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A History of the Breese Family

A Pastorale by Kathryn Grace Breese

Preface

 

Stop and Consider! Life is but a day;

A fragile dewdrop on its perilous way.

-Keats

We propose to set down here a little narrative in connection with this family chart which we have compiled for the benefit of our children.

In order to make it more intelligible and infuse into it some life, which the figures in connection with the dates and names do not contain, we shall recount certain episodes which we have heard, either by word of mouth or found in books of tradition. The history shall pertain to natives of America and children of the Old Dominion.

We shall trace the male line of these people beginning with the first ones found in this country, and , particularly, follow the descendants of the fourth son down to a comparatively recent date, and we shall attempt to relate all the truths about them that have come to our knowledge; follow them from settlement to settlement; touch upon the growth of this country where it concerns them and attempt to show them as they lived, making their names take on a familiar sound, picturing them walking, breathing, working and hoping, which an inanimate sheet of paper covered with the dates of their births, marriages and deaths, however carefully worked out, fails to do.

If there are no great triumphs for us to record, there are also no great disasters, and, if we do not deceive ourselves, the general effect of this homely tale will excite at least a curiosity, if not any great interest, and those for whom it is written will certainly read on to the end.

It will be a story of a simple and an obscure people, at a time when their country was young and struggling. It will give a picture of their surroundings and will portray their activities wherever possible. It will follow them separately to the end of each of their lives, and, therefore, there will be much talk of churchyards and graves which living ones like rather more to shun than to contemplate.

But as lives have ends as well as beginnings, and as this story is chronologically based upon a few of them, we are at a loss to see how this can be avoided. Also we believe that grandeur and beauty are to be found everywhere if we know how to look for them - even in death.

We are bound to say with regret that we have very little tangible information with which to assemble these few facts. We deal with a little knot of people who were not in a position to think much of tradition, and, while they were busy making it they did little to hand down to posterity any positive assertions even as to their existence. It is an astonishing fact, too, that where we have begged only a few modest crumbs with which to compound ingredients necessary to form anything approaching completeness, we have found among a voluminous correspondence to and from connections who might be supposed to possess knowledge upon the subject a barren field. So, we resorted mostly to the grave stones and to parish registers, who spoke and gave their kindly cooperation, and, in between them, we managed to acquire enough material to build upon.

We frankly admit envying those fortunate ones who find already preserved for them portraits, letters, books and papers which make a task of this kind a delightful pastime, and we are surprised to find that it is generally those who seem to have the least interest in such a kind of work.

What would we not give for an old yellowed paper resurrected from some ancient letter box with something on it to guide us! Just a paragraph, torn or mutilated or however illegibly written, or only a line; nay, even a word would have given us a light that might easily have been enlarged upon. We venture to say we would not have mistaken any of these hints or forms, but could have filed in the proper coloring following closely the careful study we have make of these times, and would without difficulty have remained upon the right track.

In the absence of all this, we have drawn the earlier figures as we think they must have been, and we have made them talk and act as we think they must have done. As we approach our own times, we become more independent of missing written documents and have set down freely what we know to be positive facts, following the little there is to tell with greater ease.

We would have liked to begin these annals at an earlier date and to speak with as much detail as possible of the years prior to 1720 and to trace something of the life of these peoples' forefathers in Wales. We have had moments of great curiosity as to just who and what they were, but, distance and lack of connections have both made this quite impossible, and, as we are not destined to visit that part of the world, we conclude that we have not the time at our age to wait for a voyage we might take, but are not likely to, before committing to paper what we have already found out and know.

Let those to whom this is destined judge whether we have undertaken something that was worthwhile or otherwise. We shall now proceed.

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  Copyright 1999 by John Breese McKenzie. All rights reserved