Yellow Fever in Bryan, Texas

Death on the Rails

Bryan, located northwest of Millican, was like many East Texas towns begotten by the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. The construction of the H&TC, which began in the 1850s, led to Bryan’s founding along the railroad’s proposed route. The railroad was to connect Bryan to Houston by passing through Hempstead, Navasota, and Millican, but construction came to a halt in Millican during the Civil War as funds and labor were routed elsewhere. After the war ended, construction was resumed. The railroad reached Bryan in 1867, with the first train from Millican arriving on August 29th. A gala was held to celebrate the train’s arrival, but celebrations soon ceased when a less-than-welcome guest traveled along the railroad from Millican: yellow fever.

Bryan City did not suffer from yellow fever to the degree that Millican suffered, but the disease did leave its mark on the town. There were eight recorded deaths from yellow fever in Bryan in 1867. One of the men who died was a man named Benjamin Hubert. Ben Hubert, a former Indian trader but by 1867 a right-of-way agent for the H&TC, helped his family to escape to a plantation outside of town when the fever hit Bryan. He, however, stayed behind to care for Bryan’s sick and dying. He was not to survive to tell of his heroic deed. He contracted the fever himself while tending to the afflicted, and he died on September 15th. He is buried in the “Bryan Yellow Fever Cemetery,” also known as the Boonville Cemetery, where his gravestone still stands as a testament to the scourge of 1867.

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