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Collection Number: 04890

Collection Title: Breese Family Papers, 1729-1937

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the FAQ section for more information.


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Size 1.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 300 items)
Abstract Breese family of Charleston, S.C., and Asheville and Brevard, N.C. William Cebra Breese was cashier of the First National Bank of Charleston until his death in 1883. William Edmond Breese, son of Cornelia Edmond and William Cebra Breese, served in the Confederate Army's South Carolina Cadets and saw action at Kennesaw Mountain and other Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina battles. In 1883, he succeeded his father as cashier of the First National Bank of Charleston. In 1885, he moved to Asheville, N.C., for the health of his son, William Edmond Breese, Jr., and established the First National Bank of Asheville. When the bank failed in 1897, he was arrested and charged with conspiracy, embezzlement, abstraction, and misapplication. After six trials, he was acquitted of all charges. William Edmond Breese, Jr., son of Margaret Lowndes Perroneau and William Edmond Breese, graduated from the University of North Carolina and was active in politics. He served as a member of the North Carolina Senate and was mayor of Brevard, N.C. He married Rebekah Nicolson Woodbridge. Correspondence, 1847-1915 and 1937, includes letters about personal and professional issues. There are several 1864 letters from William Cebra Breese to William Edmond Breese serving with the South Carolina Cadets and two letter-press books, 1881-1891, that belonged to William Edmond Breese containing copies of letters, some of them relating to Breese's duties in Charleston banks. In addition to Breese family materials there are some letters to and from Hume family members (the family of William Edmond Breese's second wife). Also included are legal and financial Papers, 1810-1908, of the Breese and Hume families, primarily deeds, stock receipts, and other legal documents. Included is an 1810 receipt for the purchase of a slave girl. Some materials relate to the failure of the First National Bank of Asheville and the criminal trials of William E. Breese, 1897-1911. Genealogical Papers, 1729-1909, include documents relating to the Breese, Cebra, Digges, Edwin, Van Vechten, and other families. There are also scrapbooks containing letters, clippings, and other materials; writings of William Edmond Breese and William Edmond Breese Jr., chiefly short humorous sketches and reminiscences, some of which they tried to publish; speeches of William Edmond Breese that he gave at United Confederate Veterans meetings; two brief diaries, 1867 and undated; and photographs of members of the Breese and other families and promotional photos from the First National Bank of Asheville.
Creator Breese family.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Breese Family Papers #4890, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Rebekah Hudson Huggins of Pisgah Forest, N.C., in September 1997 (Acc. 97118).
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

William Cebra Breese, son of Maria Cebra and James Breese, moved to South Carolina in 1828. He worked in banks in Columbia and Charleston, ultimately serving as cashier of the First National Bank of Charleston, a position he held until his death in 1883.

William Edmond Breese was born on 17 April 1848, the son of Cornelia Edmond and William Cebra Breese. He was a cadet in the Georgia Military Academy until 1864, when he entered the Confederate Army with the Corps of Cadets. In 1865, he was transferred to the Battalion of South Carolina Cadets. Breese fought in battles at Kennesaw Mountain, Atlanta, and many others in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. During the war, he was wounded, captured once and escaped, captured again, and eventually paroled. After the war, he farmed in Anderson, S.C., then moved to Charleston where he worked in several businesses until 1883, when he succeeded his father as cashier of the First National Bank of Charleston. In 1885, he moved from Charleston to Asheville, N.C., for the health of his son, William Edmond Breese, Jr. Breese established the First National Bank of Asheville and acted as president of the bank until its failure in 1897. His management of the bank was called into question, and he was ultimately arrested and charged with conspiracy, embezzlement, abstraction, and misapplication. After six trials held in several different cities, he was acquitted of all charges. Breese moved from Asheville to Brevard, N.C., where he managed a farm and mill.

William E. Breese (b. 1848) married Margaret Lowndes Perroneau, who died in 1880. In 1883, Breese married Mary Motte Hume.

William Edmond Breese, Jr., was born on 20 December 1873, the son of Margaret Lowndes Perroneau and William Edmond Breese (b. 1848). He graduated from the University of North Carolina and was active in politics. He served as a member of the North Carolina Senate and was mayor of Brevard, N.C. He married Rebekah Nicolson Woodbridge.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

Papers documenting three generations of the Breese family of Charleston, S.C., and Asheville and Brevard, N.C. William Edmond Breese (b. 1848), veteran of the Civil War and founder of the First National Bank of Asheville is most thoroughly represented, but there are papers of his father, William Cebra Breese (d. 1883), and his son, William E. Breese, Jr. (b. 1873). Included are correspondence, legal and financial materials, writings, genealogical materials, scrapbooks, pictures, and other papers.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, 1847-1915, 1937.

About 100 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Letters to and from members of the Breese and Hume families. The correspondence addresses both personal and professional issues. There are a large number of correspondents in this series and often significant gaps between letters, so determining the context can be difficult. There are several letters dated 1864 from William Cebra Breese to his son, who was serving in the Confederate Army. In a letter of 21 August 1864, Breese gave the names and addresses of several of his friends in New York for his son to communicate with "in the event you should be taken prisoner and conveyed to some Northern prison."Later letters document the attempts of William E. Breese to sell his property in Brevard, N.C.

There are two letter-press books that belonged to William E. Breese. They contain copies of letters to and from Breese, memoranda, and financial information. There are letters discussing personal and business information in these books, as well as account information, presumably related to Breese's duties in Charleston banks.

In addition to Breese family materials there are some letters to and from the Hume family (the family of William Edmond Breese's second wife) and letters to Rebekah Nicolson Woodbridge, wife of William E. Breese, Jr. With many of the letters it is difficult to determine the connection to the Breese or related families.

Additional correspondence of William E. Breese can be found in the scrapbooks in Series 4.

Folder 1

1847-1864 #04890, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1847-1915, 1937." Folder 1

Folder 2

1865-1894 #04890, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1847-1915, 1937." Folder 2

Folder 3

1895-1898 #04890, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1847-1915, 1937." Folder 3

Folder 4

1899-1904 #04890, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1847-1915, 1937." Folder 4

Folder 5

1906-1915, 1937 #04890, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1847-1915, 1937." Folder 5

Folder 6

Breese letter copies, 1869-1884 #04890, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1847-1915, 1937." Folder 6

Folder 7

Folder number not used #04890, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1847-1915, 1937." Folder 7

Oversize Volume SV-4890/1

Letter-press book, 1881-1882 #04890, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1847-1915, 1937." SV-4890/1

Folder 8

Folder number not used #04890, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1847-1915, 1937." Folder 8

Oversize Volume SV-4890/2

Letter-press book, 1884-1891 #04890, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1847-1915, 1937." SV-4890/2

Folder 9

Undated #04890, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1847-1915, 1937." Folder 9

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Legal and Financial Papers, 1810-1908.

About 100 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Legal and financial papers of the Breese and Hume families, primarily deeds, stock receipts, and other legal documents. Also included are correspondence, writings, and clippings related to the failure of the First National Bank of Asheville and the criminal trials of William E. Breese, which began in 1897 and were finally concluded in 1911.

The first document in this series is a receipt dated 25 November 1810, which describes the purchase of "a negro Slave Girl, about ten Years old, named Vina" for $300. There are many deeds from 1826-1908 for lands in North and South Carolina. There are a small number of financial materials, including the 1894 bank book of Martha Allen Edmond Woodbridge, mother-in-law of William E. Breese, Jr., and an 1880 "List of Coupons" kept by William E. Breese. Letters and other papers document attempts by William E. Breese to sell his farm and mill in Brevard, N.C.

The materials relating to the failure of the First National Bank include correspondence, writings, and legal materials. When the bank failed in 1897, William E. Breese (b. 1848), who had served as president, owed the bank a great deal of money. He was arrested along with two of the other directors and charged at different times with conspiracy, embezzlement, abstraction, and misapplication. There were six trials in all--one in Greensboro, several in Charlotte, and finally one in Asheville. Each of the early trials was invalidated and then relocated for various reasons, and it was not until 1911 that Breese was finally acquitted. Included in this series is an autograph copy of "A Sketch Giving the Defense and Vindication of William E. Breese . . . Offered for perusal to all lovers of FAIR PLAY as against The TYRANNY, PERSECUTION, and STAR-CHAMBER proceedings and methods and perfidy of OFFICERS of the Government . . .," written by Breese in 1909. Most of the letters in this series are letters of congratulation after Breese won his case.

Folder 10

Legal materials, 1810-1879 #04890, Series: "2. Legal and Financial Papers, 1810-1908." Folder 10

Folder 11

Legal materials, 1880-1908 #04890, Series: "2. Legal and Financial Papers, 1810-1908." Folder 11

Folder 12

Financial materials #04890, Series: "2. Legal and Financial Papers, 1810-1908." Folder 12

Folder 13

Sale of farm and mill #04890, Series: "2. Legal and Financial Papers, 1810-1908." Folder 13

Folder 14

Breese bank trials #04890, Series: "2. Legal and Financial Papers, 1810-1908." Folder 14

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Genealogical Papers, 1729-1909.

About 50 items.

Notes, documents, and histories of the Breese and related families. There is a folder of materials relating to William Cebra and the Cebra family. These include two 18th-century documents: one dated 1729, granting "License and Liberty to the said James Cebra to sell by retail all sorts of Strong Liquors," and another dated April 1780 that states "Lieut. William Cebra of Col. Lambs Reg of Artillery is hereby at his own request discharged from the service of the United States."

There are typed and autograph copies of the "Memoirs of the Ancient Breese Family" by William Edmond Breese, 1909, and a few notes and letters about the preparation of this history. Other family histories relate to the Digges, the Edwin, and the Van Vechten family. There are also materials relating to Robert Edmond.

Folder 15

William Cebra Breese/Cebra family materials #04890, Series: "3. Genealogical Papers, 1729-1909." Folder 15

Folder 16

Breese family history #04890, Series: "3. Genealogical Papers, 1729-1909." Folder 16

Folder 17

Other family histories #04890, Series: "3. Genealogical Papers, 1729-1909." Folder 17

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 4. Other Papers, 1867-1914.

About 50 items.

Writings, clippings, scrapbooks, and some publications primarily of William E. Breese and William E. Breese Jr. Writings consist chiefly of their short humorous sketches and reminiscences. Some correspondence documents their attempts to have their writings published, but there is no evidence of whether or not they were successful. A few handwritten notes and stories are contained in the writings folder--it is unclear whether or not these were made by members of the Breese family. Also included are several speeches by William E. Breese, all of which appear to have been given before gatherings of the United Confederate Veterans. Breese's activities with this group are further documented by a small number of programs and announcements from meetings and exercises of the United Confederate Veterans. While in Charleston, Breese was also a member of the Armory Irish Volunteers.

There are two pocket diaries in this series. One is dated 1867 and contains notes and copies of poems. The other diary belonged to R. W. Hume. The date on the first page is illegible. The diary is full, written in pencil in small handwriting, often difficult to read. The daily entries are often short and descriptive, detailing the activities of Hume. The passage for 4 July reads, "Passed most of the morning at the Louvre. Had my hair cut, frizzled &c. Had a 4th of July dinner with Charlestonians almost got boozy."

Three scrapbooks and a ledger are included in this series. A scrapbook, kept by Breese in his role as chair of the Zebulon Vance Camp of United Confederate Veterans in 1895, contains notes, membership lists, and clippings. Another scrapbook contains clippings, correspondence, and writings from as early as 1863 and as late as 1899. Many of the clippings are about Breese's appointment as president of the First National Bank of Asheville. A third scrapbook, labeled "William E. Breese Jan 1st 1880," also contains some correspondence. The clippings are often of poetry, recipes, and short anecdotes. There are a few pages that contain Confederate currency. The ledger details household expenditures, 1911-1914.

Also included are eight playing cards that are printed on stiff cardboard with Confederate flags and seal on the reverse side.

Folder 18

Writings #04890, Series: "4. Other Papers, 1867-1914." Folder 18

Folder 19

Diaries #04890, Series: "4. Other Papers, 1867-1914." Folder 19

Folder 20

Speeches #04890, Series: "4. Other Papers, 1867-1914." Folder 20

Folder 21

Programs and announcements #04890, Series: "4. Other Papers, 1867-1914." Folder 21

Folder 22

Clippings #04890, Series: "4. Other Papers, 1867-1914." Folder 22

Folder 23

Folder number not used #04890, Series: "4. Other Papers, 1867-1914." Folder 23

Oversize Volume SV-4890/3

Scrapbook--United Confederate Veterans #04890, Series: "4. Other Papers, 1867-1914." SV-4890/3

Folder 24

Folder number not used #04890, Series: "4. Other Papers, 1867-1914." Folder 24

Oversize Volume SV-4890/4

Scrapbook--1863-1899 #04890, Series: "4. Other Papers, 1867-1914." SV-4890/4

Folder 25

Folder number not used #04890, Series: "4. Other Papers, 1867-1914." Folder 25

Oversize Volume SV-4890/5

Scrapbook--"William E. Breese Jan 1st 1880" #04890, Series: "4. Other Papers, 1867-1914." SV-4890/5

Folder 26

Household ledger, 1911-1914 #04890, Series: "4. Other Papers, 1867-1914." Folder 26

Folder 27

Inventory of Breese family books #04890, Series: "4. Other Papers, 1867-1914." Folder 27

Folder 28

Confederate playing cards #04890, Series: "4. Other Papers, 1867-1914." Folder 28

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 5. Pictures Undated.

57 items.

Photographs of members of the Breese and other families. Almost all of the pictures are portraits. Many are labeled, although it is unclear whether or not some of these people are related to the Breese family. Pictures 56-59 appear to be promotional photos from the First National Bank of Asheville. They depict young women in fancy dresses holding large amounts of money.

Image Folder PF-4890/1

Photographs, labeled #04890, Series: "5. Pictures Undated." PF-4890/1

Image Folder PF-4890/2

Photographs, unlabeled #04890, Series: "5. Pictures Undated." PF-4890/2

Image Folder PF-4890/3

Photographs, unlabeled #04890, Series: "5. Pictures Undated." PF-4890/3

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Processing Information

Processed by: Nick Graham, March 1998

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

Updated by: Kathryn Michaelis, January 2010

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