Van Tassel

Cupid’s Arrow —> William H. Brodhead

Cupid in a Wine Glass, oil painting by Abraham Woodside, 1840s, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (Wikimedia - expired copyright - in public domain)

Cupid in a Wine Glass, oil painting by Abraham Woodside, 1840s, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (Wikimedia: in public domain due to exp. copyright)

In early 1893, William Hall Brodhead, 35, was a very busy guy who may have already resigned himself to a life of bachelorhood, whether by default or by design. He was living and working in Wilkes-Barre (Luzerne Co., Pennsylvania) and was one of the most well-known and established coal operators in the area. William was from a very prominent Pennsylvania family–Daniel Dingman Brodhead (brother of my 2nd great grandfather Andrew Jackson Brodhead) and Mary Ann Brodrick were his parents; Garret Brodhead and Cornelia Dingman, and Irish immigrants James Brodrick and Elizabeth Dogherty — his grandparents. (All the Brodheads mentioned in this post were descendants of Daniel Brodhead and Hester Wyngart, original Pennsylvania Minisink Valley settlers.)

Portraits of the Heads of State Departments and Portraits and Sketches of Members of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, 1893-1894 compiled by Wm Rodearmel (Harrisburg, PA: E.K. Meyers Printing House, 1893)

Major William Hall Brodhead. Credit: “Portraits of the Heads of State Departments and Portraits and Sketches of Members of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, 1893-1894” compiled by Wm Rodearmel (Harrisburg, PA: E.K. Meyers Printing House, 1893); expired copyright

Daniel D. and Mary Brodhead had nine children between 1848 and 1870, and William was child no. 5. Two of his older siblings (James and Elizabeth) and one of his younger siblings (Alice) died young. Oldest brother Henry and younger brother Albert were still bachelors, at 45 and 25, respectively. Baby of the family Emily was 22 and also yet unmarried. Robert, age 32, may have been between marriages. His first wife Susan Amelia Shoemaker, a descendant of Elijah Shoemaker, died shortly after their marriage. He remarried Minnie Stafford of Rome, Georgia, and they started having children in 1896. So, at this point — early 1893 — the only one who had splashed out into post-marriage parenthood was fourth-born, 37-yr-old Daniel Dingman Brodhead, Jr. It looks like he and wife Leonora Hubbard had two of their five children by then: Clement P. and Charles R.. Baby Maude H. (b. 1893) may also have put in her appearance by then.

Any thoughts of competition between the Andrew Jackson (A. J.) Brodhead family and Daniel Dingman (D. D.) Brodhead families with regards to producing grandchildren must have vanished quickly. The two families were very large — A. J. and wife Ophelia had 10 kids between 1843 and 1864. By early 1893, A. J.’s & Ophelia’s kids had produced roughly 30 grandchildren for them, a ten-fold advantage over D. D. and wife Mary’s offspring.

But, back now to William Hall Brodhead. He was a busy guy professionally at this stage as evidenced by his biography published in Portraits of the Heads of State Departments and Portraits and Sketches of Members of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, 1893-1894 by E. K. Meyers Printing House of Harrisburg (p. 208; I have highlighted the most relevant details in bold):

WILLIAM HALL BRODHEAD was born in the Seventh ward of Philadelphia in 1857. In 1873 removed with his family to Mauch Chunk and from that place into the Wyoming Valley region. Since that time has been engaged about the mines in various capacities. He is a direct descendant of Captain Daniel Brodhead, of the British army, who came to this country in 1664 for the purpose of protecting British interests in the Dutch settlement, and settled on the Hudson river. Two of the Captain’s grandsons came over into Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania, and one of them, Daniel Brodhead, who died in 1754, is now buried in the Moravian cemetery at Bethlehem. His son, Daniel Brodhead, was on Washington’s staff, and the first surveyor general of Pennsylvania. So it will be seen that the subject of this sketch comes from good old revolutionary ancestry. He received his education in the public schools of Philadelphia. Had never held any political office before moving to Wilkes-Barre in 1890, though had taken a lively interest in politics. Six month after moving to the above mentioned city he was delegate to the Luzerne County convention. In 1892 he was elected to the Legislature on the Democratic ticket and ran 350 votes ahead of President Cleveland in his district. He was put on the Committee on Military Affairs, Corporations, Judiciary, Local and Retrenchment and Reform. He introduced a bill creating a Mining institution for the purpose of educating young men in the several branches of mining, to better fit them to become foremen and fire bosses ; also a bill for the purification and improvement of the water supply in the Wyoming Valley ; also a bill providing for the repeal of an act which requires the tax collector of Wilkes-Barre to be appointed, and providing that the office shall become an elective one, to be filled by the votes of the people and bill providing that the funeral expenses of paupers shall be paid by the county, instead as now by the poor district in which such indigent person had a residence. Mr. Brodhead takes a very active interest in the National guard and is now the senior captain of the Ninth regiment. He and his boys did service at Homestead last fall for five weeks. As will be seen by the number and character of the bills he has presented, he takes a lively interest in affairs affecting his constituents, and attends well to the duties devolving upon him as a member.

William was an officer in Pennsylvania’s Ninth Regiment, National Guard, and during the summer of 1893, he attended the regiment’s annual camp. That year it was held in the town of Berwick (Columbia Co.), and ‘lo and behold, during the course of his stay there, he was introduced to Mary Jackson Van Tassel, a young lady of about 19-20 who came from a very prominent Pennsylvania family. The two developed a bit of a friendship that would blossom into something much greater weeks later when William was on a hunting expedition near Berwick and fell very ill. His prognosis was dire, and when Miss Van Tassel learned of William’s illness she went to care for him, watching over him day and night. Cupid’s arrow hit its mark and, thankfully, against all odds, William made a full recovery. Love has a habit of doing that, eh?!

William was totally smitten, and the parents on both sides, no doubt totally mortified by the age difference, worked behind the scenes to sabotage the couple’s young love. This went on for over a year until William and Mary quite obviously had enough and went behind everyone’s backs to be married in secret on December 5, 1894.

Wm Hall Brodhead, image from Wyoming Valley in the 19th Century. Art Edition by SR Smith, Vol I, Wilkes-Barre Leader Print, 1894

Wm Hall Brodhead, image from Wyoming Valley in the 19th Century. Art Edition by SR Smith, Vol I, Wilkes-Barre Leader Print, 1894


Even that day, they had been under heavy scrutiny by Mary’s mother who was completely bamboozled by Mary’s race out a back door to a taxi that whisked her away to waiting William. They fled to the Columbia County Court House for a marriage license and then sped to a Methodist parsonage where a Rev. Ferguson proclaimed them man and wife. No doubt because of William’s prominent position in Wilkes-Barre and the two families’ prominence in eastern Pennsylvania society, the marriage made it into a number of papers, including The New York Herald (you can read the article below). Amazingly, another wedding took place that day — that of William’s oldest brother Henry Conrad Brodhead. That wedding provided the perfect camouflage for William to work his plan on his side of the family. With all the Brodheads probably gone to NYC for Henry’s wedding, William was able to jump into action with no possibility of any of his detractors interfering.

After the wedding, William and Mary returned to Wilkes-Barre to await their families’ forgiveness; then they planned to head off to California for the winter.

Tragically, there was to be no happy ending for William and Mary. Whatever it was that ailed him on his hunting trip may have returned in the spring of 1895 for he passed away at home in Wilkes-Barre on 7 June 1895, just three days after his younger sister Emily’s wedding to Robert Honeyman.

But William’s legacy lived on in the form of William Hall Brodhead, Jr. who was born later that year — on 1 December 1895. And, if I’m correct, that child lived to the ripe age of 77. Major William H. Brodhead Sr. was buried in Wilkes-Barre’s Hollenback Cemetery — no doubt a very sad day for all, especially his young wife after just six months of marriage.

New York Herald, part 1 (credit: fultonhistory.com)

New York Herald, part 1 (credit: fultonhistory.com)

New York Herald, 9 June 1895 (www.fultonhistory.com)

New York Herald, 9 June 1895 (www.fultonhistory.com)

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Categories: Brodhead, Brodrick, Mauch Chunk (Jim Thorpe), Mauch Chunk Cemetery Jim Thorpe PA, Methodist, Obituaries, Philadelphia, Scandal, Van Tassel, Wilkes-Barre Luzerne Co | 6 Comments

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