Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Written by Roland Brees

Delbert (Del) Breese was born on the Brees Homestead in the Alert Community of Riley County Kansas on August 5th, 1875. Delbert was the 10th of 11 children of Watson and Sarah Ann Dugan Brees with only Zennie, who was born on April 21, 1881, being younger. Three of Delbert's older siblings, Joseph, Sylvester, and Martha, died about 1870 during one of the periodic epidemics which swept the state, and a 4th, William, Died of similar causes probably about 1879.
Delbert grew up and attended grade school in the Alert community where he helped his father farm. Delbert married Lucy Ann Stone on March 6, 1895. Lucy was the daughter of Thomas Dudley Stone who had been a Confederate soldier in the Civil War and who was a descendant of Thomas Stone who signed the Declaration of Independence. The irony of this is that Delbert's father, Watson, had served in the Union Army. There was a report that Thomas and Watson didn't get along, but doubt is cast on this by the fact that a D. Stone signed a decaration for pension for Watson in 1907. Thomas Dudley went by Dudley. Delbert and Lucy were married in Clay Center, Ks and on the way to Clay Center, they met John August Wickstrum and Hattie Belin, also from the Alert Community, who were on their way back from Clay Center where they had just been married. The significance of this is that Delbert's and lucy's son, Dudley, later married Florence, the daughter of John and Hattie.
After their marriage, Delbert and Lucy and , in March 1896, their first born, Dudley Clark, lived for a time in the original dugout that Watson had constructed when he first arrived in Kansas to homestead. Later, Del's family moved into the farmhouse with Watson. By this time, Del was doing most of the farming on the homestead as Watson was in his late sixties and the other sons had all left home.
In November of 1897, Del's younger sister, Zennie, 16, died after an illness of about 2 weeks duration of a complication of diseases. It should be noted that she had suffered serious infury in August of the same year when she was thrown from a horse and this probably contributed to her death. In March of 1899, Del's mother, Sarah, died after an illness of a very short time.
In August of 1910, Del's father, Watson, suffered an illness from which he never fully recovered and in November he had another attack which left him almost helpless. Despite his infirities, he remained cheerful to the last. Watson died on March 21, 1911 and he is buried in the Mayday, Kansas Cemetery alongside Sarah and Zennie.
Watson was the last of the old settlers in the Alert Community and was loved and respected by all. His house was just up the hill from the Alert School and on occasion he would come down to the school and the children would all gather around him much as if her were an affectionate grandfather. They enjoyed his company and he enjoyed their's.
Upon Watson's death, Delbert inherited the farm but with the stipulation that the other children of Watson's would receive a cash settlement. Delbert mortgaged the farm in order to obtain the necessary money, and when he was unable to repay the money, he lost the farm.
Meanwhile, Delbert's brother, Albert, had moved to Council Grove, Ks in 1919 where he had an orchard among other things. Delbert moved to Council Grove and started a dairy in the same general area which is known as Sample Town. In 1920, Delbert's son, Didley, who had just married Florence Wickstrum, joined the family enterprise in Council Grove. The venture, however, was short lived as a disease struck the dairy herd and it had to be destroyed.
From the southwest, meanwhile, had come glowing reports of lots of money to be earned by growing pinto beans with most of this information coming from Delbert's sister, Mary Ann (Maggie) and her husband, Asher Schoonover, who were living at Mr. Dora, New Mexico. Accordingly, Delbert and Lucy along with their children took off for New Mexico. Joining them were Dudley and Florence Brees and Delbert's daughter Ida Mae Erickson and husband, Ernest, and daughters Mildred and Evelyn. The report of the ability to grow large crops was true to an extent as the area had been experiencing an unusual wet spell in recent years and large yields could be realized the first year that the sod was busted up. However, when the rainfall returned to normal, the thin soil would blow and crops were destroyed. Indeed, New Mexico of the 1920's was a harbinger of the dust bowl days that would cover the great plains in the 1930's and the group was unable to raise enough of a crop to even pay for their seed and they lost their collateral.
Delbert and Lucy, Dudley and Florence (with Delbert's first grandson, Waldo, who had been born in New Mexico), and Ida and Ernie and family all returned to Kansas where Delbert and Lucy started running a boarding house in Leonardville which had belonged to Thomas Dudley Stone. Delbert continued in the dairy business by having a small herd at the old slaughter house west of Leonardville and later, in northeast leonardville. He also did odd jobs around town and worked in the WPA in the thirties.
Delbert died in January of 1963 and Lucy died in December of the same year. Both are buried in the Leonardville Cemetery.
It has been reported on good authority that Delbert would keep a bottle of whiskey in the oat bin in his barn which he would occassionally sample and share with others.

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