J.J. Bryan Operated The Wharf At Chattanooga; Eugene Bryan Was A Power In Politics

Monday, April 30, 2018 - by John Wilson

In the days when Ross's Landing was truly a river landing, Josiah Jackson Bryan was the leading commission merchant - forwarding and receiving goods from Knoxville, Augusta, Savannah and other distant markets. Bryan and the other commission merchants had offices and wharf boats at the Landing, and they supervised the haul from steamboats and flatboats that then plied the river on a regular basis. The wharf was often piled high with bacon and other farm commodities, as well as salt, timber, whiskey and other products. Even after the Civil War, J.J. Bryan was still collecting "wharfage'' on all the boats that arrived at the Landing. He "used his own discretion as to the rates.'' The wharf then ran about 1,000 feet - from the east side of Market Street to Pine Street. J.J. Bryan had 100 feet, and much of the rest had been bought up by Vernon K. Stevenson for the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, which ran a rail line down Railroad Avenue (Broad Street)  from the train station at Ninth Street. It was a privately owned and operated wharf since the city in 1851 had renounced all ownership there. Bryan was connected at one point with the firm of
Wilson, Bryan, Gaines and Company, which had branches in several Southern cities. The firm
name was later shortened to Gaines and Company.

J.J. Bryan was from an old Upper East Tennessee family. His grandfather, Bryant Bryan, bought 400 acres in Greene County in 1787, paying 40 pounds for this tract located on both sides of Lick Creek below the Buffalo Ford. Bryant Bryan died two years later, but his widow, Elizabeth, lived in Greene County until her death in 1838. She left 50 acres, including the house and spring, to her granddaughter, Elizabeth Horner. The rest was evenly divided to her sons, Josiah Jackson Bryan Sr., Daniel Bryan and John Bryan. Her daughters were Anna Hurley and Rebecca Drace.

Josiah Jackson Bryan Sr. was living in Cocke County when J.J. Bryan was born in 1820. Apparently on a trading mission, the younger Bryan made the acquaintance of Julianna Hull at
Hamburg, S.C. Their first two children, Daniel Gideon Bryan and John Frederick Bryan, were
born there. They were named for their Bryan uncles.

The J.J. Bryans moved to Chattanooga in September of 1849, only a month after the birth of the second son. At Chattanooga, they had Josiah Jackson III, Anna Thornton and Ellen S. The Bryans lived on Market Street near Fourth, within easy walking distance of the landing. Mrs. Bryan's mother, Anna Thornton Scott Hull, came to Chattanooga from Hamburg. Mrs. Hull operated the Mansion House hotel on East Third Street.

When the Civil War arrived, Mrs. Bryan helped make the flag for the unit of Confederate soldiers that was organized by William Ragsdale. It was made out of pieces of silk dresses from Chattanooga ladies. J.J. Bryan joined the Confederate Army and was assigned as a guard at the notorious Andersonville prison in Georgia. His son Daniel was only 14 when war broke out. He managed to join the Confederate forces despite his father's protests that he was too young.

Mrs. Bryan died near the time of the war and the youngest daughter also died young. In 1870,
widower J.J. Bryan was a "general trader'' with three sons and a daughter still at home. He had
$16,000 in real estate and $6,000 in personal estate. A Democrat, he was active in city politics.
He was elected as an alderman in the fall of 1871 and he stepped up to mayor of Chattanooga
the following year when John T. Wilder resigned. When he died in 1883, J.J. Bryan was buried in Citizens Cemetery. He was "a highly esteemed citizen with hosts of friends in the city.''

Daniel Bryan married Carrie Burg, and Anna Thornton Bryan married Alexis D. Pope. John F. Bryan, who had been reared amid the sights and sounds of the wharf, formed the Bryan Transfer
Company to haul merchandise locally. This firm was later operated by one of John Bryan's sons,
Fred Adair Bryan. The Bryans in 1918 took over the rival Chattanooga Transfer Company, and
the name was changed to Chattanooga Transfer and Storage Company.

The John F. Bryan home stood for many years at 308 Walnut St. It was last used as a law office
before it was razed.

Eugene Jackson Bryan, son of Daniel Bryan, was even more successful than his grandfather
in politics. He was born June 25, 1888, and attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where he was president of the freshman class. His law degree was obtained from the University of Chattanooga in 1912. Eugene Bryan was elected to a House seat in 1915, then he moved on to the state Senate in 1919. He was speaker of the Senate and lieutenant governor. He was on the Chattanooga City Commission from 1925 to 1941, serving over the fire and police departments and as vice mayor. During this period in city government, he was a power to be dealt with. He was named U.S. bankruptcy referee in 1941. Eugene Bryan handled the state campaign when William G. McAdoo, a former Chattanoogan, sought the presidency. Eugene Bryan served as president of Civitan International. He was married to Mary Ruth Bates, a daughter of attorney Creed F. Bates.

Children of Eugene Bryan included Eugene Jackson Bryan Jr. , George S. Bryan, Bates William Bryan, Charlene Bryan and Elizabeth (Betty) Bryan Conroy. Bates Bryan was an attorney and he also operated a grocery at Lookout Mountain, Ga. Children of Bates Bryan included former assistant district attorney Bates Bryan Jr., and Isabel Bryan, who married McCallie School professor John McCall.

Children of Betty Bryan Conroy here included Pat Conroy and Ann, who married Rudy Walldorf.

Nancy Bryan Kelly, who operated Signal Mountain Cleaners with her husband Ted Kelly, was the daughter of Eugene Bryan Jr.


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