Welcome to Brazos County, Texas!
Located between the Navasota and Brazos rivers in southeast central Texas, and bounded on the northwest by Robertson County, on the east by Madison and Grimes counties, on the south by Washington County, and on the southwest by Burleson County. The county was named for the nearby Brazos River. Bryan is the county seat, and College Station is the other major community in the county. It comprises 588 square miles of rolling prairie and woodland.
Brazos County has been the site of human habitation for more than 12,000 years. Evidence of Paleo-Indian inhabitants in the area has turned up in the form of spearpoints, and the remains of a butchered mammoth have been found at the Duewall-Newberry Site on the Brazos River. Within the historic period, Spanish explorers reported Bidai and Tonkawa Indians in the area, and there is evidence that groups related to the Apaches and Comanches occasionally hunted buffalo as far east as Brazos County. Spanish travelers on the Old San Antonio Road passed along the northwest boundary of the future county, but there was no Spanish settlement in the area.
The territory that is now Brazos County was included in Stephen F. Austin's second colony and became part of Washington Municipality under the Mexican government. Colonists who sought plantation sites on the Brazos between 1821 and 1831 included Elliot McNeil Millican, Richard Carter, James H. Evetts, Melvan Lanham, Lee C. Smith, and Mordecai Boon. In 1837 most of the area of present-day Brazos County was included in Washington County. The Brazos River, which bisected the latter, proved a serious obstacle to county government, and a new county, Navasota, was formed in January 1841. The county seat, named Boonville for Mordecai Boon, was located on John Austin's league and was surveyed by Hiram Hanover in 1841. In January of the following year Navasota County was renamed Brazos County. The 1850 census showed 466 whites and 148 black slaves in the county. Of the approximately 176,000 acres in farms at that time, less than 2,000 acres was cleared for crops. Farmers concentrated on growing corn and a bit of cotton. The county remained overwhelmingly rural in the 1850s; only two families lived in the county seat in 1852, and only two post offices, Boonville and Millican, operated in the county in 1856.
In 1860 growth in the county was speeded by the arrival of the Houston and Texas Central Railroad, with Millican as its terminus. On the eve of the Civil War, Brazos County had a mixed economy of small farms and a few larger plantations, with a population of 1,713 whites and 1,063 slaves. Of the 118 slaveholders in the county, seventy-seven owned fewer than five slaves, and only four owned more than fifty. The county voted 215 to 44 for secession in 1861 and mobilized its inhabitants for the war. The railhead at Millican became an important transportation center for the Confederate war effort, and a training camp was established nearby in 1861.
Federal troops arrived in Millican in June 1865, when Brazos County began almost eight years of Reconstruction turmoil.
While county residents worked out the social and political problems left by the Civil War, the county prospered and grew. In 1866 the Houston and Texas Central Railroad resumed construction past Millican, and county citizens voted to make a site on the railroad line, the new community of Bryan, their county seat. Both Millican and the former county seat, Boonville, declined rapidly as their inhabitants moved themselves, their goods, and in some cases, the lumber from their homes and stores to Bryan. By 1870 Brazos County had 9,205 inhabitants, more than a three-fold increase since 1860.
Population growth continued at a more modest rate in the next few decades, reaching 13,576 in 1880 and 16,650 in 1890. The black population of the county increased more rapidly than the white, growing from 3,759 in 1870 to 6,250 in 1880. In 1890 the number of African Americans reached 8,845, and for the only time in its history the county had a black majority. Beginning in the 1870s substantial numbers of Germans, Austrians, and Czechs (Bohemians) migrated to the county, and Italians began arriving in the 1880s. In 1900 the county population reached 18,859. Of the 10,005 white residents that year, 1,403, or 14 percent, were foreign born, including 553 from Italy, 239 from Germany, and 223 from Bohemia. Settlement and economic growth were hastened in the county by transportation developments in the last decades of the nineteenth century.
During the twentieth century, Bryan and College Station played an increasingly important role in the life of the county. After its founding as a railroad town in 1866, Bryan slowly grew to a community of 3,589 in 1900, when approximately one-fifth of county residents lived there. The nearby community of College Station, which grew around Texas A&M after its founding in the 1870s, numbered only 391 inhabitants in 1900. Both communities grew steadily, and by 1940 they had a combined population of 14,026; at that time more than half of the county population lived in the two communities. As the county population continued to grow to 38,390 in 1950, 57,978 in 1970 and 93,588 in 1980 the urban population continued to grow both absolutely and with relation to the rural population. In 1980 the 81,506 inhabitants of Bryan-College Station were 87 percent of the residents of Brazos County.
In 1980 Brazos County was one of the most densely populated counties in the state. Of its 94,492 inhabitants, the largest ancestry groups were English and German. The black population of the county, which had remained relatively static at about 9,000 for most of the century, began to increase in the 1970s and was 10,350 in 1980. Significant Hispanic migration to the county began in the second half of the twentieth century; by 1980 Hispanic residents numbered 9,455. In 1990 the county had 121,862 residents. The incorporated towns were Bryan (55,002), College Station (52,456), and Wixon Valley (186).
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Glenna Fourman Brundidge, Brazos County History: Rich Past Bright Future (Bryan, Texas: Family History Foundation, 1986). Elmer Grady Marshall, History of Brazos County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1937).
"BRAZOS COUNTY." The Handbook of Texas Online.
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