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BHPC 1 - FO19 - A Homeplace Saga Story - Bill Holland Photo Challenge 1

Updated on March 31, 2020
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Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

Photo Prompt 1

Nancy J. Broyles, Civil War Widow

Ernest and Cordelia Potter came to the Garden of Memories Cemetery near Redding, Missouri, to visit her mother’s grave on the first anniversary of her death. Nancy J. Broyles had died on April 16, 1900. She was born on July 9, 1828, and she lived through 72 years of eventful times. Cordelia recalled how her mother had always referred to herself as “a Civil War Widow.” Nancy Broyles never remarried after her husband, Marvin, had lost his life at the Battle of Shiloh in the spring of 1862. She was left with six children at home on their farm near Rolla, Missouri.

First, there was Jeff, born in 1849, he was 13 in 1862. He had helped on the farm beyond his years. Then had come Ruth, in 1851. She was just 11 in 1862. She had been a real help with the younger children. Cordelia, born in 1853, was 9 in 1862. She still remember looking after her younger bothers while Jeff and their mother worked the farm. James, born in 1855, and Guy, born in 1957, were 7 and 5, respectively, when their father had died. Stella, the baby, was born in 1860, well before the War broke out. She had become Ruth’s main responsibility. Ernest and Cordelia Potter came to the Garden of Memories Cemetery near Redding, Missouri, to visit her mother’s grave on the first anniversary of her death. Nancy J. Broyles had died on April 16, 1900. She was born on July 9, 1828, and she lived through 72 years of eventful times. Cordelia recalled how her

Photo Prompt 2

Memories Came Rolling Back

As Ernest and Cordelia drove the buggy back down the road leading away from the cemetery, Cordelia recalled flashes of memories from those rough early years. The one thing that stuck out in her memory was that the family had indeed survived the rest of the war period because their farm was located near the town of Rolla. The train track from St. Louis had arrived in Rolla before the war broke out, making Rolla a strategic location for Union troops during the entire conflict.

With regular military patrols coming and going, the area of the Broyles’ farm was immune to the many raids by outlaw gangs of either persuasion that devastated so much of southwestern Missouri. Oak Springs, for example, in Oak Creek Township of Shannon County, where Ernest and Cordelia now lived, had been entirely burned to the ground during the war. Nancy Broyles and her children were somehow able to carry on with their farm work, and actually had a good market for any excess output in the nearby town. Looking back, Cordelia recalled that the times were tough, but they didn’t really know it then. They were just living their lives as their mother led them to do so.

Photo Prompt 3

They Arrived Back at their Farm

As they arrived back at their farm back in Oak Creek Township, Ernest asked Cordelia about how they were able to stay on their home farm during those years. Many widows with children had lost their land without the man of the family there. Cordelia recalled how her mother, Nancy, had shared that information with her family over the years. It was the one piece of good fortune, along with a lot of hard work, that allowed them to survive on the farm.

She had told them, though the backstory was quite complicated, the fact was Nancy and her husband had received the farm debt free when they were married from the estate of her grandfather. She, her sister, and her two brothers had each received similar land bequests when they had married. Nancy had reminded them that although they were not rich, they had to work hard for everything they had, her grandfather had been land rich. And generous. It set the stage for their survival, if they could earn it. And they did, as it turned out.

By the time young Stella was a teenager, sister Ruth married and moved to the St. Louis area. Jeff and Guy had continued to work the farm with their mother as the years went by. Jeff married Janet but Guy never married. They had built Guy a small cottage on the farm, but he stayed single. Eventually, their mother, Nancy, would spend time with each of her other children, but always returned to her place on the farm.

Photo Prompt 4

Back at the House

Cordelia recalled how the fact that James working in the county offices in Rolla was very helpful to Nancy. After much effort, she finally got Marvin’s Civil War Pension late in the century after a seemingly unending mountain of paperwork. Like many widows, she was entitled to the pension, but had many bureaucratic battles before she finally succeeded in receiving hers. Many weren’t so lucky as to live long enough to collect any pension funds.

As often happened, Nancy seemed most comfortable away from the farm visiting her youngest daughter, Stella, and her family, near Redding. While Nancy would stay with Ernest and Cordelia from time to time, or with Ruth and her family in St. Louis, those visits rarely lasted longer than a month though she was always welcome to stay longer. With Stella, Nancy would often stay for six months or longer at a time. She was staying with Stella when she became ill before her death.

That was why Nancy was buried at the Garden of Memories Cemetery near Redding rather than in Rolla. While there was a marker for Marvin in the Rolla Cemetery, his body had never been returned there. His final resting place was a mass grave near Shiloh with his fallen comrades.

Photo Prompt 5

Fish from the Pond

Cordelia thanked Ernest to taking her up to see Stella and her family briefly before they visited the cemetery. She suggested this would likely be an annual trip, at least for a few years. He mother had done so much for her and her siblings, Cordelia felt, that it was the least she could do to go pay her respects regularly. Ernest responded that he had actually enjoyed the trip. They only to rarely were able to spend such time together as they did on the ride up and back, without the children. Their children were now old enough to be able to look after themselves for a day or two with no problem. They just hadn’t done it before. Michael, their son, was 17 now and had done a fine job with the chores while they were gone. Their 11-year-old daughter, Jennifer, had actually cooked some pretty decent food, Michael had reported. Cordelia added, perhaps we will take a few more trips, now, since they can handle themselves so well.

Ernest said to Cordelia: Tomorrow I need to go over the mill to pick up my order of lumber for the new chicken coup. On the way home, I’ll plan to catch some fish from the pond for supper. It has been a while since we had a good fish meal.

Note From the Author

This story is in response to the Bill Holland Photo Challenge for a creative writing exercise based on the five photos provided, in order. I have chosen to incorporate this story into the context of The Homeplace Saga series of stories covering eight generations of a family in fictional Oak Springs, Missouri, in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. Earnest and Cordelia Potter, and their two children, Michael and Jennifer, were introduced into the Saga in early 1879. Their farm was located just east of the McDonald properties, central characters in the Saga. This story also qualifies as FO19, in the Meet the Folks series of stories. [This story was researched and outlined shortly after the challenge was issued. Life got in the way, and is just now being published for the first time.]

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