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.”
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. )