Monday, April 22, 2019
"Original in his Thinking"
It's the little gems I stumble upon when reading asides in local history books that make this wandering so delightful. While my original intent in reading the Ashtabula book was to absorb the details of the pre- and post-Civil War culture in the South, the bonus was discovering actual mentions of my own ancestors.
Such local history books being what they are, it is not simply a matter of devoting, say, an entire chapter to one specific, named ancestor. That would be too easy. What turns out, though, is that, in reading the text, I stumble upon a line here, another line there—and packing them all together in my notes, I come up with enough of a sketch to see the faintest glimmer of what my third great grandfather, Ozey R. Broyles, might have been like.
Of course, to get to that point, we first had to detour through the remembrances of the young woman he married—and before that, the description of her father. At long last, a few lines about the good doctor, himself, emerge.
As the book's compiler, Mary Stevenson, put it, Ozey Broyles "was an interesting man who was very original in his thinking." He was apparently known for some of his inventions, one of which was called a "safety carriage," meant to prevent the all-too-common misfortune, as passenger, of being victim to a runaway horse.
That was not the only application for Dr. Broyles' ingenuity. Being a planter—the specific reason for his purchase of the Gibbes farm—he had seen the opportunity for coaxing the land in the South Carolina Upcountry toward greater yields, and invented what he called a "subsoil plough." This he entered in a local "ploughing contest"—in which, incidentally, John C. Calhoun served as a judge—and won.
Ozey Broyles was also popular as a speaker at local events, including Fourth of July picnics and Farmers' Society meetings—in whose publications his speeches were sometimes reprinted. Perhaps that, in addition to his business acumen, influenced further connections with John Calhoun, for in trawling through those helpful footnotes on other topics, I ran across mentions of Broyles in Calhoun's papers—mostly regarding financial matters in letters from Calhoun to his son.
As involved in the community's agricultural, business and political affairs as he might have been, Dr. Broyles wasn't necessarily always forward-thinking. Considering the time period—he lived from 1798 to 1875—that may not be a surprise to learn.
Once again, we discover this only thanks to letters which have been preserved and passed down through the generations—making the book in which I've found these resources all the more valuable, for it would have taken much trawling through private collections at multiple archives to amass the whole of the Broyles family mentions in one place, myself. Perhaps not very original in my own thinking, I'm a firm believer in taking my research cues from the trailblazing efforts of others.