Son of Morgan and Martha Strode Bryan, William was born on 10 March 1734 in Winchester, Chester, Pennsylvania; and died 30 May 1780 at Bryan’s Station, Fayette, Kentucky. He married Mary Boone, daughter of Squire and Sarah Morgan Boone in 1755. William, the intrepid but tragic "Billy" Bryan whom the Moravians admired, declined the king's commission as lieutenant colonel and instead organized and led the establishment of Bryan's Station (1775–79) near the present Lexington, Ky. Daughter Mary, born 7 January 1777 in Rowan County, North Carolina; died March 1856 in Hagar Hill, Johnson, Kentucky; married Joseph Ingels, son of James Ingels, Jr..
In 1779 the land law of Virginia was enacted which turned such a tide of immigration into Kentucky, and permanent settlements were made for the first time. One of these was Bryan Station. It was founded by four Bryan brothers from North Carolina, William, Morgan, James, and Joseph, of whom William was the leading spirit, and with them was William Grant, who also had married a sister of Daniel Boone
. All five were elderly but stalwart woodsmen, and as each were blessed with a great family of children as they set out from the valley of Yadkin. They all came by way of Boonesborough, where they stopped to replenish their supply of corn, and from that fort, after a laborious march, they came to the North Elkhorn Creek, where they made a final halt at a spot about five miles northeast of the little stockaded settlement of Lexington. Here in the very heart of the neutral ground of the Northern and the southern Indians, in the choicest game park where all might hunt, but where no tribe might remain, and in that section of it was Bryan's Station planted. The new station was quickly built. It was a rude and solitary habitation, but as strong as it was rude. It consisted at first of twelve of fourteen cabins of logs with barks on, with roofs of the roughest clapboard and provided with chimneys of sticks and clay, but lighted by not one pane of glass, and all arranged as a hollow square by aid of great pickets made of the trunks of trees split in two and planted firmly in the ground. And the whole, green as the forest from which it had been hewed, was fashioned by an axe and put together by wooden pegs and pins without the help of a nail or a hinge of iron. The station was more noticed at this time for its reputation than its size. It stood on an elevated point that had been cleared of trees big enough to screen an enemy and which tapered steeply down to the southern bank of the heavily wooded creek. At the foot of the hill which hid it from the station, and facing the creek, was a spring of almost ice-cold water that issued from a ledge of rocks that jutted from the hillside.
Bryan's Station was unusually animated in December 1779 and January of 1780 in spite of the bitterly cold weather, as the Commissioners appointed by Virginia to settle land claims held their court within its snow covered walls and the pioneers gathered to get the certificates that meant so much to them, for these documents secured to each holder 400 acres of land actually settled, and a preemption right to purchase at the state price a thousand acres or less adjoining his settlement, providing that the settlement had been made before January 1, 1778; on unappropriated land, to which no other had a legal right. it was while this court was in session that the Bryans who had rested secure in the belief that they were the owners of the station land by right of settlement, met the first of a series of discouragement that caused them to abandon the place. Their settlement was found to be within the limits of a survey made in July 1774 for William Preston.
The spring of 1780 came and with it came the Indians, as they always did at this season of the year. In the month of May 1780, William Bryan was killed by Indians while he was out hunting with eleven other men from the station in quest of meat for the use of their families. With the loss of their lands and the death of their leader, the Bryan's left Kentucky in August 1780 and returned to North Carolina.
The occupants of this parallelogram of some forty log cabins withstood several American Indian attacks. The most important occurred in August 1782 during the American Revolutionary War, when they were besieged by 300 Wyandots, Lake Indians, and British Canadian Rangers plus many Shawnee and Delaware Indians, all under Captain William Caldwell and Simon Girty, making a total force of 4-500 in Col. Daniel Boone's estimation. Bryan Station was located a short distance from a spring that the camp used for drinking water.
Since the hostiles secretly surrounding the fort did not realize that the presence of their large force was known by the defenders, the men allowed the women to exit the fort to retrieve water and other resources. The reason this was done was in order to prevent any change in habit that could signal that the defenders were aware of the presence of the hidden force preparing to besiege them. Historian Ranck asserts that all the important contemporary writers convey this impression: "For the men to go to the spring would be to do exactly as the savages desired and devote the garrison to destruction. If the women went in accordance with their regular early morning custom, the enemy would be confirmed in the delusion that their presence in force was undiscovered,* and would withhold their fire to insure the complete success of their plans. The suggestion was full of hope, but all the same the savages were known to be mere creatures of impulse, hard to control and regardless of sex." The Indians had no compunction attacking women, as they had done at nearby Ruddell's and Martin's Stations where even children were slaughtered two years earlier, and so the bravery of the women of Bryan Station is all the greater.
At the time of the siege the militia did not realize just how many Indians were waiting for them outside of the fort or that these Indians had some support from the British. This attack was a surprise attack and the militia in the fort were unprepared for this attack. The attackers lifted the siege after Indian scouts reported that a force of Kentucky militia was on the way. The militiamen pursued Caldwell's force but were defeated three days later at the Battle of Blue Licks, about 60 miles (100 km) northeast.
Probate: will, 23 May 1780, Rowan, North Carolina, USA. 3
WILL OF CAPTAIN WILLIAM BRYAN (See Bryan #8)
Rowan County, NC
Will Book B, pp. 36-7-8
In the name of God Amen, I William Bryan of the County of Kentucky being inn low estate health, but of sound mind and perfect memory (Thank God) and calling to mind my mortality and to prevent disputes that may arise after my death do dispose of those earthly things with which it has pleased God to bless me do make and ordain this to be my last will and testament in manner and form following, viz.
Item, I give and bequeath unto my beloved wife Mary Bryan one thousand acres of land which I purchased of Sarah Bryan, lying between Cain and the north fork of Elkhorn Creek in Caintucky County, it being part of a settlement and pre-emption due unto said Sarah Bryan in consideration off raising a crop of corn in sad County of Kentucky in the year 1776, at the discretion of my sad wife to take what part of the land she pleases. I also give unto my sad wife three Negroes, to wit. one woman named Detbey, and two men named James and Caser, also four horses, one sorrel mare called Blaze, one roan horse called Briten, one stallion and one bay colt out of a m air called Bluestreak and all the household and kitchen furniture, plantation utensils and implements of husbandry to her and her heirs and assigns forever.
Item, I give and bequeath unto my son Samuel Bryan one Negro woman due me from John Hawkins of the State of North Carolina to him and his heirs and assigns forever.
Item, I give and bequeath to my son, Daniel Bryan, all the rest of lands not all ready given and one Negro man named Goen and one sorrell stalion and all my smith and carpenter tools to him and his heirs forever.
Item, I give and bequeath unto my daughter, Phoebe Bryan, three horse kind now called hers and one Negro boy named George and two cows called hers to her and her heirs and assigns forever.
Item, I give and bequeath unto my daughter, Hannah Bryan, one Negro girl named Rachel, one bay mare called James, two cows now called hers to her and her heirs and assigns forever.
Item, I give unto my daughter, Sarah Bryan, one Negro girl named Jean and one young sorrel mare and one white heffer to her and her heirs and assigns forever.
Item, All the money due me from John Hawkins of the State of North Carolina I give and bequeath unto my children, Samuel, Daniel, Phoebe, Hannah, Elizabeth, Sarah and Mary share and share alike to them and their heirs and assigns forever.
Item, I give and bequeath unto my beloved wife, Mary, all the remainder of my stock of cattle, hogs, and sheep to her and her heirs and assigns forever.
Item, All the rest of my estate not already given what kind so ever I give to all my children, share and share alike to them their heirs and assigns for ever; and lastly I appoint my beloved wife, Mary Bryan, Executor and my two sons, Samuel and Daniel, Executors of this my last will hereby r evoking all former wills whatsoever. In witness whereof the said William Bryan hath hereunto set his hand and affixed his seal this 23rd d ay of May 1780.
William Bryan (Seal)
In presence of Joseph Bryan, William Grant, Sam. Boone
Proved 7 August 1782
A true and correct copy
--- McCubin D. C.
Death, 30 May 1780, , Fayette, Kentucky, USA.
Killed By Indians At Bryan's Station, Kentucky