William Chesley Pickle


Broylesville, Washington Co., Tennesee
and the Adam Alexander Broyles House

The Adam Alexander Broyles House is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C for Architecture. Located in rural Washington County, the house is located near the Broylesville Historic District (NR 3/28/1985). The two story, brick house was constructed in about 1840 and is an excellent example of the Federal style with Greek Revival elements, featuring a symmetrical façade, double-hung windows, and sidelights at the entryway. The historic full-length porch is supported by hand-hewn beams and has historic elaborately sawn spandrels and balusters. On the interior the house retains historic woodwork including door and window trim, mantels, and floors.

Adam Alexander Broyles House

Broylesville History

The once-thriving Broylesville Community is located in rural Washington County, Tennessee approximately ten miles southwest of Jonesborough. It was first settled in the 1780s by the Broyles family. By 1888, this community had a population of 300 people.

Development of the community began in 1783 when Nicholas and Cyrus Broyles purchased 840 acres of land adjacent to Little Limestone Creek. The creek would provide a good source of water power, which was extremely important for commercial development. The Broyles family, most of whom were farmers and blacksmiths, continued to purchase property in the area over the next few years. In 1797, Adam Broyles, Jr. purchased 240 acres of land. The next year, he married Rosanna Broyles, widow of Rueben Broyles. Rosanna Broyles and her son Tobias had recently purchased a house and enough land for a mill race and dam.

These land purchases put Adam Broyles, Jr. in position to further develop the nucleus of the community. While working as a blacksmith, merchant, inn keeper, and farmer, he continued to purchase land near Little Limestone Creek. He established the Broylesville Inn, which served not only as an inn, but also the local post office. Broylesville was a stop along the stage road from Abingdon, Virginia to Knoxville, Tennessee. By 1803, the Broyles Mill, a lumber and grist mill, was in operation. Between 1830 and 1840, Adam Broyles, Jr. had a store and warehouse constructed. Known as Broyles Mercantile Establishment, it was purportedly built by Willis and Spencer of Greeneville, Tennessee.

Commercial and residential development continued to grow, and by 1850, Broylesville had a population of 206. Among these residents were carpenters, blacksmiths, a wagon maker, a miller, a cooper, a saddler, farmers, laborers, a surgeon, merchants, store clerks, tailors, and shoemakers. In 1853, for reasons of indebtedness, Adam Broyles Jr. sold much of his property to his son, Adam Alexander Broyles. This property included the store, a tan yard, a saw mill, a shoemaker’s shop, a tin factory, a blacksmith shop, and two houses, one of which is the house being nominated.

The late 1800s saw the zenith and then the rapid decline of Broylesville. In 1869, a sawmill and a flour mill were built and repaired on the site of the Broyles Mill by Michael Bashor and Charles H. Swatzel. However, by 1872, Bashor sold his interest in the mill and moved away from Broylesville. Broylesville’s population was 300 by 1888. However, it was already beginning to be eclipsed in commercial importance by nearby Limestone. The post office had relocated to Limestone in 1870.

The Broylesville community declined steadily thought the early part of the 20th century, and many of the local buildings were destroyed. However, of the buildings that remained, there were very few intrusions to displace the 19th century appearance of the community. In 1985, the Broysville community was added to the National Register as a historic district. The Adam Alexander Broyles house was not inside the district boundary due to intervening non-contributing buildings, but was definitely a part of the thriving Broylesville community of the late 18th to late 19th century.

Brief History of the Property

The exact year of construction of the Adam Alexander Broyles house is not known. The 1850 census lists sixteen people as living in the residence of Adam Alexander Broyles. At that time, the house was still owned by his father, Adam Broyles, Jr. It is likely that the house was built around 1840. According to the Broylesville Historic District Nomination, the Broyles Mercantile Establishment was constructed ca. 1835. The fact that the Broyles house and the Broyles Mercantile Establishment use similarly colored bricks, the same brickwork, and have similar features is an indication that they were constructed near the same time and possibly by the same contractor. From the census, it would appear that the house was complete and occupied by Adam Alexander Broyles by 1850. Thus, it is assumed that the house was constructed after the Broyles Mercantile Establishment, but before 1850.

As mentioned previously, Adam Broyles, Jr. sold much of his real property to his son, Adam Alexander Broyles, in 1853. Included in that sale were two houses, one of which is the house being nominated.

During and following the Civil War, Adam Alexander Broyles suffered severe financial setbacks. In 1862, upon the death of his father, Adam Alexander Broyles sold the house and 154 ½ acres of land and, apparently, moved into his father’s residence, the Broylesville Inn. The house was purchased by Thomas Doyle, who lived there until 1886. At that time, Mrs. Emma K. Miller purchased the home. Mr. B. F. Parker, a railroad engineer, purchased the home in 1889 and resided there until 1908.


The Adam Alexander Broyles house is an excellent example of early 19th century Federal style architecture. Its high ceilings, large windows, detailed wood molding, matching mantles, and interior transoms are indicative of the fact that, as owners of numerous successful business concerns, the Broyles family had considerable means. The winter kitchen was maintained at the rear of the ell, adjacent to the dining room. In addition, however, there was a summer kitchen that was located at the easternmost corner of the basement.

Rooms have been added along the inside of the ell in order to accommodate modern living. Both bathrooms are in this addition. This section also serves as a hallway to provide access from the front parlor and family room to what is now the kitchen and master bedroom at the back of the ell. This has allowed the doorway between what is now the master bedroom and the kitchen (formerly the winter kitchen and the dining room) to be closed off.

According to the booklet “Broylesville, TN” prepared by the First Tennessee Development District in 1984, the Broyles Mercantile Establishment purportedly was constructed by Willis and Spencer of Greeneville, Tennessee. It is likely that the Broyles Mercantile Establishment and the home in which Adam Alexander Broyles lived were built at around the same time. It should be noted that both structures use similar bricks laid in common bond. Although there are no written records, it is commonly assumed that the house of Adam Alexander Broyles was also constructed by Willis and Spencer.

In addition to the Adam Alexander Broyles house, there are at least four other brick buildings in the area that were built in the early 1800s. Three of those structures are part of the Broylesville Historic District. All four buildings are described below to provide architectural context.

One-half mile to the southwest of the Adam Alexander Broyles house, inside the Broylesville Historic District, is the Garst House. It was constructed between 1847 and 1850, which is very close to the time when the Broyles house was built. It is a two-story, rectangular plan, vernacular house with six-over-six double-hung windows, and a porch that extends along the length of the front of the house. The porch has elaborate sawn and turned wood detailing, and ornamental brackets under the eaves. There are three interior end chimneys with corbelled caps. The house has a nineteenth century, one story brick addition to the south. Inside are blue and white marbleized plaster walls, a two run open well stairway, and original mantels. Like the Broyles house it is constructed of brick laid in common bond, with a metal sheathed gable roof.

About three-quarters of a mile to the south of the Broyles house, inside the Broylesville Historic District, is the Broyles Mercantile Establishment. It was constructed in about 1835, just prior to the Broyles house. It is a rectangular, two story Greek Revival structure. The main façade has three bays defined by four giant stucco pilasters with wood Doric capitals which support the elaborate entablature and pediment. It has a Palladian window in the gable end. The main entry is located in the center of the east façade and is composed of a double leaf paneled door flanked by frame pilasters, and a transom area that has been blocked off. There are wood lintels with Greek key design surmounted by a soldier course lintel. It has multi-paned sash windows enclosed by shutters. The rear gable is brick with wooden returns. The foundation and steps to the main entry are limestone. Like the Broyles house, it has a metal sheathed gable roof, and brick walls laid in common bond.

A mile south of the Broyles house, in the Broylesville Historic District, is the Thomas Telford house, which was built in 1815. Like the Broyles house, it is a two story, five bay, brick, Federal style house. However, its brick is laid in Flemish bond on the west (front) elevation. It has a shingled gable roof and was built using a central hall plan with a rear kitchen ell. Like the Broyles house, there are central entries on both stories with sidelights, but there is no front porch. There are lintels with bull’s-eye corner blocks. It has four interior chimneys with corbelled caps, and a brick dentiled cornice along the east façade. Windows and doors have been replaced.

Eight miles to the north-northeast of the Broyles house is the Devault Tavern (NR 6/4/1973). It was constructed between 1819 and 1821 as a stagecoach inn and tavern with some Federal elements. It is a near-square structure and measures approximately 35’ by 45’. It is two stories in height. The façade and side elevations are all five bays wide. There is a two-story original ell and a one-story ell addition, which was built ca. 1827. It has a coursed limestone ashlar foundation. The walls are brick with Flemish bond on the front façade and sawed timber trusses. There is a pedimented two-story porch that occupies the central part of the façade. The columns have a turned design. The boards trimming the second floor porch floor and third floor ceiling have segmental arch heads. The cornices on the first and second floors have millwork. The pediment is surrounded by mutules and millwork. Outside-end brick chimneys all rise high above the roof. The main door is a federal fanlight. The second floor porch door is the same but is smaller. Windows are double-hung sash windows with six over nine lights on the second floor and nine over nine lights in the first floor. It has a gable roof with a hipped south end. The ridge is parallel to the façade. The roof covering is standing seam metal. The cornice is decorated with millwork which is similar to that on the porch.

The Broyles Family

In 1717, John Broyles (Breils, Broil, Briles) immigrated with his family from Germany to Virginia. His youngest son, Conrad Broyles (or Breyel) was born in Germany in 1709 and resided for 37 years in Virginia. In 1735, Conrad Broyles married Margaret, whose last name is unknown. She bore him five children, including Adam Broyles, born in Culpeper County, Virginia in 1750. In about 1754, Conrad and Margaret Broyles moved their family to Randolph County, North Carolina, where he died in 1784.

Conrad and Margaret’s son, Adam Broyles, at the age of 20, married Elizabeth Speck in 1770. They lived for a time in Randolph County, North Carolina, and had six children, one of whom was Adam Broyles, Jr, born on October 7, 1781. Eventually this family moved to and settled in Washington County, Tennessee in the place that would become known as Broylesville.

On June 22, 1798, at the age of 16, Adam Broyles, Jr. married 28 year old Rosina (Rosannah) Broyles. Rosina had been married to her cousin, Reuben Broyles, who had died in 1796 at the age of 28. Adam Broyles, Jr. and his wife Rosina had seven children together, the youngest of whom was Adam Alexander Broyles, born May 11, 1813 in Washington County, Tennessee.

The father and grandfather of Adam Alexander Broyles were not the only Broyles to move to Washington County, Tennessee. Several other descendants of Conrad Breyel relocated to what became known as Broylesville. David, Cyrus, Nicholas, Mathias, and Simeon are the names of several other Broyles who moved to Washington County, Tennessee, mostly from Culpeper County, Virginia.

Adam Alexander Broyles

Born in 1813, Adam Alexander Broyles was the seventh child of Adam Broyles, Jr. As he matured, he apparently learned many skills from his father, which he put into use in adulthood, including those of an entrepreneur. On July 15, 1835, he married Phebe Doak Horton, who was born in North Carolina. Mr. Boyles was 22 years of age at the time, and Miss Horton was 24. Although nothing is known concerning their place of residence during the early years of their marriage, the 1840 census indicates that they had one female child under the age of six. This would have been Edmonia, who was born on April 15, 1837. Other than the three family members, the 1840 census also shows that they owned one slave.

The 1850 census lists 16 people living in his home. These include Adam Alexander Broyles (39 years), who is listed as a merchant owning $5,400 worth of property, his wife Phebe D., and his children Edmonia L. (13 years), Edwin A. (10 years), James W. (6 years), Adam C. (8 years), and Sarah (1 year). There were also nine others residing with them. Samuel J. Henly was a 22 year old male whose occupation is listed as “tailor.” A female named Mary Milburn was 23 years old and has no occupation listed. Joseph G. Murray was 22 and his occupation was, “clerk in store.” Thompson Bele was a 23 year old male laborer. Three tanners resided there, all of whom were male: 40 year old C. S. Rising, 19 year old Thomas Brown, and 24 year old Richard Patton. A 31 year old male named David Hoope was listed as a “cooper,” and a 31 year old male named Adam Payne has no occupation listed. Family children Edmonia, Edwin, James, and Adam are shown in the 1850 census as having attended school within the year preceding the census. Phebe is shown as having been born in North Carolina. C. S.Rising’s place of birth was Maryland. All others in the house were born in Tennessee. The only person for whom “color” is shown is Adam Payne, who is listed as “black.”

Adam Alexander Broyles became involved in early railroad activities in the area. The very first railroad to pass through Washington County, Tennessee was the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad. Chartered in 1849, it was constructed between 1855 and 1858 and went from Bristol to Knoxville. Adam Alexander Broyles was one of the original charter members to purchase stock in this railroad. The railroad is still in use today, and is part of the Norfolk Southern Railroad.

The 1860 census reveals that the fortunes of Adam Alexander Broyles improved significantly during the 1850s. As mentioned previously, it was in 1853 that Broyles purchased virtually all of his father’s assets, including the house for which this nomination is being made. According to the 1860 census, Broyles owned real estate valued at $41,000 and personal property valued at $110,789. By this point, he had taken over operation of the store that had been started by his father, so the value attached to his personal property was likely derived from the goods in his general store. However, although there was prosperity, there was also sadness, for in October 1851 the Broyles’ had a son who died at birth. By 1860, the census shows only seven people living in the home. They include Broyles, his wife, and five children. Although his daughter Edmonia had married Osceola Sitgreaves in 1854 and moved out, a son, Lodecus, was born in 1855.

The Civil War wrought havoc on the economy of the southern states. Although Washington County did not experience any major battles, the effects of the Confederacy’s depressed economy were felt in Broylesville as much as they were in any other heretofore small but growing community. Broyles was a merchant. When business declined, his livelihood went with it and he was forced to declare bankruptcy

Phebe, Broyles’ wife, died on March 23, 1880 at the age of 69. Between 1837 and 1855, she had given birth to seven children, all but one of whom lived to become adults. By 1880 their oldest daughter, Edmonia, had moved into the house with the four youngest of her children. Edmonia is listed a widowed in the 1880 census and her two oldest children apparently did not move into the Broyles house. Thus, the census of 1880 indicates that there were six people living in Adam Alexander Broyles house.

Before his death, Broyles was married two more times. On February 1, 1883, at the age of 68, he married 48 year old Nancy Ann Telford. She died two and a half years later. In 1888, he married 42 year old Virginia Buhrman.

Adam Alexander Broyles died on May 16, 1900. He is buried in Urbana Cemetery about two miles northwest of Broylesville. The marker, which is shared with his first wife, Phebe, is located in Section A, the area containing the cemetery’s oldest graves.


Source: "Broyles, Adam Alexander, House, Limestone, Washington Co., Tennessee
online at, visited 12 Nov. 2015


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