Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Driven by Circumstances


Arthur Leslie Keith opens his typewritten manuscript on The Broyles Family simply enough:

The history of this family in America begins with one John Broyles who came to America from Germany in 1717.

Assuming that the author took the liberty to convert that founding immigrant's given name from a more likely German version, the statement seems straightforward enough for us to use it to pinpoint this ancestor.

There are, with the next sentence, telltale fingerprints hinting at the possibility the author took liberties with the information he was imparting. About this John Broyles, for instance, Keith noted that he originally intended to head to Pennsylvania, but was "driven by circumstances" to land in Virginia.

The date 1717, combined with the inadvertent destination of Virginia for a German immigrant like John Broyles points us to the possibility of one location: the Germanna Colonies, whose history provides us with a bit more detail concerning those "circumstances" with which Broyles might have been "driven" to Virginia. Apparently, in 1717, emigrants from the Palatinate region of Germany had contracted in London for a certain ship's captain to transport them to Pennsylvania. The captain agreed, but en route to their destination, decided to instead take the Germans to Virginia, where they somehow became the indentured servants of then-lieutenant governor Alexander Spotswood.

Spotswood, a forward-thinking colonial governor, had been quick to spot the political and economic advantages (for the Crown, of course) of extending the western boundary of Virginia. He strategically expanded the Crown's dominion over that western region through militia forces and through settlements. It didn't hurt his plan to discover deposits of iron and silver in the region, for which German immigrants were sent to man the smelting furnaces. Thus, the borders were secured while the mining and smelting operations turned the region into a profit center for the colony.

That colonial settlement became known as the Germanna settlement. According to the Germanna Foundation, there actually was more than one wave of settlers, with the first wave arriving in Virginia in 1714, followed by the second party—"driven by circumstances"—arriving in 1717. Listed on the Germanna Foundation's website are the names of those settlers, as gleaned from documents of that time period. Among the second wave was listed the names of Johannes Breuel and his wife, Ursula Ruop. 

This Johannes is likely the "John Broyles" mentioned in the Arthur Keith manuscript. Along with his wife, the Germanna Foundation lists three descendants: Hans Jacob, Conrad, and Maria Elisabetha. The Keith manuscript posits two other possible children: John and Catherine, regarding whom we may spend some time later this month to trace further.

However, my main task with this month's research project is to follow one descendant in particular: Adam, possibly the oldest of Hans Jacob's many sons, who by my calculations should be my fifth great-grandfather. Tomorrow, we'll take a closer look at what the Keith manuscript shows on this particular Broyles ancestor of mine. 

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