The area around Bryan was part of a land grant to Moses Austin by Spain. Austin’s son, Stephen F. Austin, helped bring settlers to the area. Among the settlers was William Joel Bryan, the nephew of Stephen Austin. In 1866 the county seat of Brazos County was changed from Boonville to Bryan, and a post office was opened. In 1867, after many delays caused by the Civil War, the Houston and Texas Central Railroad, which had only previously gotten as far as Millican, finally reached Bryan.
In 2006 the Texas A&M University System announced that the new Texas A&M Health Science Center campus would be built in Bryan near the new Traditions Golf Course development.
In 2010 the Brazos County District Attorney’s Office started the enforcement of a “Gang Safety Zone” in response to an escalation in violence within Bryan. Major US papers and ABC News covered this move. Cities like Houston and Los Angeles looked to the Bryan model of safety enforcement surrounding gang violence. The injunction declared a 3.2-mile (5.1 km) area in Bryan as the Gang Safety Zone. This placed about half of downtown in the area.
In 2013 the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan closed as a result of state budget cuts which impact family-planning facilities. Area right to life advocates celebrated a long-awaited victory; critics expressed dismay about the status of women’s rights and access to health care in the Bryan region. The facility began offering abortions in 1998; it is one of three in the state which ceased operations on August 31, 2013.