North American Indians were the first inhabitants of Brown County. Apaches and Comanches used the stream banks of the region as favorite camping grounds. Three Brown County streams owe their names to Native American associations, these being Blanket Creek, Indian Creek and Jim Ned Creek.
The first indication of Anglo men in the county goes back to 1723. Captain Nicholas Flores and a band of Spanish soldiers followed hostile Apaches from San Antonio into the region, recapturing stolen livestock and taking some Native Americans captive with them on their return to San Antonio. Thirty six years passed before additional Spanish forces visited the region. After the destruction of the Spanish mission on the San Saba River in 1757, the Spanish Governor of the area now known as Texas ordered an expedition to seek out and punish the Native Americans for the mission raid. Colonel Don Diego Ortiz Perilla led the expedition through Brown County, on the way to the Native American village on the Red River.
The first Anglo-Americans to enter the county were led by Captain Henry Stephenson Brown, for whom the county was named. They were seeking to recover about 500 horses and mules that had been stolen by Native Americans from Brown near Gonzales. Brown’s raid on the Native Americans occurred in December, 1828.
Ten years after Brown’s trip, in 1838, land surveyors came into the county, measuring land and staking corners for citizens of Texas who lived in the eastern and southeastern sections of the state. Except for occasional bands of rangers and army men, surveyors were the only Anglo men in the county between 1838 and 1854. Between these years as many as fifteen different surveying parties were in the county, and arund 500 different tracts were surveyed in all sections of the region.
When the state legislature, on August 27, 1856, passed an act creating Brown County, its action was influenced more by the desire to restrain roving Native Americans than to provide the scarcely populated frontier with local government. Brown County citizens had little to do with the matter. Only two families lived in the county at the time, and they had been in the area less than two months. Brown County was one of sixteen new counties created that year from a land area which stretched across the state from Clay County on the North, to Val Verde County on the Rio Grande.
Brownwood was the only location for a post office in the county before 1868. A post office was established in 1858, with Welcome W. Chandler the first postmaster. Prior to the establishment of the office, between 1856 and 1860, H.C. Knight, Wiley Bl. Hamilton, W. F. Brown and H.A. Gallop served as custodians of the mail. They traveled to pick up the mail, brought it back and set up a place where people could come and pick up their mail if it was not delivered. Chandler served as postmaster until January 23, 1867, with James E. Keese as postmaster. The office was discontinued a second time September 9, 1868 and was revived on July 7, 1870.
Successful cattle drives from Texas, beginning 1848, gave great demand for the cattle industry, and caused men to turn westward in search of lands suited to grazing. Such lands could be had in Brown County. In 1854, the first pioneers came to the county. The pioneers returned in 1856. Welcome W. Chandler with is family in July and J.H. Fowler with the fist cattle the same year. As many as six additional families came as permanent residents in 1856, John and Anna Williams. Williams’ Ranch was developed around their property. Other settlers arrived in 1857 and by the end of that year, there were thirty one families, living in isolated homes, located mostly around the Pecan Bayou and Jim Ned Creek.
Stay tuned for Part 2