Monday, December 22, 2014

Reflections, From a Distance

With such an abrupt departure on the part of Charles Edward Broyles, leaving home and family in Dalton, Georgia, for the Colorado Territory, you may be wondering how things were going for his wife Lucy and their seven children after his exit. Of course, we have no records available to discern what may have unfolded in the five years leading up to the next census in 1880—after all, who documents gossip?—but by then, it is clear that Charles had remained in Colorado while Lucy and some of her children still maintained a household in Dalton.

It was difficult, at first, to discern any signs of just how this husband and wife parted in 1875. Partly owing to the more flowery language of the times, partly owing to Charles’ circular approach to unfolding his life story in his brief journal, I wasn’t sure at first whether the two had parted on amicable terms.

You may remember I had shared a portion of Charles’ description of meeting and marrying his wife, along with his glowing statements about her character. We need to revisit those comments now—and, for those of you who didn’t take the opportunity to read ahead from the transcription of his full statement, to pick up the rest of his narrative. You see, in order to help myself piece together the story, I had omitted some of the details. We need to review them now, to try and fill in the blanks where Charles’ narrative left me with questions.

If you recall, Charles had explained,
I married Miss Lucy A. Johnson of Barnwell, S. C. and lived together some thirty years

What the entire sentence actually continued to say—and I’ll leave in the full detail of his choice of words here—was:
I married Miss Lucy A. Johnson of Barnwell, S. C. and lived together some thirty years and was finally divorced by Gods inerorable law. This occurred in 1881 while I was in Colorado and had been since March 1875.

Divorced? I thought nary a whisper was mentioned about the “D” word, back in that era. I decided to take that rendition in a more poetic sense, and was rewarded for my patience in seeking more explanation later in the text.
Then we parted as others with fond hope of meeting. But not so we never met again. And now four boys and two girls are left in Georgia as the fruit of our marriage.

As if feeling a twinge of guilt for leaving her for so long, Charles then added his defense (which I’ll include with word choices as he gave them):
I had not seen her for years as I was anxious to make a property before going back that would make her and children conforable and happy.

So, as he represented himself in his autobiographical notes, his intention was to strike it rich succeed in his endeavors to the extent of being able to return to Georgia, sweep his wife off her feet and have her, delightedly, return with him to his new life in the outback of Colorado.

Just in case a casual reader (such as we are, reading his private notes now, over one hundred years later) might misunderstand what he was saying, he affixed a more plainspoken recap of what happened:
In November 1881 my wife died at her home in Georgia. … I was thus deprived of that hope and as noble a woman as ever lived on this earth.

This may very well have been what happened—or at least what Charles dreamed would happen. With only one minor detail—Lucy died in 1880, not 1881—documentation seems to bear that out. (Well, at least the part about his wife dying before he could return home—as if he ever would have actually returned to Georgia, considering the circumstances in which he had departed.)

Meanwhile, another flowery composition gives us a picture of what was happening on the Georgia side of this drama’s stage, in the form of an obituary published in the North Georgia Citizen on December 2, 1880.
Death of an Estimable Lady.

            Death is a stern and impartial visitor, coming when we least expect, and bearing our loved and dearest from our sight.
            The many and warm friends of Mrs. Lucy Broyles were shocked to hear of her death, which sad event took place on Sunday morning, Nov. 28, at her home, the residence of Maj. C. E. Broyles. Mrs. Broyles was a native of Barnwell, S. C. Perhaps many of her old friends there remember her, as she appeared in her lovely girlhood, when Miss Lucy Johnson.
            Mrs. B. had resided in Dalton for many years, winning friends wherever she went by the sweetness of her disposition, her refined manners and sprightly and intelligent conversation. She was universally beloved. The poor, the sick and the afflicted have lost in her a warm friend and sympathizer, and her children, that she so fondly loved, the best of mothers. Indeed she was the very sunlight of their existence—her smiles, her love, her kind advice and tender counsels, made their home the abiding place of perfect love and peace.
            But she has gone. Her pure spirit has taken its flight to the heavenly land, and those who loved her so dearly have nothing to comfort them, in their sore bereavement, but the knowledge that she rests in peace, and the hope of meeting her in the eternal world. Her last words gave evidence of a bright and shining faith.
            When her eldest son (summoned from Atlanta to her dying bed) arrived and bent over her with the words, “O! mother this is a bitter cup for me,” she opened her eyes, lustrous with love and hope, and faintly murmured, “Yes, bitter now—but sweet in the hereafter for me.” Then with other half uttered words of love for “her boy” and her other loved ones, she sank into unconsciousness and finally into the last and eternal sleep.

At the time of her passing, Lucy Ann Johnson Broyles was three months shy of fifty years of age.


  1. My goodness that is a flowery to read:)

    1. And yet, for all those words, it said so little about the very things a genealogist would be most interested in...

  2. Most Interesting Obituary Award goes to ... envelope, please. Lucy Broyles.

    "Finally divorced" -- what ol' Charles meant was certainly different from how it sounded at first. His memoirs make me wish we could step back in time to hear the actual conversation between him and Lucy. What did she say about that murder charge? Did she encourage Charles to run? Did they hold each other and cry? Or was she just totally disgusted? Where are HER memoirs??

    1. Her memoirs? Now, I'd like to see those, too, Wendy! That's the story I'd be wondering about.

  3. The couple may have not been "divorced" in the legal sense - but merely separated (the "primary" use of the word in 1880 may have been different) and of course when she died, they were "divorced" by God.

    It is so sad that she died so young - and after such a life of roller coaster ups and downs. She seemed content to "wait" to be reunited with her family in the hereafter - which one can think has happened by now as she so peacefully died with loving family around her.

    1. I was surprised to see how young she was when she passed. Almost made me want to send for her death certificate...until I realized she likely died before the state included that sort of data in its records. Who knows what caused her early death--but there were certainly several likely candidates for the reason.

  4. Who documents gossip? Loved that phrase. Oh to know what went on behind the scenes. And, may I say, it wasn't all bad. Many good things happen that we never hear of.

    Regards, Grant

    1. Oh, dear...I, for one, Grant, would not put it past the local newspapers to put in print hearsay. Admittedly, those papers which did risked lawsuit. But I'm game to go trawling for any instances of "first-hand reports" and other such (possibly) embellished records. After all, we've already seen that Charles belonged to one side of two bitterly feuding factions.


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