bryan and his wife, Fannie, up from a sound sleep. He figured they had a Possum or ‘Coon treed in the large oak tree near the Hen house. Next thing he knew all eight of his kids were awake and asking him “Papa, what is all the racket with the Dogs.” Fannie was expecting their ninth, and she hoped the last, child the next month, December 1889.

Brinson slipped on his heavy clothes, it was cold for mid November, and lit a coal oil lantern. He was going to “chunk” the “coon out of the tree and not even mess with loading his .44 pistol. With all these kids around, it didn’t pay to leave the old pistol loaded. He handed the lantern to his oldest son, Peyton, slipped on his boots and said to him, “Let’s go run that varmint off.”

Stepping outside and heading the 100 feet to the old, oak tree with the Dogs furiously barking, Peyton held the light up towards the tree and he and his Papa were rewarded by seeing two of the biggest, yellow eyes staring back at them. “Papa, that’s no ‘Coon,” he exclaimed, as he and Brinson edged closer to the tree, plainly making out a very large cat, rather a very large Mountain Lion, crouched on a branch about eight feet off the ground.

This looked like another “tight spot” shaping up. Brinson had had his share of “tight spots” in his life. Joining the Texas Rangers in 1845 he had fought Mexicans and Indians during the Mexican War. After that war he guided wagon trains to California facing more Indians, wild animals and thieves. Next was his three and a half years of service with the Confederate Army of Tennessee and experiencing some of the fiercest battles of that war. He had married Fannie in 1867 and settled into a life of farming, mule trading and raising his family.

Now, he is being stared down by a big Cat and knowing the Dogs will keep the Cat treed, he tells Peyton, “Boy, hold the light on the Cat while I get something to finish it off with!” That “something” happened to be his old Bowie knife, almost two feet of it, which he tied onto a walking stick, or Moses stick. Counting the knife and stick, his “lance” was nearly 6 foot long. He knew if he shot the Cat with his pistol that it would die, but not before it would leap down on he and Peyton.

As Peyton held the light, Brinson shinnied up into the tree and with one thrust shoved the knife into the Cat’s throat and then, with both hands, held tight to the stick as the animal thrashed about, impaled on the knife. After it was over and the Cat lay still on the ground, Brinson thought it funny that his three Dogs could tree the Lion and keep it treed, while the Lion could easily kill the Dogs and also how the light from a coal oil lantern had kept the Cat off of them.

The Dogs had apparently intercepted the Cat before it had gotten into the Hen house. It ended up a very lop sided victory for Brinson and Peyton, no Dogs or Chickens injured, just a little lost sleep.

This may have been the last Mountain Lion killed in McLennan County, Texas.

Too Proud To Loaf

On February 12, 2007, I was going through a trove of old Bryan family momentoes and opening a box of keepsakes from my Uncle, E. Jay Bryan, who served in the Army during the Mexican Border Campaign with Gen. Pershing, and died in France during WW 1, well before I was born, I came across the following handwritten poem, author unknown to me.

It is my pleasure to share it with the readers.

E. Jay’s unit was Company F, 3rd Texas Infantry Regiment, Texas National Guard, from Falls County, Texas, charged with border defense. His Grandfather B. M. Bryan, my Great Grandfather, also defended along the Mexican border during the Mexican War of 1846/47 as part of a Texas Ranger contingent, Bell’s Rangers, also from central Texas. Today, our southern border still remains a real problem area. In my forefather’s times they just closed the border and ran the Mexicans back across.

Things were easier then before we became engulfed with Political Correctness and the disgusting pandering of our politicians. But, one thing remains, our country’s freedom is more important than politics!

Just like today, most of us, and definitely our military, loves this great country and remain proud to serve her!


We’re camping on the Rio Grande with nothing much to do,
But wash our shirts and darn our socks,
And darn the insects too.
We want the world to understand we’re not too proud to fight,
But draw the line at loafing here with things that sting and bite.

The Rattlers are a friendly lot and visit us by scores,
Tarantulas prefer our tents to sleeping out of doors.

In napping in our shoes and hats the scorpion persists,

We’ve learned the Horned Toad is a harmless little oaf,
We’re not a bit too proud to fight, but how we hate to loaf.”