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A History of the Breese Family

A Pastorale by Kathryn Grace Breese

Chapter V

The Passing of the First Generation

 Again the ever-passing years bring changes. The Brees family of the many girls and one boy were a marrying family. We think the girls possessed charm. They inherited it from their mother. So, from the end of the eighteenth century onward for a decade, joyful wedding bells rang out for them again and again.

Such commotion as this brought. There were, of course, evening parties and country dances and laughter and song (how we wish one of those songs had been preserved to us) and we marvel at the cutting and fitting and trimming of endless numbers of garments which went on in order that bride after bride might be adorned.

Old John and Dorothy saw some of these festivities and extended their blessings many times to these pretty grand-daughters fluttering away to homes of their own. The household instead of always augmenting, began now to perceptibly diminish. But there were always some left to keep up with the gaiety and Nancy and Stephen enjoyed principally this season of their lives. First went Sally who married Thomas Whitenack and then Phebe who married Aaron Boylan. Soon followed Betsy and Mary, and Lucinda chose Peter Rickey, and Ruth, David Douglas and so on down the line.

The sands of life began to run low for the old grandparents and a bleak day in the month of March, 1803, John Brees at the ripe old age of ninety, passed out of this little circle forever. We know that they laid him away where all those first comers had found rest and we know that Dr. Finley pronounced the last rites. We can see, through the focus of time, lonely Dorothy as she wended her way sadly up the hill with a feeling of certainty that her own calling would not tarry long. Perhaps she was glad of it in a way.

Nancy and Stephen watched faithfully over her during this last summer of her life, but in November she joined the circle of so many of her departed friends and lay under the green sod by the side of her husband. Ninety years is a long time, and age they both attained and during sixty-eight of them this couple had stood shoulder to shoulder.

No stone marks their graves and this astonishes us not a little. Strict observance was generally paid to this link with the past as a token of an affection to the departed loved ones by the surviving relatives. Thomas and Joseph Riggs, Dorothy's brothers, had died years before and their commemorating stones are standing bravely today. The Brees girls of the first generation were scattered and it will be remarked we have made no effort to trace them. And we know the sons, John, Henry and Samuel, were gone to distant climes. But Azariah and Stephen both stood together under the oak on these days of mourning and they were not the men to neglect the fulfillment of this filial duty. Moreover we think they did not, because we have found out other reasons for the absence of these time-honored memorials, though we do not pretend to have hit upon the right one.

But there was a time when this particular God's Acre fell into great decay. A consequence of hard times and unwise husbandry throughout the community. This time is long since passed and today it is a veritable garden, beautiful to behold. Then, however, nothing was done for it and naturally showed the neglect. Stones fell and were not set up again and were shifted hither and thither; lost their exact places entirely and meant nothing anymore. Later in the prosperous days of the parish a pretentious pipe organ was set up, to the pride of the congregation and it is said that the bellows of this instrument needing extra weight, old grave stones, the ancient ones, served for this purpose and that others discharged the function of cellar steps.

Sic transit gloria mundi!

John and Dorothy have left no outward sign of when they died or where they are buried, but who shall say for that, that they lived in vain?

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