Contributed by Betty Jane Hylton
Broylesville, Tennessee is located just north of the Nolichucky River, ten miles southwest of Jonesborough. Little Limestone Creek divides the community and places it in the Third Civil District on the east and the Eighteenth Civil District on the west. The community was located on the “Greate Stage Road” running between Abingdon, Virginia and Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1850, there were two hundred and six families living in the Broylesville community and Cram’s 1888 Unrivaled Atlas of the World showed a population of three hundred. Today there are approximately 26 people living in this farming community.
Traces of an early Indian settlement were discovered in a freshly plowed field near the river. The caves in the Mitchell Bluffs were used as dwellings by the white settlers as well as the Indians.
Members of the Broyles family were among the community’s earliest settlers, being found in written public records in the 1780’s. Nicholas Broyles bought 840 acres of land on Little Limestone Creek from Joseph Buller in 1783. Other early famlies were: Humphries, Blackburn, Wilhoit, Greenway, Yeager, McAllister, Telford, Green, Brown, Bashor, Garst, Swatzell, Stout, and Mitchell.
During the Nineteenth Century, Broylesville was a very prosperous community. Occupations of its citizens included blacksmiths, coopers, saddlers, farmers, carpenters, wagonmakers, millers, shoemakers, tailors, store clerks, merchants, surgeons, laborers, innkeepers, railroad workers and housekeepers.
The Civil War touched many families in this community. Cassie Pierson Usary entertained her grandchildren with stories about the war. As a young girl, she and her brother would go over to the Hill Fields at night and drop packages of food down the “rabbit holes” to the soldiers hiding in the caves. One of Cassie’s brothers was captured and shot; his face was so badly damaged that he could only be identified by his double thumbs. The Telfords and Greens lived across the creek from one another but did not share the same loyalties during the Civil War. According to oral history, they were such good neighbors that one family would not report any “enemy activities” that would be taking place at the other family’s house. The cobbler, Mr. Thomas was deferred from military duty because of the Confederate soldiers’ need for shoes. Reportedly, he ran off and joined the Union Army. Dr. A.S. N. Dobson was conscripted by the Confederate Army, captured, and placed in a prison camp.
The Broylesville Seminary of Education was sold by Jacob F. Broyles to the Trustees of the school in 1871. The trustees were: Michael M. Bashor, Dr. A.S.N. Dobson, Thomas J. Doyle, Charles H. Swatzell and Phillip Harmon. In the deed, a clause stated that “the public school house shall be open to all evangelical denominations of christians to worship when not in use but no denomination shall organize a church.” In Dr. Dobson’s autobiography, he stated that he organized a Sunday School class that met in the schoolhouse. Most of the families in the area attended Salem Presbyterian Church at Washington College (about two miles from Broylesville). Many of the residents are buried at Salem, Urbana cemetery at Limestone, and New Salem Baptist Church at Brownsborough.
In March 1985 the Broylesville Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The following buildings were included:
Broylesville Inn, built circa 1797, is a two-story wooden clapboard structure with an ell to the rear. The original log part of the house was built by Cyrus Broyles. Rosanna and Adam Broyles, Jr. further developed the house into an inn. Legend has it that Presidents Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, and James K. Polk stayed at the inn. President Polk gave the Broyles family gifts of silver. T.G. and Minnie Bayless Moore purchased the house and tore down part of the structure, making it as it appears today. Clarence and Flora Taylor Moore lived in the house until 1980. The Moore heirs sold the house to Mr. Robert Park of Greeneville. Efforts are currently underway to restore the Inn.
Broyles Merchantile Establishment was built circa 1830-1840 by Willis and Spencers of Greeneville, Tennessee for Adam Broyles, Jr. This building is a classic Greek Revival design with one Federal detail, with a Palladian window in the gable. The bricks are laid in English bond upon a foundation of large limestone blocks. The facade is divided into three bays of sandstone pilasters. This building has served as a store, stage stop, post office, jail (in the basement), lodge meeting hall, and has an apartment in the back for the storekeeper. In the loft is a 6 foot wooden wheel which was used as a pulley; large double doors in the outer wall of the second floor allowed the wheel to be used to unload wagons 20 feet below. Some of the mercchants using this buildidng were: George W. Broyles, William J. Strain, Oseola Litgreaves, Phillip Harmon, J.S. Biddle, Adam A. Broyles, W.O. Smith, James A. Brobeck, and S.A. Early. John F. Smith had a business called Smith Glaze and Company, and was storing goods in the store in 1870. In 1911, T.G. Moore purchased the property from S.A. Early and operated the store until about 1925. The T.G. Mooore heirs sold the storehouse to Harvey O. and Floy Usary in 1939. Mr. Usary’s parents, William and Lizzie Usary, lived in the storekeeper’s apartment. The Usarys sold the building in 1963. Marvin G. Carter owned the building until 1982; Mr. Robert Park of Greeneville is the present owner.
Cobbler’s House was built circa 1840-1850; this building is a one-and one-half story clapboard structure with a tin gable roof. On the interior staircase is a decorative motif of a boot. This structure currently serves as a tennant house on the McQueen farm.
Thomas Telford House, built circa 1815 is a two-story brick house with long sash windows, 9/9 on the first floor and 6/9 on the second floor. Thomas Telford came from Charleston, South Carolina and purchased land from Samuel Broyles. Colonel George W. Telford inherited the house and added the Victorian trim.. The huse stayed in the Telford family until the late Nineteenth Century. Dr. Chesla and Ruth Sharp purchased the house in 1970; they have removed the Victorian additions and restored the house to its original Federal style.
Garst House was built about 1847-1850. Frederick Garst purchased 147 acres from John Stout in 1847; Stout had obtained this property from Samuel Broyles in 1812. Michael M. Bashor married Susan Garst (daughter of Frederick and Sarah) in 1852, and came to own the Garst home. Samuel Mitchell, William Mitchell and Hannah C. Anderson purchased the Garst House and property from Michael Bashor in 1872. William and Rachel Ellen Anderson Mitchell, along with their four children – Amelia Addie, Samuel Fain, William Hugh, and Eleanor Estill – lived in the house, which they called Cedar Lane. After the last of the children died in 1965, their property was passed on to James Taylor, Jr. Faith Ledford purchased the house from the Taylor heirs. In late 1987, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Webster of Johnson City purchased the house.
Ira Green house was built circa 1812; this two-story frame house was constructed by Ira Green. Dr. A.S.N. and Nannie Jane McGaughey Dobson purchased the farm and house from Ira Green’s son, Adam, in 1866. Dr. and Mrs. Dobson remodeled the house to appear as it does today. Dr. Dobson was the community physician, elder of Salem Presbyterian Church, Democratic State Representative (1885-1886), and on the Board of Trustees for Washington College, Tusculum College and the Broylesville Seminary of Education. Joe Meredith and Charlie Johnson were also owners of the property at one time. Kyle and Louise McQueen are the present owners.
Bashor Mill was built circa 1869 by Michael Bashor at the site of the old Broyles Mill. Michael Bashor sold the mill to John F. Smith in 1871. In 1872 the mill was purchased by Samuel Doak Mitchell, William Montgomery Mitchell and Hannah C. Anderson. The Montgomery Mitchell heirs sold the mill to “Big” Frank Parker May 17, 1912. James Taylor, Sr. obtained the mill and was the last owner to operate the mill. An antique store run by Mrs. Erlene Ledford is presently housed in the mill.
Parker House, built circa 1912, is a two-story square frame house with a hipped roof. Frank Parker, a retired railroad worker, bought the land from the Mitchell heirs May 17, 1912 and built the house. A proch surrounds the entire house. James and Amy Lovegrove Taylor received the house from Mr. Parker, and it is still owned by a Taylor heir.
According to oral history there were many more buildings in the Broylesville area. A few were: the blacksmith shop located to the rear and right of the Inn; the tanneries located to the left of the storehouse; John S. Moore’s two-story yellow frame house behind the storehouse; the Doctor’s Shop, located east of the John S. Moore house; the foundry, located behind Bashor Mill; and a distillery across the Little Limestone Creek from Bashor Mill. Other buildings included a school near a pile of rocks north of the storehouse; a row of houses that stoood between the storehouse and the school; and two log cabins located east and south of the Inn.
Other houses located in the Broylesville Historic District are: Harvey and Floy Usary’s house, built in 1939; Cyrus McQueen’s house, built in the 1960’s; and a tenant house on the McQueen farm.
North of the Historic District were many other buildings. The Round House was built by Ben Miller; the walls of the house were octagonal in shape, built around a square chimney with four fireplaces. The roofline of the porch surrounding the house was circular, and the four large rooms opened out to the proch. All of the rooms in the house were connected by doors with the exception of the parlor, which had only one door leading outside. The Brumit-Hardin House, an L-design structure, was built by Fred DeVault Brumit about 1833; this Federal syle house has had several modifications and was the home of George and Beryl Hardin for many years. Punk’n Center Store was a log structure built by Clyde Usary for Geroge Hardin in 1930. Harvey Usary bought the stock and began running store/service station in late 1931; he married Floy Steadman in September 1932 and they continued running the store until 1940. In the 1930’s the Gulf Oil Company painted all of their stations orange; hence, the name “Punk’n Center.” Clifton and Elise O’Dell were the next family to operate the store. During this time the log structure was torn down and replaced with a cinder block building; Jake and Prissy Broyles were the last owners. The Loven House, built by John McDonald and Sarah Bristol Loven about 1915, is now owned by Dana Pierson. The Bitner House, built by Wiley W. and Gladys J. Bitner, is now the home of Beryl Bitner. Across the branch from the Round House stood approximately four other houses; the only known families living in them were the Swatzells, Storys, and the Rawlins’.
South of the Broylesville Historic District on the river road are the Greenway/Cox House, Ken Nelson House, Cyrus McQueen House, Howard Salts House and the Nelsor/Dugger/Nelson House.
The children and relatives of several families in Broylesville built houses southeast of Broylesville on Gravel Hill. One was the Clyde Usary/Robert Henry House, a log house built by Clyde Usary about 1931. The Jim Henry/Joe Usary House ia a log structure remodeled and covered with wooden clapboards. Others are the Bob Nelson House, Keplinger House, Jamison/Patton House, Jarrett/Bright House, Landon Cox House, Robert A. Ball House, Minnie Ball/Dale Eads House, and the Hawk/Shanks House.
Postmasters in Broylesville were: Adam A. Broyles, September 8, 1852; James A. Brobeck, January 19, 1866; Charles H. Swatzel, April 30, 1867. The post office was changed to Brownsborough; later, it was moved back to Broylesville, with the following postmasters: James W. Duncan, February 18, 1886; Joseph D. Lyon, November 3, 1887; Samuel A. Early, June 3, 1889; Edward Henley, July 19, 1893; Samuel A. Early, December 7, 1897. The post office was discontinued and papers were sent to Limestone November 30, 1900.
Broylesville Archives and Museum (http://broylesvillehistory.com/index.html)
References; Bennett, Charles M. Washington County, Tennessee Tombstone Inscriptions. Volume II; Cram’s Unrivaled Atlas of the World. H.C. Hudgins & Co., 1888; Dobson, Dr. A.S.N. Biography of Dr. & Mrs. A.S.N. Dobson. 1910; Goodspeed. History of Tennessee, Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1887; Johnson City Press-Chronicle, April 28, 1974 and September 16, 1979; Jonesborough Herald & Tribune, March 25, 1959; McCown, Mary Hardin. Washington County Lists of Taxables, 1778-1801. 1964; Mitchell, Harry E. Doak-Mitchell Group. 1966; Mitchell, Addie. Diaries.; United States census records, Washington county, 3rd and 18th Civil Districts – 1850, 1860, 1880, 1900 and 1910; Washington County, Tennessee records: Deeds, Marriages, Wills.; Interviews: Maude Dugger, Raymond Dugger, Kyle Keezel, Kyle & Louise McQueen, Floy C. Usary, Joseph Thomas Usary, and Pauline Usary.