Messenger photo by Sandi Latimer
James Brodbelt Harris shares tidbits of information about his ancestors James and Charlotte Brodbelt during a First Saturday at Green Lawn program.
Columbus has a lot of history but, unfortunately, a lot of it has been lost, according to an eastside family who longs for some of their lost family history.
James Brodbelt Harris, a member of the board of the Bexley Historical Society, knows his ancestors, Dr. James Brodbelt and wife Charlotte, came to the United States from England around 1848.
He knows the doctor traveled back and forth to England and down to Panama.
"We know he traveled. But why would he leave his family here and cross the Atlantic Ocean?" Brodbelt asked in his First Saturday at Green Lawn presentation May 3. "We have the ship’s records that he was a passenger but there are a lot of unanswered questions. Why did he travel alone?"
Harris’ parents, Dwight and Jean Harris, were in the audience, but they didn’t have the answers. either.
The program paid tribute to James and Charlotte Brodbelt, who are buried at Green Lawn.
Harris became interested in genealogy and his family history as a child when he found the marriage license of James and Charlotte Brodbelt from the 1820s in England.
"It listed her as a spinster and him as a bachelor," he said. "Why would someone 25, 26 years old, be called a spinster? That’s what intrigued me."
His research led to him to learn that Charlotte’s family members were in the Royal Marines and served the Queen.
Brodbelt became a physician and was treating people who were suffering from cholera.
"Was that why he came to America?" Harris questioned.
There was an outbreak of cholera in central Ohio in the late 1840s that took many lives.
On one of Brodbelt’s trips to England, he was presented with an award for his work for treating those cholera patients, Harris said. The award was a gold snuff box.
"Did he use snuff?" was another question Harris has been unable to answer.
When the Brodbelts came to central Ohio, they purchased land along the National Road near the Darby Creek. A deed shows they lived on Darby Pen.
Brodbelt’s office was located at the corner of North Fourth and East Gay streets, where the Athenaeum is today.
"The next time you go to an event there, just remember that Dr. Brodbelt once had an office there," Harris said.
The Brodbelts lost a daughter and buried her in the North Graveyard, an area that gave way to the Union Station and the North Market. Many bodies once there were exhumed and removed to other cemeteries.
The Brodbelts purchased a lot at Green Lawn that opened in 1849, and reinterred their daughter’s body there.
"They probably said ‘Let’s put a fence around it,’" Harris said of the little iron fence that surrounds the lot that holds the three graves.
A fence surrounding a family lot was common in Victorian times when Green Lawn was laid out.
"A lot of cemeteries are removing them because it cuts down on maintenance," said Linda Burkey, general manager of Green Lawn. "But we retain those fences because it keeps the charm of a Victorian cemetery."
The Brodbelt family was honored in Columbus with a street named for them. Brodbelt Lane is located in the Arena District.
The Brodbelt name may have slipped into the footnotes of a history book had it not been for young Harris this past winter.
The City of Columbus had wanted to rename a street alongside the new Huntington Park in honor of Harold Cooper, who had done so much for baseball in the capital city.
"That’s when we raised our hand and asked ‘Why change a name?’ " Harris said. "The railroads are gone. The penitentiary is gone. But Brodbelt Lane is still there."
And that’s just a little piece of history that Harris has from his ancestors. He only wishes there were more.
In this important time, with the city’s bicentennial a few years away, Harris said it is an opportune time for families to put their history on paper to share with others.
First Saturday at Green Lawn is a monthly program during which someone buried at Green Lawn is recognized for their achievements and impact on life in central Ohio. Programs, which are free and open to the public, are held in the Huntington Chapel, 1000 Greenlawn Ave.
Next month’s program, June 7, will be presented by librarian Scott Caputo of the Columbus Metropolitan Library who has been doing research into the Emmett Mix family, early residents of Prairie Township and who have a street named for them.