Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ensuing Difficulties

…on the 22nd day of March 1875, I left Georgia for the Territory of Colorado.
Ever since I discovered the journal of Charles Edward Broyles, older brother of my second great grandfather, I was puzzled by his apparently abrupt departure. Supposedly established in a prominent position in his community, Charles left career as well as home and family for the unknown possibilities of life alone in an outpost of the nation’s territorial claims.

The only possible reason for his decision to leave, as mentioned in his journal, might have been extrapolated from his comments about trying to set up his sons in business. One wonders whether he sold out at a loss. But would that have been enough to tip the scales in favor of vacating an entire life established in a community?

I cast about, searching for clues as to why Charles might have left. After all, though journals may be perceived as “tell all” documents, they often leave out significant segments of the rest of the story. One entry in a genealogy forum suggested a reason for his hasty departure: that, after the war, he had lost his plantation. Remembering Charles’ entry in the 1870 census where his real estate was valued at a comfortable amount yet his personal property was comparatively less than that of his neighbors, I considered that a possibility. After all, Charles had been a loyal player, when it came to giving his all to the Confederate cause. He did mention returning home, after the war, “poor, moneyless and…half clothed.”

To see if anything further could be gleaned from documentation, I went fishing on the various newspaper archives with holdings from the state of Georgia. Historic newspapers are always a wonderful resource—well, if you can locate any articles mentioning your specific ancestors, that is—for third party reports and (supposedly) impartial viewpoints. Thanks both to several holdings for the state of Georgia at GenealogyBank and for the local newspapers’ habit of sharing what other city papers in the state had already reported, news on Charles Edward Broyles was often repeated from his residence in Dalton in publications from several other Georgia cities.

During the difficult period of Reconstruction, when factions within the Republican party were bitterly opposing each other, Charles’ circumstances may well have become an unintended casualty of the disputes. One report, reprinted in the Macon Weekly Telegraph on an unlucky Friday the thirteenth for Charles—May 13, 1870—was attributed to the editor of the Atlanta Constitution, reporting from Dalton.

Portrayed by the editor as a tale “of a late Radical row, at Dalton,” it made gloating reference in those editorial comments to the Radical Republican faction, though the body of the report gave no such indication. Further, it was unclear from the proceedings whether Charles was considered part of the Radical faction, or one of those opposing it.

Regardless, things did not turn out well for Charles in either the proceedings or the outcome.
            Some little belligerent excitement has taken place for a day or two.
            Last term of the Superior Court, Harris and Agent Baker, of the State Road, were indicted for gambling. The cases were taken up by ex-officio Justice of the Peace, Col. Glenn, and the parties were fined. Judge Parrott refused to submit to this change of jurisdiction, and retained the cases on the Superior Court docket. The grand jury of the present court seemed to think that the Solicitor-General, Colonel C. E. Broyles, has not pushed these cases with proper vigilance, and in their presentments they reproved him. Mr. N. P. Harbin, a prominent Republican, was on the grand jury, and it is understood that the Solicitor ascribed the reproof to him, whereupon he sought to hold him to accountability and a difficulty ensued. The parties were separated.
            The Solicitor was tried before Col Glenn this morning, and fined two hundred dollars.
            The whole difficulty has been between Republicans.

While an unfortunate occurrence for Charles, it hardly seemed enough to be the last straw that would cause him to ditch it all and leave town. Yet, all other mentions of his name in the newspaper were routine listings of court cases and outcomes. Charles served out the remaining two years of his term as Solicitor General without any further outbreaks that I could find.

That rather unprofessional comportment, however, may have been our forewarning of trouble to come. By Friday, March 5, 1875—interestingly enough, only seventeen days before the date Charles specifically recorded as the point at which he left Dalton—the Marietta, Georgia, Journal came up with this brief report:
Homicide at Dalton.—We learn that a homicide occurred in Dalton on Saturday. Mr. C. E. Broyles, once Solicitor General of the Cherokee Circuit, is said to have attacked, while under the influence of liquor, without provocation, a crippled man named Davis, and stabbed him so severely that he died Sunday. Broyles was arrested and held to bail in the sum of $500 to answer the charge of stabbing.

Could it be? I checked every detail. Yes, it was Dalton. Yes, he was once Solicitor General. True, the paper didn’t label him as “Col.” Broyles, as reports often fashioned him. But while this entry included only his initials, rather than his name, everything else seemed unmistakably to point the finger at our Charles.

With everything else in his life seemingly spiraling out of place—loss of a war for which he had contributed not only his means but his devoted service, possible loss of property, loss of professional face, perhaps loss of respect of his own sons—perhaps this was the last episode that spurred him on to desperate action.

As the wheels of justice may grind slowly, I have my doubts that a decision on that unfortunate case was reached before Charles left town on March 22. While it may have been in a drunken stupor that he stumbled into this difficulty, it was assuredly with eyes wide open that he abruptly left it, three weeks later.


  1. OMG -- I didn't see THAT coming! And Charles omitted that little tidbit from his journal?? No attempt to justify or present his side of the story??

    1. Oh, believe me, Wendy, neither did I! But there was just something not adding up right about his version of his life's story. Left me with too many questions. I had to go poking around to see what I could find. Didn't expect this. I still feel the compulsion to keep looking for mistaken identities.

      He did add an introductory statement to his journal, which in retrospect may have been an oblique attempt to justify himself--but from what? He certainly never came out and said he did anything leading to arrest, let alone charges as serious as that.

      Unfortunately, up to this point, I haven't been able to locate any further newspaper articles on the topic. One would think if someone skipped town following something like that, there would be an uproar in the local paper.

  2. Wow...could be a lynch mob was after him!

    1. One would think...although we have to keep in mind, even this requires the patience of waiting to find the rest of the story.

  3. So was he on the lam? I can't imagine his "getting away with murder." in any event, another story in the family that shows "drinking is bad."

    1. It all seems just so incredible. I struggle with thoughts of mistaken identity--that there was another C. E. Broyles in Dalton. I also wonder if there was another explanation--possible self-defense? It seems so doubtful, though. Sure makes me wish I had more access to newspapers from that region and time period. I'm sure there was something said about the event.

  4. Crikey Jacqi, I was not expecting that!

    1. My apologies, Dara. I certainly wasn't, either. Sometimes this research just unfolds as I go.

  5. might be someone you want to "hook up with". Seems like the Colonel had some folks from his regiment "out in Colorado" with him.

    1. I have been in touch--years ago--with one of the people in that forum thread, Iggy. We are indeed distantly related. However, I tried contacting one of the other people listed and, unfortunately, the post is too old to still be a viable email address.

      Interesting that Charles did not arrive in Colorado without some friends or acquaintances!


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