Cease/Brezee WebSite

Daddy's Mystery Page

Robert R. Nichols (Feb. 10, 1914 - July 31, 1976)

Robert Raymond Nichols
(Robert Edwin Cease)
Born Feb. 10, 1914 in Jamestown, Chautauqua County, NY
Died July 31, 1976 in Falmouth, Barnstable County, MA

Brief Biography

Daddy was a kind, extremely intelligent man. He served in the Navy in World War II, taking part in both the European Theater (Sicily, Salerno, and Normandy) and the Pacific Theater (Okinawa). He was assistant navigator on the Battleship "New York," and he received the Silver and Bronze stars. He came home about two months after I was born. I first remember him going to work at the liquor store in Falmouth (Cape Cod). Later, he owned a store in Buzzards Bay (Bourne). He became a math teacher in 1958, teaching first in Tisbury, Duke's County (Martha's Vineyard), then in Carlisle, Middlesex County, MA, and finally in Bourne, Barnstable County, MA where he was employed when he passed away in 1976.  At that time he had earned a Masters Degree in Education at Bridgewater State College in MA and was taking courses toward his Doctorate

To me, Nana was Florence May (Shaw) Heissenbuttel, widow of William F. Heissenbuttel of Brooklyn, NY and Falmouth, MA. Mr. Heissenbuttel was the manager and large stockholder of Peerless Towel Company in NY and a politically prominent figure in that state. He died in 1930, long before I was born. Nana--First Directoress of the Graham Home for Old Ladies in Brooklyn and Chairman of the Central Day Nursery of the Brooklyn Bureau of Charities--survived her husband by 31 years. Through their generosity, Daddy attended Oakwood, a boarding school in Poughkeepsie, NY and graduated from Lafayette College in PA.

But the Heissenbuttels were Daddy's foster parents. Mr. Heissenbuttel rescued him from a cycle of foster homes and returns to a State Charities orphanage when he was about 12 years old. Before he entered the orphanage, Daddy's childhood environment was very different from the well-to-do existence he had during his school days. Much of his ancestry is still a mystery which, perhaps, you can help us solve.

Daddy's Mysterious Background

Daddy was born Robert Edwin Cease on Feb. 10, 1914 in Jamestown, Chautauqua County, NY. His birth certificate shows him to be the son of Fred and Blanche (Brezee) Cease. In the 1920 Federal Census for Jamestown, Chautauqua County, NY taken in January of that year, he is clearly shown as Robert Ceas (without the final "e")--age 5--living with his father, his two younger sisters, Ethel and Beatrice, and the "housekeeper," Nora (Stevenson) Nichols, b. May 30, 1855, widow of Alonzo Nichols. Her obituary, issued on Apr. 22, 1924 by the Henderson Lincoln Funeral Home in Jamestown, NY., lists three sons: Edward of Jamestown, NY; Sam of Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, NY; and Harry of Cleveland [Ohio?] Nora Nichols was born about 1856 in New York, daughter of Perry Stevenson.. Fred Ceas is shown as "married" in the 1920 Census, but there is no wife at this address. However, the Jamestown City Directory for 1920 shows Blanche Cease working at the Ideal-Peerless Laundry, and her address is at the same number on Allen Street where the family is living at the time of the Census. Blanche (Brezee) Cease is never listed in Jamestown again.

Below are ten mysteries and follow-up notes as of January 2007.

The first mystery: Blanche (Brezee) Cease left Jamestown, NY in 1920, along with Harry Nichols and a little girl named Beatrice. Daddy was placed in a New York State Charities orphanage along with his sister, Ethel. Ethel was later adopted by her own aunt, Bessie Leola (Brezee) Varian, and we have court papers to that effect. Apparently the Varians also legally adopted two boys with the last name of Anderson. Another cousin, however, states that she never knew the Varians to have any children. What is the real story behind this mystery?

Follow-up:  To date, several relatives who knew the Varians say that they never had any children living with them.  We've begun a Rootsweb Mailing List for the surname Varian.  If this is your surname, or if you know someone with this name, please subscribe to the list by sending a message to VARIAN-L-REQUEST@rootsweb.com   Leave off your signature and put just one word [subscribe] in the body of the message.  We'd like to know more about this family.

The second mystery: What happened to my grandmother after 1920? When did she die? We suspect that she lived and died in Racine, Wisconsin which is where Harry Nichols is buried and where daughter Beatrice May (Cease) Penna died in 1993.

Follow-up:  I'm pleased that my grandmother seemed to have a much happier life when married to her second husband, Harry Nichols.  We learned that the couple did move to Racine with little Beatrice, and I've been in touch with some of my first and second cousins...very nice people.  We also understand that she was forced to give Daddy and Ethel Grace up because she was very ill and couldn't care for them--and that she always wondered how their lives had turned out. I wish that Daddy was still alive so I could tell him that his mother always loved him and remembered him and did not abandon him, as he had believed.

The third mystery: Was the word "Peerless" in the name of the Laundry connected to the Peerless Towel Company, or is this simply a coincidence? And was William E. Stevenson, owner of the Ideal-Peerless Laundry, a relative of Nora (Stevenson) Nichols? Born about 1892 and died Jan. 21, 1961, William's parents are given as Robert M. and Acirema (Crider) Stevenson.

Follow-up:  We still don't know if there was any connection between the Laundry and the Towel Supply Company, or if there was any relationship between the Stevensons, the Nichols family, the Ceases, the Brezees, the Shaws, or the Heissenbuttels.  A check of the Heissenbuttels and the Shaws in 20th century census records indicates that if there was any interaction at all, it was in a professional or friendship capacity.  Nothing has been proven, though.

The fourth mystery: The first mention of Fred Cease is in 1901 when his daughter, Fannie, age 2 months, is buried in the Gerry Homes Cemetery. No mother is listed.Who was Fannie's mother? Blanche Brezee seems too young (she would have been about 14 at the time), and she seems to have come to New York State in about 1905, according to her record in the Chautauqua Almshouse in 1910.

Follow-up:  We still don't know who Fannie's mother was.

The fifth mystery: Fred Cease is shown in the 1920 Census with his children and his housekeeper. Oddly, when Blanche (Brezee) (Cease) Nichols petitioned the court to have her daughter, Ethel, adopted by the Varians, she stated that Fred Cease had died in 1918.Where and on what day did Fred Cease die, and where is he buried?

Follow-up:  These questions haven't been answered yet.  We'd like to have an obituary or newspaper article that mentions my grandfather's death.

The sixth mystery: In 1910, Blanche Cease entered the Chautauqua Almshouse. According to the 1905 NY State Census, she and Fred had no children in 1905. But in 1910, she had 4 children. One son, also named Robert, died at age 3 of diphtheria in 1910 (five days after they entered the Almshouse) and is buried in the Gerry Homes Cemetery. The other children were Sylvia, Theodore, and Lucy Blanche. Although Sylvia and Blanche disappear from the Gerry Homes records after 1910, Theodore remains there until at least 1915. What happened to these three children? The Gerry Homes have been uncooperative and have provided no response to this question. In the 1909-1910 City Directory, Blanche and Fred are shown as living with or as a tenant of her parents, Edward E. and Etta M. Brezee. Why didn't the Brezees help their daughter and grandchildren? The Brezees are last seen in the Jamestown Directory in 1914, the year that Daddy was born. Edward E. Brezee died in 1915. At that time he lived alone, and we aren't sure where his wife was at this time.

Follow-up:  We believe that Sylvia and Lucy Blanche died in the Gerry Homes, but we have no proof of this.  Theodore, however, could have left the Homes and secured a job.  We think that he may have descendants living today, and we would love to contact them.  Daddy remembered a loving grandmother who kept him and his sister, Ethel Grace, until she could no longer do so and sent them to the orphanage.  We now know that the Brezees had separated by the time Edward Brezee died.  Etta M. Brezee moved to Cattaraugus County, probably Little Valley, where some of the Nichols family resided. 

The seventh mystery: Daddy's mother said that her first husband, Fred Ceas(e) died in 1918. A check into existing records indicates that this is true. Why, then, is he listed as head of the household in 1920?

Follow-up:  As noted in the Fifth Mystery, we still don't know when Fred Cease really passed away.  It's very possible that the "houskeeper," Nora Nichols, gave the information to the Census Taker--or it could have been someone else.  Even today, widows often use their husband's name and even leave telephones and other utilities in the name of the deceased, ostensibly for security purposes.  But clear proof of my grandfather's death would solve this mystery quickly.

The eighth mystery: Daddy remembered his sister, Ethel Grace. She was in the State Charities orphanage with him but was adopted soon after their arrival there (possibly the adoption by her aunt, Bessie Varian). She once wrote a letter to Daddy. He didn't reply because he just wanted to forget his turbulent childhood. Ethel Grace may have married someone by the name of Troutman. All we know of her is that she also served in the Navy during World War II and apparently had one daughter. We really would like to locate this daughter who would probably be in her late 50s or early 60s at this time.

Follow-up:  We still haven't found Ethel Grace or her daughter.  Most family members we have found didn't even know about her.  Please, if you know anything about her, contact us

The ninth mystery: Is there more information on the youngest child, Beatrice May (Cease) Penna, the the child that accompanied her mother and Harry Nichols West. The three of them may have hitchhiked West. In 1924, Harry Nichols is said to be living in Cleveland, presumably in Ohio. He died in Racine, Wisconsin. We want very much to get in touch with my first cousins, Victor Penna, Beatrice Penna, and Josephine (Mrs. Arlo H.) Smith. The e- and snail-mail addresses we have are invalid.

Follow-up:  This is the best news--we did finally get in touch with our cousins--and found out that there is another living cousin named Cathy while Josephine and another Blanche are now deceased.  We've had fun corresponding with our second cousins, Mindy and Dianna.  We've spoken with Beatrice on the phone and exchanged e-mail with Victor.  It's been fun to find people who are part of Daddy, his nieces and nephews, even if he never had the pleasure of knowing them.

The tenth mystery: In 1951, someone added a notation to Daddy's birth certificate. It said that Robert Edwin Cease was to be known as Robert Nichols. In 1951, Daddy was already 37 years old, a veteran of World War II, and a husband and father who did not speak easily of his past. We know that he was not the one to add that notation, nor did his foster mother, Mrs. Heissenbuttel. Who did make this notation on his birth certificate?

Follow-up:  This mystery is as yet unsolved.  Knowing who added this notation might help to solve it and give a clue to the solution of the other mysteries as well.

We have, through the help of our friends and relatives listed below, found the names of family members living and deceased. Consequently, we have updated the small genealogy at the bottom of this page. We are now anxious to contact a distant Cease cousin, Francis Raymond Wood, living in Florida in 1984. We also would like to find out the ancestry of Daniel and Nancy (Herron) Williams, listed in the first generation of the Cease Family below as well as the ancestry of Stephen Cease and Edward Brezee.  What relation is Stephen Cease to the Cease family with similar names living in Delaware County, NY in the early to mid 19th century?

A most exciting piece of information has come to us through members of the Outred family.  Etta M. (Outred) Brezee, my ggrandmother, is probably one of the small group of the living descendants of Uhtred, the First Earl of Northumberland.  We would like to know where Etta Outred was born in order to link back to this family in England.  Any help will be appreciated.

(The Brezee Family)

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This is the probable genealogy of Robert Raymond Nichols, born Robert Edwin Cease.

There are gaps that need to be filled in. We would welcome any information that you can supply including names, dates, locations, and e-mail contacts.

We are interested in corresponding with anyone, of any surname, related to the individuals below.

(sometimes written as "Ceas")


b. about 1825 in Delaware County, NY. He m. Pauline Jane Williams, b. about 1827 in Poland, Chautauqua County, NY., daughter of Daniel and Nancy (Herron) Williams. The family lived in Jamestown, Chautauqua County, NY where Stephen Cease was a Teamster.
1.    Elias b. 1849 and d. 1872
2.  *Abram b. 1851
3.  *Adelbert, b. 1852 and d. 1939 in Brokenstraw, PA. He m. Mar. 11, 1898, Nellie Eighmey and had a daughter, Irene, b. Sep. 17, 1901. We have further information on this family.
4.    Eugene, b. 1853
4.    Addison DeVille b. Dec. 11, 1856 and d. Nov. 14, 1926. He m. Lydia A. Collins.
5.    Flora b. 1858 and d. Dec. 12, 1873
6.    Franklin b. 1864. He m. Emma --- and had 2 daughters, Bertha (1881-1882) and Burdena (1892-     ) m. Jan. 18, 1910, Edward Wolfe.

Pauline (Paulina), widow of Stephen, is listed in the Jamestown City Directory through 1914.
Son Frank (Franklin), an electrical engineer is listed through 1912.
Son Addison is listed in 1920. Abram is listed in the 1900 Census with a son, Fred, age 25.
We are looking for the rest of the children and their descendants of all six children born into this family--and we would like to find out the ancestry of Stephen Cease.


b. 1851. He went to Warren County, PA at some point and then returned to NY. He m. ---. What was his wife's name?
1. *Frederick F. b. 1875 and d. between 1918 and 1930


b. 1875 in PA. He m. (1) ???; (2) about 1905, Blanche May Brezee, b. Mar. 31, in Sugar Run, Warren County, PA (now obliterated by the Kinzua Dam)..
1.   Fannie b. ABT 1900 d. 1901
2.   Theodore R., b. Mar. 24, 1904--in Gerry Home as late as 1915, then disappears from the records
3.   Robert R., b. Apr. 26, 1906 d. 1910
4.   Sylvia B. b. Nov. 12, 1907--in Gerry Home in 1910
5.   Lucy Blanche b. Nov. 6, 1909
6. *Robert Edwin, b. Feb. 10, 1914 d. July 31, 1976
7.   Ethel Grace b. Feb. 10, 1916--probably deceased, not mentioned in her aunt's will in 1984--adopted by Robert and Bessie Varian, aunt and uncle.
8. *Beatrice May b. Feb. 24, 1918 and d. Nov. 26, 1993 in Racine, WI., m. Victor J. Penna, three children.


Born Feb. 10, 1914 in Jamestown, Chautauqua County, NY. Died July 31, 1976 in Falmouth, Barnstable County, MA. He m. Mar. 28, 1943, Mary Margaret Hort, b. Jan. 21, 1919 in McKees Rocks, Allegheny County, PA., daughter of Metro and Marcella (Komoniak) Hort.
1.   Barbara Ann b. June 22, 1945



Born about 1855 in Clyde, Wayne County, NY. Died Nov. 4, 1915 in Jamestown, NY of a brain concussion when he fell and hit his head on a doorknob. He m. Etta M. Outred. Lived in Sugar Run, Warren County, PA during the 1880s. Edward Brezee was a woolen worker at Broadhead Worsted Mills. His wife left him and moved to Olean, Cattaraugus County, NY.
1. *Blanche May b. Mar. 31, 1886 in Sugar Run, Warren County, PA (now obliterated by the Kinzua Dam). Died possibly in Racine, WI.
2. *Bessie Leola b. June 21, 1889 and d. Mar. 22, 1984 in Jamestown, Chautauqua County, NY. She m. (1) Mar. 11, 1912 in Jamestown, NY., Charles Coon of Columbus, Warren County,  PA., son of Therden Coon; (2) Jan. 17, 1914 in Falconer, Chautauqua County, NY., Robert JohnVarian, b. 1899 in New York City, son of John and Elisabeth (McCall) Varian. He d. Dec. 3, 1952. Bessie sometimes used her middle name, Leola in place of her given name.
3.   Benjamin H. b. July 23, 1891. Died Feb. 2, 1932. He m. 1919, Ethel Frye.
4. *Bertha B. b. Apr. 27, 1894. Said to be mentally retarded, Bertha was placed in a home called "Hudson" and later in the Chautauqua County Alms House. She m. Aug. 16, 1924 in Falconer, Chautauqua County, NY., Richard Elliott Melville, b. about 1895 in Scotland, son of Hugh and Elizabeth Melville.
5. *Ethel M. b. Apr. 15, 1895 in Sugar Run, Warren County, PA. She m. May 26, 1917 in Jamestown, Chautauqua County, NY., Reuben T. Stull, b. 1894 in Anaville, PA., son of William and Roena  (Colburn) Stull. Ethel and her brother, Laverne, were taken to the Randolph Children's Home when they were found wandering the streets of Jamestown.
6.   Laverne D. (male) b. June 30, 1897. Died Nov. 1949.


Born Mar. 31, 1886 in Sugar Run, Bradford County, PA (now obliterated by the Kinzua Dam).. She m. about 1905, Fred F. Cease.
1.   Theodore R., b. Mar. 24, 1904--in Gerry Home as late as 1915, then disappears from the records
2.   Robert R., b. Apr. 26, 1906 d. 1910
3.   Sylvia B. b. Nov. 12, 1907--in Gerry Home in 1910
4.   Lucy Blanche b. Nov. 6, 1909
5. *Robert Edwin, b. Feb. 10, 1914 d. July 31, 1976
6.   Ethel Grace b. Feb. 10, 1916--probably deceased, not mentioned in her aunt's will in 1984--adopted by Robert and Bessie Varian, aunt and uncle.
7. *Beatrice May b. Feb. 24, 1918 and d. Nov. 26, 1993 in Racine, WI., m. Victor J. Penna, five children.


Born Feb. 10, 1914 in Jamestown, Chautauqua County, NY. Died July 31, 1976 in Falmouth, Barnstable County, MA. He m. Mar. 28, 1943, Mary Margaret Hort, b. Jan. 21, 1919 in McKees Rocks, Allegheny County, PA., daughter of Metro and Marcella (Kamoniak) Hort.
1.   Barbara Ann b. June 22, 1945

Oak Grove Cemetery, Falmouth, Massachusetts

Oak Grove Cemetery, Falmouth, MA
Daddy's final resting place

Daddy's Tombstone in Oak Grove Cemetery

Daddy's Tombstone
Taken on Memorial Day, 2002

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Our special thanks to
The Hosts of the Chautauqua County, NY USGenWebSite and most especially Donna Mills
and to Barb Cessna of the Fenton History Center
and our dear and tireless friend Beckie Howe
Also, many thanks to our very close Cousin Kathy,
Cousin Liz, Cousin Katherine, and Cousin Cheryl for their help
Cousins Bea and Victor for acknowledging me
and Cousins Mindy and Dianna for their continued correspondence
and Cousin Mark for his inspiring e-mails and photographs

c2000-2011 Barbara A. Peck and Tim Seawolf-Self

This page was last updated September 26, 2011