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Our History: The Brockman Boys of Douglas County

All three of the Douglas County Brockman boys followed their mother’s fervent desire – they all became missionaries.

During my years as a fourth and fifth grade teacher I managed to have my fair share of parent conferences. One thing remained the same no matter the needs of the child – every parent wants their children to achieve and experience certain goals and dreams.

Some parents want their child to maintain As and Bs while others have a particular college in mind and begin planning early. Some parents have smaller goals such as getting through the week without receiving a bad behavior note from the teacher.

Other parents seem to be very comfortable planning out the lives of their children including which career path they will choose. Yes, I had my fair share of parents tell me little Johnny was going to be a doctor or little Susie would be an attorney one day, and the wants of the child rarely figured into the picture.

I always had to wonder how those goals would turn out. What would happen if the child inevitably rebelled and went his or her own way? However, there are plenty of people who have their careers foisted upon them or want to please their parents so much they follow the plan. Those children seem to do just fine including the Brockman boys of Douglas County.

You probably aren’t familiar with them – they all moved away many years ago.

All three of the Brockman boys followed their mother’s fervent desire – they all became missionaries.

The Brockman story begins before the Civil War when Rev. Henry D. Wood of the Virginia Methodist Conference came to Georgia with his wife and daughter.  They took possession of Glennwood, a plantation along the Chattahoochee River which encompassed the land across from the Bullard-Henley-Sprayberry house along Route 92. Basically the cotton plantation lay on the left side of Route 92 as you head towards the river.

Unfortunately, Rev. Wood passed away in 1863 before the war’s end leaving his daughter, Rosa Emory Wood to run the plantation. His grave can be found at Campbellton Methodist Church across the river.

During July, 1864, as Sherman’s men approached Glennwood to cross the river Rosa and her mother decided to head to relatives in Virginia for the duration of the war. Rosa road out to meet Sherman’s men and explained her plight. She requested an escort to help her get to the train in Atlanta so she could leave. I wrote about that here.

My source for this story was the excellent book regarding Douglas County history compiled by Fanny Mae Davis, however, she identifies the mistress of Glennwood as “Rossleigh.” My recent research including the birth records of her children indicate her name was Rosa Emory Wood.

She spent the end of the war and the early years of Reconstruction in Virginia only returning after Glennwood had become part of Douglas County in 1870. Rosa brought along a husband when she returned named Willis Allen Brockman who had been born in Albemarle County, Virginia. His family had been long associated with the families of Presidents Washington, Jefferson and Madison.

Fanny Mae Davis indicated in her book the Mr. Brockman “purchased the farm from the Wood estate and added land to the holdings.” The Brockmans proceeded to live life and raise a family. Mrs. Davis indicates the Brockman children were educated on the farm and biography sources for all three sons – Fletcher, Whitfield, and Francis verify this. 

Times were naturally hard for large landowners following the Civil War and most sources describe the Brockman boys as having grown up on an impoverished Georgia cotton plantation, but all three achieved their mother’s dream. They were all educated at Vanderbilt University and all three – Fletcher, Whitfield and Francis – became well-known missionaries in China and Korea.

Fletcher Sims Brockman graduated from Vanderbilt in 1891 and through the Young Men's Christian Association or YMCA he acted as Field Secretary and served as a missionary. Fletcher reached China in 1898 just in time for the Boxer Rebellion, when the “Righteous Harmony Society” led an uprising opposing foreign imperialism and Christianity. Whites were referred to as “foreign devils.”

During the 25 years he spent in China Brockman and his wife, Mary, collected various relics and artifacts. Recently Vanderbilt University opened an exhibit titled “Fletcher Brockman’s Missionary Life in Asia” showcasing many of the hundreds of items the Brockmans collected including “ancient coins, a bronze mirror, Japanese woodblock prints, and a Korean horsehair handbag.” The exhibit’s webpage can be found here, and it includes an interesting biography of Fletcher as well.

Willis Allen Brockman passed away in 1898 at Glennwood. He is buried beside his and Rosa’s children who did not survive to adulthood at Campbellton Methodist Church. Rosa ended up overseas with her boys heading to China in 1904. She died at the age of 75 and is buried alongside her son Francis in Seoul, Korea.

History of the Hume, Kennedy and Brockman Families: In Three Parts  by William Everett Brockman has excellent entries for all three sons and discusses their sister, Florence De Allen Brockman who married Rev. M.L. Underwood.   Their son, Emory Marvin Underwood was born at Glennwood Plantation and grew up to become an Assistant Attorney General of the United States in 1914 and was a partner with the law firm King and Spalding.

A website detailing the history for King and Spalding, an Atlanta law firm dating back to 1885, advises E. Marvin Underwood was a partner with the firm in 1909 and during that time the firm name included the name Underwood as well….at least until Underwood became Assistant Attorney General for the United States.  Underwood was also nominated by President Hoover to serve as a Federal Judge for the Northern District of Georgia where he served until his death in 1960.

Glennwood Plantation continued to pass into the hands of others – Herman Harper in 1921 and the most recent owners were Henry and Sally Rawlins per Fanny Mae Davis.

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