My great grandmother, Annie Douglass Broward, was the driving force behind the more than century old legacy of her husband, my great grandfather and Florida Governor, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward (1905-1909). At the University of Florida (1970-1974), I first encountered Broward Hall.
I had heard there was a women’s dormitory at my new college named for my great grandmother, and I was curious to go see it – though I was assigned to a male/female dormitory across the campus. There was a small plaque on the entrance to the dorm placed there in 1953, a year after I was born, dedicating the building to Annie Douglass Broward. I walked into the small study area and library across the lobby and stood under a portrait painted by her daughter, my great aunt, Agnes Broward Craig.
In my 20’s I had dreams of my own and felt no real connection to the woman in the painting, but as my life twisted and turned into a fight for women’s rights in the time after the modern civil rights movement, I kept the image of the stranger in the painting in my heart.
In the past decade, as my life hurried toward sixty, I became determined to tell her story and the stories of the 8 daughters – and finally a son – whose lives and accomplishments amplified her own achievements. Her legacy grows decade by decade as her descendants shape and lead in many disciplines guided by the values passed down from Annie.
My great-grandmother dreamed of going to Vassar College while growing up in New York City. Vassar was founded in 1861 to offer higher education for women in the United States. Annabelle, as she was affectionately called by her Scottish immigrant grandparents, was encouraged to dream big. Her mother Margaret Anne had died giving birth to Annie. Her grief-stricken father, who worked on boats and ships in New York harbor during the Civil War years, had moved away looking for work and a suitable stepmother for his daughter. Annie had her grandparents and her mothers’ sisters to look after her in the 1870s. It’s what writer Mark Twain called “The Gilded Age.” Her grandfather was a lawyer and her grandmother an educated housewife. The family belonged to Scottish Masonic groups and the Presbyterian Church. Her dreams of higher education were put on hold when her father with Scottish immigrant roots from the South took her out of New York and brought her to North Florida. That’s where Annie met the ferry boat captain Napoleon Bonaparte Broward on the beautiful barrier islands around Jacksonville. She was only twenty when she married Captain Broward and cast her fate to the political winds of Florida. The year was 1887.
When Napoleon died suddenly in 1910, she was left with all the children to raise and a lot of campaign debt from her husband’s successful race for the United States Senate. In the next 42 years of her life, she kept her husband’s memory alive and encouraged their children to pursue higher education. The family Annie and Napoleon raised in North Florida was astoundingly big and beautiful. The couple was blessed with eight daughters and a son. In 1954, a year after her death, the family posed in Gainesville, Florida when the University named the first women’s dormitory in her honor. Annie was a survivor. The children she left behind, the girls on the porch and their little brother Napoleon, dreamed big like their mother and father.
Great Grandmother’s Dormitory was nicknamed “Bay of Pigs” and called “Taxpayers Whorehouses” by the boys of ole Florida!
By the time I arrived at the University of Florida in 1970, my great grandmother’s memory had been erased from the beautiful campus. My professors were impressed by the legacy of my great grandfather whose biography, “Napoleon Bonaparte Broward: Florida’s Fighting Democrat”, had been penned by a favorite history professor, Dr. Samuel Proctor, but there was no biography about the First Lady Annie Douglass Broward. Her dormitory was nicknamed the “Bay of Pigs.” This was a reference to President John F. Kennedy’s failed attempt to invade Cuba in the 60s and was meant to slander the women who lived in the dormitory as ‘pigs.’
Fraternities held panty raids and often discovered the birth control pills which were easily obtained from the school infirmary. Women were pressured to achieve academic excellence and satiate the hunger for a sexual revolution. These expectations were led by popular music and the influence of Playboy and Hustler magazines. My self-educated grandmother had spent a lifetime earning the honor of having her name on the dormitory at “Broward Hall.” I had not been in Gainesville one night before I saw a male student streaking naked in front of the headlights of my car; a car full of young women eager to go to college and suddenly confronted by the sexual revolution. Playboy Magazine had named our University a top party school, and the pressure was on. For the women who were outnumbered 10 to 1 at the University of Florida, the message was clear: They were to find their liberation by ditching their bras and their great-grandmother’s values. We were all in a cloud of marijuana smoke –young and reckless.
When a woman lawyer by the name of Elizabeth Kovochevich, while serving on the governing body of higher education known as The Board of Regents, labeled the college dormitories ‘taxpayer’s whorehouses’, I couldn’t resist making my first film in ‘introduction to cinematography’ a comedic sketch on women trying to get to class while male students propositioned them outside the dormitories. I knew very little about the values of my great-grandmother and all the hardship she endured in her life. I did not know about her deep faith in God and how prayer sustained her through some terrible years. What I did know was how to shock Ed Wells, who was my film professor, along with the mostly male class by making a short film. The scene opens up, starring my roommate and my sister, Jane Hardee, as they’re approached by a couple of male nuclear engineering students who offer them money to sleep in their dorm rooms.
The reigning joke at the University of Florida was that a brick would fall out of Century Tower if a woman ever graduated as a virgin. My roommate was determined to make that brick fall as she read her bible faithfully every night, and I worried about how she was treated by the other girls and the men at the University. I once fixed her up on a date with a college football player from the University of Tennessee because she was never asked out on dates at our campus. Fortunately, she had a lovely night as she said her date was too drunk to make any advances. I was so happy her virgin dreams had not been stolen away in an environment where women were often made to feel less than simply because they wouldn’t be a part of the casual sex scene that was everywhere around the campus.
As I am writing Girls on the Porch a half-century after I started college at the University of Florida, I realize now that we did not have the advantage of biographies written about the women of the Deep South who fought for suffrage like my great-grandmother Annie Douglass Broward. Annie’s third daughter and my grandmother, Enid Lyle Broward Hardee, won notoriety when she was elected statewide as Florida Democratic National Committeewoman. I never heard my great-grandmother or my grandmother’s name mentioned in any Florida history class.
And, the “Bay of Pigs?” The nickname of Annie’s namesake dormitory is rather ironic as she waited many frightening nights for her husband, her dear Napoleon, to come home when he was running insurgents and munitions to Cuba in the dead of night to help free the island from Spain. Early in their marriage, Napoleon was often on the run because he believed in causes bigger than Florida. He was setting his sights on Washington D.C. long before he was Governor of the state.
The Taxpayers’ Whorehouses
In almost every guy’s dormitory room, there were Playboy and Hustler magazines. Fraternity guys thought they were giving you the greatest compliment when they told you that you looked just like the playmate of the month. When Playboy cast a movie on campus called “The Naked Ape,” I talked my college roommate and my sister into trying out to be extras. It was based on a book of the same name by English zoologist Desmond Morris. In it, Morris compares humans to other species of animals. The actor Johnny Crawford, who we all had watched growing up, was a child star in a TV series called “The Rifleman” and had just been cast as the ‘Naked Ape’, a male college student.
I thought we would see what Hollywood was all about and make enough money to buy our books that semester. I was cast in a scene where Crawford is daydreaming about all the women in his classroom. The director put me right next to the actor. Collectively, all the students had one line, “And the virgins do love thee.” “Easy money,” I thought as I left the set.
I was quickly followed by a man who told me he was a Playboy editor. He asked, “Would you like to make some more money and pose topless on Crescent Beach this weekend? The magazine is featuring the coeds of the University of Florida.” I looked at the young man, and I remember exactly what I told him, “I will likely run for President of the United States one day, and I don’t want a topless photograph in your magazine to keep me from running the country.” He quipped, “Ok. I don’t want to keep you from your daydreaming,” as he walked away approaching other coeds.
I did read the interviews with newsmakers in Playboy when I was hiding during fraternity parties without any favorite books to read. This habit landed me right in front of my idol as a journalism student. The Washington Post muckraker, Jack Anderson, was speaking on campus at a big lecture hall as he told students about his coverage of the Vietnam War. I walked up to the microphone in the middle of the aisle and was the only woman to ask a question of the writer. Then, the big moment etched in my mind for years, as I asked the question in a most ridiculous way, “Mr. Anderson, in your interview in Playboy magazine, you talk about your relationship with President Johnson and the bombings in Southeast Asia.”
Anderson looked out at me standing in a packed auditorium of mostly males and said, “Now we know what kind of woman reads Playboy.” While I could hardly go on with questions drowned out by the laughter in the room, my reward was getting to spend the entire day following Jack Anderson around campus as he spoke in different classrooms.
Anderson had to make up for making me the laughingstock of his campus lecture. The experience was worth the embarrassment. On my 29th birthday in Atlanta, ten years later, my TV news photographer would give me a ‘muckrake’ as a sign of respect for my tough reputation as state capitol bureau chief in the Georgia Legislature.
As for women at the University of Florida, while the turbulence of the 60s turned into the sexual liberation of the 70s, the experience was difficult and sometimes deadly. My roommate in my first year had been my best friend in high school. An illegal abortion in New York City and the trauma of her childhood changed her from a fun-loving intellectual to an anorexic drug user. I had to push her away for a time in order to save myself from the downward spiral that many women were experiencing as they tried to be like the guys, with sex drives of their own, and proving they were breaking down the barriers of the past. She ended up in the hospital and weighed in at less than 90 pounds and five-feet-eight-inches tall. We nearly lost her, first from an infection due to complications from the abortion, and then from cocaine addiction and an eating disorder.
At my mother’s death bed, more than twenty years after we had finished college, she recovered, married, and came back from the ledge where we stood in our college years. Her mother was a nurse at the hospital where my mother was in the final hours of her life. She called my roommate to tell her what was happening, and suddenly, there she was walking into the room to kneel quietly by my mother’s bedside. We said The Lord’s Prayer together while mother slowly made her way to heaven. I will keep her anonymity and say that God surely brought her to me again and had surely saved her from her years in the eye of the storm of the sexual revolution. Maybe my grandmothers were all there too – waiting for my mother on the other side of the veil.
“My Dear Dear Wife,” that’s how Napoleon, my great grandfather, begins his letter to his new wife Annie, my great grandmother. In the Summer of 1888, Annie had gone to visit her family in New York City. Now her husband pleads with her not to come home.
August 24th, 1888Jacksonville, FloridaMy Dear Dear Wife,We are quarantined all around by other states and counties and the outlook is anything but encouraging. I would dislike bringing you here as the yellow fever is a very bad kind all around our house in East Jacksonville. Bless you dear. I would be so glad to see you, but I would feel very bad to have you come home and get sick.N.B. Broward
Yellow Fever Epidemic had Florida in its Grip. Sheriff Broward fears for the life of his young wife Annie. “Don’t come home!”
The future Governor of Florida was the elected Sheriff of Duval County in 1888. While he expressed calm in his letter to his wife, in truth, hundreds were dying. Bodies were stacked on the street corners. The Mayflower Hotel, where the pandemic was thought to have started, was condemned and burned to the ground. Her husband would work throughout the day and late into the night as news went from bad to worse. Panic was setting in. Florida’s leaders did not know the yellow fever was carried by mosquitos. Canons were fired into the air to disperse this treacherous killer.
Napoleon had grown up in Florida while Annie had grown up in New York City and Cape May New Jersey. He knew all too well of malaria and dengue fever. These killers were long known to take the lives of his loved ones. His mother Mary Dorcas Parsons Broward and his father Colonel Napoleon Broward had died of the fever in the immediate aftermath of the civil war (1869-1870). His first wife was stricken with dengue fever as she was delivering their first son, Napoleon III. His wife and son perished. Carrie Kemps succumbed to the fever in 1883, and the infant boy died of starvation in his father’s arms weeks later as Napoleon was unable to find a wet nurse to keep his son alive.
In the summer of 1888, Yellow Fever claimed hundreds of lives regardless of race or socio-economic backgrounds. The pandemic, just two decades after the civil war, was a reminder to Annie and Napoleon that nothing was ever certain in life, and that war and disease seemed destined to be human companions. They would soon be busy having many daughters to carry on their shared values of Christian faith, compassion, industry, education, and government leadership.
As their family grew, the yellow fever became less of a threat. In 1900, Majors Walter Reed and James Carroll of the United States Army proved that mosquitos carried the disease. Today we talk more about malaria and West Nile. The mosquito was and still is the carrier of diseases that kill and cripple people living in warm climates. That’s why organizations all around the world, including the CDC out of Atlanta, Georgia, consider the mosquito to be the most dangerous animal on the planet.
Annie’s husband would not live to see the next pandemic “The Spanish Flu.” Napoleon Broward succumbed to gall bladder disease in 1910 as he campaigned through his gall bladder illness. He won the U.S. Senate seat and lost his life. He died on an operating table in Jacksonville, Florida before he could take office in Washington D.C.. His death was a shock to the thousands who loved the big man. Annie was left a widow at 43 with nine children. She was left to face the Spanish Flu as a single mother.
The Spanish Flu of 1918 – 500 Million People – One third of the world was infected with the virus
According to descriptions given by my great aunt Florida Douglass Broward Segrest, the Spanish flu hit the girls in the family hard. Florida, named for the state, was one of only three of the eight daughters spared from the Spanish Flu. Through the power of prayer and service, all the children survived. Florida said her mother made big pots of steak soup for sick neighbors. Annie cooked and cared for her sick children while also caring for their sick neighbors in homes close by.Annie sent her healthy children out to deliver soup to houses where many died of the flu.
As the deadly flu continued to afflict families for years, Florida’s husband Henry Neill Segrest became sick with the virus as he was being sent to serve in World War I. My cousin Stephen Segrest says his father described how all the sick men, who had previously been preparing to join the European theatre in the first World War, would instead be sent to cots in military camps in the Northeast. He says his father told him you would hear the men cry at night, and when they began to call for their mothers, he knew they would be dead by morning. The next day another soldier would occupy the same cot and often the same fate. The casualties stateside from the Spanish Flu only added to the grief of families throughout the nation as their husbands and sons went off to fight in the first World War. My great uncle Henry Neill Segrest would suffer health problems from the flu for the rest of his life as he raised five sons with my great aunt Florida in Tuskegee, Alabama.
Hereditary Diseases afflicting the Girls on the Porch and their Descendants
Grandmother Enid Lyle Broward Hardee succumbed to pancreatic cancer at 47 years old. My aunt Annie Lee Hardee Tate was interviewed for Girls on the Porch and said her mother was afflicted with an illness doctors didn’t know very much about in the early 1940’s. Enid was certainly living through a great deal of stress as World War II was beginning. She knew her sons and sons-in-law would have to fight overseas if America joined the major world powers to stop Germany and Hitler from invading the countries of origin of many immigrant families in the nation. Her ambition for the cause of a woman’s right to elected office saw her traveling to Chicago in 1940.
Enid would win statewide office as the Florida Democratic Committee Chairwoman and suddenly become a woman to watch in the nation. Her husband Gus was concerned about her health and took her to many doctors while she continued to give talks about women, children, and families during her travels. Emboldened by her Christian faith, she believed she could make a difference in the lives of families by advocating for voting rights, the right to jobs, and benefits that would feed hungry families in a nation where many were hungry.
In Chicago, she watched First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt accept the Democratic nomination for her husband Franklin Roosevelt for his third term. He was his party’s choice once again to be President of the United States of America. Grandmother looked smart in her conservative suit with her ‘donkey’ pin and her little rhinestone flag. This photograph of her in 1940 (below) has always been a treasured and framed picture in my home. I would never meet her because of cancer. Though she would guide my life and the lives of many of her grandchildren who knew her as “Mother Hardee.” The big bow, her hat, short hair, gloves, and handbag, along with steely, determined eyes, still frame her as an icon of the Broward “Girls on the Porch.”
Her mother Annie Douglass Broward was still busy advocating for higher education when she learned her daughter would follow in her father’s footsteps in Florida politics. Enid died a little more than two years after this photograph was taken. Would she have become a mayor? A member of Congress? A Governor like her father? A US Senator like her father? Only the cancer would stop her from her march to Washington D.C.
Hereditary Diseases like Pancreatic Cancer would also claim the lives of other descendants of Annie and Napoleon Broward
As I have researched my book that is now in progress, “Girls on the Porch”, I have interviewed many descendants of Annie and Napoleon across the country. The eight daughters went in scattered directions to Seattle, to Alabama, to New York, to Connecticut, to Massachusetts. Two stayed in Florida. Their brother Napoleon IV traveled but returned to Florida to raise his family in the home on Fort George Island which is now known as the “Broward Historic Home” and is part of a federal park now open to visitors.
I’ve learned a granddaughter of Annie and Napoleon, Dorcas Crawford Casey, also died of pancreatic cancer. Her daughter, Dorcas Anne Casey, died of the disease in 2008 when she was only 35 years old. My first cousin, Connie Constance Tate Perry, died of breast cancer; it was such a great loss to our family as she was one of the first grandchildren of Enid and Gus Hardee. Now in 2021, I am learning of hereditary hemochromatosis – a genetic disorder characterized by the excessive intestinal absorption of dietary iron which is linked to all these cancers. While I have no way of knowing if this inherited blood disorder, the most common of inherited diseases of families descended from Northern Europe of “Celtic” descent, afflicted the beloved Girls on the Porch and their descendants, I am curious. According to Wikipedia, Hemochromatosis has a prevalence of one in two hundred with one in ten of us carrying a mutation of genes regulating iron metabolism.
While the condition is more prevalent in men, the blood disorder gene does afflict women and is still being studied. Geneticists believe the disorder can be traced back to a single “Celtic” individual 60-70 generations ago and might have been caused by evolutionary factors with an absence of iron in the diet of the individual. Annie Douglass was of ‘Celtic’ descent, a second generation American. Her grandparents were Scottish immigrants in NYC and New Bern, North Carolina. During the Civil War they fought on both sides which caused grief and distrust for generations.
My grandmother was the third daughter of First Lady and Florida Governor Annie Douglass and Napoleon Bonaparte Broward (1905-1909). Enid was an early Christmas present for the growing family born December 8th, 1894, as her father was serving in his first important elected position as Sheriff of Duval County Florida. She was born at home at 1011 Church Street close to where Annie and Napoleon had their first date at the Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville six years earlier. Her parents love affair was a river romance. Her mother was a smart outspoken New Yorker her father a Ferry boat captain orphaned at 12 years old in the Civil War. Enid idolized her dad understandably as he was a rugged adventurer whose devotion to her mother was known up and down the banks of the Saint John’s River.
Descendants of Annie and Napoleon in 2021 say ,“Every time his boat, The Three Friends, pulled into Jacksonville a baby was born nine months later.” My cousin Mary Broward Weisenburgh grew up in the same house where our grandparents and large Broward family spent their summers on Fort George Island. Mary is the daughter of the ninth and youngest child of Annie and Napoleon – their only son, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward the Fourth.
The Girls on the Porch is being written from much oral history, including many long interviews with the grandchildren of the Governor and First Lady. The Historic Broward House is now being restored and is a part of the larger National Timucuan Parks Foundation at 9953 Heckscher Drive in Jacksonville, Florida.
Enid’s life was full of youthful adventure as she grew up with eight sisters and a brother. She would pose with her arm on her mother’s shoulder in 1908 when her family moved into the first Governor’s mansion in Tallahassee. Enid attended the inaugural ball when her father was elected Governor of a rural state on its way to becoming one of the great states of the Deep South in 1905.
She was a beauty with dark curly hair, her father’s brown eyes, and an olive complexion. Her older sisters, Annie Dorcas and Josephine, were intelligent, lovely, and ambitious. Annie Dorcas was one of the first women in Florida to attend law school at Stetson while Josephine was an artist who pursed her art in higher education. She traveled North to where her mother’s family lived to earn a degree and become a teacher.
Enid was her father’s political want-to-be. Watching her father fight for the state of Florida, she knew early on she wanted to run for public office. Her mother Annie and her Aunt Elsie were frequent visitors to the state capitol. They listened to debates on the issues of the day and shared their strong opinions with Governor Broward.
Enid would be married and have children of her own before women would gain the right to vote and hold public office. The ceremony took place in her mother’s home. It was the same house she was born in just 20 years earlier. When she married the dashing Lucius Augusts Hardee in 1914, it might have been seen as naive and pie-in-the-sky to dream of following in her father’s footsteps.
Enid and Gus left Florida after the birth of their first two children to take advantage of the building boom. Gus Hardee started a knife selling business on the west coast as saws were needed to bring down the great trees which framed the houses of the nation. In 1925, Enid and Gus were living outside of Seattle in Bothell, Washington when she decided to run for mayor of the city. The mother of seven children was ready to try her hand at politics and had won the endorsements of many of the city’s leaders.
My grandmother might have been elected to public office on the west coast if it weren’t for hearing of her mother Annie’s illness in Florida. Bothell historians recently told me she dropped out of the race to be available to visit her mother across the country. Her mother Annie recovered and Enid resumed her role as wife and women’s activist until 1928 when the bottom fell out. The Great Depression was coming. Her husband’s business was one of the first to fall.
My father had become ill as well. The first child born in Seattle, my dad Randolph took off on a horse and narrowly escaped death when he was thrown from the saddle. The horse came crashing down on the youngster’s legs and knees which led to problems walking at such a young age. Daddy developed what was then called tuberculosis of the knees. Though later, the diagnosis would be juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
Doctors told my grandmother her son might not survive the cold weather of the Pacific Northwest. The family lost everything but hope.
My father Randolph, his brothers Douglas and LA Jr., along with his sisters Enid, Annie Lee, Patricia, and Barbara Jean all cheered their mother’s career as she began her duties in the family’s home state of Florida. All was going well when she began to fall ill. My grandfather took her to many doctors. None of them were able to diagnose her early pancreatic cancer.
On December 7th, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, her son Douglas was compelled to enlist in the U.S. Army. Much to the worry of both his father and mother, he signed up for the U.S. Army and was assigned to a military base in Utah. Pilots who would later deliver the atomic bomb also trained there in great secrecy.
Uncle Douglas was a trusted soldier in the U.S. Army at the most important base in America. Unbeknownst to the world – the atomic bomb, the most lethal weapon in the history of human war – was being studied and developed for possible use if the United States ran out of money or men before the war could be won. Douglas was killed one year to the day from the attack on Pearl Harbor. His motorcycle went off the side of a mountain as he chased another soldier who was suspected of murdering his own wife.
The family would soon be receiving Doug’s body in Sebring, Florida as all the rest of the family prepared to join the war effort. My father would often tell the story of how his mother held his brother’s hand during the wake in the family home. In my father’s narrative, Enid’s cancer quickly advanced after that. And, as she went into a coma, she whispered, “Bury me next to my Sergeant son.”
My grandmother Enid Lyle Broward Hardee would be eulogized in the Florida Legislature and called one of the most important women in politics in America. Her death at 47 and the death of my Uncle Douglas Waldo Hardee in the U.S. Army at 21 would affect all of her children and grandchildren – as most of us would never know her except through stories passed down by our parents.
There was no Saint Peter to raise “Dorcas” from the dead
My great aunt Annie Dorcas Broward Starrett had a holy name. Dorcas was the disciple of Christ raised from the dead by Saint Peter after the crucifixion of Jesus, an event that continued the work of the Holy Spirit to convert a pagan world to Christianity. Though we seldom hear the name of “Dorcas”, or the story of Jesus’ woman disciple, as raising Lazarus from the dead gets more ‘air time’ in most modern Christian traditions, the sacred name remained in my family for generations. Mary Dorcas Parsons was the mother of the 19th Governor of Florida ( Gov. N.B. Broward Jr. – 1905-1909). She died because of the terrible living conditions in the South immediately following the Civil War.
My Great Aunt Annie Dorcas helped save her family after the death of her father
As Annie, the widow of the US Senator elect Napoleon Bonaparte Broward Jr., struggled to feed and house nine children, the first daughter of Annie Douglass and Napoleon Bonaparte Broward Jr. was her mother’s best friend and closest ally. Her mother would need her daughter’s legal skills to navigate after 1910 when her husband died of a gallbladder attack. Napoleon Bonaparte Broward Jr. had many friends and many powerful enemies. Blessed with eight daughters before the birth of a son, Annie and Napoleon believed in higher education for women. Annie Dorcas went to Florida State University for Women when her mother was First Lady of Florida from 1905-1909. Her father was a towering political figure known for promoting higher education for all Floridians with the passage of the Bruckman Act in 1905*.
One of Florida’s First Women Lawyers
Their daughter was being prepared to be her father’s closest legal advisor in Washington D.C. as his ambition ran to becoming a United States Senator. Annie Dorcas graduated from Florida State College for Women and then attended the mostly male Stetson Law School in DeLand, Florida. By the time she passed the Florida Bar, her mother’s urgent needs to save the family superseded her career in law.
She married Thomas Halstead Starrett. The salary from his work helped, bringing needed groceries to feed the big family. The women had bigger problems to solve.
There was a pile of debt from Napoleon’s political campaigns, and the salvage and shipping company he co-owned with his brother Montcalm could have been taken away from Annie and her children. They had two homes, one on Church Street in Jacksonville and a summer home on Fort George Island accessible only by ferry boat. Both were in jeopardy.
Annie Dorcas’s legal skills and her mother’s fervent prayer skills were put into play as the banks attempted to seize all the property to pay off the debts. As #GirlsonthePorch is a book compiled by a family’s stories of what took place – this is what I learned from a trusted cousin who shared what had been passed down to her mother. The First Lady had family in New York, the Hutchison family.
Her family had friends in the banking world. Her immigrant grandfather William Hutchison was a lawyer when he came from Scotland to settle in New York City. There was land that might be inherited to save the family in Jacksonville, land where the Bolles Boys School was later established, land where the Jacksonville International Airport would be built. The problem for Annie Douglass was that her husband’s debts were larger than the worth of that land.
Montcalm Broward was never a fan of his brother’s Yankee wife. She had to take over of the salvage company after her husband’s death, a difficult prospect without money for support as she became the head of the company. With her daughter Annie Dorcas’s legal skills, she managed to find a bank in New York without the bankers in Florida knowing about it. The two women went to see these formidable Florida bankers and offered them pennies on the dollar for the Governor’s debts. As the banks in Florida had no knowledge of the New York banks relationship with the women, they settled the Governor’s debts. This left Annie with enough money to keep her houses, marry her daughters, and send all her children to good colleges and prep schools.
Having helped her mother navigate the difficult banking and legal challenges to get the family out of debt, Annie Dorcas Broward and her husband Thomas Starrett became pregnant. The family was jubilant. The baby would be delivered by an obstetrician at the house on Church Street.
As family members have shared the story, a large, extended family gathered on the porch in 1923. They waited for word of the birth and all eyes were on Thomas as he paced the porch. Shutters in great need of repair, flapped in the breeze. This day would become one of the worst days in Annie’s life as the news came down. There was trouble in the delivery.
Her son-in-law was soon to lose everything a man could hope for in 1923, his wife and his infant child. I do not know if the infant was a boy or a girl – only that the baby did not survive.
Unfortunately, there was no Saint Peter to raise Dorcas from the dead. In 1923, she lost her life in childbirth. She was only 33 years old. We know today that what she succumbed to was likely eclampsia following the birth of her first child. Both the mother and child died of the common pregnancy malady. The many joyous days on the porch on Church Street would be forever overshadowed by the loss of Annie Dorcas Broward Starrett, one of Florida’s first women lawyers, to the awful perils of giving birth.
Annie Douglass Broward would go on to outlive two of her daughters. My grandmother would die of pancreatic cancer at 47 in 1943 during WWII. This was after losing her son as he trained to fight in Europe. Perhaps the only consolation in her husband’s early death at 53 was not having to live through the loss of their children in his lifetime.
*From Wikipedia “The University of Florida served as the institution for white men; the Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes (the future Florida A&M University) served African Americans, and the Florida Female College, later named the Florida State College for Women (the future Florida State University) served white women. A fourth school provided specialized training and education for the deaf and blind (the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind).
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.”
In my decade long research for my historical fiction Girls on The Porch, I traveled to Tuskegee, Alabama to meet civil rights lawyer Fred D. Gray and to Birmingham, Alabama to the archives department of the Samford Library. The Samford Library retrieved fifty boxes of historical documents from the estate of my late Aunt, Florida Broward Segrest, before the home was burned down in a suspicious fire after the deaths of the white Tuskegee couple. The family had stood with African Americans as lawyer Fred D. Gray used his immense legal talent to gain civil rights for his people. My great aunt, Florida Segrest, is featured on one of the last panels of the Tuskegee History Center a place of honor in a museum established by one of leading architects of the modern civil rights movement Fred David Gray.
Aunt Florida earned her place in the museum as she earned a place in the hearts and minds of many in Alabama for her ferocious sense of fairness and her brilliant lectures on genealogy. Florida and Fred Gray share a unique story in the history of Macon County Alabama and the nation. Florida was elected as chairwoman of the Macon County Commission as Fred Gray was beginning a law career aimed at ending segregation in his home state. Aunt Florida was not a native of Alabama. She came to the state to attend college where she met her future husband, Henry Neill Segrest. Florida was named for the state of Florida.
Legend has it that a reporter in Florida in 1904 suggested Napoleon Bonaparte Broward and his wife Annie Douglass Broward name their new daughter Florida to win more votes in the gubernatorial race. Surely the reporter was right on the mark as Broward won election despite having lost the endorsement of most of the major newspapers in Florida the year he ran for chief executive. Aunt Florida’s life would honor the name of the family and the name of her native state.
Interviewing Fred D. Gray in his office at the Gray Law Center in Tuskegee has been one of the most important interviews in my research for #girlsontheporch. “I served as the lawyer for the Macon County Commission when Florida Segrest was the chair of the commission,” Fred Gray explained. I visited his law firm in 2018 accompanied by my family members and my late Aunt Florida’s only surviving son, Stephen Segrest, along with a close friend of the family and long time South Alabamian, Jimmy McGhar. I hoped to come away with a better understanding of why my family members actively supported voting rights for African Americans by standing against the white segregationists.
I knew my late aunt was influenced by her parents to confront injustice. She wanted to go to Africa to teach after earning a college degree. She ended up teaching children in the foothills of Appalachia, where extreme poverty afflicted the youth of Alabama’s isolated white mountain people. Marrying into an established Alabama family, the Segrest family, would be a challenge when the couple began supporting Black voting rights.
Aunt Florida and her husband, lawyer Henry Neill Segrest, raised five sons – Henry Neill Jr., Douglas Broward, Donald Hutchison, Allan Duncan, and Stephen Graham – in a city that became the epicenter for an historic voting rights case Gomillion versus Lightfoot. Fred Gray told us that Florida’s husband, Henry Neill Segrest, was the only white lawyer in Tuskegee to stand with the civil rights lawyers. White Alabama leaders from some of the oldest families in the state were standing against their neighbors, including Clifford and Virginia Durr and Henry Neill and Florida Segrest, in supporting greater voter participation of their neighbors in Tuskegee. The historic US Supreme Court Case was won by Fred D. Gray in an unanimous decision. Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter overturned the practice of gerrymandering, thereby abolishing the political lines that had been drawn to exclude Blacks from voting in the city of Tuskegee.
The decision came after a tumultuous time in Aunt Florida’s and Uncle Henry Neill Segrest’s time, as their African American neighbors were boycotting the white merchants in downtown Tuskegee because voting lines drawn by state lawmakers kept them from voting in city elections. The gerrymandering case came after Fred Gray had successfully represented Rosa Parks in the Bus Protest and had brought litigation to strike down segregation laws in Alabama. In February 1961 U.S. District Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. granted the motion brought by Fred Gray, enjoining the state from drawing the political district in Tuskegee to exclude the famed Tuskegee University and other Black voters.
My visits to Alabama on behalf of the descendants of Florida Governor, Napoleon B., and his wife, Annie Broward, have revealed the progressive leadership of the family since the Civil War. The shame of slavery – like the many sins afflicting humanity – has brought about great suffering. This includes the deaths of men from the North and the South. There were more than 1.5 million casualties’, deaths and life changing injuries, in the 19th century when my great grandparents were born. Annie in the North. Napoleon in the South.
Rebuilding the nation without a plan and the assassination of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, led to segregation and personal hardship for many families throughout the nation. In Deep South cities like Tuskegee, Alabama, historic relationships were born. This includes the friendship of my late Aunt Florida Douglass Broward Segrest and Civil Rights attorney Fred David Gray.
The Broward/Segrest family is one of largest in the descendants of Napoleon and Annie. My own family, the Broward/Hardee family, is the largest. My grandparents, Enid Lyle Broward and Lucius Augustus Hardee were blessed with seven children, including my late father, Randolph McKee Hardee Sr. My father was influenced by his mother’s sister, Aunt Florida, in the work to bring about inclusion of African Americans in the Deep South. My father founded a company selling Black History books and the “I Have a Dream” Album in Jacksonville, Florida.
Dad trained an all-Black sales force of young men who worked to bring about greater knowledge in the African American homes of their own ancestors and their many accomplishments in this nation. Dad also founded SAA, the Southeast Automobile Association, which sold car insurance to the African American community often denied insurance by other companies.
In the Segrest family, the work for integration was a prized value passed onto all the sons of Henry Neill and Florida Broward Segrest. Henry Neill Segrest Jr., the eldest son of Henry Neill and Florida would continue to work for the Civil Rights of all people by preaching a message of justice and equity to his congregants in the Presbyterian Churches of Tallassee and Montgomery, Alabama. His identical twin brother, Douglas Broward Segrest, was a federal prosecutor and confronted Governor Wallace on the steps of the Tuskegee Schoolhouse when Wallace attempted to block desegregation.
The first memories most of us have as humans is the early touch of our mother’s arms, the smell of her breasts, the nourishment of her milk and perhaps the color of her eyes. While these are not conscious memories, they are the first moments of life – imprinting history, heritage, and hopefully one of the most powerful loves we will encounter in a lifetime.
My great grandmother, Annie Douglass Broward, did not have those memories. She was robbed of the touch of her mother by the sting of death from childbirth. Margaret Annie Douglass died March 30th, 1867, just 17 days after the birth of Florida’s future First Lady. After 166 years, we have finally found the grave of Annie’s mother buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn New York.
The search for her grave started on a snowy day in Manhattan. I grabbed a bus with my husband Bob, and we made our way to the genealogy department of the main branch of the New York Public Library; a library we only recognized from the movie “Ghostbusters.” The day was historic in truly busting open the ghosts of my great grandmother’s past. The genealogist who helped me at the library told me my great great grandmother Margaret Annie Douglass had died the same year my great grandmother was born!
“How could that be?”, I thought, as I knew there was a woman named Effie*, whom I always believed to be the mother of Annie. If I had not come to New York City to visit my daughter in Brooklyn, I might have remained in the dark about the death of Annie’s mother. I was shocked in 2017 to learn of her death. Heading back to the subway, I found myself mourning for her as I imagined Annie must have mourned for her mother all her life.
My daughter Anna was given her name when she was born in 1985 in Berkeley, California to honor the First Lady of Florida. Now my daughter was living in New York City, in Brooklyn, at 5th Avenue and Douglass Streets. Imagine leaving JFK and asking the cab driver to take you to your daughter’s new apartment and discovering the address was at Douglass Street.
Anna was director of interactive content for the Hearst luxury magazine chain, a formidable job she had landed just a few years after graduating from USC in Los Angeles. Later that day, my daughter Jessica joined us as we went to Anna’s work in the famed Hearst building. Jessica had also lived in NYC while working as a soap opera actress out of high school on a famous daytime drama “Guiding Light.” This day felt like a guiding light as we asked the cab driver to take us to 57th and 8th Avenue.
Wait, at the New York Public Library I had learned my great grandmother was born at the home of her Scottish immigrant grandparents at 179 8th Avenue. So many coincidences! Now, Anna was living at Douglass Street and working on 8th Avenue. Perhaps our immigrant grandmothers were channeling us? I was certainly feeling a sense of destiny.
Annie spent her early years growing up at 179 8th Avenue. She was raised by Margaret and William Hutchison, who had immigrated to New York City from the Orkney Islands of Scotland. My father, Randolph, had told me of his grandmother’s pride in her Scottish heritage.
While Annie Douglass looks sophisticated and prosperous in her early photographs at six and again at thirteen–taken by well known NYC photographers–I now had knowledge of the emptiness she must have often felt never knowing her own mother. Perhaps that is why she was channeling us, her descendants, this day in New York City.
A year later Anna and her husband Tyler would have a baby boy and name him Beau Emerson Lyle at NYU on May 27th, 2018. They would bring him home to 5th and Douglass Streets, completing a circle in his American heritage in NYC that goes back to the birth of Margaret Annie Douglass in 1840 at 179 8th Avenue.
Alexander Mitchell Douglass was a member of the ancient Order of the Thistle. He was first generation Scottish American born in New Bern, North Carolina. His father, Henry Mitchell Douglass, was born in Scotland and drowned in the Florida Keys during a hurricane. His mother died shortly after.
Alexander Douglass was given to the custody of an aunt who brought him to New York City. While in New York City, he met Annie’s mother, Margaret Anne Hutchison, through the Masons. The Scottish immigrants joined the Masons in the early and mid 1800’s to help one another and met future wives and husbands through the order. The families were also tied through the Presbyterian churches which had their roots in the Church of Scotland.
After the 1910 death of his son in law, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, Annie’s father helped her with the children and through her grief from the loss of her beloved Napoleon. Alex and Annie were close, beginning with her teenage years when she came with him from Cape May, New Jersey to Jacksonville, Florida in October of 1884.
The Hutchison family of New York City were very disturbed when Alex took Annie to the South with Effie, Alexander Jr., and Elsie Douglass. They had lost Annie’s mother, Margaret Anne, when she gave birth to Annie in 1867. They raised Annie into her teens, making sure she was a well educated and proper city girl. She dreamed of going to Vassar as a New York teen, an aspiration her Hutchison family would gladly have supported.
In 1880, when Annie was only 13, Captain Douglass moved her to Cape May, New Jersey where he captained a beautiful schooner which transported Philadelphia’s wealthiest families to Cape May for summer vacations.
The Hutchison’s spent a great deal of time in Cape May, as they had raised Annie from birth, while Alexander left to find a new wife, and did not want to part from her. At the age of 17, Annie would be forced to say her goodbyes when she finally left the North for the South.
As a daughter of the Civil War, this was a huge move for Annie. Her father and grandfather supported the Union Army, you see. Her mother was buried in Cypress Hill Cemetery in Brooklyn, right along with the Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners who lost their lives in the war between the States. 600,000 men had died. Another million had been maimed.
How would Annie be received in the Deep South, where the wounds of war still ran very deep?