Kentucky Pioneer Daniel Bryan

Members of the Bryan family began exploring the area around Lexington as early as 1776.  William Bryan Sr. is known to have obtained a land grant in that year as a result of "improving the land".  This consisted of William raising a crop of corn.  Two years later, William returned with some of his brothers and sons and built Bryan's Station on the banks of North Elkhorn creek. In the spring of 1779, the Bryan families came to Kentucky as part of the mass migration from North Carolina which was led by William's brother-in-law Daniel Boone.  The Bryan clan settled at the station they had built the previous year and prepared to tame the wilderness of Kentucky.


After nearly a year, life at the fort had been difficult, but the rugged pioneers were still there and doing well.  However, things were about to turn tragic for the Bryan family.  On a hunting excursion in March of 1780, William Bryan Jr. was killed in a skirmish with the Indians who were loyal to the British.  Just over a month later, William Bryan Sr. was mortally wounded in another battle.  Having had a rough winter and then the loss of the two Williams, the Bryans decided to return to North Carolina. 

There is not much known about the next five years, but in 1786, William Bryan's oldest son Daniel had returned to the Lexington area to farm his 610 acres.  He also had a 400 acre farm in Clark County, which he later sold.  Daniel developed the farm south of Lexington into a thriving estate.  He was the first Bryan to raise horses here and kept a large herd for most of his farming career.  In addition, he ran a gun shop that turned out very fine rifles.  In what is today southern Jessamine County, Daniel owned a grist mill and paper mill, the waters of Jessamine Creek providing the power.  He donated land for Providence church, which started as a Baptist church in 1817 (it would later be Disciples of Christ after the South Elkhorn Baptist Association kicked them out in 1830).  It is interesting to note that in 1821, Daniel sold six quarts of wine to the church at $1.25 per quart.  We presume that was for Communion.  It is also told that Daniel founded a school for local girls.  Having helped clear the wilderness, Daniel had tamed the fine Bluegrass land.


Daniel applied for a pension on the 18th of February, 1833. The Pension Application number is S. 1172. At that time he was listed as living in Jessamine County. His age was 75. He was born in Rowan Co., NC on the 10th of February 1758. He also states that his brother Samuel lived in Indiana in 1833. The following is taken from that application.

Daniel and his father William joined the Continental Army in the summer of 1776 in North Carolina. They were to have gone into a campaign against the Indians, but General Griffith Rutherford finding that they were gunsmiths, ordered them to return home to repair arms for the army. Guns were in short supply and those available had to be kept in working order. William and Daniel were paid the same as the other soldiers and were credited 3 months service.

On the 18th of July 1777, Daniel volunteered in Captain William Bailey Smith's company which marched from Rowan County, NC to Boonesboro. The company served 6 months there protecting the fort. The following winter, Daniel was honorably discharged.

In the spring of 1779, Daniel, his brother Samuel and father William and others came to Kentucky to built a fort which was called Bryan's Station. After it was finished, William and Daniel returned to North Carolina to move the family to Kentucky. In the fall of 1779, they returned. At this time, Daniel was enrolled in Captain William Hogan's company and remained in that unit through the winter and following summer. They were charged with protecting the fort. On March 10, 1780, Daniel's brother, William Bryan Jr. was killed by Indians who had surrounded the fort at Bryan's Station. One other person was killed and one wounded. The Indians stole some horses and killed the cattle. Daniel and others pursued the Indians for 3 days and then returned. In May, Indians stole 7 horses. Daniel and the men of the fort pursued the Indians and got the horses back. Daniel says that the Indians hid in the cane. On the 23rd of May, Daniel and 13 other men found a party of Indians near Great Crossings of Elkhorn Creek (present day Great Crossing in Scott Co.) And killed 3 of the Indians one of which Daniel states he killed himself. Five of the men were killed or wounded. Daniel's father William was one of the wounded and he died of those wounds on the 31st of May 1780.

In June of that year, Daniel and others were ordered to the Falls of the Ohio (near present day Louisville), but were pursued by Indians who fired on them when they were crossing the Kentucky River where Frankfort is today. The Indians wounded 5 men and took one prisoner. Daniel and the party then returned to Bryan's Station.

At about this same time, Captain Henry Bird commanding His Majesty's 8th Regiment of Foot and Indian allies invaded and captured Ruddle's and Martin's Stations and took all of the inhabitants to Canada and the Indian Towns. Daniel was drafted to go on the campaign to rescue the prisoners, but was ordered by Colonel Logan to act as a hunter to supply the families of the men who had gone on the campaign.

When the troops returned, Daniel, his mother Mary, brother Samuel and family returned to North Carolina to the old family farm. They found the Tories and the British terrorizing the country. Daniel and Samuel enrolled in Captain John Johnston's company to hunt down and imprison the Tories. In October 1781, Daniel served in Captain James Stinson's company of Light Horse (light cavalry) in search of the infamous Tory, Colonel Fannin. Daniel was discharged in January 1782.

Daniel returned to Lexington between 1782 and 1786.  He also owned 400 acres in Clark County on Stoner Creek. When his land is first recorded on the tax lists in Fayette County in 1792, Daniel has 610 acres within Fayette county. By 1807, he had sold his land in Clark County, and is recorded as having only 284 acres in Fayette.  He built a two room stone house on his farm where he and his wife Elizabeth Turner Bryan raised 10 children.

Daniel Bryan would farm his land for at least another 35 years, when it appears he retired from the vocation to live out his remaining years watching over the former wilderness he had conquered.  He passed from this world on February 28, 1845 and is today buried in the Bryan plot in Lexington Cemetery.

His and Elizabeth's portraits can be viewed at Waveland State Historic Site, home of Daniel's son Joseph Bryan.

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