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A History of the Breese Family

A Pastorale by Kathryn Grace Breese

Chapter XII

The Passing of the Third Generation

 The change that was now forced upon James Harris and Rebecca came rather as a relief. They still had their money and Harris had been taught back home in his youth, under the guidance of his uncle, the business of a saddler. He still knew it well, though he had not given it a thought since he had been a boy. He would go south, to a new settlement though which the railroad ran and was making frequent stops, set up in business for himself, which his slender means would easily allow, and anyway, six growing children must be provided for and the town was the place for them-not the country. Accordingly, he bent his energy in this direction, but ere these now projects were accomplished he was called to the deathbed of his father. Old Bailey, of happy youth, was at last about to join the great majority. His time was up and on a winter's day in 1859 his funeral train passed over the frozen ground to the sound of the tolling bell which pealed out for him, for the last time. He had lived almost seventy-seven years, the early ones of which had been passed in a happy-go-lucky existence, the one in the family beloved by all. Mother, sisters, wives, all had contributed to his comfort and while he accepted their service rather as a matter of course, still his career shows hi, to have been of a gentle and lovable character.

In all, he possessed a happy disposition, full of cheer with plenty of mirth and a kind word for everyone. That he took like easy and perhaps let chances slip, for want of keener perception which he seems not to have possessed, is not so much his own fault as the fault of his rearing. He never learned to stand unpropped. His road was made too smooth and the pricks and the stings which arouse and annoy a man and right hi, and set his squarely on the ground in fighting attitude were lacking. Bailey was no fighter, he just loved his wives and his children and was good to them and let the rest of the world turn around the sun as it pleased.

We have found a book on early history of Lee County, Illinois, in which our little Paw-Paw is given some space. In it we read that Mr. Bailey Breese was one of the "first settlers" arriving in the autumn of 1841; that he had been a "speculator in the East", though what he speculated in or on, our researches have failed to reveal; that he was "public spirited" and "very influential in shaping affairs at the Grove", the word "Grove" having been in use before the place received its name; that he was a man of "fine education" which, we know to be thanks to Dr. Finley; that "most of the village was built on Mr. Breese's property." So much space he occupies in history.

We know that his home was the second one built in the place, that he lived in it eight years as a widower and that the last nine years of his life were spent happily with his third wife. The book goes on to state that "Mr. Breese having at one time four hundred dollars in ready cash, a tender of forty acres lying on Lake Michigan in the town of Chicago, where was situated the Bull's Head tavern, which was the headquarters of all so-called drovers of that day, was made him for this sum of money; that he obtained the refusal of this piece of land and went to Chicago to look it over, returning home to deliberate the matter. To the utter chagrin of his posterity we are forced to record that this good but short-sighted ancestor allowed himself to be persuaded that Paw-Paw was to be preferred and so this little sum was invested in enlarging his farm. Horribile dictu!

Alas, it is now too late to lament, neither do we intend to do so. I would be unbecoming in us at this late day to cast any slur upon the better judgment of a man who lies under the sod already these sixty-three years, for failing to perceive chances which , to us, seem in the light of subsequent events so manifest. It is one thing to look back upon mistakes, where the vision is as clear as a pool of limpid water, and quite another to attempt to foresee the future into which none of us may enter. That we, ourselves, are at this moment letting just such chances slip is a thing that our descendants may also some day set down on paper and we hasten to put in here a plea for their indulgence at our want of a more acute perspicacity.

It certainly cannot be attributed to old Bailey that those of his flesh and blood are today not counted among the wealthy of this land. That is entirely an affair in their own hands. We go further and maintain that there is no credit to be had in reposing in ease and comfort upon laurels gathered before we were a part of this human machine. Just because a man is lucky enough (and luck plays the greatest role in such transaction) to acquire what the world calls riches from which his children's children draw, for indefinite periods the results, having done nothing to deserve them, is to our mind a distinct flaw in the social fabric as it stands. Combinations which foster and nourish idleness, dull all natural talents and so, much that is born to shine remains forever covered with a frost of inactivity which blights the buds of skill lying dormant in brains that were made for better things.

No, Bailey, rest in peace; repose to thy ashes; we step for a moment out of our path to waft a sigh, not of sorrow, not of joy, rather of satisfaction that you came, tarried and departed, just no one in particular, forming a link in that endless chain which is sometimes studded here and there with marvelous embellishments but which could not, however, stand the strain in this mighty cable of time where such simple hoops as thine not there to hold them together.

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