Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Fallout of Parenthood

I’d say most parents would do almost anything to protect their children from experiences that might be harmful to them. There is that innate human tendency to put the care of the next generation front and center in life. When one’s own life gets messy, however, that natural response may find itself getting set aside.

I’m not sure what the dynamics might have been between Charles Edward Broyles and the children of his first wife, Lucy Johnson Broyles. Obviously, there was a parting of the ways—although, according to his journal, it was temporary and for pragmatic reasons of family support. Still, when Charles left his family home in Dalton, Georgia, in 1875, he left behind seven surviving children, including two sons under the age of ten, thus deprived of their father’s presence in such formative years.

What became of those children? The ones from the first family in Georgia ranged from age twenty five to age seven—if, indeed, that youngest son had even survived that long, as I don’t find his name in the 1880 census.

We’ve already discussed the eldest son of Charles and Lucy—Charles, junior, who headed west to visit his father in Colorado but returned to Georgia by 1880. What did he do, once he returned to his home state? While I can’t find much detail on his life, he was reputed to be “a literary scholar of universal attainment,” according to the Broyles genealogy published by Montague Laffitte Boyd in 1959. The Boyd book mentions that, like his father, the younger Charles served in the Georgia state legislature, and I have found news articles supporting that.

It was the younger Charles’ wife, however, who, after his passing, attracted attention as a published author of a romance novel with a Southern flair. Called The Jessamines, it was billed in reviews as her “first book,” though no further titles could be found. The author, the former Sarah Rebecca Hightower, lived with Charles in the mountains of north Georgia in the town of Ringgold. Apparently, they had no children of their own.

Charles’ second and third children were both daughters, who each ended up marrying doctors. Laura, the elder, married Montague Laffitte Boyd (father of the author of the Broyles genealogy), and her sister Sarah Ann married Arthur Franklin Boyd, son of Montague Boyd’s half brother. Both families were well established in Georgia.

The next of the children of Charles and Lucy was Joseph Frank Broyles, who eventually followed his father out west, settling in Utah and raising his family there.

Alternately, the next son—Robert Augustus Broyles—chose to remain in Georgia. He, too, had been one of those sons refusing his father’s help in setting him up in business, opting instead to work in “railroading.” But somehow, that early business training must have grown on him, for R. A. Broyles, Sr.—as he became known in Atlanta—was one of the first to establish what later were called chain grocery stores. An old photograph, which you can view here, shows one of his storefronts, circa 1927, from the collection of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System.

The remaining two sons, who were just young boys when their father left home, were Price and John Broyles. John, born in 1868, appeared only in the 1870 census, and may possibly have died before 1880. His brother Price, however, survived to adulthood—but not much longer. Apparently, the very thing his mother Lucy had feared about the “more trying and hazardous” nature of “railroading” turned out to lead, indirectly, to his untimely death—though mercifully, his mother never knew of it.

From an unidentified newspaper clipping dated November 14, 1889, came the brief explanation:
Elmore Johnson and Price Broyles, two firemen on the W. A. R. R., had a difficulty in Chattanooga Sunday morning which resulted in the death of the latter from five pistol shot wounds, one of which pierced his heart. They were both young men, and had been warm personal friends up to the time of the difficulty. Johnson made his escape.


  1. Elmore Johnson -- any relation to Lucy?

    After reading how well everyone did, I'm wondering what Charles meant by that remark about his children. How did he put it? Something about not being ashamed exactly.

    1. Although he put it, "I am ashamed of none of them," I think the key is in the next phrase: "yet might have been made to feel prouder." That, of course, implies something lacking in the relationship rather than just in the accomplishments. For whatever reason, Charles apparently did not feel his older children pursued him--or his favor--quite as much as he had expected. There's a big gap there that may never be filled with any explanation--unless something more is discovered of his journal.

  2. I wonder if the problem with Price was women or money. I think you have found a great deal of information about that part of the family!! :)

    1. I've been wondering what the "difficulty" was, myself. You might be on to something here, Far Side. I still have a few resources to check to follow up on this one. Hopefully, some newspaper will have a bit more to say on this--if nothing else, about the court case, as there surely was one.

  3. Elmore was acquitted.

    1. Interesting. Echoes of his father's case nearly fifteen years before Price's death?

      Thanks for finding that, Iggy. The copy was so faded, the search function on wasn't picking it up by keywords.


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