Dr. John L. Bryan lived on the west bank of Goose Creek stream. His property stretched from the bay north to today’s W. Main Street and west to Maryland Street. Bryan had seven children and his oldest son Woodson, who was his partner in the dentistry business, also acted as private teacher to his younger children. In a boating accident in 1863, Woodson drowned trying to rescue one of his brothers. Rev. C.C. Preston, who had previously run successful schools in Mississippi and Louisiana, was hired to move to Baytown and take over as teacher. It seems that Preston had greater ambitions because in January 1864 he opened Baytown High School on the west bank of Goose Creek as a boarding school. And besides Bryan’s children he also taught all the children in the neighborhood at the Harmony Grove school house which Bryan had built at the southern end of today’s W.C. Britton Park. Later that year Preston bought 95 acres from Bryan and in 1867 bought 110 more acres of the Bryan property. The home purchased the remaining 114 acres of the Bryan property in 1870 except for a twenty-five acre tract at W.C. Britton Park which the Bryan family kept. Preston’s high school ran for three years but during the depression following the Civil War he felt a higher calling.
The 1850 and 1860 Louisiana censuses show several children living in the Preston household with different surnames. Some could have been his wife’s children from a previous marriage, but some had different names altogether and were probably orphans. The Civil War had created a great number of orphans and the depression which followed affected other children whose family was too impoverished to care for them. Preston was having difficulty keeping the boarding school open so he petitioned the Texas Legislature to incorporate it as a home to serve the needs of children who had been orphaned as a result of the war. The petition was unanimously approved on September 21, 1866 and three days later the school was formally incorporated as the “Orphan’s Home at Bayland, in the County of Harris”