Perhaps Charles Broyles can be excused for not recalling the moment of his wife’s November 28, 1880, death. After all, he was in Colorado, while she passed away in their residence back in Dalton, Georgia—a trifling matter of fourteen hundred miles between them at the time. I imagine news, back then, could travel slowly.
We can be sure, though, that he received the news well before the next event he documented in his journal.
In October 1882 while at San Luis Court I met Miss Nellie Armstrong, a highly respectable young woman, and fell in love with her. My love increased as I knew her the more and it was reciprocated and in April 1884 we were married at San Acacio, Costilla Co. Colorado. She was from Indiana and an intelligent highly esteemed lady. And at this writing the fruits the marriage are two smart promising boys.
Perhaps we can’t fault Charles for a few other not-quite-accurate details in this account. After all, according to Charles’ marriage record, at the time he married Miss Nellie Armstrong, he was fifty five—while she was twenty four.
Well, actually, I should point out that Charles claimed he was fifty five. On May 7, 1884—the actual date in which they stood before the Justice of the Peace in Conejos County—Charles would have been fifty eight years of age.
So, perhaps by the time he was writing his memoirs, his memory was beginning to lose its youthful vigor.
The question remains: who was this young woman who caught Charles’ attention? According to a story given by Dryden Johnson Broyles, Charles’ and Nellie’s youngest son, to Montague Laffitte Boyd, compiler of the Broyles genealogy published in 1959, Nellie was born in Brooksburg, Indiana, on November 19, 1860. (Brooksburg, incidentally, had been founded by her maternal grandfather.)
According to the author, Dryden had told him,
She came to Colorado with two of her brothers, Charles and John Armstrong. They intended to homestead land in the San Luis Valley, but the land they wanted was under Spanish Grant.... Her brothers then went West and she got a job teaching school in the Spanish town of San Luis…. She was the first English speaking teacher in that town.
All told, Charles and Nellie had eight children of their own—six sons and two daughters. Seven of those children survived to adulthood, including one son whom Charles chose, inexplicably—awkwardly—to name Charles Edward Broyles. Keeping in mind that his own firstborn with first wife Lucy was also named Charles Edward Broyles, this beckons us to once again attempt reading through that nether land embedded between the lines of his journal. While he was quite pleased with himself to announce, “And at this writing the fruits of the marriage are two smart promising boys,” he had not represented his first family in such glowing terms.
In recapping—as you’ll no doubt remember—his marriage to Lucy, he had added one more assessment to that episode, which I had previously left out of his narrative. Returning to pick up the rest of Charles’ original statement there, it makes me wonder just why he could boast so proudly about his second family, while not sharing that sentiment regarding the children of the first wife he had so greatly revered.
And now four boys and two girls are left in Georgia as the fruit of our marriage. I am ashamed of none of them, yet might have been made to feel prouder.