From Cottonwood and Smithfield weaves nearly one thousand family letters and narratives dating back to the 19th Century with a deep dive into the American history and culture they experienced.
In the early 1900s, Mabel Borden wrote in detail about the angst of her parents withholding their consent to marry J.J. Broadhurst of Smithfield, North Carolina, until he proved himself worthy. After more than a decade of courtship, her parents finally relented. And J.J. eventually founded one of the nation’s largest banks, First Citizens Bank, but not before making a midnight cash-run to Washington during the Great Depression to keep the bank open.
Mabel and J.J.’s son, Edwin Broadhurst, would eventually become the youngest Lieutenant General in the U.S. Air Force. Just hours after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Edwin was on the ground at Clark Field in the Philippines when the falling bombs destroyed the Army Air Corps base. Edwin described how he survived the attack and then spent the next year flying dangerous bombing missions against targets in Southeast Asia. After General Curtis LeMay tapped Edwin as a protégé, he quickly rose up through the ranks of the Strategic Air Command to build America’s nuclear deterrent during the Cold War.
Meanwhile, two German immigrant families, the Seuberts and Funkes, built Cottonwood, Idaho, into a thriving small town on America’s Frontier. They had fled Germany so that Otto von Bismarck would not conscript their sons into the military. But those same families were then forced to send their grandsons to fight Germany in World War I. The book follows Herman Seubert’s perilous journey through the trenches in France. More than 116,000 American soldiers never returned home, including Herman’s cousins from Cottonwood. But Herman returned home to launch the famous Camas Café, not letting his horrific experience in the war extinguish his brilliant sense of humor.
Herman’s daughter, Viola Seubert, left Cottonwood in 1938 for business school, a courageous decision for a woman at that time. Five years later, Viola met Edwin Broadhurst in Colorado Springs. But there was a problem: Viola was Catholic and Edwin was Protestant. Such a marriage was a scandalous undertaking at the time. The family letters reflect the cultural suspicions and power struggle in the 1940s and 1950s between Protestants and Catholics. Family members from Cottonwood and Smithfield describe the angst caused by the marriage.
Through his service in the Strategic Air Command, Edwin, Viola, and their children lived all over the world, protecting the United States during the Cold War. The family tried to live a normal life, but the shadow of nuclear war followed them to each new home, including a red “hotline” phone that only General Broadhurst was to answer. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Edwin did not return home for days as he planned the potential Air Force strike from the Pentagon. Then tragedy struck when Edwin died suddenly at age 49, altering the trajectory of the entire family.
From Cottonwood and Smithfield traces the Broadhurst family line back to Richard Warren, one of the passengers on the Mayflower, and the Seubert family to their arrival in America at the Port of Baltimore in 1857. The story follows the Broadhursts and Bordens through the Civil War and the Seuberts and Funkes through settling the Frontier. The experience of these courageous families from Cottonwood and Smithfield tell the extraordinary story of America.