From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Broadbent Building Near Cadiz, KY

German and Austrian POWs in Trigg County, Kentucky, during World War II



Broadbent building in Trigg County, KY
UPDATED February 13, 2008

We've been told by several people that this large building along Highway 68/80 east of Cadiz, KY, was built by German prisoners of war during World War II. The building's rounded corners are cited as evidence that the construction crew was German.

I assumed this to be true because I knew the government had programs that provided POW laborers to American farmers and other industries. With so many men gone to the war, America was desperate for laborers. Without support behind the lines, the war effort would fail.

I thought it likely that the prisoners came from Camp Campbell, just 20 miles southeast of the Broadbent Farm (or possibly from Camp Breckenridge, near Morganfield, KY.)

As it turns out, the story we heard and my speculations were partially correct, but several details were wrong. After I originally wrote this post, a Prairie Bluestem reader researched the story of the building with someone who remembered its construction. John wrote:

My dad says he remembers going down with the Broadbents to "Camp Campbell" and picking up those German soldiers. His dad also used German POW's on his farm. He did not remember [Mr.] Smith Jr. [Broadbent] using Germans to build the "seed house" as they called it. Mainly they worked in the fields. Most of the POW's were farmers back home and were glad to work instead of being in the stockades. They weren't allowed to pay them much; they mostly paid them in cigarettes and fed them really well. The Germans may have had something to do with the construction, but my dad didn't think they did.


John's father checked with some of the Broadbent family, and this week, John wrote again:

I finally got the scoop on the old seed house. It was built by 19 WWII POWS. They weren't German though. They were Austrian. [Mr.] Smith Jr. [Broadbent] went to Camp Campbell and picked up 40 originally, and kept 20 to work on the building. All were working out except for one of them. He happened to be the only German among those 19 Austrians, so I am sure there was a conflict there. As for the architects, they were out of Des Moines, IA. So it was definitely built by POW's, just of the Austrian persuasion rather than German.


The sign over the building's door says "Broadbent's B&B Food Products." Apparently the building was once used in the production of Broadbent Farm's famous, prize-winning hams, sausage, and bacon. Broadbent Hams was sold to new owners in 1999, but I don't think this building was included in the deal.

In our family, this building is associated forever with an unfortunate highway breakdown. A couple years after we moved here, we were coming home from a long trip to Missouri and Kansas. When we turned off I-24 onto Highway 68/80, our little VW Fox lost its ability to change gears. You can't go anywhere when your car is stuck in neutral!

We had to push the Fox off the highway into the parking lot of the old Broadbent building. Then we called our pastor. He is a kind soul; he came in his van, armed with automotive fluids and tools. When the breakdown proved too serious for a roadside remedy, he drove us home. It was a bad ending to a long, hard day of driving and a long week of traveling.

When I showed these photos to Isaac, he immediately identified it as the place where we pushed the Fox off the highway. As an afterthought, he mentioned that it was built by POWs.

POW building in Trigg County, KY

Interesting links:
German POWS in North America
German POWs in Alabama
German POWs at Camp Crossville, TN
Picture postcard of a barracks at Camp Breckenridge
Story of a German artist and sculptor who was a POW at Camp Breckenridge
Airfield at Camp Breckenridge
The War in Kentucky (online videos)
TN Encyclopedia: POW Camps in World War II

(When I find some interesting links for Austrian POWS in the U.S., I will add them.)

1 comment:

John Ruberry said...

When my late father was a boy scout, he'd see a German POW as he hiked in then-rural South Holland, IL.

He said the prisoners would always waive at them as they marched by.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
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