Broadwell, Illinois

The Broadwell Family Story

My grandmother's grandmother's maiden name was Broadwell. This has always been an interesting name for several reasons. First, it is the most British of any our surnames. It is also somewhat rare, and rare names are always easier to distinguish in the genealogical record. Finally, because of an application to the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), we knew that this family line had been in North America for quite some time. In fact, about 1/3 of our history in North America is before the American Revolution. In many ways, the history of the nation can be seen in the history of our family, from colonists clearing the wilderness for what would become historic cities, to patriots in the Revolution, to frontiersmen, to striking it rich in silver mines, as well as a gunslinger and outlaw, this family has it all.

So I have put together this little history of the Broadwell name, both our direct line and some interesting stories of our relatives. They have had joys and they have had heartbreak, to be sure. This is the result of research I did years ago, research many others have done (including Don Broadwell of Wisconsin, who sadly passed away in 2012), and new research starting in the fall of 2017. Every year new documents and records show up online, and search engines make the research faster and easier than ever before. Still though, there's nothing like visiting the site where an ancestor lived, and walking on their land or in a cemetary with family names. Here then, is the story, as best I know it. See the chart at the bottom of the page for reference.

Colonial Broadwells

The Broadwells appear to come from the western side of England, near Wales. Research by Don Broadwell mentions Tewkesbury, in Gloucestershire (the county, or shire, surrounding the city of Gloucester). Another source says Chacely, which is just a couple miles away. Interestingly, both are about 25 miles from the small town of Broadwell, near the River Wye which forms the border between England and Wales.

The town name seems more than just a coincidence. Our ancestors may have gotten their name from the town after they left, or possibly they gave the town its name. If so, that wouldn't be the last time that that happened, as you'll find out below. The town itself has been around for a very long time. There is a substantial church in the town that has a history dating back to the 12th century, apparently funded at least in part by the Templars.

It appears the first Broadwells who came over to the New World were Puritans, with an "Edward Brodwell" showing up in 1646 in Branford, Connecticut (then New Haven colony, a somewhat unofficial offshoot of Massachusetts Bay Colony). A leading minister in Branford was Mr. Pierson. When that area became officially part of Connecticut Colony, Mr. Pierson felt the new religous rules were too lax, so in 1666 he led most of the town (including apparently the Broadwells) away from Branford to make a new town in the wilderness, called New Ark (now Newark, NJ).

The next mention of the name is William Broadwell of Elizabeth Towne, NJ (now called Elizabeth). He married Mary Morse in August, 1677. She was a cousin to Peter Morse, whose great-great-grandson would be Samuel F. B. Morse, the artist and inventor of Morse Code. William's son William (they liked that name) died in 1746, his gravestone is reported to be the oldest one at the Presbyterian church of New Providence, just a bit south of Elizabeth Town.

Land ownership in the colonies was rather complicated and there were competing claims as the new land was given in large tracts to government insiders with vague descriptions and overlapping ranges or transferred from one person to another. It appears the Broadwells were part of the early "Nicolls Grantees" while the Morse family came in from Connecticut under Sir George Cartaret's invitation. Cartaret was the one to give New Jersey its name. Cartaret wanted taxes from the Nicolls Grantees while they felt they owned their land outright, so the two groups were sometimes at odds. Apparently the situation was not serious enough to prevent a Broadwell-Morse marriage.

Major Joseph Lindsley's house in Morristown, NJ The Broadwells then settled in Morristown, NJ (another branch apparently went north into New York). Josiah Broadwell was elected county judge in 1764. Josiah was a brother to our ancestor William III. Our branch married into the Lindsley (Linsle, Lindly, etc) family on a couple occasions. It appears the Lindsley family story closely paralleled the Broadwell one, coming first to Branford and Guilford in Connecticut in the 1630's-1640's, then to Newark, but not until arriving in Morristown did any marriages between the two families occur (that we know of).

One such Broadwell-Lindsley marriage was John Broadwell and Phebe Lindsley. Phebe's father was Joseph Lindsley, a major in the Revolutionary War. He was in charge of gunpowder production, and probably met with George Washington when the troops wintered twice at Morristown. It is known that Washington attended their Presbyterian church at least once, and as given in the family story, since he was an Episcopalian, he only accepted Communion after they described it as "the Lord's Table" open to all, not a Presbyterian communion table. Given the Puritan ancestry of many in the Presbyterian church, one wonders if they would have done that for just anybody.

Major Joseph Lindsley was also called the Blind Major, perhaps from a gunpowder explosion, another document suggests he became blind well after the war. What is known is that in 1791 he was the head carpenter in rebuilding the First Presbyterian Church of Morristown (he was also an elder and well respected in the church). Some 200 men assisted in the work, and the resulting structure, according to one person there, "for strength, solidity and symmetry of proportion was not excelled by any wooden building of that day in New Jersey."

Broadwells move west

the happy coupleHis son-in-law John Broadwell then moved into the frontier of Ohio. In 1809, John's son Henry Broadwell was born at Mt. Carmel, Ohio (near Cincinnatti), qualifying us for the "First Families of Ohio" genealogy society. Even though they were among the first to move in, they still built substantial homes. John's house is still surviving, called the Broadwell House of Indian Hill (built ca. 1804). Nearby is the Cyrus Broadwell House, near Broadwell Road, built 1820. Both are registered historic sites, and all of this is just east of Cincinnatti.

From here the family branched out again. One group went west, becoming early settlers of Illinois (1818-1820) as it gained statehood, specifically Sangamon County (eventually the site of Springfield, IL the state capital) and the Jacksonville area in Morgan County.

Baxter Broadwell, who served at Fort Amanda in the war of 1812, was perhaps the first Broadwell to come to Illinois, in 1818. He and his wife had triplets at Grafton (near St. Louis), they were named George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe Broadwell. They moved to Jacksonville area before the town was established in 1825. The rest of the family was born there, including William and Norman. Unfortunately Baxter died young (possibly in a cholera epidemic that hit the city of Jacksonville hard in the summer of 1833). His wife died a few years later, and their kids were sent out as apprentices to local families. William ended up in the tough home of a strict blacksmith, and when he came of age had to confront the master for his independence, apparently physically fighting the blacksmith and beating him soundly. William left with nothing, but eventually owned 4 blacksmith forges, a hardware store and became the town sheriff, raised a family and took in his two spinster sisters. Thomas Jefferson Broadwell moved to Mexico and became part owner of a successful silver mine. Norman became a lawyer and was an understudy to Abraham Lincoln at Springfield. Norman later argued cases both with and against Lincoln. He later became mayor of Springfield for two terms, served one term in the state legislature, and was the county judge for Sangamon county.

The brothers Simeon and Moses were cousins of Baxter and also came early to Illinois. Moses Broadwell was a private in the American Revolution. He married his first cousin, moved to Ohio some time between 1791 and 1793, ten years before it became a state. He bought and sold land, farmed, and was involved in area businesses. He then moved with his son John and John's pregnant wife to St. Louis in 1819. John went ahead to Sangamon county and claimed a homestead late in 1819, while the others wintered at St. Louis. The next spring Moses (and perhaps John's wife & children) made the first ever trip up the Illinois River by steamship, in 1820.

Moses built a stagecoach stop at Clayville (now outside Pleasant Plains, west of Springfield). It burned, but was rebuilt in 1830. It is one of the oldest brick buildings in Illinois, and now is part of a history center. Lincoln is said to have stopped there. If this seems like a lot of connections to Lincoln, it is, and we're not done yet, but remember that Lincoln lived in Springfield for 24 years, met a lot of people through his work, and it wasn't a big city at the time.

Sangamo: Moses' son William started the town of Sangamo, which rivalled the fledgling town of Springfield at the time, but was eventually abandoned. It has only recently been relocated by archeologists. One surviving story about the town of Sangamo is that Lincoln was in the town as a young man building a boat, when he saw 3 men in a canoe tip over in high waters. Lincoln put himself in danger to swim out with a rope and rescue the men. Unfortunately William (b. 1799) wasn't as lucky - he was working on a barn at Sangamo and tragically died at the age of 25. His pregnant wife gave birth two months later, and of course named the son William.

This William (b. 1825) bought land north of Springfield, and in 1856 platted out a town on that land. After some discussion, it was named Broadwell. Broadwell, IL has never been a large town, but it produced two state representatives, and as it was on the famed Route 66, it had a regionally famous "Pig Hip" restaurant. It now has an exit on I-55, as seen at the top of this page. (Seeing that sign when travelling in 2017 is what got me going on the Broadwell search again, after letting the Broadwell research lie dormant for many years). William apparently lived there for a few years, some of his children were born there, then he moved to Hutchinson, Kansas where he was a successful cattleman.

There the family story takes a darker turn. William Broadwell, his son Dick, and an in-law claimed some land in the Oklahoma Land Rush. Dick met a woman on a neighboring claim, and they married. She persuaded him to sell his claim, she sold hers, and they moved to Texas together. However, she had other plans, as she took the money from both their claims and disappeared. Disenfranchised, Dick soon after settled in with the Dalton Gang, a notorious group in Kansas that robbed trains and banks and killed several people. They were making headlines nationwide, and the law was putting the pressure on them. In late 1892 they decided to do a bold move - rob two banks at the same time, then lay low for awhile. However, they did this in Coffeyville, Kansas, the hometown of one of the gang members. They were recognized, and as soon as the robbery started, the townspeople picked up arms, grabbing them from the hardware store if needed, and surrounded both banks. There was a big shootout, and three gang members died in the streets. Dick was able to get on his horse and ride about a mile outside of town, where he fell off his horse and died. A fifth gang member was shot over twenty times and left for dead, but somehow survived. Four townspeople also died. The picture of the dead gang members, shown here, was sold as post cards for Coffeyville, and was recreated in a fashion by the Eagles for the back cover of their Desperados album (which has the song "Doolin-Dalton").

That wasn't my branch of the Broadwell family however. From Cincinnati, our branch moved east, to Athens County, Ohio. This area has remained very rural. There they married into the Bean family, which had recently arrived from the part of Virginia that would become West Virginia. The Bean family also came to this country in the first half of the 1600's, being some of the first (possibly very first) settlers in Maryland. In Athens County the family founded the town of Broadwell, on the land that was Henry Broadwell's farm. As I recall when I visited in the late 1990's, the town was about 3 houses and a church. I drove past it the first time and had to circle back to find it. Google maps doesn't even have street view for the main (and only) road thru town. There's a cemetery up a hill, Broadwells are buried there and at a couple other places in the county. This family in Athens County includes my grandmother's grandparents, Ann Eliza Broadwell and Elijah Homer Bean.

Ann Eliza's sister, Melcena Broadwell, married P.B. Wickham. They moved to Glen Ullin, Dakotah Territory in 1883. When North Dakota became a state in 1889, P.B. Wickham became a member of the inaugural House of Representatives for the state. He also ran a trading post at Fort Yates in the Standing Rock Indian Reservation for many years and was the county treasurer.

Meanwhile, Ann Eliza and Elijah Bean moved, perhaps coincidentally, to Sangamon County, Illinois. Not because of the Broadwell side with second cousins who lived just west of Springfield, but on the Bean side, as Elijah's sister and father lived in Chatham, just south of Springfield. They rented a farm there, but in 1885 decided to follow Ann's sister Melcena to Glen Ullin in Dakota Territory, and homestead some land of their own there. So they moved, but left their oldest son Walter for a year to finish up school in Illinois. Education must have been important to them, as he was already 17 by that time. After arriving in Glen Ullin, during that winter they received two telegraphs at the same time. One informed them their son Walter was sick, the next saying that he had died.

Their two remaining sons were Hadley and Theodore Clyde (T.C.), who married Lidstrom sisters, making their kids double cousins (cousins thru both sides of the family). Theodore, my great-grandfather, wrote down his memories of frontier life in North Dakota, including Indian scares, prairie fires and snow storms.

For my particular family line, that marks the end of the Broadwell surname. According to this site that searches the U.S. census, only 1,626 people in the U.S. have the last name of Broadwell today.

family tree overview

Sources and More Information

I've been adding the Broadwell line into wikitree, a unified global genealogy site where researchers collaborate on the same family tree, plus it's free.

For more reading, check out: Researchy stuff:
Go back to the Neff Family Name page.
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