Willis Bryant was among the scores of African Americans who left Wilson County for Indianapolis, Indiana, in the last quarter of the 19th century.
Indianapolis Star, 20 March 1915.
Probably, in the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Louiza Bryant, 30; Cornelius Harriss, 23; Catherine Harriss, 20; Cornelius Harriss, 1; Ann Bryant, 9; Willie Bryant, 8; and Alice Ellis, 15.
Bryant probably attended the Wilson Academy. Like Samuel H. Vick ’84 and Braswell R. Winstead ’85, he received a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.
Catalogue of Lincoln University, Chester County, Pennsylvania, for the Academical Year 1886-87 (1887).
On 4 May 1890, Willis Bryant, 26, son of Wiley Bryant and Louisa Branch, married Ida M. Webb, 22, in Marion County, Indiana.
As were many Lincoln alumni, Bryant was very active in the Presbyterian church and helped found Senate Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Indianapolis News, 20 June 1892.
In the 1900 census of Center township, Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 808 Wyoming Street, coal dealer Willis Bryant, 36; wife Ida, 32; and children Ralph, 6, and Edna May, 1.
In September 1900, Wilson native Daniel C. Suggs, then teaching at Georgia State College, visited the Bryants in Indianapolis. Suggs was also a Lincoln graduate.
Indianapolis News, 7 September 1900.
Fifteen years after he graduated, Bryant and his wife returned to Pennsylvania to attend a Lincoln graduation, then made a round of East Coast cities.
Indianapolis News, 25 May 1901.
In 1901, Lucy Gay visited her uncle Willis Bryant in Indianapolis. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Sam Gay, 54; wife Alice, 50; and children Charlie C., 23, Edgar B., 25, Lucy, 17, Samuel, 14, Albert and Beatrice, 10, and Lily, 4. [Alice Gay was the 15 year-old Alice Ellis listed in the 1870 census above. When she married Samuel Gay, she gave her maiden name as Bryant.]
Indianapolis News, 28 December 1901.
In October 1904, the Indiana Recorder reprinted “His Trip West,” an article by Harry S. Cummings originally posted in the Afro-American Ledger. In the chronicle of his tour of Indiana cities, Cummings mentioned Wilson native Dr. Joseph H. Ward and Willis Bryant and his father-in-law Charles A. Webb’s transportation and hauling businesses.
Indianapolis News, 22 October 1904.
In 1907, Willis Bryant and other black businessmen formed a committee to assist the city’s Juvenile Court with finding employment for “delinquent colored boys and girls.”
Indianapolis Star, 24 April 1907.
In the 1910 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 808 Wyoming Street, Willis Bryant, 44; wife Ida M., 42; and children Ottis R., 16, Edna, 11, and Hulda M., 3.
Indianapolis Recorder, 13 March 1915.
Willis Bryant died 19 March 1915, barely a week after celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary.
Indianapolis Recorder, 18 March 1916.
His widow, Ida Webb Bryant, outlived him by decades, and was featured in this 1963 Indianapolis Recorder piece.
Indianapolis Recorder, 22 June 1963.