Wednesday, January 11, 2023

A Frontier Family Tradition


Why is it that the colonial-era ancestors of my family lines seemed to opt for settlement in the least likely places? I've struggled with documenting such ancestors before, family members for whom the frontier seemed more attractive than the conveniences of their civilization's cities. My Broyles ancestors were yet another line apparently adhering to that same frontier-loving mindset.

Exchanging life circumstances in Germany—inadvertently, admittedly—for the hazards of frontier life beyond the Virginia borders in the Germanna settlement was the lot of Johannes Breuel and his family. Granted, by 1717, the arrival date of the founding immigrant ancestors of what has become my Broyles ancestry, the Virginia colony's lieutenant governor, Alexander Spotswood, had begun to establish military protection surrounding the recently-established settlement.

Still, on the edges of civilization, it is far less likely that the customary recordings of significant life events would be properly retained. And yet, thankfully, some researchers have found ways to assemble enough source documents to constitute a reasonable proof argument where records are lacking.

That is what we find in reading the opening pages of the Keith manuscript on the immigrant Broyles family. Land records, tax records, and paper trails of other customary transactions which in our age might not be typical business, all were taken as consideration as Arthur Leslie Keith worked his way through the Broyles generations from Johannes and Ursula to their grandson, my fifth great-grandfather, Adam Broyles.

The Keith manuscript estimated Adam Broyles year of birth to be 1728, and placed the location of his birth as what was, at the time of his writing, Madison County, Virginia. Since Madison County was established in 1792, we can presume that the original county from which it was carved was Culpeper County—at least, until we discover that Culpeper County was itself established in 1749.

Even that county had not yet been established at the time of Adam Broyles' birth, having been created from Orange County. And Orange County? That post-dated Adam's birth as well, formed in 1734. Still, we're getting close with this last county, for its precursor was home to the original Germanna settlement, which was located on the land holdings of Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood which eventually—in 1721—became Spotsylvania County.

Keeping track of records in such an ever-changing geo-political environment can be challenging. Perhaps that is one contributing factor to researcher Arthur Keith's inability to locate a definite date of birth for Adam Broyles.

Thankfully, Adam Broyles apparently became a large landholder. The Keith manuscript catalogs several exchanges of property, from the mid 1750s through 1780, in which Adam Broyles and his wife Mary were listed as either buyers or sellers. With their last Virginia transaction noted on June 5, 1780, Keith felt that it signaled the date marking Adam Broyles' departure for eastern Tennessee.

Moving to Washington District meant exchanging one frontier region for another. The Washington District had its own history of jurisdictional changes. While the first European settler to what is now Tennessee was another colonist from Virginia, arriving in 1769, settlement around a Tennessee waterway—the Nolichucky River—grew by 1772

This, of course, caused political repercussions, and some of these settlers—as we've already seen with another pioneer branch of my ancestry—were ordered to come back across lines of demarcation to the colonies from which they originated. 

Some widely recognized surnames were represented among those early pioneers in the region around what is now called Washington County, Tennessee, including Boone and Crockett.

Sometime between the point at which the North Carolina legislature established Washington County in 1777 and 1790, the year in which that land became part of the Southwest Territory, Adam Broyles may have arrived in what is now Washington County, Tennessee—if, that is, Arthur Keith's supposition is correct about Adam Broyles' 1780 land sale marking his departure for the Washington District.

Whatever the date, we can safely conclude his arrival at that location, for that is where he drew up his will on April 19, 1782. Fortunately, this one preserved record—a transcription of the original—reveals what we wish to learn about this Broyles ancestor and his family.    

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