Broyhill Family History

Home Page / Contents | Broyhill Family Tree | Tree Index



Broyhill Family Life Histories
Submitted by
John W. Garrett
The Virginia Writer's Project
Works Project Authority


Transcribed by
Marvin T. Broyhill III
Jan. 10, 1993

   The great depression began with the stock market crash of 1929.  Finances tightened, people stopped buying goods and factories closed.  Soon a quarter of the nation's population was out of work.  In February 1933, President elect Franklin D. Roosevelt took and acted quickly to restore business confidence. He first submitted to Congress the Emergency Banking Bill, empowering his administration to strengthen and reopen sound banks; Congress immediately passed it. Within a few days, fully three fourth of the banks within the Federal Reserve System had reopened. But this was only the first step. During the months and years to come, Roosevelt took a great many actions to restore the economy. Collectively his programs were known as "The New Deal."
     A major goal was getting Americans back to work. The federal government established the Works Project Administration. The W.P.A. undertook many new projects including the construction of public buildings and improvements to the National Park System. One of its lesser known activities was The Virginia Writers Project which paid writers - both professional and amateur - to compile and preserve local history and oral traditions. They collected folk tales, interviewed ex-slaves and the wrote life histories of their contemporaries. This work took place between October 1938 and May 1941, but was terminated by the demands of the second World War. A planned book containing life histories of typical Virginians was abandoned and the underlying biographies and interviews were deposited in the Virginia State Archives, spread through more than 500 boxes of administrative records and other W.P.A.-related Materials.
     Beginning about 1970, University of Virginia anthropologists Charles and Nancy Perdue began their joint effort to locate and compile these materials. They have since published several books and are now working on one that is to include approximately 80 W.P.A. Life Histories representing how Virginias dealt with the great depression. Among them, is the one written about my grandfather, Marvin T. Broyhill.
     In that interview, "M. T." mentioned that his son "Joe" was attending Fork Union Military Academy. The Perdues contacted Fork Union, which gave them my uncle Joel's address and phone number. They telephoned him and he graciously provided them with additional material. The Perdues then sent him a letter explaining the Virginia Writer's Project and their own activities. Knowing my interest in family history, Joel sent me a copy of their letter and I immediately contacted the Perdues.
     They have located written life histories not only of my grandfather, Marvin T. Broyhill, but his father, Thomas J. Broyhill; his brother Gipson Broyhill and two of his children, John and Belle; and Mary Nobel Broyhill, the wife of M.T.'s brother, Felix.
     These life histories were submitted by John W. Garrett, who gave his home address as Rt. 1, Maneo, Va., in Buckingham County. John Garrett was the husband of M.T.'s sister, Annie Lou Broyhill. Although these histories appear to be interviews, the one for Thomas J. Broyhill was written several years after his death, so his life history was most certainly provided by someone else. John Milton Broyhill (son of Gibson) is the only subject of thee interviews now living. In a recent telephone conversation, he stated that he vaguely recalls the interview, but if memory serves him correctly, it was conducted by Annie Lou. He believe that the actual life histories may have been written by Annie Lou, or resulted from a collaboration between.
     This Report contains the Life Histories provided by the Perdues. Two had been previously typed. The others were photocopies of the original handwritten documents. In order to retain the original character, editing has been held to an absolute minimum. Most spelling errors were corrected, but improper grammar was left intact. Periods and semicolons have been added to break up long, rambling, and sometimes confusing, sentences.
     Many years, I spent several evenings with my grandfather's brother, Lincoln Roosevelt Broyhill, who everyone fondly called, "Pete." He told me that his brother Ruel was the first member of the family to move from Wilkes County, N.C. to Virginia. He was a carpenter and came to City Point in 1914 seeking employment in the construction of a new factory being built by Dupont on the old Hopewell Plantation, recently purchased from the Eppes family. It was to supply gun powder to allied armies during World War I. City Point was then a sleepy little town with a population of 600. Within six months, the tremendous influx of workers soared the population of over 50,000, and the town adopted the name of the factory site, when it incorporated to become the City of Hopewell. It was a boom town that rivaled those of the Old West. Saloons were on every corner; prostitution and gambling ran rampant. Uncle Pete told me that during his first day in Hopewell, he saw a gun fight on the main street in which a man was killed.
     Land prices soared and Ruel was so impressed by the opportunities that he telegraphed my grandfather to come join him. M.T. did, and was soon followed by the rest of the family, said Pete. In his Life History, M.T. said that he was the last one in the family to move to Hopewell. In any event, Ruel was most certainly the first to move, but unfortunately Mr. Garrett did not submit his life history. This short-coming is now being corrected by Ruel's grandson's Richard and (Thomas) Patrick, who are now collecting information about Ruel from their respective fathers, Ray and Tom.
     M.T. gained from his experiences. In the late 1930's, a new factory was being constructed in Front Royal, Virginia - John Broyhill said it was named "Celluloid," or something like that - and M. T. went there to build homes for its workers. His wife Nell was then living in Arlington, where she sold real estate.. John said that his parents were also living in Arlington and his uncle Ruel lived with them for several years. In her life history, Mary Nobel Broyhill stated that her husband Felix was working in Arlington. John Broyhill also pointed out that John Garrett and Annie Lou moved to Buckingham County, where John preached in a local church. They remained there several years, then returned to Hopewell.
     M.T.'s parents Tom and Sally Broyhill are buried in Hopewell. Their sons M.T., Gibson, Felix and Pete moved to Arlington. Ruel later returned to Hopewell. Daughter Dessie moved to West Virginia and Annie Lou was of course in Hopewell. The Life Histories were written during the period of transition.
     At present, I am compiling information on Hopewell and am attempting to locate photographs of the subjects to accompany their life histories. These things and the Ruel life history will be incorporated into the final edition of this work.






Can you help us expand on this by providing information on you and your Broyhill Family?
If so, email to  Please list the page number that you are referring to.  It appears in the address bar of your browser.