Established in 1856, Brownwood became one of state's largest cotton-buying centers. Oil was discovered in the 1920s, followed by substantial industrial development in recent decades. A number of fine old structures of native sandstone homes, a former mill, stores, and schools are reminders of Brownwood's history. Brownwood is the home of Howard Payne University.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's W.R. Poage Pecan Field Station has been located here since 1939; 16 new varieties have been developed since 1953.
The Historic Greenleaf Cemetery is the burial place for Capt. Weston Williams, son-in-law of Gen. Sam Houston, and Noah T. Byars, in whose blacksmith shop at Washington-on-the-Brazos the Texas Declaration of Independence was written. It's also the gravesite of Robert Howard, author noted for his Conan the Barbarian tales. The Indian Creek Cemetery, a few miles south of Brownwood, is the burial place for Katherine Anne Porter, author best known for her novel "Ship of Fools."
Brownwood lies on U.S. 183, a segment of the Ports to Plains Highway connecting the state's heartland to coastal ports.