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Thursday, October 25, 2018

#52ancestors Post Thirty-Nine:Terrell Bryan Managed a Poor Farm in Erath County

Terrell and Harriet Albritton Bryan

The writing prompt for post #39 of #52ancestors is on the farm. According to census records in both Louisiana and Texas, Terrell Bryan was a farmer. Terrell left Bienville Parish and was in Eastland County by 1877. The family moved to Erath County in 1878. On the 1880 census, it was reported Terrell was a farmer. 

However, I am not writing about Terrell Bryan, the farmer. He did not appear to be a serious farmer and was found attempting other businesses or working for the county throughout much of his time in Texas. For a few years, in the 1880s, Terrell Bryan was the superintendent of the Erath County Poor Farm. 

Poor farms were county or town-run residences where paupers (mainly elderly and disabled people) were supported at public expense. Sometimes, those committing crimes were also sent to the poor farms. In Erath County, records between 1883 and 1898 indicate some charged with lunacy, theft, assault, adultery, gambling, and vagrancy were sent to the Poor Farm. 

The first mention I found of the Erath County Poor Farm, in old newspapers, was the following seen in the Brenham Daily Banner (Nov 28, 1880) - It was announced that Erath County was going to have a poor farm. 

In November 1882, the Erath County Poor Farm was available for rent and listed in the Stephenville Empire that all those desiring to rent the poor farm were to meet with the Commissioner's Court in Stephenville on November 27, 1882. 

Terell Bryan must have been chosen as he was found managing and living on the Erath County Poor Farm in 1883, 1884, 1885, and 1886. I suspect he was there in 1887 as well. I would love to know the terms. How much did he pay to rent, what was his income, did his family have their own home, and how many other buildings were on the property?

This photo of the youngest Bryan daughter, Laura Louise,
was sent to family in Bienville Parish, LA about 1884. 
On July 28, 1880, Terrell purchased 156 acres of land. Was this near the Poor Farm? Did he continue to farm it? I found two newspaper articles indicating Terrell's home was on the poor farm. 

In 1882, Terrell and Harriet probably had five children living at home; Fannie (age 23), Alice Amanda (age 14), Redic (age 11), Dollie (age 9), and Laura (age 4). James T. Bryan was born in 1884, probably on the poor farm, and died that same year. Two other daughters, Hollen Latta and Terrell (Bunch) Biggs were married and not living at home. 

During his time managing the Poor Farm, the children attended school regularly, Terrell purchased a new sewing machine for Harriet, and money was spent on family photos. They did not appear to be lacking everyday necessities. 

From the Brenham Daily Banner (December 8, 1887) - The county commissioners of Erath county have decided to establish a poor farm. The cost of maintaining its paupers is between $2000 and $2500 a year. This must have been the new Poor Farm as in the summer of 1888 the old poor farm, located southwest from Stephenville, was for sale. 

On December 1, 1888, this was found in the Stephenville Empire - The old poor farm situated near the suburbs of Stephenville, is offered for sale. Anyone desiring to avail himself of splendid school facilities should purchase this farm. It is situated about a mile from the college. 

Also found in the December 1, 1888 issue - The old commissioner's court contracted with L. D. Moore on Nov. 15, to operate the poor farm for one year at a salary of $600 per year. Mr. Moore is required to give his entire time as superintendent, and also to make a hand at labor, and furnish a wagon. 

On December 20, 1888, sealed bids for the old poor farm were going to be considered. 

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© 2018


1880 United States Federal Census for Terrell Bryan. Web. 1 Oct. 2018. <>

C. Shipman (personal communication, September 10, 2006) From the Sheriff's Jail Log

Family photographs and documents from the collection of  Diana Bryan Quinn

Family photographs and documents from the collection of Marguerite Cook Clark. Accessed April 28, 2014, September 14, 2014, and November 9 to 11, 2016. Used with permission.

Moments in Time, A Genealogy Blog: If Your Family Lived in Erath County, Texas  Blogger, 31 Jul 2017. Web. 1 Oct. 2018. <>.

The Portal to Texas History. University of North Texas Libraries, 2004. Web. 30 Jul. 2017. <>.

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