My great grandparents were born on both sides of the Mason Dixon line. Napoleon Bonaparte Broward Jr. was the first son in a family of eight with six surviving children and two infant deaths. Josephine, Napoleon, Emily, Montcalm, Osceola (died as an infant), Mary Dorcas, California (died as an infant), and Hortense in the immediate years before, during, and after the Civil War. Their parents were also a North South pair with Napoleon Senior born in Florida on a substantial plantation, and his wife, Mary Dorcas Parsons, was born in Eaton, New Hampshire in a family that differed politically from the Southern Broward family. Mary Dorcas Parsons family went back to the earliest English settlers, who founded Harvard at Cambridge in the 1600’s, while Napoleon’s family had always been in the South since Francois Broward got on a boat in Perche, France and landed in Charleston, South Carolina in 1763.
Annie’s grandfather, William, was a lawyer. Her grandmother, Margaret, was a homemaker in NYC. They were immigrants from Scotland who prized education, the Masonic Order, and their Presbyterian Church. Her mother, Margaret Anne Hutchison, married Captain Alexander Mitchell Douglass in New York City during the Civil War.
Annie’s mother died giving birth to her in 1867. Napoleon’s parents died due to the poor health conditions afflicting many white Southerners after the war. Their homes, which were occupied by the Union armies four times during the war, were finally burned to the ground. With their salt storage and ice storage gone, their food was scarce. They had built a poorly insulated cabin near marsh land where Mary Dorcas Parsons Broward became fatally ill. Napoleon Sr. drank away his sorrows and died soon after his wife. This made orphans of the future Governor of Florida, Napoleon Jr., and his five siblings. My great grandfather was only twelve years old. His older sister, Josephine, was thirteen. They left with their younger siblings to try and survive under a devastated economy in a difficult and harsh land. His future wife and my great grandmother, Annie, was in the care of her grandparents in New York City.
Annie had excellent schools, loving grandparents, and high expectations for her future – with great hopes to attend Vassar – as she loved to read and believed both in the worth of women and higher education. Napoleon Jr.’s education was survival.
In the woods, he learned to hunt. He planted crops to feed himself and his younger brother, Montcalm, while the girls went to live with family members. So many men had died on both sides of the Mason Dixon line.
Annie’s mother was buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn with soldiers from the North and prisoners of war from the South. There was a grief carved deep in the hearts of families all across the nation as every family experienced loss. Napoleon was one of thousands of orphans. More than six hundred thousand men in the North and South died while fighting in the Civil War. A million more were maimed.
Young Napoleon went to visit his mother’s family, the Parsons, in New England. Failing at survival in the woods of North Florida, he began learning skills on the water that would secure his future. Before he met my great grandmother, he had fallen in love with the daughter of another boat Captain. Her name was Carrie Kemps.
He was back in Jacksonville working for her father and believing his future was secure when Carrie became pregnant with a son. As so often happened in the late 1800’s, Carrie died in childbirth and since a wet nurse could not be found for Napoleon Bonaparte III, his infant succumbed in his arms. Grief upon grief had opened the future Governor’s heart. Determined not to succumb to drink as his father had, Napoleon Jr. became a staunch prohibitionist, a church-going Presbyterian, and, in the next ten years before he met Annie, his skills had been honed as a ferry boat captain.
“Dear Friend Miss Annie,
May I enjoy the pleasure of your company this evening at 7 o’clock by escorting you to the Newman Street Presbyterian Church. Please make no excuses as it is not well to ask to be excused from attending church. Only excuse my imprudence. Remember me your friend in heart.”NB Broward – June 30th, 1887
This cherished first date letter from my great grandfather to my great grandmother was kept in the estate of my late Aunt, Patricia Hardee Atwater, in West Palm Beach Florida. I am thankful for the gift of so many treasures from my cousin Patti Atwater Unruh. We attended the University of Florida together in the early 70’s, growing up enjoying each other as children when her father worked for the FBI in Saint Louis, Missouri, and later in West Palm Beach, Florida. My late father Randolph McKee Hardee, Sr., was close to all his six siblings.
Our families were always close. Annie and Napoleon’s 8 daughters and one son set an example of staying close through thick and thin – through two world wars and the Great Depression. They were children of the civil war. Having survived so much, they were always aware of the suffering of others, including the descendants of former slaves in the South. As the reigning matriarch of the Hardee family and one of the last grandchildren of Annie and Napoleon, my 98-year-old aunt Annie Lee Hardee Tate explains, “We all ate from the same grits pot. We played together. We survived many Christmas seasons with our only gifts being the company of each other.”