Sunday, January 18, 2015

Where William Was

A South Carolina gentleman by the name of William Henry Broyles made his way down to Coweta County, Georgia, to marry his bride, Rebecca Taliaferro, in 1857. How he met her is as undisclosed as is the manner of introduction of William’s younger brother Thomas to his bride, almost fifteen years later. Come to think of it, the connection seems almost as unexplained as their older brother Charles’ move to Georgia—in his case, with South Carolina bride, Lucy Ann Johnson, in tow—nine years prior to William’s journey.

Why these three Broyles brothers moved to Georgia is a mystery that has eluded me. Perhaps, in delving more deeply into history, I might be able to find clues in land sales, or migration patterns, or business rushes. In that realm of study, I might be held captive for untold hours, gleaning old books for hints as to the reason.

I’ll set that assignment aside for another day.

Meanwhile, it isn’t lost on me that the three brothers shared some similar paths in their three separate journeys. All three grew up in South Carolina. All three spent some time farming in Tennessee on property owned by their father, Ozey Robert Broyles. All three have some sort of connection to Georgia: older brother Charles moving there with his wife and firstborn, middle brother William marrying a resident of the state, and younger brother Thomas finding his bride there, as well.

Where each of the three Broyles sons ended up, though, turned out to be different. Charles, as we’ve seen, settled in Dalton, Georgia—long enough to raise one family but then, on the heels of trouble, to leave it all for the prospector’s dream of striking it rich in Colorado. Thomas came to Georgia to claim his bride, but his home was in Tennessee, and there he returned to raise his family. William, like Charles and Thomas, headed for a while to Tennessee. But not for long.

William’s wedding occurred in Coweta County, Georgia, home of his wife, Rebecca Taliaferro. Sometime between that 1857 occasion and the time of the 1860 census, the couple—plus their firstborn child—made the journey from Georgia to Tennessee, much the reverse of the journey older brother Charles had made with his family in tow.

The reason I think it is likely that William headed to Tennessee specifically to tend to his father’s property is that he settled in the same county as had Charles, ten years earlier. Though Charles documented in his journal his reason for arriving in Washington County, Tennessee—at his father’s insistence—I have no such explanation passed on to our generation from William.

The Broyles surname has not been unknown to Washington County, Tennessee. The extended Broyles family was a large one, and their original settling places in Virginia and South Carolina were not far from this northeast region of Tennessee. I sometimes have to be careful with hints from sources like, owing to the need to tread carefully among all these Broyles distant cousins.

In the case of this 1860 enumeration, though, I can be fairly certain I have the right family. The names and ages seem to match up. The state of birth is accurately reflected. The fact that William is listed as a farmer matches the intent already displayed by his father towards his older brother in the past decade.

There is one detail about the census record, though, to which we need to pay close attention. That is the information on William and Rebecca’s firstborn child. Showing in the 1860 census simply by the initials “M. N. B.,” this child may turn out to be the one to lead us back to the family connection with William’s brother Thomas’ bride in Georgia.


  1. They were well educated - especially so for the times - and far more so than what was needed to run steam locomotives!

    1. ...and much more than you'd expect for farmers, as well. But that goes to show you how different the times were, back then. Occupational labels can be deceiving--not something to make assumptions about. Perhaps people sought to be considered more "well rounded" than we do, now.


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