1806 - 1887
|I can see him standing|
|by the fence arms on the rails|
|just looking around|
Almost ninety years have passed since the little girl watched her father that January day in 1887. As Balemas stood there seeing the beauty of the rolling hills and the familiar farm lands that had been home for so many years, he surely knew he was seeing it all for the last time. It must have been a stilled moment, for it was to be the little daughter's only remembrance of her father. How is it possible to capture in mere words, the depth of character of this man who, in feeling the severity of his eightieth winter, made the decision to leave his home in Wisconsin, to turn southward, because he was certain his health would improve in a warmer climate. For Balemas, no better reason was needed except perhaps there would still be time for one more horizon. Beyond a doubt, Balemas' thoughts, as he stood there by the fence, would have gone back through the years to recall the chain of circumstances that had brought him to Buck Creek.
In the beginning
The first breath of life for Balemas was drawn from the early summer air of Mendham, Morris County, New Jersey, on the fifteenth of June Eighteen Hundred and Six. He was the first born son of Henry Breese and his wife of two years, the former Phoebe Hayden. Balemas was named for a relative on the Hayden side of the family, whose mother was of German extraction. Balemas had a sister, Mary Ann, born one year before him and two years later, there was a brother, Willis. After the birth of their third child, Henry and Phoebe Breese followed her parent's move to Washington County, Pennsylvania, where Henry, a blacksmith by trade, also helped manage the Hayden farm. Within the next seventeen years Henry and Phoebe had nine more children, and true to the custom, the children were named to honor favorite relatives. To keep the record straight, the children of Henry and Phoebe Breese were named Mary Ann, Balemas, Willis, Elias, Hosea, Joel, Israel, Silas, Phoebe Jane, Louisa and Henry. However, Joel and another son, unnamed, died in infancy. Washington County, Pennsylvania was the real beginning for Balemas, for it was here that he grew to manhood and it was here that he met Abigail, a daughter of Abner and Abigail Chase. Abigail was nineteen years old when she married Balemas and they may well have been friends from childhood, for the Chase family had arrived in Washington County early in the century, and like the Breese and Hayden families, had settled near the villages of Findley, Prosperity and Pleasant Grove.
This was an area, seemingly set apart from the rest of the world, among beautiful, soft hills. A peaceful place that even today, "restoreth the soul". This was a necessary ingredient in the lives of Abigail and Balemas, for time and again, and again, they would have to draw upon a source of strength far greater than their own. For Balemas, the passing years were to be filled with almost every emotion known to man, but it would have been impossible for him to ever forget the day in Eighteen Hundred and Thirty, when Abigail married him and put her destiny in his hands. They shared heights of happiness and depths of despair and, though, the future was filled with promise, the present was filled with hard work and much faith.
For awhile, Balemas and Abigail were content to stay in Pennsylvania and it was here that Phoebe, Lovina, Simon and Israel were born to them. It is extraordinary to think of these four as infants, as the sands of time ran so slowly for them, their combined ages would one day total three hundred and fifty-eight years.
During the early years of marriages, births and the constant efforts to provide for their families, the ties between Balemas, his sisters, brothers and parents remained strong. It is interesting to observe the characteristics within a family that hold them dear to each other, even though a time comes when decisions are made that result in separating them, one from another, for a lifetime. In each generation, but never more apparent than in the children of Henry and Phoebe Breese, were the ones quite satisfied with their environment, while others became restless and ever trusting that just over the horizon was a better way of life. Counted among the restless were Balemas, Willis, Elias and Hosea. Nevertheless, these stalwart Breese brothers retained a close and valued relationship through their lifetimes. They would stay together through the years, until the day Balemas would stand alone at Buck Creek.
Athens County, Ohio
The first to venture forth from Washington County was Mary Ann and her husband, Henry Brown, late in the year Eighteen Hundred and Thirty-two. It was not long, however, before her brothers, Balemas, Willis, Elias and Hosea were looking toward the western horizon and deciding it was greener on the other side of the Ohio River. This was not new territory in some respects, as a few Breeses from other branches of the family were early settlers in the Ohio River Valley.
In Seventeen Forty-nine, the Ohio Company, an enterprise for promoting settlement in the Ohio Valley, was chartered by England's King George the Second. The Revolutionary War defeated its purpose, but it was reorganized in Seventeen Hundred and Eighty-six by ex-officers of the Revolution. In Seventeen Hundred and Eighty-seven, Congress authorized the sale of one and a half-million acres to the Ohio Company for sixty-six and two-thirds cents per acre.
A John Breese, a resident of Rhode Island, purchased two shares in the Ohio Company on August seventeenth, Seventeen Hundred and Ninety-two and subsequently owned land in Athens County. Although, it is doubtful if John Breese, himself, ever lived or even visited in Ohio, it was the beginning of Breese history in Ohio.
The migration into Ohio continued as families sought out more room to raise the necessary crops and the inevitable children. In the latter part of Eighteen Hundred and Thirty-six, Willis and Israel arrived in Athens and purchased several parcels of farmland near their sister and brother-in-law. Less than a year later, they were joined by Balemas, Elias and Hosea; however, Israel soon returned to Pennsylvania to make his home. Upon his arrival in Athens, Balemas purchased eighty acres of farmland and in the following year he bought two more parcels of land from brother Willis. Elias, also, joined the group by settling in the same vicinity. Hosea, age twenty-two and still single, had a more important interest and on the seventh of August Eighteen Thirty-eight, he married Mary (Polly) Sargent. They, too, joined the Breese community that included the townships of Athens, Lodi and Alexander.
In Ohio, as elsewhere, the months turned into years and the
children of Balemas and Abigail grew in stature and in number. Around the dinner
table now, along with Phoebe, Lovina, Simon and Israel, were Mary Jane, James,
George, Elias, Artlissa and Charles. There is a story, often told, of this
lively family at mealtime. When conversation became too loud and animated among
so many young-un's Balemas had a method that restored order.
A bullwhip snapped the air, Balemas bellowed, "Silence"
and the meal would continue with propriety.
was another kind of silence that surely must have reached the hearts of
Abigail and Balemas. A
silence that would go with them, everywhere.
They would be aware of it, especially among the laughing, happy
children that surrounded them. For
it was the silence that came when Nancy Ruth could cling to life for
only four days; the silence that grew when Clarinda left them after nine
months' and the silence that deepened when Emily could give them only
two months of her life. When
the day came for Balemas and Abigail to leave Ohio, it is obvious that
they never left it entirely. In June Eighteen Hundred and Fifty,
Balemas' and Abigail's daughter, Phoebe Breese gave birth to a son.
Phoebe had married Simeon Draper on February fifth, a year
earlier. Baby James was their first child, but a fact of greater
importance to Balemas and Abigail, little James was their first
Eighteen Hundred and Fifty, many changes had taken place in the Breese
the Breeses' of Washington
County, Pennsylvania and Athens, Ohio were separated by nearly two
hundred miles. Nevertheless, they stayed in close communication, for letters
were written and these letters indicated that they visited one another
with some frequency. This
was only the beginning of family separations, for the Breese brothers,
in Ohio, were again looking to the horizon.
By Eighteen Hundred and Fifty-four, Balemas, Willis, Elias and
Hosea had disposed of their properties and were soon on their way to the
promising land of Wisconsin.
Richland County, Wisconsin
village of Richland Center, Wisconsin was first settled in the year
Eighteen Hundred and Fifty-one and by Eighteen Fifty-five, it had shown
considerable growth, due in part, to the arrival of the Breese families.
However, Elias was not among them.
does not seem to have remained in Athens, Ohio, nor returned to
Washington County, Pennsylvania. Research
has not, to date, located his whereabouts during this time.
It is quite probable that he may have become ill and died before
Balemas, would it be realistic to say that here in Wisconsin was the new
beginning? Here was the
place where all those futuristic promises would come true?
No need for anymore horizons?
brother, Hosea, may have been the first of the family to realize that
this was not so. He was
bereaved of his wife, Polly, and it became necessary for his children to
live among friends and relatives. Since Adversity seemed at times to be
a member of the Breese family, it was accepted as inevitable and time
never slowed because of it. For almost five years, the brothers, Balemas and Hosea, lived
just south of the town of Richland Center and Willis was farming in the
area of Richmond. Evidently
Willis was doing very well, as his farm was valued at three thousand
dollars in the year Eighteen Hundred and Sixty.
living at home with Balemas and Abigail were their children, Simon,
James, George, Elias, Artlissa and Charles.
On the adjoining property were Hosea Breese and his eldest son,
Silas and beyond them, William F. Rose and his bride, Mary Jane Breese
were in residence.
Jane was not the only one of Balemas' and Abigail's children to marry
since they had come to Richland County.
Israel married Lucinda Jane Basye on Christmas Eve in Eighteen
Hundred and Fifty-seven.
Phoebe Breese Draper and her husband, Simeon, had not yet followed the
others to Richland Center and Simeon was fated never to reach there. According to family legend, Simeon Draper became ill and died
somewhere near the Chicago area, as he, his wife and children were
making the journey to Wisconsin.
his arrival in Wisconsin, Balemas worked as a carpenter and lived in the
village of Richland Center. In
April Eighteen Hundred and Sixty-one, he bought eighty acres at Buck
Creek for two hundred dollars. There,
in a rustic, two story, full-log house, built to endure not only the
whims of Wisconsin's winters, but for generations of Wisconsin's
children, Balemas settled his family.
here was home, here the children were growing up, some of them married
with children of their own, but even here sadness came to call.
Elias, now sixteen years old, died on the nineteenth of July,
Eighteen Hundred and Sixty-one. A
most blessed miracle of life is the Balm that covers human tragedies and
with God-given strength Abigail and Balemas would accept once more,
another child going from their care.
upheavals were prevalent but an event of even greater distress, that
touched everyone, came in the form of the Civil War.
Two of the Breese sons, Israel and James, served in the Wisconsin
Infantry of Volunteers. William
Rose, the husband of Mary Jane and Edwin Handy, who several years later
married Artlissa, also served in the Wisconsin Volunteers.
William Henry, a on Willis Breese, Balemas' brother, was in the
same Company of Volunteers as Israel.
William Henry, though, was much less fortunate than the others,
as he was fatally wounded during the civil uprising.
had to be times of happiness and of normal family living, but for awhile
it must have been a precious commodity. On September Thirteenth,
Eighteen Hundred and Sixty-three, the second son of Israel and Lucinda
Jane (Basye) Breese, John DeWitt Breese, died at the age of two years
and one month.
year Eighteen Hundred and Sixty-four struck a triple blow, for on
February sixth, Eugene, the three year old son of William and Mary Jane
(Breese) Rose, died; followed by the death of his mother, of
consumption, on the second day of March.
Since the father, William Rose was still serving in the Civil
War, this left his fifteen month old son, Orville, virtually an orphan.
So Willis' daughter, Louisa Breese, now Mrs. Alexander Basye,
adopted the little one. Sadly,
it was a brief relationship, as three months later baby Orville died on
the second day of June. The
following poem appeared in the Richland Center Newspaper in memory of
the infant, Orville Rose. It
may well have been written by Seth Basye, father of Alexander Basye, as
he was know for his writings and poetry.
the year Eighteen Hundred and Sixty-four came to a close, Abigail could
review the past year with both a sad and happy heart.
She and Balemas had lost another daughter and two more
grandchildren, but their sons, Israel and James, had returned home from
would soon be fours years since they had moved to Buck Creek and ten
years had passed since they had come to Richland County. Now, Abigail
and Balemas could look forward to the coming year, hoping the pursuit of
happiness was no longer a dubious preoccupation, but could become a
realistic goal. The years
had been costly, for they had lost five children and three grandchildren
since they had left Pennsylvania, what must have seemed, such a long
April Eighteenth, Eighteen Sixty-five, Abigail celebrated her
fifty-fourth birthday. Then, on the fifteenth of May, everything changed
quite suddenly when Abigail was stricken with acute peritonitis.
Twenty-seven days after her birthday, Abigail Chase Breese no
longer was asked to endure anymore of the sorrows of this world.
She is buried in the Richland Center Cemetery surrounded by some
of her children and grandchildren.
Her name appears on the headstone of her daughter, Lovina Breese
Aber. It is easy to believe
that on that special day, Abigail once more gathered her children,
Nancy, Clarinda, Emily, Elias and Mary Jane and the three grandsons,
John DeWitt, Eugene and Orville, around her just beyond the most
beautiful horizon of them all.
Balemas, it may have been a time of soul-searching and wondering if
there was ever to be a silver lining to the dark clouds that never
seemed to be far away. At
fifty-eight years of age, the fortitude of Balemas may have momentarily
weakened with the loss of Abigail, but he had overcome adversity too
many times to consider for very long that life held no further
challenges for him. The
hopes, the dreams, the promises of the past continued within him and
became the hopes, dreams and promises of the future.
Balemas, the beloved patriarch, was willing to fulfill the
obligations he had assumed thirty-six years earlier, when the first
child was born to him and Abigail.
So, time moved along and by Eighteen Hundred and Seventy-one,
there had been some noticeable changes within the family.
Balemas, in observing these changes, would realize that his
children not only were assuming the responsibilities he had cherished
for so long, but in completing a cycle of nature, were absorbed in the
development and well being of their own families.
the youngest, was now eighteen years old.
It was the ideal time for Hannah Turner Jones to enter the life
of Balemas Breese.
One of eight children, Hannah was born in
Ohio to Joseph and Phoebe (Shepherd) Turner on the Thirty-first day of December
Eighteen Hundred and Thirty-nine. They
had moved to Richland County from Indiana in the late Eighteen-sixties and had
begun farming near Rockbridge. Hannah
was the widow of Louis Jones, and the mother of five Jones children: Martin, William, Joseph, Mary and James.
protests from both the Breese and Turner families because of the thirty-one year
age difference, Hannah married Balemas on the twelfth of February, Eighteen
Hundred and Seventy-one, and she and her children moved to the Breese farm at
Buck Creek. Regardless of the few
dissenters, it may well have been the happiest Balemas had been for a long time.
His Buck Creek farm had been growing lonelier by the year, as his and
Abigail's children married and left to establish their own homes.
Now, Buck Creek once again heard the lively voices of children coming
from the Breese household and it was to continue for many years.
Christmas Eve, ten months after their marriage, the first of their eight
children was born to Hannah and Balemas and they named him Balemas, jr.
Then, there was Hannah, born thirteen months later, followed through the
years by Enos, Martha, Silas, Abigail, Minnie and Levi.
asked how many children there were in the family, it was Enos, with a gleam in
his eye and a grin on his face, that counted off on his fingers, "Well, to
begin…there's Enos and B'lemas and Sis-in-between-us."
first family of children were not lost in the population explosion, but were
raised by Balemas as his own children, except little Willie Jones died shortly
after his mother's second marriage. By
the time Levi was born, only Joe and Jim Jones were still unmarried and living
August Eighteen Hundred and Seventy, word had come to Balemas, Willis and Hosea
from Washington County, Pennsylvania, of the death of their father.
Henry Breese had lived a full life for eighty-six years and eight months,
but now it was over and he was buried in the little country cemetery at Pleasant
years later, their mother Phoebe died on October sixteenth, Eighteen Hundred and
Seventy-four, aged eighty-eight years, eleven months and one day. She was buried in Athens, Ohio where she had lived for many
years, even before her husband's death in Pennsylvania.
Although she is buried near two
daughters, in the little churchyard cemetery, the gravestone appears lonely and
apart from all the others, it is inscribed, "Phoebe Hayden, wife of Henry
Brees. Blessed are the pure in
heart for they shall see God."
daughters, in the little churchyard cemetery, the gravestone appears lonely and
apart from all the others, it is inscribed, "Phoebe Hayden, wife of Henry
Brees. Blessed are the pure in
heart for they shall see God."
there was the day in September Eighteen Hundred and Seventy-six, with the colors
of autumn on the Wisconsin countryside, Balemas and Hosea stood side by side at
the Indian Creek Cemetery. As they
buried their brother, Willis, they no doubt realized that the foursome of
Balemas, Willis, Elias and Hosea, was now narrowed down to just the two of them.
void in their lives when Willis died may have been felt more strongly by Hosea
than even Balemas, for he and Willis had lived on neighboring farms south of
Richland Center, while Balemas' farm was north of the village.
With Willis no longer near for companionship, it is quite probable that
Hosea took a closer look at the new lease-on-life marriage of Balemas and
Hannah. The idea of marriage must
have appealed to him, for in March Eighteen Seventy-eight, Hosea married Susanna
Kincaid. Unlike, Hannah and
Balemas, they were not prolific, but like them , there was a difference of over
thirty years in their ages.
spring bubbles and pours forth clear, pure water from the hillside less than a
mile above the Breese farm and becomes known as the North Fork of Buck Creek.
It winds it's way gently and lingering across the farm and rambles on
down the hill to converge with the South Fork; where together they run a short
distance to the Pine River.
village of Buck Creek was located at the confluence of the Creek and the River.
It was the community center for the families living among the hills and
hollows of the area. There was a church, a school, a blacksmith shop, a post
office, a mercantile store and later, a town hall. Symbolically, the waters ran
relatively smooth for Balemas and Hannah in the years Eighteen Hundred and
Eighty through Eighteen Hundred and Eighty-six. Naturally, there were a few ripples and even a strong
under-current or two, especially when taking into consideration how many
branches there were now from just the three families of Breeses that had come to
Richland Center thirty years earlier. It
was a generally pleasant time for Balemas and Hannah, although it was the calm
before the storm. In the closing
months of Eighteen Eighty-six, Balemas began to notice more than ever before,
the bitter cold of winter. How many
times it must have crossed his mind that if anything were to happen to him,
Hannah would be left to care for the children alone.
The eldest, Balemas, jr., was fourteen and the youngest, Levi, was only
two years old. Jim and Joe Jones
were in their early twenties and it may have been some consolation to Balemas to
have them still at home.
evidently seemed a natural conclusion to Balemas that a warmer climate would be
kinder to his years and he decided upon Arkansas.
At the age of eighty years why would he make such a decision, when at the
very same time, two of his sons, George and Charles with their families, were to
leave Wisconsin to farm in Missouri. Why
did Balemas not go with them or they with him?
If Hannah, Hosea or anyone else tried to persuade him to remain in
Wisconsin they were not successful.
first day of January, Eighteen Hundred and Eighty-seven, the papers were signed
and the farm at Buck Creek no longer belonged to Balemas. It was to this farm at Buck Creek that he had brought Abigail
and their children twenty-five years earlier and where Abigail had died only
four years later. Where his
children and grand-children had played; where he had watched them grow up, and
where Hannah came to live when she married Balemas and where their children were
born to them.
on the farm where the five year-old daughter, Minnie, watched her father on the
day they were to leave Buck Creek, and it was where she returned in memory
ninety years later.
remember Pa on the day we left Buck Creek.
I can see him standing by the fence, arms on the rail, just looking
Balemas Breese family arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas by train.
Before leaving home Hannah had cooked a turkey and packed other food for
them to eat during the trip. Their
household furnishings and farm stock came on the same train in a freight car.
a short period of time, Balemas had bought an eighty-acre farm near the little
village of Mayflower in Faulkner County. Winter
passed and Spring came to Arkansas and still Balemas did not respond to the
milder climate, in fact, he had grown noticeably weaker. Suddenly, Hannah was engulfed in a virtual
nightmare, for all of the children, with the exception of Joe Jones, became ill
No one could have foreseen such a terrible situation. they were in unfamiliar surroundings, without friends or relatives, with little money and nine very ill children. In the midst of all of this, Balemas' condition worsened and he died on the seventeenth of June Eighteen Hundred and Eighty-seven; two days past his eighty-first birthday. He was buried in a small country cemetery nearby, with only a pile of rocks to mark the place. Many years later, two of his sons journeyed back to Arkansas with the intention of placing a permanent gravestone, but could not find the exact location.
news of Balemas reached Richland Center, Wisconsin.
An excerpt from his obituary notice there described him as "an
industrious, exemplary, worthy citizen and bore his part in the labors and
privations incident to the settlement of a new county.
Several of his children and many friends still reside in this County, who
will respectfully cherish his memory and regret that he went so far to find a
grave among strangers."
grave among strangers? Well,
perhaps, in a sense. When Hosea,
just two months later reached out for that same ultimate horizon, who is to say
that it was not as in the days of old, with Balemas, Willis, Elias and Hosea
together again. Someone who knew
them may have believed this as indicated by a line of verse on Hosea's
reunites in Heaven."
fearful that she would also lose her children if she stayed in Arkansas, left
her son Joe to care for the farm until she could make other arrangements and
with a wagon loaded with ill children headed for her sister's home in Indiana.
The trip took six weeks and by the time they reached their destination
everyone had miraculously recovered from the fever.
had been married to Balemas for sixteen years at the time of his death.
There were twenty-three more years allotted to her and the dilemma in.
Arkansas was merely a testing of her courage and fortitude for the years ahead.
In time, she returned, left, then returned again to live near Buck Creek. Finally, settling in Richland Center, she lived until the twenty-seventh day of September Nineteen Hundred and Twenty. She is buried in the Richland Center Cemetery surrounded by three children, Balemas, jr., Hannah Breese Bell and Abigail Breese
Copyright © 1999 by John Breese McKenzie. All rights reserved