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John Neely Bryan ( 1810 - 1877 )  Category ( Historical_Figures ) [suggest a correction]

John Neely Bryan is best known for being the founder of the City of Dallas, Texas. He was also a lawyer, a farmer, and a businessman. He was born in Tennessee and attended military school, followed by law school. When he was in his early twenties he left Tennessee and resettled in Arkansas. Putting aside his legal training, he became and Indian trader. He appears to have possessed a strong sense of adventure, and continued to push west, exploring areas that were ripe for Indian trading posts. He spent part of 1839 and 1840 scouting the area, and found what he considered an ideal location. However, when he returned to the area in 1841 he was disappointed to find that the local and Federal government had forced out at least half of his potential customer base -- Indian tribes. Rather than giving up, Bryan decided to develop a permanent settlement for white people moving west. It was this original settlement, intended to be a trading post that evolved into the City of Dallas.

Unlike some other city founding fathers, Bryan remained loyal to his fledgling Dallas. He settled there himself (for a time living in the courthouse itself!), becoming the town's first postmaster.  He also owned a store and other real estate, and operated a ferry. In 1844 he hired a surveyor to help him plat and plan the growing town. As the community grew, Bryan and others decided to organize into a county, making Dallas the county seat in 1850. During the early 1840s he also married Margaret Beeman. They had five children. Despite the scene of domesticity, Bryan retained his wanderlust and traveled to California when he heard about the gold rush in 1849. He did not meet with the expected success and returned a year later to Dallas. Things were not so good for Bryan in 1855, the year that he shot a man for purportedly insulting his wife. Worried about possible legal consequences, Bryan left the area and lived in the Creek Nation community for five years, despite the fact that his shooting victim made a complete recovery. Some of his biographers argue that the five or six years he spent away from Dallas is another example of Bryan's wanderlust, since during those years he continued to travel beyond Texas, into Colorado and California. His spirit of adventure did not abandon him, even in old age. In 1861 he joined the Confederate Army by serving in the Eighteenth Texas Cavalry. However, a year later he was discharged due to old age and infirm health. At that time, he turned his energies to promoting Dallas and helping its citizens. He was instrumental in the development of education, railway, and bridge building. Sadly, in 1874 Bryan was committed to the Texas State Lunatic Asylum, where he died three years later.

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