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A History of the Breese Family

A Pastorale by Kathryn Grace Breese

Chapter IX

Changes  

As we have already said, Bailey was restless. He wanted to experiment. The ties that bound hi, to his old home were fast disappearing. Many old friends of his were far away in the west and wrote home to hi, glowing accounts of big changes out there. Tales of the rolling prairies with their virgin soil seemed to promise them a great future. He was caught up in their enthusiasm and so we see the same old process. He was touched in his turn by the everlasting spirit of adventure.

The home life had long grown tedious and he yearned for a change. He needed expansion for his growing boys. What was to become of them. Phebe had a brother, Israel Runyon, who was a saddler in the little home town and Bailey gave him one of his boys to learn the business, but for the others there seemed to be no opening.

So, as we have already said, he approached Phebe with this new idea. She was against it. "Ah, Bailey, we are no longer young. What can we do in the new country, you at 58 and I at 56? With two of our girls already married and widows, they need us here." With such entreaties she endeavored to hold him back. Cited cases where hopes were not realized, but her husband was not to be dissuaded. What! With lands out there to be had so cheap and the government offering every inducement to new settlers! Why, a dollar and a quarter buys an acre and there are thousands of acres to be had. Where was the risk in throwing in their lot with the others? Nothing risked, nothing gained and so on.

Phebe saw that she most make the venture and with sad misgivings and foreboding in her heart she bade her old friends farewell, folded her tents, as the saying goes, and stole away with her family into the wilderness, with her face turned toward the setting sun.

She never saw her old home again. But she had at least the satisfaction of being surrounded by all of her children for they accompanied her with the exception of her stepson, Bailey, Jr., who had married his cousin, Sally Whitenack, and elected to remain behind. The journey was long and wearisome, but it finally came to an end.

After many weeks, they rounded the foot of the great lake Michigan and traversed the swamps and pushed on westward nearly a hundred miles. Then, here indeed loomed up on all sides a beautiful rolling country. Bailey never tired of feasting his eyes on this wonderful scene. "Just look, Phebe, it's marvelous! No stones to dig out and roll away from the fields, no forests to fell, nothing but prairies awaiting joyfully the plough and the hand to guide it. Poor father had only me back home as help when the task was so great, but we have three sons, we shall do wonders, we shall be rich."

She thought perhaps he was right and the boys, too, were of his opinion while casting a long look over their shoulders in the direction of the land of their birth.

There was a place soon reached where two roads crossed, one going due north and south and the other straight east and west. Here was a point that was bound to become important. That new invention, the railroad, would soon find its way here and then things would advance almost in spite of them.

Here, then, their money was used to purchase land and they had the good fortune to find a congenial neighbor who had also just arrived, albeit from a different direction. They at once became friends, little knowing that they would later be related through marriage.

These two families acquired land on both sides of the road and their properties touched. Bailey set to work to build himself a house and to turn over the rich black earth which promised so much and in due time his grain wagons joined that endless caravan which stretched along the road to the east, bound for a point at the foot of the great lake Michigan that was destined to become one of the greatest grain centers of the world.

But before this, almost at the beginning, he saw with sorrow that his wife would never know whether this change was to be for the better or for the worse. Homesickness was upon her and attached with an illness peculiar to those who live on newly plowed ground; she drooped and died within the first year. Bailey, perhaps smitten with remorse at the thought of having brought her so far from her old surroundings, felt her loss greatly.

In this unsettled community, there was no church, no cemetery, nothing like home. Something had to be done, so Bailey staked out a piece of his own land for a churchyard and his newly found friend joined him in this, giving also a piece lying next to it, and thus the cemetery which was eventually to hold them all, came into existence, because homesick Phebe had died.

Her body was the first to inhabit this newly hallowed spot in the spring of 1842, Nancy and Dorothy lay a thousand miles away under the shelter of the majestic oak, but Phebe had no shade. Only the burning sun beating down upon her grave with scarcely a tree in sight. Green leaves of the corn plant waved to and fro and rustled in the wind and the bearded wheat moved in the breeze like the waves of the ocean as far as the eye could see. These were Phebe's only companions in her eternal solitude.

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  Copyright 1999 by John Breese McKenzie. All rights reserved