In 1764, nine-year-old François Brouard stepped off the schooner at what is now Charleston, S.C., after a two-month voyage from France. He could not possibly imagine the journey that was yet to come.

His Huguenot family fled France to avoid religious persecution, transporting this boy to a British colony that was itself struggling for freedom. Little could young François have known then that he would fight in a war for American independence; that he would move his family to Spanish territory (a barely inhabitable wilderness known as “East Florida”); or that he would begat a litany of descendants so outrageous that someday someone would write a book about them.

By 1800, François Brouard was Francis Broward, and he came to Florida because the Spanish government was giving away free land to lure settlers. Like other pioneers, Francis saw that the quiet beauty and vast potential of this land outweighed the perils of life on the frontier. He raised a family, three boys and a girl, and made sure they received a good education. He imbued them with a love of the land and an affinity for the rivers and streams, the marshes and the ocean that surrounded their watery world. His children and their children and their children would become owners of vast tracts of this land and would use its waters to run sawmills and carry their boats to the rivers and the sea. Over the next century they would fight for this land in wars, and then they would fight their government to keep it from being taken away. (In the end, they also fought among each other over the land.)

Another hallmark of the Broward family from the beginning has been its cast of strong and colorful characters. Not just Congressmen, Senators, and a Governor, but this family has known snake-oil salesmen, guerilla fighters, prisoners of war, gun runners, inventors, teachers, post officers, and poets. Francis’ granddaughter created Florida’s flag at the outbreak of the Civil War. His great, great, great grandson flipped over Frank Lloyd Wright’s bulldozer.

The Broward family is one of the oldest, largest, and most famous families in Florida. Befitting such an extraordinary clan, this is not an ordinary book. At the heart of this volume are the stories and history taken from over 400 handwritten letters and documents, a precious collection of faded script that the author has painstakingly deciphered during the course of a half century in preparing for this book. There is an eloquent diary, which follows a young soldier through eight months and five major battles of the Civil War. There is a booklet, published here for the first time, for which a person could have been killed for possessing it in those turbulent days after the Civil War. There are love stories and poems, triumphs and tragedies. A major character in this book is the family tree, a twisting, branching tangle that is breathtaking in its scope and complexity.

This book, like this family, spans the amazing history of Florida.



© Robert C. Broward