Written by Edna Liggin
November 12, 1964
We are beginning a series of sketches taken from the genealogy records of the Breed family, a segment or branch of them settling at Shiloh around 1850. Many in the area today are descendants of Walker and Rebecca Patrick Breed, while others through even further back ties with the Breed family can still claim Joseph Breed, the pioneer Baptist Preacher, as one of their forefathers.
It is this Joseph Breed who would be the main character if the saga of the Breed family were written as a historic novel, and the story would range from long before his birth in Lynn, Massachusetts to Shiloh where a boy named Bill Breed is the fourteenth generation of the family known. The scope of the knowledge of the family ranges from the 1200’s when Breeds left the Netherlands and migrated to England unto the present time.
As for their history in American, the Breeds began coming with the John Winthrop colony, second in New England, in 1630, and shared in America’s growth in all phases. They fought for its freedom to govern itself; they preached for religious freedom, and they practiced economic freedom in being self-sustaining farmers.
We feel like it is a privilege to know a little of this wonderful family’s history and to attempt to tell a part of their story, long past.
When Joseph Breed was born on October 4th, 1708, at Stonington, Connecticutt, it must have seemed to his father, John, and mother, Mercy, that the New World was really filling up with settlers and their new world would soon give them as comfortable living as that of the England they had heard so much of from their grandparents. Of course, they as yet, did not realize or comprehend the vastness of this New World.
It lacked twelve years being a hundred years since William Bradford had landed with the Pilgrims and founded the Plymouth Colony not far from where Joseph Breed was born. The country side had been bleak then, the weather harsh, the food scarce and help very far away. Such a land was not even too thickly settled with Indians for Governor Bradford and his scouting party on their first trip inland had to look long before they found first signs of Indian life.
Joseph Breed’s great grandfather, Allen Breed, had come with the second group of colonists, under the leadership of John Winthrop, who founded the Boston Bay Colony. His grandfather had been only two years of age when he crossed the Atlantic. The trip took several months, and with him had been his slightly older brother, Timothy. Allen Breed, Sr. was recently widowed.
November 19, 1964
These crossings had been long before Joseph was born, and now there were many little towns and villages in New England with schools and churches. The white settlers had discovered that further inland there were many Indians after all, some were friendly, others decidedly not, and very few of them were Christians. Some of the white Christians before the birth of Joseph had spent many hours in trying to Christianize the Indian, but mostly the colonists had had enough religious differences of their own to preclude much worry over the Indian, except that he might scalp them without notice. The very John Winthrop, governor of the Boston Bay Colony, with whom Allen Breed had crossed the Atlantic, had forced the colonists who didn’t agree with his religious beliefs to take to the woods in the snow and cold.
Later, they tried a woman for witchcraft, hung a few, and put in jail those called “Quakers”. Even in the New World, there was a dispersal that scattered the settlers faster than they had planned. It did indeed hastened with speed the right of the settler to worship as he pleased.
However, Joseph was born in a seemingly peaceful time, and he and his ten brothers and sisters, all born in Stoningham, perhaps had only one real fear – an Indian raid. There were Anna, Mary, John, Elizabeth, Sarah, Zerviah, Joseph, Beth, Allen and Gershon.
Joseph’s father, John, was a currier and tanner, and had his own bark mill. They had a comfortable home near Quequetequoc Cove, and the family thrived. Nearby was Lynn, Massachusetts, and also, Charleston. Joseph had a great-grandfather, Palmer, who as far back as 1653 had built a house in Charleston on the old Slack place. Already in the New World a home site was deemed old!!
The father of these eleven children, John Breed, had been born at Lynn on January 18, 1663. At the time of his birth, ship after ship of settlers were landing on the New England coast. In spite of British dominion, a very good form of democracy was being practiced, originating in the Plymouth Colony under Governor Bradford. Freedom was the key word, though not fully practiced where religion was concerned. John Breed grew up in these times and in 1686 married a Lynn, Massachusetts girl named Mary Kirkland.
The marriage was ill-fated, for the next year Mary died, possibly in childbirth and the next year the child died. With nothing to hold him in Lynn, John Breed moved to Stonington, Connecticut where he bought land from a man named Gershom Palmer. He later married Palmer’s daughter, Mercy. The Palmer family, too, were early settlers, coming from England in 1629, and had lived in the Plymouth Colony.
Today, two hundred years later, a lineal descendant of John Breed is still living at Stonington, and has a stepping stone to his house’s entrance, the nether-mill stone used by John Breed.
John Breed was 43 years of age, and had a family of his own when his father, John, died in 1751. The mother, Mercy, died in 1751. The mother, Mercy, died the next year. Years later, in 1772, their six living children erected a blue slate tombstone in the old Palmer burying ground in Wequetequec. On it was the inscription:
“Behold the righteous live long on Earth,
And in their old age resign their breath,
They and their offsprings are blest
When done with life, they go to rest.”
” In memory of a pious pair this carved stone is erected here, viz; of John Breed and his wife, Mercy, who lived together in ye marriage state in a most religious manner about sixty-four years, and then deceased, leaving a numerous offspring, he in 1751, she in 1752, about 83 years of age.”