Project Canterbury

The Life of the Reverend James Lloyd Breck, D.D.
Chiefly from Letters Written by Himself
Compiled by Charles Breck, D.D.

New York: E. & J. B. Young, 1883.


IN an age of great activity and enterprise, and when all professions and employments are filled with men of culture and industry, it may seem that an apology is necessary for obtruding upon the reading public the life of any individual; and more especially when the press teems with such biographies. Two quotations are deemed sufficient to sanction the present undertaking.

The Bishop of Pittsburgh, in his Address to the Eleventh Annual Convention of his Diocese, in 1876, remarks as follows: "There has been the death of a Presbyter in a distant Diocese which touches our whole Church, for that Presbyter was a leader such as GOD gives, only now and then, to any part of His Church. The Rev. Dr. J. Lloyd Breck, his prime of life not yet past, sank literally under his toils and cares for the Church and her Missions, but a few weeks ago, in Northern California. He was my mate and friend in early school and college life, and the tie of affection was never severed. His bold, manly, aggressive Missionary life for some thirty-six years, has been the example and glory of our American Church. It is hardly possible that any one of us, cleric or lay, need to be told how the Nashotah School, our Missions among the Indians, the Faribault School, and last, the North California School, all sprang out of Dr. Breck's devoted zeal and sober enterprise. To many of us who have watched his course all these years, it seemed as though this American Church of ours, without Lloyd Breck at work in it, was hard to think of. Plain in native endowment, but, from the first, indefatigable in acquirement, and always ennobled by GOD'S grace, his good works have been the Church's treasure; and his example is one that young Ministers ought to study well before "they settle themselves down too easily and confidently to a ministry carefully made to cost as little as conscience will permit."

In Appendix VII. of the Journal of the General Convention for the year 1877, the Committee on Memorials of Deceased Members, in their report, made the following statement with regard to Dr. Breck: "The Rev. James Lloyd Breck, D.D., a member elect of this House, died at Benicia, California, after a short illness, March 30, 1876. He was born in Philadelphia, June 21, 1818; graduated at the General Theological Seminary, May, 1841; was ordained in July, and immediately afterwards, in company with the Rev. William Adams and the Rev. J. H. Hobart, proceeded to Nashotah, in Wisconsin, where they began that associated work which inaugurated a new era in the Church. This being established, he moved farther West, to Minnesota, where he founded, at Crow Wing and elsewhere, the Mission work among the Indians, which has since assumed such importance in the Church. He also established at Faribault (since the centre of Church work in that Diocese) its schools for both sexes, and its Divinity School. This being accomplished, his earnest spirit moved him, in 1867, to go to the farthest limit of our country Westward, and on the shores of California found similar institutions. At the head of an Associate Mission he landed there in May, 1867, and, locating at Benicia, founded St. Augustine's College and Grammar-school, with a Divinity-school attached; and this being established and given over to a Board of Trustees, he proceeded to found a school for young ladies, St. Mary's Hall. It was in the midst of this very successful work that he suddenly died, March 30, 1876, leaving a vacancy in the Church which no one has yet been found to fill."

A man of whom such things can truly be said, is surely worthy of a detailed narrative of his life-work, that his good sample may continue to bear fruit after his own day and generation. Yet the hand of affection may well shrink from tempting it, lest the reader should attribute more to the feeling of human partiality, than to the simple and truthful grandeur of historic fact Dr. Breck's own letters, whether published or private were singularly interesting and attractive; and it has seemed best, that, as they were a chief instrument in the doing of the work itself, they should be chiefly relied upon in order to preserve a suitable memorial of it. The ensuing volume, therefore is made up almost wholly from his letters, public and private with only such slight additions as were necessary to give completeness and a connected unity to the whole. When it is remembered, that almost endless repetition, both of principles and details, is inseparable from a practical correspondence of this kind, the reader will not wonder that some traces of it may still be found, even in the extracts here presented.

C. B.
Wellsboro', Tioga County, Pa.

Project Canterbury