Sunday, January 15, 2023

A Broyles Tidbit


Every so often in exploring the extended branches of my family tree, I run across a surprising detail. Let's just call today's example a Broyles tidbit, for I wouldn't have found this little snippet, had it not been for this month's research project on the Broyles family.

However, it's not exactly the Broyles family at this part of the story, so let's first take a moment to glean some background. We've been following the descendants of the founding immigrant couple to the Germanna settlement in 1717, Johannes and Ursula Broyles. One of their grandchildren, Adam Broyles, was my fifth great-grandfather. To Adam and his wife Mary, at least seven children were born. I've specifically been exploring Adam's daughter Jemima's family and descendants this past week.

That daughter, often referred to as Mima, was married in what is now Washington County, Tennessee, at about the time of her father's death in 1782. Mima's husband was a man by the name of Joseph Brown, but whether that man was one and the same as the Joseph Brown appointed by Adam Broyles as his executor, I can't say.

It was said that this Joseph Brown was also a Revolutionary War soldier, but sources reporting details on his life and untimely death in 1800 seem to be in disagreement. Nevertheless, there is quite a bit of interest in this line of a man with such a common surname, for at least two of his descendants became notable figures in history. One of the descendants of Joseph and Jemima turned out to be Joseph Emerson Brown, a four-term governor of the state of Georgia. Perhaps following in his father's footsteps, that Joseph's namesake son Joseph Mackey Brown also served two terms as the state's governor. 

That, however, is not the line I want to share with you today. Instead, let's wander down the line of descent from another grandson of Joseph and Jemima, William Carroll Brown. It was William's oldest son, George Thaddeus Brown, who eventually followed in the political footsteps of his more well-known uncle, Governor Joseph Emerson Brown. But not at first.

Born just before his uncle's final term as governor came to a close, George Thaddeus Brown turned his attention not to politics but to medicine. A practicing physician in Atlanta, Georgia, he later followed the example of his political relatives and served in the Georgia state assembly.

Following George T. Brown's second marriage, the couple welcomed their firstborn child, a daughter, in 1912. Since George was a popular member of the Georgia governing body, it is perhaps no surprise to learn that official announcement of his child's birth was made during the summer session of the legislature. Not only that, but the baby was apparently named by a resolution passed by both houses of the Georgia legislature on August 11, 1911, according to a report in the Atlanta Constitution.

That charmed life for the Browns' daughter did not fade after babyhood. In the mid-1920s, George, his wife Avis, and their daughter Georgia and younger son Melville were living in New York City. During that time, George Brown somehow met up with a man named Bernard Anzelevitz, better known as vaudeville entertainer and bandleader Ben Bernie. George shared the anecdote about his daughter's "adoption" by the State of Georgia thirteen years prior, and that snappy story must have resonated with the musician.

Ben Bernie and his orchestra made a recording of the tune supposedly inspired by Dr. Brown's anecdote, and released it in June of 1925. The piece—predictably called "Sweet Georgia Brown"—enjoyed a five week run on the charts at the number one spot, and over the decades has continued to capture its share of remakes. A 1949 version eventually was adopted in 1952 as the theme song of the Harlem Globetrotters, and has seen many more renditions made since then.

About Georgia Brown herself? She died in Florida in 2002, at ninety years of age. Even her obituary mentioned that quirky legacy of the well-known jazz band ditty, a story I would not have known, had I not pursued the collateral lines of my Broyles ancestry. Though the real Georgia Brown was a fourth cousin to my maternal grandmother, I doubt even she was aware of the connection. But I wouldn't be surprised to hear that that was one tune she'd be dancing to when it first was a hit. 



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