During the Civil War, settlers continued to come to Brown County in the 1860's, some times to escape the conflict, often leaving behind signs that read “Gone to Texas.” . One of the most memorable ones was Henry Ford with the most mysterious past. It was the unwritten code of the West that no person asked others about their backgrounds, unless they offered it. He first appeared in the summer of 1869 in the log cabin settlement of San Saba. Henry Ford was one of the most revered of the local citizens when he died in 1910; however, nothing more was known of his early days before he came to Brown County than when he first.
Once on a cattle drive in New Mexico, Ford's boss, Bud Forsythe, was winning at a poker game. Suddenly, one of the men who was losing jumped from his chair and attacked Forsythe with a knife. Just like an experienced gun fighter, Ford drew his pistol and shot the man three times.
By 1872, the multi-talented Ford, who knew Greek, French and Spanish, began to amass his own herd. He married and began a family in the lawless town of Williams Ranch. During his life he married three times and fathered seven children.
In the election of 1876, Ford was selected County Clerk even though he had not filed for office. When his friends saw his talent for mathematics, they filed for him in the Democratic Primary and he won the election by a large majority without soliciting a single vote for himself. He also served for a time as Democratic County Chairman.
When the county was suffering from the drought of 1886, the farmers had no money to buy seed. Ford borrowed $10,000 from a Fort Worth bank to by seed for himself and, also, lent it to the county farmers to buy their seed and feed the livestock. This kept the farmers going until they made a crop the next season. Ford was repaid all but two dollars and fifty cents for the money he had lent, according to his record. This lead to him becoming a banker.
Throughout the years of his being a banker and leading citizen, the mystery of Ford's origin was never solved. A descendant, Lex Johnson, who wrote early histoy of brown county including stories of his ancestor Henry Ford, speculated that he probably came from Virginia but, since no record of his birth was ever found or any other records before 1869, that perhaps he had changed his name. There were rumors that he had been associated with outlaws such as Jesse James, Cole younger or Quantrell's guerrilla army during the Civil War. Both Younger and James had been members of Quantrell's band during the closing months of the war and, since the three men were apparently from the same area, Johnson concluded that they had all known each other..
In 1880, two men road into Brownwood and entered the Coggin, Ford and Martin Bank, a partnership that included Henry Ford. They pulled a gun on the teller and demanded money. While the robbery was in progress, Henry Ford walked in. He and the two robbers recognized each other and called each other by name. The holdup men immediately put up their guns and with an apology, clearly understood by the witnesses, said they didn't know it was Ford's bank and walked out.
In 1901, Cole Younger was released from prison. He and Frank James, brother of Jesse James, organized a carnival and toured the United States. While the carnival was in Brownwood, the owners visited Henry Ford. Dr. Havins, a noted Brown County historian, stated that he witnessed a meeting between Younger and Ford and that they called each other “Cole” and “Henry”.
Henry Ford was mayor of Brownwood, and an active citizen for both public education and for Daniel Baker College, and a part owner of a private bank in the town. At his unexpected death in 1910, at the age of 64, the Brownwood Bulletin printed pages about his funeral quoting extensively from many eulogies by leading citizens.
Brooke smith, another pioneer whose name is well known in Brown County, came to Brownwood as a young man of twenty-three in 1876. He was born in 1853 in Virginia and lived his early days on a plantation. His family moved to Indiana about the time the Civil War broke out, and while the Smiths were southerners through and through, they managed to live in peace and friendship among the “Republican Abolitionists” for over ten years. Brooke's adventuresome father later moved his family to Texas, and after several years in the Waco area, where the son learned about cotton farming and bookkeeping, Brooke came to Brownwood to seek his fortune
Sixty-four years later, at the age of eighty-seven, he died in the town he had helped build. His contributions had been so important and so varied that his community flew the flag at half-mast in his honor.
Smith was the town's first banker; he built the town's first cotton gin. He, along with Henry Ford and J. C. Weakley, lobbied for the railroad to extend its line from Lampasas to Brownwood. He was mayor of Brownwood, and the town of Brookesmith was named for him. He was a charter member of the Episcopal Church and on the first board of trustees of Daniel Baker College. He signed the first diploma from the college and signed every one issued after that until his death in 1940.
The Brown County Historical Commission has erected Texas historical markers about Henry Ford and Brooke Smith. The Brown County Museum of History has pictures and a display of both men as exhibits.