A History of Hardy Bryan
Hardy Bryan was one of the earliest pioneers in the Thomasville area. He was born in 1799 in Jones County, North Carolina, near New Bern. He was the youngest of 10 children of John Hill Bryan and his wife Elizabeth Harrison Bryan.
Hardy’s great-great-grandfather, Edward O’Brien, left Ireland in 1700 with four brothers, one of whom died at sea. They took up land in Jones County, North Carolina, at which time their surname was changed to Bryan.
Hardy’s grandfather, John Hill Bryan, who died in 1801, was a Major in the Revolutionary War. Hardy’s father, also named John Hill Bryan, was born in 1761 in Jones County and he too was in the Revolutionary War as a boy soldier. He later became a member of the North Carolina legislature.
In 1801, John Hill Bryan moved to Montgomery County, Georgia, with seven of his living children. He acquired land and continued farming. The Wyche family also lived in the same county at this time.
After the lottery of 1820, lottery winners sold their land to others who became settlers of the newly opened land. John Hill Bryan bought his land from a Lewis Bonds. Hardy bought his from a John Mathis in 1823. Two years later, Hardy sold his lot of 490 acres on the present Mill Pond Road to his brother-in-law, Thomas Wyche. He then purchased a lot on the present Spring Hill Road, six miles south of Thomasville, where he built a mill and established a plantation.
By 1823, Hardy married Martha Susan Wyche, 18-year-old daughter of Littleton and Susannah Mitchell Wyche, who were still living in Montgomery County. The Wyches moved to Thomas County in 1825-6 after some preliminary work had been done by their son, Thomas.
Hardy, with the help of 12 slaves given to him at the time of his marriage, created a home and a supporting livelihood on the Spring Hill Road. During this same time, the Wyches built a mill on their property on Mill Pond Road. Martha died on June 30, 1824 and Hardy returned the 4 slaves given to him by his father-in-law. Hardy married Martha’s sister, Maria, one month after her death. She and Hardy had 13 children over the next 10 years.
In 1826, John Hill Bryan was one of the commissioners appointed to select the new county seat. Hardy was appointed a commissioner to arrange for the building of an educational academy for Thomas County, which was built on the corner of Madison and Monroe Street.
Hardy’s father died in 1826 and there is no record of where he is buried. Hardy acquired one-sixth of his father’s estate. On February 2, 1827, Hardy bought five ½ acre lots from Thomas Adams. Four of the lots were on North Broad Street, occupying the full block between Monroe and Washington Streets, on the north side of the street. He also bought a lot on the corner of Monroe and Crawford Streets, on which the Big Oak is located. A house was soon constructed on lot #2, the present location of the Hardy Bryan House.
Initially, a single-story three room hand-hewn log house was built. It included a wood floor supported by log floor joists. It is also possible that the log house was moved there in 1827 from another one of his properties, namely his Mill Pond Road property, 2-1/2 miles south of Thomasville, acquired in 1823; his Spring Hill Road property six miles south of Thomasville, acquired in 1825 and known as Mill Place and later Rosewood; and his father’s house, built in 1923, six miles north of Thomasville. The house is reputed to be the first log house with a puncheon floor to be built in Thomas County.
In 1830, the Hardy Bryan household listed six occupants:
1 male age 1-5 (Leon, age 5)
2 males age 30-40 (Hardy was 31, the other is unknown)
2 females age 1-5 (Caroline, age 4, and Magnolia, age 1)
1 female age 20-30 (Maria, age 23)
The 1830 slave census showed the following:
1 male under 5
2 males 30-40
2 females under 5
1 female 20-30
This group would have worked on the household and the messuage (small 2-1/2 acre farm).
Hardy developed a diversified mercantile business in Thomasville and eventually owned three brick buildings on the north side of South Broad Street, beginning at the corner of Remington and running west. As early as 1824, he was referred to as a merchant.
He later acquired a store in Tallahassee in 1846 from John Anderson for $8,000 at the corner of Monroe and Clinton (now College) Streets. He also acquired a house and lot on Monroe Street in Tallahassee.
When he moved to Louisiana in the 1850s, Hardy bought a store in Shreveport which contained a great deal of various goods, including 222,000 cigars, at the time of his death.
In the 1850 census, Hardy’s son, Iredell, and his son-in-law Michael were living in the Broad Street house and were listed as merchants. They probably assisted Hardy in his growing merchandise business.
In 1843, Hardy deeded six acres of his land in the Fletcherville area one mile south of Thomasville on the Tallahassee Road for the building of the Methodist-sponsored Fletcher Institute. The institute went into operation in 1848 and Hardy became one of its trustees. His sons, Hardy Jr and Courtland, were attending it in 1850 as well as a future daughter-in-law, Mary Edwards.
From 1823-1850, Hardy accumulated vast holdings of property in Georgia and Florida, while still a resident of Thomas County. In Thomasville alone he owned 35 city lots. He was a Planter, owning over 11,000 acres in Thomas County, over 9,000 in Florida and 2,540 in Glynn County, Georgia, which was a plantation called Longwood Place. He was a Miller of grains and Sawyer of lumber at the old Mill Place on Spring Hill Road and later in Louisiana. He was Money Lender and a Merchandiser, as well as a Slave Owner.
A house similar in style to the Hardy Bryan House is the one built by Loverd Bryan (no relation) who married Elizabeth Wyche, sister to Maria, Hardy’s wife, near Lumpkin, Georgia. It is now located at Westville Historic Village.
For reasons unknown, Hardy moved to Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, near the town of Campti, in 1851. His wife and most of his children went with him. He continued possession of the Florida and Georgia properties until his death in 1859. Maria died in 1865 and is buried in the Old Thomasville Cemetery, so she may have returned to Thomasville in the final days of her life. Her daughter, Magnolia, to whom she left the Broad Street House, was living there at that time with her husband, Michael Branner.
At the time of his death, Hardy Bryan’s holdings in three states equaled 44,000 acres, 406 slaves, 3 stores and 2 mills. There were numerous houses, city lots, goods and furnishings, livestock, etc. The combined estate was valued at $607,000 ($200 million in 2011).
Adapted by Brent Runyon from Stewart, Annette J., editor, “Hardy Bryan”, Origins, published by the Thomasville Cultural Center Library, Fall 1993, Vol. 4, No. 1. (Abridged from research done by Ron Latham, January 1993, from files of Thomasville Landmarks.)