Industrial development turned this town, settled in 1856 by Welcome William Chandler, into an economic and recreational hub for the area. The first passenger train came through in 1885. In 1909, it was the largest buying center west of Fort Worth. The Santa Fe Railroad helped establish Daniel Baker and Howard Payne colleges, as well as the Camp Bowie WWII training camp in the 1940s.
Historic Greenleaf Cemetery is the burial site for Robert Howard, author noted for his Conan the Barbarian tales; and Noah T. Byars, in whose blacksmith shop at Washington-on-the-Brazos the Texas Declaration of Independence was written.
Brownwood is on the Texas Forts Trail, the Great Texas Wildlife Trail and the Wildflower Trail. It features a historic downtown shopping and cultural district, camp facilities, nearby Lake Brownwood, and hunting.
Events include the Stars of Texas Art Exhibit, Lone Star Fair and Expo, Heart of Texas Quilt Show, Heartland Rod Run, Brown County Rodeo and Parade, Brownwood Reunion Celebration, Arts and Crafts Fair and Christmas Under the Stars Festival.