Who was Joseph Bryan?

Joseph Bryan
1845 – 1908

Joseph Bryan was born on August 13, 1845 at Eagle Point in Gloucester County, Virginia. He attended Episcopal High School of Virginia and was admitted to the University of Virginia in 1862. In May of 1864 Mr. Bryan enlisted in the 2nd company of the Richmond Howitzers and first saw action in the battle of Spotsylvania Court House. In 1864 he joined Col. John S. Mosby’s Company D, 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry as a private, and was twice wounded in action.

After military service Mr. Bryan worked as a mule trader in order to raise enough money to resume law studies at the University of Virginia. He practiced law in Fluvanna County, Virginia until 1871, when he married Isobel Lamont Stewart (known as Belle) at Emanuel Episcopal Church on Brook Road. The Bryans then lived at the Stewart family estate, Brook Hill, and Joseph Bryan continued his law practice in Richmond.

In 1883 Mr. Bryan bought the house and land known as Laburnum, which had been built on the Brook Turnpike on the site of the old Paradise Inn. The property was bounded by present-day Laburnum Ave. on the north, Westwood Ave. on the south, Hermitage Rd. on the west, and Brook Rd. on the east. (Inflationary note: the purchase price was $7,250!) The Laburnum house, a frame structure, was destroyed by fire on January 6, 1906. Mr. Bryan rebuilt it as a brick mansion which was finished in January of 1908. The house was later donated by the family to the new Richmond Memorial Hospital, where it may be seen today as part of the east side of the old hospital, now condominiums.

One of Mr. Bryan’s legal clients was Richmond tobacco magnate Lewis Ginter, who was responsible for Mr. Bryan’s acquisition of the Richmond Times newspaper (forerunner of today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch and Media General Corporation) in 1887.

Mr. Bryan was active in civic affairs, serving on the Penitentiary and University of Virginia Boards of Visitors. Mrs. Bryan was also known for her volunteer work. She founded the Belle Bryan Day Nursery and the Confederate Memorial Literary Society.

Mr. Bryan died on November 20, 1908, and was buried at Emanuel Church, across Brook Road from Brook Hill.

In December of 1909 Mrs. Bryan and her sons gave to the City of Richmond the property known as “Rosewood” (then about 2.5 miles from the City) for a park in memory of Joseph Bryan. Mrs. Bryan passed away on September 11, 1910. We hope that her generosity, and that of her family, will be remembered and appreciated by park users for generations to come.

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