William Henry Broughton (1866-1954), Abilene’s “Piano Man”

broughton-brothers-snow

Broughton Brothers in the Snow on Broadway

William Henry Broughton was born in Warren County, Pennsylvania on April 16, 1866, the second of eleven children born to William Henry and Mary Jane McCoy. When a small child, his parents came to Kansas and homesteaded near Morganville in Clay County. Broughton came to Abilene in 1888 and with his brother Richard L. Broughton, opened a music store in the J. S. Kelley’s jewelry store that September. For five years prior, the Broughton Brothers were musical instruments merchants in Clifton and Clay Center. The music store specialized in the selling of pianos and was located in a wood framed building on the east side of the 300 block of N. Broadway.

The Broughton Brothers music store soon became successful by carrying pianos, organs, small instruments, and sewing machines along with repair and tuning services. In 1891, they moved from the Broadway location to a larger space in the Brady Block at the northwest corner of 3rd and Cedar, currently known as the United Trust Building. The Broughton brothers were also involved in farming and livestock with their father, prior to his death in 1899.

In 1894, Broughton Brothers dissolved and William formed the Broughton Music Company, which continued the business as it was in the Brady Block location. Richard relocated to Clay Center and once again opened a music store there and later expanded to Manhattan. In 1895, William bought the Abilene Cycle Companies stock and offered bicycles for sale or rent. At the same time, Clement R. Pleiser’s shoe company opened up in the basement of the music store. Mr. Pleiser would later engage in piano sales. Also in the fall of 1895, several Abilene businessmen created the Salina Music Company and opened a store in downtown Salina with William as general manager.

William Henry Broughton 1

William Henry Broughton

In June 1903, the music store moved to the Perring Building (115 NW. 3rd), which is most recently the Etherington Real Estate Office, which also housed the Joe Badger transit company and J. W. Farley’s real estate office in 1906. In the basement was The Smoke House Billiard Hall. By 1907, the music store was named the Olney Gaston music store with William’s brother, Fred Broughton, as manager. That same year, Richard Broughton, along with Fred, established a competing music store in Abilene, which was located in the old furniture

and carpet store owned by J. A. Tufts (313-315 N. Broadway), which is currently occupied by Countrypolitan Antiques.

The new business was merged with the Olney Gaston Music Store. At the time, F. R. Grubbs was hired as manager of the new music store. Just one month after opening the new business on Broadway, William bought out Richard’s interest. In September of that year, Miss Ella Berry opened a millinery shop in half of the music room. In May 1918, William sold the business to Chris Bath, who was a well-known organ repairman. However, he purchased the business back in February the following year. At this time he also engaged as a real estate agent for C. C. Wyandt. In 1920, he sold part of the business to his son-in-law, Roy Dahnke, who had been associated with the business for many years. During this time the store moved to 206 N. Broadway, where Twisted Scissors is today.

William was married in 1892 to Myrtle Belle Carpenter, a daughter of Samuel and Emeline Carpenter, who operated the Carpenter Boarding house near Spruce and 1st Street during the early cattle drive days. It is said that when Myrtle was born in 1871, Wild Bill Hickok was a lodger at the boarding house and upon seeing the newly born girl, told her parents to name her “Myrtle Belle”. The Broughton’s had four daughters: Ruth (Dahnke), Mary (Crawford), Nina (Young), and Willa.

In 1915, W. H. Broughton drove a new Oldsmobile 5-passenger touring car. The family lived at 308 E. Enterprise Avenue (E. 1st Street) until November 1919, when they moved into their newly constructed bungalow house at the southwest corner of 1st and Buckeye.  William retired from the music business in 1923, and by 1928 lived in Grant Township to devote his time to farming. He had a 230 acre farm 4 miles southeast of Abilene.

He was a past president of the Commercial Club, forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce; served as a member of the school board; and for many years was president of the Abilene Cemetery association. William was known as “the piano man” and was Abilene’s unofficial parade marshal since his love of horses and music led him to lead every parade for many years. He once estimated that he led more than 75 parades, many through the streets of Abilene. He and his brother, Charles, always furnished horses for the GAR parades and the members rode horses as long as they were able.

Myrtle Broughton died in October of 1947. William died at his home (1001 S. Buckeye) during the afternoon of December 5, 1954. He had been in failing health for a number of years, but his final illness was of short duration. His funeral was held at the Trinity Lutheran Church, where at the time of his death, he was the oldest member of the church at 88 years old. He is buried in the Abilene Cemetery.

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About James D. Holland

I'm a former local government planner turned real estate agent turned safety manager turned Chamber of Commerce Director, turned marketing sales representative... phew. I enjoy writing about Abilene's history, businesses, events, politics, and anything else that interests me.
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