The Bryans of Fort Lauderdale descend from William Bryan, a Revolutionary War veteran from Bladen County, North Carolina. Members of his family moved south through Georgia to Florida in the early nineteenth century. William's great-grandson, Philemon Nathaniel Bryan, was born in Hamilton County, Florida in 1844, served in the Confederate Army, and moved south to Volusia County after the Civil War. There he acquired extensive citrus groves, and a large general store. He also served as mayor of the town of New Smyrna. He and his wife, Lucy Murray, had seven children.
From the time of his arrival on the New River in 1895 as construction contractor for the Florida East Coast Railway, Philemon Bryan took a leading part in the community, as did several of his children who remained in Fort Lauderdale, including sons Reed A. Bryan and Tom M. Bryan, and daughters Virginia Dallas Bryan and Constance Bryan. Other Bryan relatives, including Philemon's younger half-brother Frank Bryan, and a host of cousins also settled in Fort Lauderdale and nearby communities, adding to the family's unsurpassed prominence in early Broward County.
Philemon Bryan lived to be eighty, surviving his wife Lucy by one year. A tradition of service passed through generations of Bryans. They came to build the railroad, worked as farmers, hotelkeepers, and businessmen, served in their country's wars, and became civic leaders. Fort Lauderdale is their legacy.