This obituary for my maternal grandfather was published in The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tennessee, on Thursday, November 26, 1959. It contains two factual errors: Robert M. Breland was born in Washington Parish, not Tangipahoa Parish, and he did not move to Mobile until after 1931. In 1930 he lived in New Orleans. By 1940, he had moved from Mobile to Northport, Alabama. By 1950 he lived in Hawai’i. He moved from Hawai’i to Mobile, where several of his children lived, in 1958 or 1959, not long before he died.
ROBERT M. BRELAND
Rites Sunday for Former Memphian, 70
Services for Robert Milton Breland, former Memphian who died yesterday in Mobile, will be at 1 p.m. Sunday at National Funeral Home. Burial will be in Memorial Park.
Mr. Breland, who was 70, was born in Tangipahoa Parish, La., and moved to Memphis in 1918. He moved to Mobile in 1930. He was a bookkeeper.
He leaves six sons, Dr. Kenneth Breland of Boise, Idaho, Hunter Breland of Fort Worth, Texas, Robert Breland, Charles G. Breland, Douglas P. Breland and Leigh Breland, all of Mobile; three daughters, Mrs. Beryl B. Young of Corpus Christi, Texas, Mrs. Brooken Campbell of Ohio, and Mrs. Arley Hughes of Mobile, and 18 grandchildren.
Many of the Breland and Breeland families in the United States — especially in South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana — are descended from a man named Abraham Breler/Breland, who lived near Beaufort, South Carolina, in the late 1700s and died there in the early 1800s.
I, too, am a descendant of Abraham Breler/Breland. He was my 5th great grandfather on my mother’s side. In particular I am descended from Abraham’s grandson, John Robertson Breland (1794-1875) who migrated from South Carolina to Louisiana about 1810. He served in de Clouet’s Regiment in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812 and then lived the rest of his life in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, and Pike County, Mississippi.
My maternal grandfather, Robert Milton Breland (1889-1959), was born and raised near Sunny Hill, Louisiana. Robert’s father, my great grandfather, was Cicero Malachi Breland (1857-1917), who lived his entire life in Washington Parish, Louisiana, and is buried in Mount Hermon. Cicero’s father, my great great grandather, was Elisha Elliott Breland (1832-1862) who died in Louisiana while serving as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War.
Where Abraham Breler/Breland was born is a subject of much speculation and dispute. Some say he was born in Pitt County, North Carolina, while others say he was born in Germany. To date, no one has been able to answer that question definitively.
I recently started the Breland Surname DNA Project with the hope of answering the question of where in Europe my Breland ancestors came from. This followed my involvement in the Hughes DNA Project, as both a member and administrator. Through my involvement in the Hughes Project, the Clan Colla 425 Null Project, and the McMahon DNA Project, I learned that my paternal ancestors lived in the vicinity of County Monaghan, Ireland, before they settled near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in the 1700s and then migrated from there to North Carolina and South Carolina. My experience with these DNA projects gives me great hope that the Breland DNA Project will help solve the historical mystery of where the Brelands came from.
At the time of this writing, the Breland DNA Project has just six members. The project needs to recruit many more members – especially men with the Breland surname – if it is to be successful. Anyone with the Breland surname, or who has Breland ancestors, is welcome to join. Here is the link where you can do so:
In order to join the project, you will need to buy a DNA test kit from Family Tree DNA. Men named Breland who join the project should order the Y-DNA37 test, which is a test of paternal ancestry only and costs $149 if you order it through the Breland Project (it costs $169 if you order it outside of a project). All women who join the project, and men without the Breland surname, should order the Family Finder test, which costs $99. The Family Finder tests both maternal and paternal ancestry and helps find matches within about five generations.
In addition, if you have already done an autosomal DNA test through AncestryDNA or 23andme, you will need to transfer your results to Family Tree DNA first before joining the Breland Project. Here is the link where you can do that:
Feel free to email me at email@example.com if you have any questions about the Breland DNA Project. I look forward to hearing from you!
Tom Hughes was born and raised in Mobile, Ala., and now lives in Durham, N.C. He is the son of Gloria Breland Hughes, whose parents were Robert Milton Breland (1889-1959) and Cora Peirce Breland (1891-1936). Robert and Cora met in the early 1900s when they were both high school students at Sunny Hill School in Washington Parish, Louisiana. Tom’s uncles, Charles Gregory Breland and Hunter M. Breland, wrote, “The Breland Families of the Southern States, 1794-1875.”
This chilling story was reported in The St. Landry Clarion newspaper on January 30, 1909. Other versions of this story were reported in newspapers nationwide at the time. The man identified here as “Buzzy Breeland” is not a direct-line ancestor of mine, but I think he may have been a distant cousin of my Breland great grandfather, Cicero M. Breland, who at the time of this incident lived about 45 miles away from where it happened. This type of violence happened often enough in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana in the late 1800s and early 1900s that newspapers coined the phrase “Bloody Tangipahoa” as a shorthand reference to it. Buzzy Breland’s father, John Paul Breland, was killed in an earlier “Bloody Tangipahoa” incident, in 1897.
“BLOODY TANGIPAHOA” RUNS WITH BLOOD OF WOMEN.
Horrible Assassination, In Which Man and Two Women Are Murdered–Mother’s Pleading Saves Young Baby.
Independence, La., Jan. 23.–The most horrible and most diabolical crime that was ever perpetrated in this parish transpired last night about 8 o’clock between Tickfaw and Genesee. Buzzy Breeland, his wife and stepdaughter were foully shot to death by persons in ambush. Breeland lived near Natalbany, and was on his way home from moving his wife and stepdaughter, who was the wife of Joe Everett, who was killed at Little Zion Church Jan. 19.
Breeland gave his dying declaration to Wibur Nesom and E.B. Ellzy, of Tickfaw, and others, to the following effect:
He and his wife had gone out to Little Zion Church to move his stepdaughter, Mrs. Joe Everette, to their home, and just as he was nearing Genesee, his wife and stepdaughter behind and he ahead of the wagon, driving a cow, two persons fired on him from ambush. Thinking he was dead, they halted the wagon and were about to shoot the women when they begged them not to kill the baby. Then one of the assassins took the baby from its mother’s arms and put it on the ground and deliberately took aim at the poor defenseless women and shot the brains out of one and filled the body of the other full of buck shot. Both women were instantly killed. Breeland gave the names of Avery Blount and Garfield Kinchen as being the parties who committed the awful crime.
Breeland said that Blount came back before leaving and looked into his face to make sure that he was dead, but that he succeeded in affecting to be dead and lay there until about 8:30, when he heard someone coming. A party of young people from Independence had been to a party at Hammond, and were on their way back when suddenly their horses came to a stop, seeing an obstacle in the road and smelling the blood. Marian Baham and Alponse Faust, two of the young men in the party, got out of their buggy to ascertain what was in the road, when they discovered it was a buggy, and when they made a further examination, they were horrified when they saw Mrs. Breeland was lying back in the wagon with her head blown to pieces and brains scattered all over the buggy, and Mrs. Everett was lying over on one wheel, with her body perforated with buckshot. They then heard the cry of the little baby, about three months old. Then they heard the groans of Breeland and discovered that he was in a dying condition, but was able to talk. Breeland told them his story. They then immediately went to Tickfaw (and) persons came back with them to give assistance.
Among the rest were Mr. Nesom and Mr. Kelly, before whom Breeland made his dying declaration. Breeland was then taken to Natalbany to give him medical aid, but just as they were taking him out of the wagon he breathed his last. He lived about two hours after he was shot, being rational up to the moment he died.
Sheriff Saal was immediately notified and was on the scene this morning with several deputies.
Coroner George Sanders proceeded at once to hold an inquest and the following were sworn in as jurors: John Wascom, Captain Reed, P.D. Kemp, F.A. Albey and Dr. W.H. Brent, who rendered their verdict, but would not disclose publicly who committed the crime. The Jury gave their verdict in full to Sheriff Saal. The latter immediately placed Avery Blount under arrest. The other party is supposed to be Garfield Kinchen, who has not been apprehended. Sheriff Saal sent out a large posse, who are now in search of the other party to the crime. Garfield Kinchen is a brother to Ben Kinchen, who was mixed up in the killing of the Everetts, and Mrs. Joe Everett being the wife of Joe Everett and Mrs. Breeland and Mrs. Joe Everett being the main eyewitnesses to the Everett killing, is supposed to form a basis to the motive for this bloody and most inhuman slaughter.
Cicero Malachi Breland was my maternal great grandfather. This obituary was published on Oct. 4, 1917, in The Era-Leader newspaper in Franklinton, Louisiana. I have not changed any of the spellings; I have reproduced them here exactly as they appeared in the original.
Mt. Hermon, La., Sept. 30 — Era-Leader: Mr. Cicero Breeland was found dead in the woods near his home last Monday evening. He had gone to his mailbox in the afternoon and when he did not return the family becoming anxious began to search and found him. He had been dead about an hour. Dr. L.W. Brock was immediately summoned. He hurried to the scene and pronounced his death caused by heart failure. Mr. Breeland was born in Washington Parish in the first ward near the Parish line on the 29th day of January, 1857, was married to Mrs. Fannie Carter, May 30, 1883. He joined the Baptist church when quite young and lived a consistent christian life and was a member of the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. He had three sons, Robert, Murry and Alvin, who survive him. He was buried last Tuesday in the cemetery by the side of his wife near the home of Mr. I.W. Carter. The funeral rites were conducted by Rev. Early Corkern, and a large crowd of sorrowing relatives and friends were present to pay their last tribute of respect to the departed one. A Friend.
Recently I learned that my mother’s mother, whose maiden name was Cora Esther Peirce, was born in a place called Breland, Louisiana. In fact, when Cora was born in May 1891, the U.S. post office for Breland was located on the property of her grandfather, John Ticknor Peirce, and her grandfather’s second wife, Salissa E. “Dora” Peirce, was the U.S. postmaster for Breland.
Cora’s father, Adolphus Elliot Peirce, was later appointed U.S. postmaster for Breland, in August 1904. According to family lore, Cora worked in that post office before her family moved to the nearby community of Sunny Hill in 1905, when she was 14 years old. When she began attending school in Sunny Hill, Cora was assigned to the same class as Robert Milton Breland, my grandfather, whom she married in Baton Rouge five years later.
This story is interesting to me for several reasons. First, Cora was born in a place called Breland. Then she moved away from there to Sunny Hill — where she met a boy named Breland, who later became her husband.
It also raises these questions for me: Where was Breland? Why was it called Breland? And, does the community of Breland still exist?
My brother, Brian Hughes, answered the first question by finding maps from 1900, 1906 and 1914 showing Breland located roughly half way between Franklinton and Kentwood. These maps also show Breland’s proximity to Sunny Hill.
As for why the place was called Breland, the earliest record I can find shows that William G. Breland (1839-1890), who was a 2nd great grand uncle to me, was appointed U.S. postmaster for Breland in September 1890. He died just a few months later, in December 1890. (The next person to be appointed postmaster for Breland after him was Salissa E. Peirce, in March 1891.)
The place was called “Sibila” before it was called “Breland.” My guess, and this is purely a guess, is that it came to be called “Breland” simply because the first person appointed to be postmaster for the place happened to be named Breland.
Does Breland, Louisiana still exist? To the best of my knowledge, it does not. Records indicate that the post office at Breland was discontinued, i.e., closed for good, in 1906. And, although the location of Sunny Hill can still be found via Google Maps, I have not been able to find any mention of Breland, Louisiana, on any current maps of the area.
Do you know any additional details about Breland, Louisiana? If so, I’d love to hear from you!
This letter was written by my maternal great-great grandfather, John Ticknor Peirce (1846-1912), and includes a mention of my maternal great grandparents, Adolphus Elliot Peirce (1868-1910) and Etta Bailey Peirce (1873-1952). It is part of a Peirce family scrapbook now held by my mother, Gloria Breland Hughes. Her mother, Cora Peirce Breland, was the first child of Adolphus and Etta.
Breland La 4/25/1891
Dear Niece it has been a long time since I have heard from any of you. I think it has been about a year since I received your last letter I would be glad you would write again, and let us know how you are all getting on. I wrote to Anna soon after I came home from Florida, but have never heard a word from her. I do not know whether she received it or not. Have you heard from our friend Dr. Alford. I suppose you heard he has married, as he was returning home from Fla he met her on board the cars, and before three days were engaged to be married. I have never seen her but they say She is young beautiful and very intelligent, but I fear he has made a bad choice, as she is always gone, her home was in Kansas City and she stays most of her time there.
My oldest Son Adolphus was married last August he married a Miss Bailey. Bedford’s son’s wife died last Jany.
Mary I want to hear something more about that visit of yours, don’t you think you can come this year, we would all be so glad to see you all
How was the orange crop last year, and is there a prospect for a good crop this year. My wife says to ask you how your Turkeys are doing this Spring. She has about thirty young ones.
I am through planting my crop we have had a very late Spring and every thing looks bad, Cotton is selling very low here, it is not at all encouraging, there was a poor cotton crop made in this section last year, people expected to get more than they did, but it is still going down.
Mary tell Ann, and, Laura to write. I know some of you can write oftener than you do. The girls send their love to you all. I hope you are all well, our children are, some of them complaining, but I think they will be better in a few days. With kindest regards to you and Mr. Holly I remain your affectionate Uncle.
Send your letters to Breland, Tangipahoa Par, La as that office is at my house.
J T Peirce
(Editor’s note: John’s second wife, Salissa E. Peirce, was appointed U.S. postmaster for Breland, Louisiana, on March 28, 1891 — about a month before this letter was written. )
About a month ago, my wife and I drove from North Carolina to St. Augustine, Florida. Our route via I-95 took us through the town of Walterboro, South Carolina, where I decided to take a little detour.
Why? So we could visit the Breland Cemetery, which is in the rural countryside several miles outside of Walterboro. It’s a small cemetery that contains about 45 graves and is surrounded by a chain link fence on a plot of ground located between a farmer’s field and the surrounding woods. One of the trees closest to the cemetery has what appears to be a deer hunter’s tree stand attached to it.
My mother’s maiden name is Gloria Dell Breland, and I knew that she was descended from a man named John Robertson Breland, who was born in that part of South Carolina in 1794 but had settled in Louisiana before the War of 1812 began. I knew this thanks to a book, The Breland Families of the Southern States, 1755-1875, that was written by my mother’s older brother, Charles Gregory Breland. Uncle Greg self-published the book in manuscript form in 1987. After Uncle Greg died in 1994, my mother’s younger brother, Hunter M. Breland, arranged for a memorial edition, which he edited, to be published as a hard back.
So I figured there was a good chance I was related to the Brelands who are buried at Breland Cemetery. Once we got back home from that trip, I started looking into it, and found that I was indeed related to everyone in that cemetery who was born with the Breland surname. I can’t say that for the wives of men named Breland who are buried there.
If you trace John Robertson Breland back to his earliest confirmed Breland ancestor, you get to his grandfather, a man named Abraham Breland, whose surname was recorded at various times as Breler, Brelar, Breelo and Breland. Abraham was born about 1725 (some researchers say he was born in Pitt County, North Carolina; others say he was born in what later became Germany) and died about 1805 in Estill, South Carolina. The Breland Cemetery outside Walterboro is about 33 miles from Estill.
Abraham was the father of William Breland (1753-1825) who is one of eight Brelands buried at the Breland family gravesite at Rivers Bridge State Park at Ehrhardt, South Carolina, in Bamberg County. That gravesite is about 19 miles from the Breland Cemetery outside Walterboro. The names of the eight people named Breland are inscribed on one side of the headstone at Rivers Bridge State Park. The inscription on the other side reads:
FROM BAVARIA GY. 1776
As I continued to research the Brelands buried in South Carolina, I learned that many of them trace their ancestry back to the same Abraham Breland as my mother. And, thanks to Uncle Greg’s book, I knew that many of the Breland families in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are descended from Brelands who moved west from South Carolina in the early 1800s.
There are only 2,663 people named Breland listed worldwide on the Find A Grave website. The overwhelming majority of these, more than 2,500, are in the Southeastern U.S. Based on this information, it seems plausible to me that I may actually be related to most if not all of the Brelands in the South. That is certainly not the case for the surname I inherited from my father, which is Hughes. There are more than 100,000 people named Hughes in the U.S. listed on Find A Grave, and I know from my involvement in the Hughes DNA Project that there are many people named Hughes that I am not related to.
As a pilot test for my theory about the Brelands, I decided to research the Brelands who are buried at Mobile Memorial Gardens in my hometown, Mobile, Alabama. One of my mother’s brothers, Lyman Breland, is buried there. But there are several other Brelands buried there that my mother told me she had never heard of, including the Rev. Murphy B. Breland (1910-1997). After researching his Breland line, I came to the conclusion that he is my 4th cousin, twice removed.
So, is your name Breland? Want to find out if we are related or not? If so, then I’d love to hear from you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.