Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Legacy of Two Families


And at this writing the fruits [of] the marriage are two smart promising boys.

One has to wonder about the legacy left by someone like Charles Edward Broyles. I’m not thinking of his Civil War involvement, or even the track record of his lengthy career in law and public service. I’m referring to the heritage he passed down to each of two entirely separate families—the one he left behind in Georgia, and the one he raised up in his new life in Colorado.

It was a plaintive comment found in a genealogy forum that gave me pause to consider. A descendant—apparently from the second family—noted,
Members of his second family have always been interested in his first family. We have wondered why none of them came to be with the Colonel.

When Charles E. Broyles wrote his brief journal, he had dated the last segment as September 11, 1887. At that point, according to his comment, he and his second wife, Nellie, had two sons. By the time of the 1900 census—which turned out to be six years shy of Charles’ own passing—the couple had six children listed, including one four month old son who had yet to be named.

That 1900 census, though, also revealed that Nellie had been mother of eight children in total. Likely, of the two sons Charles had referred to in his memoirs, one of them was Nellie’s first born, Prentis Bay Broyles. Born February 6, 1885, the child lived only seven years, dying in September of 1892.

Another child—one of only two daughters born to this couple—also died young. Ruby Broyles, born January 18, 1891, died as an infant only eight days later. (It’s a haunting experience for me to read that name, for at the other end of that same decades, Charles’ niece Sarah Broyles McClellan gave her own daughter—my grandmother—that same name: Rubie Broyles McClellan. Could she have known about her estranged uncle’s loss only a few years prior?)

But what of the rest of the children—the ones who survived to adulthood? Who were they, and how did they fare?

The second of those “smart promising boys” was likely Taliaferro Brooks Broyles. Born in 1887, Taliaferro—who evidently caved and forsook the written form of its spelling for its phonetic rendering, Virginia-style, and signed his name as “Toliver”—spent his life as a farmer in the same county in which he was born. He and his wife, the former Minnie Hartley, raised eight children of their own.

Many of the rest of this Broyles family followed suit—working in the same county in which they were born, many earning their living in agriculture. The Find A Grave entries for Conejos County, Colorado, reveal a host of Broyles descendants who spent an entire lifetime in the same place Charles adopted as his new hometown.

Charles and Nellie’s third child presented me with a puzzle. Choosing to name this son after the father—Charles Edward Broyles—created the awkward situation of the father having a son from each of his two marriages given the exact same name. The son Charles from the second marriage—who also spent his adult years in the same county in which he was born, working in livestock and “managing” sheep—likewise chose to call his own son that very same name. Years later, that son, also a lifelong resident of Conejos County, Colorado, chose to name his son Charles Edward Broyles, as well.

No matter how intriguing the rest of the names bestowed upon Charles’ second family—including Flavius Onderdonk Broyles, who understandably chose to go with “Fla” as his nickname—my mind was arrested, once I encountered this obvious duplication.

I couldn’t help wonder what the first son Charles Edward Broyles was thinking about his father, once he discovered this fact. Yes, the litany of names did continue with the more neutral choices of John Aaron for the next son, and a predictable Nellie for the only surviving daughter. But even the last choice of names—for that son who had been left unnamed for four months leading up to the 1900 census—made me wonder: Dryden Johnson Broyles. I can guess that Onderdonk might have come from Charles’ second wife’s side of the family. But Johnson? That was first wife Lucy’s maiden name. And even that plain choice of John Aaron uncomfortably echoed the John A. Broyles left behind as youngest son to Charles and Lucy.

Seeing all these names echoed from first family to second one, I couldn’t help recalling Charles’ own enigmatic comment:
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.
What was the legacy left behind for that first family?

4 comments:

  1. Weird. He has two families and they both have sons with the same names. Just weird. I guess he didn't like how the first "copy" of these two boys turned out....

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    1. I've often wondered how that made the first son feel. Must have been difficult. Some times, you can figure out why people did the things they did. Let's just say, in this case, I'm still hunting for the clues...

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  2. I know if a child died it was supposed to be an honor to carry the name forward...I wouldn't think so...but many people back then did:)

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    1. In an era when so many children died young--and so many were named after relatives from the preceding generation, too--that would be understandable. The only (and incredible) difficulty with this case is that Charles' first son named Charles was still living when the second son was also named Charles. I'm not thinking the first son took that as an honor...

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