Notes for Alexander BRECKENRIDGE
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Notes for Alexander BRECKENRIDGE

Alexander and Jane (Preston) Breckenridge
(Emigrant Ancestors)

The family of Alexander Breckenridge and other Scottish families were driven by persecution from Ayrshire, Scotland, to the North of Ireland, during the reign of Charles II, however, this statement that these emigrants fled from persecution during the reign of Charles II is merely tradition. Alexander Breckenridge with his wife and children emigrated from Ireland to the American Colonies, arriving at Philadelphia about 1728 and took up residency in Bucks County, Pennsylvania until 1737.

It is probably safe to assume that Alexander Breckenridge was born in Scotland, probably in Ayrshire at the end of the 1600s. And it is also probably safe to say that Jane Preston, Alexander's wife, was also born some where in Scotland during that same time period. There is nothing but tradition to bear out the statement that Alexander's wife's family name was Preston and it is thought that Jane was either the daughter or sister of John Preston.

By deduction and educated guessing, one can surmise, from the data at hand, that Alexander was probably born about the year 1690 as well as his wife Jane. It is also assumed, but not necessarily correct to say, that their children, if not all their children, were born in the North of Ireland. John who is assumed to be the oldest child was probably born in Ireland in ca 1712, George in ca 1714, Robert in ca 1716, James ca 1724, Adam ca 1726, Smith ca 1728 and Letitia ca 1730. It is possible that one or two of the last children born to Alexander and Jane could have been born in Pennsylvania, however, this is only mere speculation and conjecture.

The earliest record found of Alexander's presence in the American Colonies lies in two suits against him on the Appearance Docket in the Court of Common Pleas "7ber Court 1730," in the Prothonotary's office at Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. These suits are styled respectively, "John Henry, Pt. vs. Alexander Breckenridge, Deft." Several similar suits, to which Alexander Breckenridge was a party, appear between 1730 and 1736.

The signature of Alexander Breckenridge, together with those of nineteen others, is subscribed to the petition for the creation of Warwick Township, Bucks County, December 13, 1733, the original petition being in the Court of Quarter Sessions of that county.

By deed dated May 25th 1737, acknowledged by Alexander Breckenridge and Jane Breckenridge, his wife, on September 19, 1737, he sold his farm in Bucks County to Robert and Alexander Jamison. This farm is described in the patent issued to him by John, Thomas and Richard Penn, July 22, 1735, as lying near Neshaminy Creek and containing 236 acres, and speaks of Alexander Breckenridge as "having for some years past settled and improved on" the land and states that the deed is by way of confirmation.

After residing in Pennsylvania for nearly a decade, Alexander with his family removed to Augusta County, Virginia about 1738 and settled on a farm near the site of Staunton. Other friends and relatives made this same move to Augusta County about the same time, such as, John Preston.

The earliest record of the acquisition of land in Virginia by Alexander and his sons is of date February 21, 1738, when "Alexander, George, Robert, James, and Adam Breckenridge contracted with Benjamin Borden to each build a small log house and make improvements and receive (each) 200 acres land." This was in Augusta County, Virginia. Some litigation resulted later between Borden and his prospective grantees, which is briefly stated thus: "Feb. 21, 1738, Alex., George, Robert, James and Adam Breckenridge (with others), entered each 100 acres with Benjamin Borden, but got no deed (Case of Bell vs Borden, abated 1751)." The first survey made for Alexander Brakinridge, according to "Hume's Old Field Book," was May 12, 1738. It is therefore evident that the removal from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to the new home in Augusta County, Virginia, was accomplished between the fall of 1737 and the spring of 1738. The farm on which he resided has been variously located as near the present city of Staunton and also on Lewis Creek, about two miles below Staunton.

The list of deeds from William Beverly, conveying lands in Beverly Manor, Augusta County, Virginia, embraces the names as grantees of Alexander Brakinridge, 245 acres; John Breckenridge, 684 acres; and George and Robert Breckenridge, 761 acres; dates of these deeds being between 1739 and 1744. John was the oldest son of Alexander and Jane (Preston) Brakinridge. There appear numerous other land transactions, but of especial interest is the record, in the Virginia Land Office at Richmond, of the grant December 1, 1740, to Robert Breckenridge of 400 acres on the South Branch of Shenandoah River, "in consideration of importation of eight persons to dwell in the Colony and Dominion of Virginia: Alexander, Jane, John, George, Robert, James, Adam and Smith Breckenridge," the 400 acres being further described as in that "part of Orange County called Augusta." The oath further stated that Alexander imported his family from Ireland to Philadelphia and thence to this colony (Augusta county, Virginia), at his own charges,' etc. Robert Breckenridge evidently purchased these headrights from his father. For some reason Jane and Letitia are list as persons imported into the colony under a John Bell for the same date. The wife of Robert McClanahan, an Augusta County pioneer of prominence, was Sarah Breckenridge, but no evidence seems to exist to show her relationship to Alexander Brakinridge; it being presumed that she was either a sister or a daughter of Alexander's who married Robert McClanahan before the migration to Virginia.

Alexander Brakinridge was chosen one of the five commissioners of Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church in Augusta County, August 14, 1741, his associates being James Patten, John Finley, George Hutchison, and John Christian. Their duties were to choose and buy a piece of ground, build a meetinghouse, collect from the members the sums necessary to defray the cost thereof, and for the minister's salary and all other expenses, and to pay all charges relating to their affairs. The church is near the present town of Fishersville. The minister was the celebrated Rev. John Craig. The mortal remains of the ancestor are said to lie in Tinkling Spring Cemetery, nearby the church, together with those of John Preston, whose descendants have mingled with the descendants of Alexander Brakinridge, down the generations. By the records of the church session, the "Widow Brakinridge: and her son Robert were still members of the congregation November 12, 1747, these two names also appearing elsewhere in the record, under a column without date headed "The New Center." These are the last records found regarding the wife of Alexander Brakinridge.

Abatement of an attachment suit brought by Alexander Brakinridge as petitioner, against the estate of Thomas Renox, defendant, in the Court of Orange County, Virginia, caused dismissal of the proceeding September 23, 1743, "on account of the death of the petitioner." This is the nearest discoverable record fixing approximately the date of the death of Alexander Brakinridge. Administration on his estate was not undertaken until May 24, 1744, on which day his widow, Jane Breckenridge, appeared in open court in Orange County and relinquished her right to administer in favor of her son, George Breckenridge. George, in turn, on the same date, gave a bond to his mother, obligating himself to carry out a dying wish of his father (who had died intestate), and bound himself to convey 400 acres of his father's lands to Adam, 300 acres to Smith, and 112 acres to James Breckenridge, his younger brothers "who are under age." The significance of this instrument was that George as the oldest son surviving, was the heir at law of his father and as such inherited all his lands, and by this he relinquished his rights to the measure undertaken, to these minor brothers. Final settlement of the estate of Alexander Breckenridge was made and approved in Orange County Court, May 24, 1750.

Alexander Breckenridge therefore probably died in the year 1743, at the approximate age of 53. His wife Jane was still living in 1747 according to the above church records.

Of the children of Alexander and Jane (Preston) Breckenridge, only two are known to have left descendants. George, the administrator of his father's estate, married Ann Doak and lived in Albemarle County, Virginia. Robert married first Sarah Poage and secondly married Letitia Preston and lived in Beverly Manor, Augusta County, Virginia. More will be written else where about George Breckenridge and Robert Breckenridge and their families.

John, the oldest son of Alexander and Jane (Preston) Breckenridge, first named after Jane, the mother, in the Oath of Importation (therefore deemed the firstborn), was killed by Indians, evidently very soon after arrival of the family in Augusta County, as he is named but once in any of the purchases of lands by his father and brothers (Beverly Manor transfers, 1739-1744), and nowhere else referred to in existing records (in Augusta County), excepting only in several successive deeds transferring a certain parcel of land in Augusta County, all of which contain as part of its description the words, "A red oak by John Brackenridge's grave, who was murdered by Indians," or "Corner to graveyard of John Breckenridge, who was murdered by Indians." The earliest in date of these deeds is August 13, 1747. John Breckenridge may have been a member of the Virginia Frontier Rangers and may have died fighting Indians. Apparently, John was named as party to a suit in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1733 which draws the conclusion that he was then of age, making his year of birth about or slightly before 1712. This also means that he probably died in his early or mid thirties.

Adam, one of the younger sons of Alexander and Jane Breckenridge, appears as a deputy sheriff under Robert McClanahan, when high sheriff of Augusta County in 1749, and also, in the same office, under his brother Robert Breckenridge, who was high sheriff in 1750. A letter written by Adam to his brother Robert, dated "Aprile ye 7th, 1750," indicates that he had removed to the Carolinas. Further more, Adam Breckenridge's name appears in the muster rolls for Granville County, South Carolina for the year 1756. On March 16, 1758, the last will of Adam Breckenridge was proved in Augusta County Court, thus fixing the date of his death as prior thereto; but the original will appears not to have been deposited with that Court, by the declaration of the present clerk.

An old chronicle, dated January 1858, state that Smith Breckenridge, son of the Alexander and Jane Breckenridge, "died at about the age of maturity and left no issue.

Of James, son of Alexander and Jane Breckenridge, the records indicate that he returned to Pennsylvania about the year 1746, and nothing further is known of him. However, he must not be confused with that James Breckenridge who settled in Culbertson's Row, Pennsylvania and who has been claimed by his descendants to have been a near kinsman of Alexander Brakinridge. The James Breckenridge of Culbertson's Row was born in 1710 in Ireland, while James, the younger son of Alexander Brakinridge of Augusta County, Virginia, was "under age" at the date of his father's death in 1743. Another possible idea as to where James Breckenridge may have disappeared to could have been South Carolina, for in 1790 there was a James Breckenridge, age 61, living in Abbeville County, South Carolina. This James would have been born in ca 1729, so his age would have been very close to the age of James, son of Alexander and Jane (Preston) Breckenridge. James Breckenridge of South Carolina had issue, for the 1790 census records indicates that in his household were living two free white males who were 16 years of age or older and six free white females. The 1850 census records of South Carolina show Breckenridges that could well have been descendants of James, but a detailed, rigorous investigation is required before positively stating this as fact.

Letitia, the only daughter of Alexander and Jane Breckenridge and probably their youngest child, was still under age November 19, 1747, on which date the records of Augusta County show that she chose her brother Robert as her guardian. The records of the same court show that she married Elijah McClanahan in September, 1749. It is not known if there was any issue of this marriage. Elijah McClanahan left numerous descendants, but he married twice. His last will, dated February 22, 1793, and proved in Augusta County Court at its June term, 1796, names a wife, Margaret, a son, Elijah, and two daughters. A letter written by the Rev. Robert J. Breckinridge, the Presbyterian theologian, to Lyman Draper, the historian, August 18, 1851, is authority for the statement that the ancestor Alexander Breckenridge's "only daughter" had a son Alexander McClanahan, who commanded a company at the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774. Col. Robert McClanahan and his wife, Sarah (Breckenridge) McClanahan, had a son, Alexander, who is named in the records of that battle as a captain from Augusta County, Virginia, who was prominent in public affairs and who was an executor of the estate of his father at his death. The statement of the Rev. Robert J. Breckinridge, referred to, was evidently made in the belief that Sarah Breckenridge was the daughter of the emigrant ancestor Alexander Breckenridge and in ignorance of the existence of a daughter Letitia. In the absence of affirmative evidence, the author does not assume that Letitia Breckenridge, daughter of Alexander and Jane (Preston) Breckenridge, left descendants.

Source: [William Clark Breckenridge, His Life, Lineage and Writings by James Malcolm Breckenridge.]

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