Pioneers' Home (old J.C. Bryson Home)

Historical Marker, Leander, Texas

Historical Marker Text

Antedating town of Leander, this place was a 3-day wagon distance from Austin. First two rooms were built (1872) by J. C. and Nancy Bryson, of rock from San Gabriel River and Jenks Branch; hewn cedar logs and shingles from Bastrop area. Had several additions, for family of eight children. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1970

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GPS Coordinates
Latitude: 30.5982 Longitude: -97.8519

Address: 10500 183A Toll Road @ 623-629 E San Gabriel Parkway (CR 274)

From the book by Dr. J. Gordon Bryson Culture of Shin Oak Ridge Folk

In that golden era, when a railroad did arrive at a town, regardless of its size, two new buildings were built which inevitably must attract two new citizens. These were a depot and a section-house. The depot agent had to be a telegrapher. He also had to have been trained in the routine of express and railroad traffic. The section foreman had to know about the construction and maintenance of the railroad track. Certainly, men with these qualifications could not be found in this area. At that time two new families with regular cash salaries were a boon to any small town or village. One of the earliest agents, though perhaps not the first, was Greenleaf Fisk Cashion, uncle of Tom Cash¬ion. Two other businesses became a must at each of these new towns. One of these was a hotel and the other a livery stable.

At Leander, Tom Evans established the first hotel.

And a Mr. Thornberry put in a livery stable. As odd as it seems today, the passenger traffic at that time was much heavier than the freight. There were many oxen, mules, and draft horses that had to be maintained, and the time element was not important. That was what everyone had plenty of. The passengers would have emergencies, and besides, it was a lot of fun to get on one of those iron monsters and whiz over hill and dale at the fabulous speed of twenty miles per hour. Sitting on a hard wooden seat in a rickety, rattling coach, which rocked and rolled, was velvet compared to riding in a spring seat, or a chair, directly over the front axle of a wagon that tumbled off one rock to land on another. Even a buggy with a cushion could transmit a shock to the spinal column when the wheels dropped into a deep wagon rut.

I remember one example of economy freight when my dad and his cousin Joe. Bryson of Leander decided to install a big "Buck's Brilliant" cookstove in each of their homes.

Dad hitched one team to a wagon and drove to Leander, where Joe added another team. That gave them animal power enough to pull anything anywhere in any sort of weather. They negotiated the trip to Austin and back in about three days. Perhaps they saved as much as three dollars each by not having the stoves shipped out on the train. Sounds silly now, but three days and three dollars at that time was the good economy and a good indicator of frugality, a quality coveted by a frontiersman.

A passenger train seldom stopped without a well-dressed dude's getting off. This type was known as a drummer. And as strange as it may sound now, some drummers were not held in as high esteem as most of our present-day salesmen are. The drummer made his rounds of the stores and then went to the hotel, where he purchased a substantial meal for twenty-five cents.

After tooth-picking, he sat on the stoop for a while, and then walked over to the livery stable, hired a buggy and team in wet weather, or a one-horse if dry, and drove to the next town, where he repeated this process until the day was well spent.

Then the southbound train would pick him up and whisk him back to Austin.

We penniless farm boys found it was good business to hang around the livery stables when we were loafing. If a drummer did come for transportation to the next town, the manager of the stable would give us a quarter to drive the drummer over and bring the rig back. Two bits was a lot of money before 1900.

With all of this hard money circulating, many of the hoarders began to lend it to farmers or to anyone who would give a well-secured note. One had all year to repay the money, and the interest was only ten percent. Every town had a firm that lent money. In Leander, there were the Masons, Walkers, Humbles, and Chapmans. At Liberty Hill, Captain D. V. Grant and my uncle Noble Bryson established the first private bank. Another person with money to lend was T. P. Poole, who became the guardian of his two step-grandchildren, Walter and Ora Miles.

Their parents were victims of that dreadful killer, typhoid fever, when they were quite young.

They inherited a considerable estate for the time, and Mr. Poole lent it to good customers. He lent me, over my mother's signature, the price of a good buggy horse. That was when a good horse and buggy were the equivalent of the sports roadster today.

This little old A & N W narrow-gauge railroad was doing so much business that they put in switches or flag stations every few miles. Anyone could step out and wave anything from a newspaper to a red flag, and the train would stop and pick him up. There was a flag station between Liberty Hill and Bertram. It was called Grover in honor of President Grover Cleveland.

Cedar Park and Watters Park sprang up between Leander and Austin.

They could be referred to as Austin's first Country Clubs. All of the depots had small, well-kept parks. But at Cedar Park and Watters Park, there were pavilions for dancing and picnicking. Special trains would bring loads of people from Austin just to frolic, as they do at the several Country Clubs today.

I am hastening to make note of the fact that both of these jolly spots were below the southern border of our sacred Shin Oak Ridge. And they do not in any way affect or modify the hypothesis of our thesis. On the other hand, I do not hesitate to say that from our observation, Cedar Park is now, perhaps, the heaviest freight loader between Llano and Austin.