The village of Breesport
There were settlers on the site of Breesport before 1808; even three or four log homes by 1818, on of which belonged to James Hartgroose, a British soldier, who refused to be exchanged after he was captured by the colonial army at Saratoga.
Breesport was named for Brees brothers, Ulysses and William, who owned the land on which they laid out the village in 1854. Within a year they built a tavern and a store.
The village grew rapidly after Joseph Rodbourn arrived in 1855. He erected the first steam saw mill (1857) and a steam Grist mill (1860) within the village although the Heller brothers had built a saw mill near by in 1830. Mr. Rodbourn and his brother James (of Erin), the lumber barons of this area, helped bring the railroad to these parts in 1874. The car shops were located at Breesport until they burned in 1883.
Breesport was a booming town from 1874 until the 1980's when many of the early business men died and their enterprises faded. Some of the products made here were: carriages, harnesses, oat meal, boots and shoes, toys, tin and leather goods. There were two cemeteries, two blacksmith shops and two doctors, a lawyer, a drug store and four churches. The Adam Kinley family operated on of the three brick yards and the tannery which often had mile-long strings of vehicles waiting to unload their tanbark (bark peeled from hemlock logs, and used in making leather form cattle and horse hides).
The county poor house was located here in 1836 when Chemung County was formed. An old log house, patched up and enlarged, was used until 1862, when, with Mr. Rodbourn as superintendent, a frame structure was built. A brick building was added in 1888. A hundred years ago the county house sheltered destitute adults, homeless children and the violently insane, all under one roof, with inadequate facilities and under unsanitary conditions.
Breesport has been plagued with disastrous fires, The tannery burned twice. Harding Brother's store burned: also the Methodist church, Grady's store and the Todboun house, a hotel famous for its ballroom with the floor built on springs, that "swayed with the dancers"
Today Breesport is a pleasant little town in which to live. Its last bit of industrial glory vanished in 1938 along with the railroad.
Copyright © 1999 by John Breese McKenzie. All rights reserved