The Men & Women Who Built Lehi: Broadbent daughter leads store through mission, typhoid outbreak
Lara M. Bangerter | Lehi Historical Society and Archives
Editor’s Note: The last two weeks’ columns featured Joseph Lees Broadbent, founder of Broadbent & Son, and Joseph Samuel Broadbent, the “Son” of Broadbent & Son. This week’s column features Geneva Rebecca Broadbent, the daughter who ran the store for two years from 1896-1898.
When second-generation Broadbent, Joseph Samuel, was called on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saintsto Manchester, Great Britain, in 1896, he told his younger sister, Geneva, he would not go if she would not take over his responsibilities in the family store.
Although their father and founder of Broadbent’s Store, Joseph Lees, was alive and well, Joseph Samuel handled the business side of the endeavor. Joseph Lees focused on jewelry and clock repair. Because Geneva had functioned as a full-time clerk in the store since 1889, when she was 16 years old, she was the woman for the job.
In 1892, during the “Gay Nineties,” Geneva established a popular millinery on the department store’s first floor where women could buy the latest hats, trimmings, ribbons, feathers and balmorals. Additionally, there was a photography studio upstairs where the women could be photographed wearing their beautiful purchases.
Though Geneva was contemplating marriage, the 23-year-oldtold her brother, a husband and father of four, to serve the mission. She would do her best. Lehi historian Richard Van Wagoner quoted Geneva in a Yesteryear article, “It was now my responsibility to do the buying, selling, bookkeeping and running the millinery department. Also, to see that Joseph[Samuel’s] family of five was taken care of and then necessary money sent to [Joseph Samuel] each month, and incidentally to see that father, stepmother, and I had some of the necessities of life.”
At one point, while Joseph Samuel was on his mission, many members of the Broadbent family were stricken with typhoid. With death looming and no customers, as everyone was afraid to enter the store for fear of contracting the disease, Geneva wrote in desperation to her brother to please come home. It was the only time in the 135-year history of Broadbent’s Store that it closed for such circumstances.
Months later, when disaster had been diverted, no one had died,and the store was back up and running, Joseph Samuel’s replycame—all will be well and stay open. To this, Geneva exclaimed, “That was easy for you to say!”
Geneva Rebecca Broadbent was born on Aug. 7, 1873, in Lehi. The sixth of eight children to Joseph Lees and Sarah Ann Dixon Broadbent, she was one of four to live to adulthood. She was tenwhen her parents established Broadbent and Son at the northeast corner of 100 North and 100 East, where the new police station stands today. Like many Broadbent children after her, she grew up in the store.
On Dec. 21, 1899, she married Lehi farmer Benjamin Cornelius Lott in the Salt Lake Temple. The couple made their home at 20 S. 300 N. and had seven children. According to her obituary, she was an active member of the LDS Church, serving as a Relief Society secretary and Sunday School teacher.
She died at age 80 on Aug. 7, 1953, and is buried in the Lehi City Cemetery.
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