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Breese Family Monograph

Part 1 - pages 475 to 478

Family Memorials -  A series of Genealogical and Biographical Monographs, on the families of  Salisbury, Aldworth-Elbridge, Sewall, Pyldren-Drummer, Walley, Quincy, Gookin, Wendell, Breese, Chevalier-Anderson, and Phillips

By Edward Elbridge Salisbury, 1885, Privately Printed


Arm of Ap Rice: Arg. On a fess Az. Three boars’ heads couped Orin chief a lion passant Gu.; Crest: a boar’s head erect Arg. Pelletce betw, two oak-branches Vert fructed Or.

My earliest ancestor of this family, whose baptismal name is known, was Sidney Breese, my maternal great grandfather, born in 1709, in county Salop, England, and in or near Shrewsbury, as is probable, who was a resident of New York as early as 1733-34.  His father _______”a merchant and manufacturer of Shropshire:” and his grandfather, according to family-tradition, was ______,1 a Rector in Wales, whose wife is said to have been a Miss Sidney, whence came into the family the baptismal name of Sidney.  He had two sister who lived with their grandfather, and at their death sent to Sidney Breese the deed of an estate which was claimed also by the Wynne family.  This data carry us back to the first half of the seventeenth century.  There has been also handed down in the Breese family an armorial crest (engraved on a seal which belonged to the above named Sidney Breese), corresponding with that of the coat of arms assigned by Burke to Ap Rice, and described a the head of this chapter; whence it has been inferred that our family of Breese may have branched off from the an Ap Rhys.  But the earlier ancestry of our breezes has hitherto eluded search, though the late Col. Chester corresponded with gentlemen of the name in Wales, and examined Registries of Wills, and parish-register, either personally or through others, both in Wales and at London, for the purpose of tracing it.  The late Captain K. R. Breese, U.S.N., when in charge of the Torpedo Station at Newport, R. I., in 1878, wrote me that his father and my cousins Judge Sidney Breese and Rear Admiral Samuel Livingston Breese had “ often conferred with the purpose of tracing a common ancestor, but with no success. A celebrity Mary Breese of Wales” [famous in the chase, who is said to have been buried with her riding-horse], he goes on to say “seems to have been a common relation, form the traditions of the family (2)  This seems to have been the nearest ever attained, but common pursuits and professions may indicate something.  My grandfather John Breese was a Major of the 54th foot stationed here in Newport, married Elizabeth Malbone  of  Newport.  After the Revolution he sole out and came to Newport as Consul, and died here; his children all grew up as Americans.  I have met some of my English relations, and their story agrees with ours.  It seems a sort of fatality in the family that, no matter how many male members ther may be, but one ever has had issue.  This makes the tracing easy.  Our arms are as below – that is, the old Breese arms. “ –

 A fesse between 3 hunting-horns stringed (tinctures not stated), very different from those borne by any of the several other families having names seemingly derived from Ap Rhys, such as Price, Bryce, Rees and others 3.


SIDNEY  BREESE (I) my great grandfather, "only son" of his father, was at a very early age compromised with the partizans of the Pretender James, probably after the revival of the hopes and activity of the Jacobites on. the birth of Charles Edward in z 720; and was "on the point of mount­ing his horse to join the rebellion in form," when the news of some reverse to the adherents of the Pretender "saved him from committing so rash an act. He afterwards entered the English Navy, and obtained the appoint­ment of Purser, in which capacity he served for several years." In Colo­nial Documents preserved at Albany, N.Y.(4)under date of May 17, 1754, is a letter of Gov. DeLancey to Sidney Breese, Purser of H. M. ship Centaur, to pay him for victualling two companies of troops on board that ship--which shows that he retained his naval commission some years after commencing to reside in New York. Later he surrendered it, and engaged in mercantile pursuits in that city, where he opened what is described as "the first fancy-store" in New York, i. e., presumably, a store for rich goods like laces and brocades. "As honest as Sidney Breese, whose "word is as good as his bond," became proverbial. Having been at one time unsuccessful in business, his creditors compromised with him, and insisted upon his continuing. He yielded to their wishes, and after the lapse of a few years gave a dinner-party, inviting all those to whom he was indebted and, as each guest turned his plate up, he found beneath a cheque for the full amount due him, with accrued interest to date. This agreeable surprise resulted in a most convivial, jolly dinner, and was often spoken of, in terms of the greatest enthusiasm, by those who survived him.''(5) In 1763 he was "Master of the Port of New York.'' (6).  He was also "noted for his genial disposition and hospitality, as well as for his musical taste and voice: he sang a good song, and his society was much courted," especially by "British officers, among whom he was naturally thrown." He was "fond of a good glass of wine, and sent to England for his bottles, called Magnums, with 'Sidney Breese, 1765, stamped in the glass,” several of which are still in the possession of the family. But he felt the undesirableness of such a gay life as he led, and would not permit my grandfather to be even taught to sing. He died in New York, June 9th, 1767, of "gout in his head and stomach," at the age of fifty-eight years, and was buried in Trinity church- yard. His epitaph, composed by himself as follows (recently re-cut, on the old headstone, at the expense of the late Mrs. (Breese) Walker and her nephew William Lawrence Breese):

 "Sidney Breese, June 9, 1767,

Made by himself.

Ha! Sidney, Sidney,

Lyest thou here ?

I here lye

Till time is flown

To its extremity"-

 still to be seen, and often quoted, has been said to show him "a fellow of most exquisite humor." Another explanation is that it was suggested by the delirium of fever.7 In addition to his residence in the city of New York, he had a country-house at Shrewsbury (so named, perhaps, in memory of the home of the family in the old country) in New Jersey, which was enlarged and altered by my grandfather, his only son who grew up, and in which my mother was born. I visited it in 1862, when it yet retained the marks of old-fashioned respectability in its large hall, its wainscoctings, its Dutch tiles around the fire-place in the dining-room, etc. An old well also, pierced through solid rock, was noticeable: from "the north side" of which, my mother, in her young days, as she used to tell me, took many a refreshing draught.

 There is a portrait of Sidney Breese, by an unknown artist, much out of drawing, preserved at Oneida, N.Y.

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1 Burke’s General Armory (ed. 1878, p 21
2 The fame of this lady has been made public. "Breese, Mary, an eccentric English woman, born at Lynn in the county of Norfolk in I72z. died there in 1799. Her ruling passion was hunting, and at her request her dogs and favorite mare were killed after her death, and buried in the same grave. She regu­larly took out a shooting license, was as sure a shot as any man in the county, and no pack of grey hounds could be compared to hers--" The New Am. Cyclop.      New York, i86o, iii. 664.
3 Comp. Burke.
4  Colon. Docc., vol. lxxviii, p. II8."
5 I here quote from a little volume of family-notes, including very interesting personal reminiscences, by my cousin the late Mrs. Sarah Ann (Breese) Walker, whose words I shall use in some other cases, further on, without special acknowledgment. Since I began this monograph, Mrs. Walker's little note-book has been made the foundation of a memorial of her by her son-in.law James Eglinton Montgomery, U. S. Consul, residing at Vevey in Switzerland, which he printed for private circulation this present year, 1884.
6 "Colon. Docc., vol. xcii. p. TS."
7 In Harper's New Monthly, magazine for November, 1876, pp. 868-69, will be found a wood-cut of            this headstone with the inscription, and a brief notice of Sidney Breese by 3Irs. Martha J. Lamb, which, though not altogether accurate, is believed to be near the truth in calling him "one of the wittiest, most eccentric, as well as one of the handsomest men of his time."



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