Monday, April 29, 2019

The Clemson Connection

What a bonus it was to discover mention of my Broyles and Taliaferro ancestors in a book of local history in Pendleton, South Carolina. I'm still steadily working my way through what I call the Ashtabula book—a collection of various resources centered around the home by that name where my Broyles ancestors once lived—delighting in each minor discovery. The detail gained on everyday life of my third great-grandparents and their children has enriched my perspective on this one branch of my family.

You have likely had your eyes opened to the possibilities of gleaning hints about the life of your ancestors through this method, as well. While we can search directly for genealogies written about long-gone people claiming the same surnames as we descend from, there are other sources to be tried, as well. One of those is the rich resource of personal journals and diaries, whether published or unpublished manuscripts.

I already know one avid supporter of that research method: a reader right here on A Family Tapestry. Lisa, who has commented with suggestions of various diaries incidentally mentioning the Broyles family members, has been working her way through a family collection of letters concerning her own Civil War era family members (and, I'm delighted to report, has begun her own blog to share her transcriptions and observations, as well).

The other day, Lisa commented about finding mentions of Margaret Broyles—"Maggie"—in a book containing the diary of Floride Clemson, A Rebel Came Home. That, of course, makes another addition to my ever-growing reading list meant to help me absorb the minutiae of life for the Broyles family of Pendleton, South Carolina.

However, there is a wonderful backstory to the connection between Floride's family and that of the Broyles family that could not possibly have been included in Floride's diary. To tell that story—briefly, I promise—I will partially rely on posts made here over four years ago, as well as refer to a brief review of a post at the beginning of this Ashtabula series.

Floride Clemson Lee was likely named after her maternal grandmother, Floride Calhoun, wife of former U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun. The younger Floride's early death—a young wife, she was not yet thirty at the time of her passing in 1871—eventually left her soon-to-be-widowed father, Thomas Clemson, the sole owner of the beautiful home and property her mother had recently inherited (through a long and complicated legal process) at the passing of John C. Calhoun.

Now having lost both wife and daughter—as well as all his other remaining children—Thomas Clemson may have seemed a tragic figure, indeed. However, the man had a dream: to establish an agricultural college to introduce modern scientific farming techniques to the residents of his home state. This is where the connection to the Broyles and Taliaferro families comes in.

While Sarah Taliaferro and her husband, Ozey Broyles, had a daughter they named Margaret—the one whom we've met as the Civil War widow of the ill-fated army surgeon Samuel Van Wyck—pushing back another generation, we discover that Sarah had a sister named Margaret, as well. She it was who was one of the four daughters of Zachariah Taliaferro we had seen mentioned in the Ashtabula book.

This sister Margaret married a South Carolina man named Richard Franklin Simpson, who, before the Civil War, served in the state senate, as well as becoming a United States congressman. An attorney by profession, perhaps it is no surprise to learn that his son, also named Richard Simpson, eventually became a local attorney as well.

The younger Richard Simpson—known as Richard Wright Simpson—became law partner with his cousin, Sarah Taliaferro Broyles' eldest son Augustus "Gus" Broyles. One of the things old Gus was known for was his expertise in crafting wills. Likely, so was his partner, Richard Simpson. Simpson worked with Thomas Clemson to make his dream of establishing an agricultural college a reality—in part, by seeing that that embattled property inherited from John C. Calhoun became part of the seed to plant the new college. This, as it turned out, was a good thing, as, after Thomas Clemson's passing, yet another round of wrangling, this time, instigated by Clemson's own son-in-law, the younger deceased Floride's husband, brought the argument over the contested will—and thus the establishment of the college on which the property was to stand—all the way to the Supreme Court.

Of course, I would never have found that connection if I hadn't stumbled upon another research quandary, the question of why some Broyles children had ended up buried in a Simpson family cemetery. It's these rabbit trails, as I call them, which, rather than leading away from the purpose at hand, not only lead us on a winding trail straight to the answer, but enrich us in the process of dogged pursuit of the discovery.

Back in 2015, when I first tackled the question, the trail led me from that question of the unexpected location of the Broyles burials to discover the nexus between the surnames Broyles and Simpson—through the Taliaferro sisters—and then, finally, the answer to why some of Ozey and Sarah Broyles' children were buried in the Simpson family cemetery which is now part of the school named after its benefactor: Clemson University.

With the town of Clemson being barely five miles away from Pendleton, and with the Broyles family and their cousins in the Simpson family so intricately involved in the plans of the university's founder, it is no surprise to learn that Thomas Clemson's daughter would have mentioned widow-turned-educator Margaret Broyles Van Wyck's name in her own diary upon her return back to South Carolina. Passing away so young, though, Floride Clemson Lee likely had no idea how much of a role Margaret's family would someday play in securing Thomas Clemson's initial donation and administrative work to create the school he once dreamed of endowing.


  1. Oh gosh - you are full of surprises! And now I am following Lisa's blog, too!

    1. Oh, wonderful, Miss Merry. I am looking forward to reading about Lisa's family's letters, as well.

  2. I've never researched diaries. Another avenue to explore.

    1. It can be spotty, admittedly, but if you do find anything, Kathy, it can be an eye opener!

  3. What a wonderful history. Clemson University has been such a huge part of the life of all South Carolinians. I am delighted to see how it began. It is now a huge school, of course, and excels in many areas (my late brother became an architect there), but it still is a powerhouse in the field of agricultural science. The large farm in Darlington County where my grandmother Dargan grew up is now the Clemson Pee Dee Research and Education Center.

    The history of the Broyles and the whole Pendelton / Anderson gang is completely fascinating to me. I love reading the next chapter every day. (Though I also look forward to getting back to your Florida story.)

    And thanks for finding and mentioning my blog! Now I have to really get serious about it :-)

    1. Lisa, I'm so excited to see you starting your own blog! Best of wishes to you in this endeavor--and hopes for making many beneficial connections through your writing!


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