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Family Ties | By Allison Williams

Charles Broadfoot first fought the City of Fayetteville, and when that didn’t work, he took his case all the way to the state Supreme Court.

No, he would not pay city officials the dollar they demanded for his wandering cow.

And he won.

Is it any wonder that the name Broadfoot would become something of legend? It already was. The name, with its many different spellings, dates back to the invasion of Britain by Nordic Vikings. King William’s English census of 1066 shows five Bradfoot families holding land in Yorkshire. Charlemagne was the son of Pepin “The Short” King of France and his wife Bertha Broadfoot. The beautiful Marion Bradfut was the wife of Sir William Wallace, Scottish hero and liberator. But fast forward from the times of kings and conquerors and cross an ocean to another time and place. When the Broadfoots first set foot in America, it was Fayetteville, N.C., where they landed.

Here, they would serve as soldiers, lawyers, business leaders and generations of faithful members at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Kate Huske Broadfoot faithfully taught Latin in Cumberland County schools for 45 years and four months. They include a clerk of Cumberland County Superior Court and perhaps the most colorful of them all, Col. Charles Wetmore Broadfoot, Civil War commander, state legislator, University of North Carolina trustee and the man who fought City Hall over a cow.

Always tenacious and resilient, yes, but sometimes it’s the quieter, less public stories, the ones not written down but etched into memory that tell the true story of their character. There is the family matriarch who raised five children on her own. And the crew of cousins who grew up rolling in and out of each other’s houses, back when Fayetteville was a small town. Many of the Broadfoots have since left Fayetteville for far-flung parts, but something always seems to pull them back home.

Charles “Kip” Broadfoot thought about leaving, too, but then he drove past the Cross Creek Cemetery downtown. The way the sunlight filtered through the trees reminded him of a memory from childhood. Then he saw something he had not noticed before – a large grave marker with the name Broadfoot. “If I leave,” he said recently, remembering that day, “I’ll never duplicate anywhere else what I have right here.”

It was right here where the Broadfoots first got a glimpse of life in America.

Andrew and Hetty Mumford Broadfoot left their home in Kircudbrightshire, Scotland in the late 1700s. It was around the same time that five other Broadfoot families immigrated to Ontario, Canada. They would wind up scattered around the world and all parts of the United States. In Fayetteville, the name Broadfoot would soon become intertwined with other Scottish families, the Huskes, MacRaes and Hinsdales. Charles Broadfoot set sail from Wigtown, Scotland, to Virginia. He made the journey with two dear friends, a Mr. Gillies and a Mr. Freeland. The friends settled in Petersburg, Va., but Charles settled in Amelia County. After the death of his wife, Charles decided to join his cousin Andrew in Fayetteville. He brought with him three of his children, his daughter, May Catherine, and sons James Freeland and William Gillies, named for those friends who sailed with him from Scotland.

It was William Gillies and Frances Wetmore who would become parents to that firecracker of a Broadfoot, the colonel. It’s difficult to imagine the life of Frances Wetmore Broadfoot. As the Civil War began to rage, she was a wife and mother with a husband and two sons caught up in the war’s bloody battles. Though William was a banker, not a soldier, his bank was a depository for the Confederate states – and therefore a target. William was on a bank mission when Frances wrote him in 1865, just as Fayetteville experienced Sherman’s wrath: “My Dear Husband: Your letter dated the 23rd and received tonight is the greatest comfort, and I hope before this that you have received Mr. Lilly’s letter and some of mine. I have written three times, also sent you a small bundle before you left Egypt (N.C.) containing a shirt and some cravats, which I trust you have received. You have suffered so much as much from anxiety as we have. Who but the Lord could sustain us through such troubles. If you have received any letters you have learned that our loss was comparatively small. Many of our friends have lost everything.”

And then there were the letters from her son, Charles: “Just after the moon went down (about half an hour before day) I received a volley from the rear. Colonel H. being absent, I was thrown suddenly in command. I ordered my men to cut their way through our front and to retreat on the Tarboro Road, which was done in good order. The enemy became alarmed at what they supposed was a charge made on them and fell back, firing only a few shots at us … It was very fortunate for us that we escaped capture … I have marched about 100 miles in eight days and feel quite tired but am ready to meet the enemy at any time.”

Charles Wetmore Broadfoot had interrupted his studies at the University of North Carolina to enroll as a private in the Confederate Army. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1862 and commanded a junior reserve regiment at Bentonville. Less than two months after the fight at Bentonville, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to Sherman – the war was over. Bentonville would become the subject of many an argument between historians. Some say it was the climax of the overlooked but critical Carolinas campaign, the last hurrah. Others say it was a desperate attempt, a ragtag bunch of 14,000 or so men who faced Sherman’s army of 60,000 strong. Either way, Charles Wetmore Broadfoot would remember it well and with good reason – it ranked among the bloodiest of Civil War encounters.

“It looked like a picture and at our distance was truly beautiful,” he recalled later. “Several officers led the charge of horseback across an open field in full view, with colors flying and line of battle in such perfect order as to be able to distinguish the several field officers in proper place and followed by a battery which dashed at full gallop, wheeled, unlimbered and opened fire. It was gallantly done but it was painful to see how close their battle flags were together, regiments being scarcely larger than companies and divisions not much larger than a regiment should be.”

He came home to teach and read law. He was elected to the state legislature in 1870, served as dean of the Cumberland County Bar and was elected a trustee of UNC, the school that finally awarded him the degree he was not able to complete, in 1911. He brought his bride, Kate Huske Broadfoot, to the home place his father, William Gillies, built with its wide boards made of long leaf heart pine, 14-foot ceilings and porches on front and back. Though the house is now long gone – built where Clarendon House is now – it held the distinction of being the only house in Fayetteville built and lived in continuously by the same family for more than 100 years. It housed family artifacts including the pistol of Ichabod Wetmore used in the War of 1812 and the saber of James Andrew Jackson Bradford, commander of the United States arsenal in Fayetteville and a family friend.

Hal Broadfoot Jr., a lawyer, artist and renowned birder, still has that saber. In the depths of his law office downtown, where he carries on the tradition of his father, a respected Fayetteville lawyer, are the beautiful tall wooden doors and mantelpiece pulled from the family home. They are daily reminders of the legend of Col. Broadfoot. Looking back, it sometimes seems as if he were present for every major Fayetteville decision of his era. He helped save the Market House when the federal government wanted to raze it for a new post office in 1906. He rallied townspeople to the cause on the eve of World War I. He delivered the centennial address at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

And would it surprise you that he dined on bear? From the archives of the Fayetteville Observer comes this nugget: “J.D. Jessup of Beaver Dam dropped off ‘souvenirs’ from a bear he had caught, including ‘one of the hams he presented to Col C.W. Broadfoot, who is very fond of bear steak.’”

And then there was the tussle over the cow. In 1897, the colonel’s cow wandered from the limits of Haymount and into the city, where it was promptly arrested and locked up in the city cow pound. An 1895 law set penalties for cattle running at large in the city. City residents were fined $1 while non-residents living within a mile should pay 25 cents. Broadfoot lived on top of Haymount hill nearly a mile from the town boundary so he offered the city a quarter. When the city refused it, the case went to Superior Court. Broadfoot won. The city appealed. And finally, in a six-page opinion, Broadfoot won again.

It’s fitting then that the chief justice of that court, an old friend, should write a letter of condolence to Broadfoot’s widow in 1919. “A gallant soldier, a Christian gentleman, a noble man and a patriotic citizen has passed to his reward,” Walter Clark wrote. “His departure will leave a vacancy not only by your fireside, but in the hearts of his many friends throughout North Carolina.”

There’s not a great-grandchild who hasn’t once wished they had known the colonel. Kip Broadfoot is one of them. He is one of a long line of Charles Broadfoots. His father built the Broadell Homes neighborhood with Charlie Cogdell, hence the name. The subdivision was one of the city’s first middle-class subdivisions that welcomed black families. Charles Broadfoot became a developer, a departure from a long line of lawyers.

It was his father (Kip’s grandfather) who served as clerk of Cumberland County Superior Court. Polio left him with a leg brace for life, but it did not hold him back from presiding over much of the court’s legal affairs. His children would recall that he could out walk, run and ride even the most energetic of his offspring. But it’s possible that he was outshined by his wife. Frances Walker Broadfoot may have married into the family, but she certainly carried on the clan’s wicked sense of humor.

Kip Broadfoot remembers that his father once visited his grandmother at Highland House nursing home. He wasn’t much of a visitor and so, on a rare stop by his mother’s room, he found a cartoon pasted to the door. It depicted a man sitting in his easy chair, reading the newspaper and saying, “Oh my God, Mother died.”

Charles and Frances Broadfoot owned a mountain home in Montreat. The Broadfoots, staunch Episcopalians, were practically surrounded by Presbyterians who flocked to the nearby retreat center. As families walked back from church one Sunday afternoon, some passersby noticed the Broadfoot boys playing cards on the porch. They shouted up to Frances, asking her if she had given the boys permission to play cards on the Lord’s day. Her response, according to Hal Broadfoot Jr., would go down in family lore. “Hell no,” she shouted back, “I made ‘em!”

Imagine the stories these cousins swapped. Their patient mothers ferried them from home to school to sports. Kip’s mother Katherine, nicknamed Mouse, was close friends with his Aunt Kate. They once took their boys to visit preparatory schools in Virginia and got snowed in. There was so much snow that Katherine couldn’t see the hotel swimming pool. She nearly drove straight into it with Kate inside the car.

Today, Kate Broadfoot Holmes Slater is one of the last keepers of the Broadfoot history. She lost her husband, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., at a young age. His father opened an electrical contracting business on Hay Street in 1908. Now, as Holmes Electric celebrates its 100th anniversary, it remains on Hay Street, known for its security systems and gift shop. When Holmes died, Kate was left to raise five small children. But this saga ends with another love story. When her children were grown, Kate married a long-ago sweetheart, John Slater. They moved to New York for his job as vice president of McGraw-Hill Publications.

But like many Broadfoots before her, Kate Slater came home. She still meets at least one of her girlhood friends for lunch occasionally, perhaps downtown, not far from where her grandfather, Col. Charles Broadfoot, once practiced law on “Pumpkin Row” and sometimes composed poetry for his own sweetheart.

And it’s possible, just maybe, that one of his poems might come to mind.

Charles Broadfoot was a lawyer

Of credit and good name,

Who had an office in Pumpkin Row,

Where all his clients came.

Charles Broadfoot said unto this dear:

“Since married we’ve grown old;

Yet for our vinegar we’ve had

No vessel that would hold

On this our Sixteenth wedding day

If you will have a mind

To untie the bundle I give you,

A couple you will find.”