Friday, October 12, 2012

Introducing the Doctor

Leaving Florida behind in my chase for the D.A.R. prize, I regress into Sarah Ann Broyles McClellan’s childhood years in Tennessee. It is her father, actually, who I am pursuing.

Thomas Taliaferro Broyles was a doctor in the Jonesborough area of Washington County in Tennessee. It is the “Taliaferro,” as we shall see later, that I am most focused on, for that is the surname that holds my patriot prize. Thomas’ mother, the former Sarah Ann Taliaferro, had chosen to pass her maiden name on to Thomas, bestowing it, in the fashion of the time, as his middle name. He, in turn, returned the favor when naming his second-born after his mother.

While I have been bemoaning the dearth of family treasures to pass on the ancestral stories, tidbits have begun popping up. I’m thankful for that. I really have a need to know who these people were.

In my quest to get the stories, though, I may get more than I bargain for. While searching for Irish-Americans in Chicago yielded a rich contextual backdrop to urban life in the late 1800s, finding the details in a southern, post-Civil War milieu presents me with a zeitgeist with which I’m not as comfortable. While I was raised by a mother whose parents were southerners through and through, the end result has been that I’m as much a northerner as my grandparents were southerners.

No matter which side of the Mason Dixon line you may claim as home, you can get a sense of what I mean when you read Thomas Broyles’ obituary, as found by my Genealogy Angel in The Confederate Veteran, on page 66 of the February 1923 edition.

            Dr. Thomas Taliaferro Broyles died at his home near Jonesboro, Tenn., on December 8, 1922. He was a son of Dr. O. R. Broyles, of Anderson, S. C, and a brother of A. T. and John P. Broyles and Mrs. W. D. Williams, of Greeneville, Tenn., and Mrs. M. C. VanWyck, of Anderson, S. C, whose husband was Dr. Samuel Maverick VanWyck, C. S. A. Thomas Broyles graduated from the University of North Carolina at eighteen years of age, and three days later was in the saddle as a member of Heiskell's Cavalry. He was one of six brothers, two brothers-in-law, and several cousins in the Confederate army, ranking as privates, captains, colonels, and surgeons. Sustained by trust in the righteous cause, the mother at home unceasingly wrestled in prayer and fasting. Comrade Broyles was a conscientious man and soldier. A comrade of the same command wrote to home friends: "Tom won't hear to our being whipped. He is a brave boy, and comes up to time exactly in the hour of danger." His brother Robert wrote to their mother: "I offered him everything I had, even tobacco, when I saw him last, but he would not even breakfast with me." Characteristic of the Confederate soldier! Both Thomas and Robert were present at Lee's surrender.
            After the war, Thomas Broyles graduated in medicine and practiced for many years. He was a man of piety and unusual attainments, and could thrill his listeners with vivid descriptions of great battle scenes in Virginia, the privations and sufferings of war. He was twice married, first to Miss Reney, of Alabama, and his second wife was a daughter of General Harrison, of South Carolina, a distinguished jurist of his time. She survives him with two daughters. At the age of eighty years he answered the reveille from the distant shore, and his body rests under the cedars of Lebanon churchyard, while below the near-by cliffs the waters of the Nolachucky sing an endless requiem.


  1. Now those are some fine anecdotes that highlight the character of your ancestor. I can feel the pride the family had for him.

    1. Yes, Wendy--and these are details that tempt me to go down the inevitable bunny trails. It would be worth the trip, though, to broaden those historic horizons. I know so little about the southern perspective in the aftermath of the Civil War.

  2. That's an awesome a thumbnail sketch of a person as any I've ever read.

    Lawrence Taliaferro II was a Revolutionary War soldier. Is he one of "yours"?

    1. At one point, Iggy, I was bemoaning the fact that I couldn't find any obituaries in the local papers--I can't even find out where he is buried, either--but now I realize that this biographical sketch provides me with so much detail to follow up on.

    2. Since you asked about Lawrence Taliaferro, Iggy, I wanted to say that, while I've seen some extensive published genealogies of the extended Taliaferro family, I've yet to go through the process of researching them myself. I don't have anyone with that name in my own database...yet. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if there was some connection. Time will tell...


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