Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
Tri-County Communities
Chemung County NY
Early Settlers of Horseheads

NOTE: ERROR - This is Mary Ann Truesdale who also married a Breese, NOT Hannah Guildersleeve as labeled.
Article: Early Settlers of Horseheads
Township: Town of Horseheads, Chemung County NY
Article by Helen Mac Dougall Samson (1909-1995) 1976
Sent in by Walt Samson
Photographer - Joyce M. Tice May 1999
Hannah & John Portraits from 1879 History
Retyped by Debbie Hansen
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This page is dedicated to Hannah Guildersleeve and other forgotten pioneers of Horseheads NY. Tragically, although she endured the same hardships of the pioneer life as her husband, his name and story are recorded and hers is not. We honor her belatedly and try to forgive all those who left her out of the histories and memorials. Can we ever make it up to her?

MAY 13, 1976




The first home in the village was the log cabin built by John Brees in 1789. He and his two brothers had been through the area as soldiers with Sullivan and had then determined to return and clear a spot for themselves in the wilderness. Henry and Samuel found places to their liking further south, near Wyoming, scene of the Indian massacre years earlier. John pushed on up the river and stopped at the fertile flats near the present site of Elmira. Here, his family of ten was increased by one and Sarah became the first white child born in the county. He decided to go farther north and finally built his house on the spot where Sullivan’s men had spent a night or longer as they rested from the trip back from the lakes through the swamp. It was here they killed the broken down packhorses. A small monument along South Main Street honors this sturdy pioneer whose cabin was said to have been about 300 feet farther south. The old Jackson home was the scene of a gathering of all connected to the family for a picnic every summer for some years. Numerous members of the family had a share in the growth of the town. Another John opened the first road to Breesport, named for him. The old road is now known as the Bowman Hill Road. Royal Douglas and his family were the last to live on a part of the extensive holdings of this John. John Brees and his wife are now buried in Maple Grove Cemetery. They were moved, with others from the old first settler’s burying ground on Grand Central Avenue many years ago.

The first child born in the town was Susanna Conklin. Unhappily, her’s seems to have been the first death a year later. Jonathon Conklin and his family are listed among the first arrivals in 1791. Miss Satie Conklin whose home was on Main Street seems to have been the last of the original family, by that name.

The Sayre brothers came from Orange County as did so many of the settlers. They also poled their goods up the Chemung with some of the family riding horses or walking along the path nearby.

Amelia Parkhurst taught the children in a log schoolhouse. The park now occupies that area.

The fire of 1862 which destroyed property to the amount of $75,000 was especially hard on the group of men who had formed a company and erected a large building in 1855. The president was Comfort Bennett, a well known and very prosperous farmer whose holdings were so extensive that he could walk from Horseheads to Big Flats without leaving his own property if he so desired. His Creek Revival house was torn down last year to make way for extended runways at the airport. Other officers of the company were Charles Whitney, Frederick Herrick, Edward Fleming and Darius Smith. They were unable to replace their large brick block.

The Westlake name was prominent in the first days of the county. The Hon. Jacob Westlake was an assemblyman in 1833 before the county was "erected" or formed. He was the first assemblyman from the (article cuts off here)

The Breese Monument on South Main St., Horseheads
Sadly the name of Hannah Guildersleeve is missing from the monument that honors her husband. To be forgotten or excluded by decision, by her very own descendants, is a form of dishonor. We grieve that our hardy pioneer has been so neglected. One day I hope to be driving by and see a stone cutter adding her name where it belongs.
Hannah Guildersleeve, Horseheads Pioneer, and her husband John Breese
 Subj:  Correction- not Hannah Guildersleeve
Date:  10/15/2003 9:53:16 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: (Andrew Zachow)

Dear Joyce,
    The pencil sketches are of John Breese, Jr.(1791-1882) and his wife Mary An Truesdale (1797-1874).
    These sketches have been passed down in my family for generations, framed and with their story dated 1878.  I descend from their dau. Esther Breese Kilbourn.

            Sincerely Andrew L. Zachow

Subj:  Portrait of Mary Ann Truesdale on your site
Date:  12/10/2003 8:39:57 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: (Kari Northup)

Hi Joyce,

Thankyou for the excellent work you have done on your website. I have used your site often in my research, and you have done a wonderful job. I hope you will not take this as a criticism as it is not meant to be, but I did feel that I needed to write you about an error on one of your pages:

As far as I know, that sketch is of Mary Ann Truesdale Brees, not Hannah Gildersleeve. I have a (xerox) copy of some pages of a bio of John Brees & Mary Ann Truesdale that includes those two pictures. I did see that you have an email with the correct names on your page, but it is at the very bottom and may not be noticed, and since you have the sketch at the top of your page labeled "Hannah Guildersleeve" beside an article about Hannah I can see where there would be people visiting your site who would think it was Hannah. I can scan and send you a copy of the biography on John & Mary Ann if you wish - besides being about a Chemung County family, it is one of my sources that lists the Brees family as having Dutch ancestry, which seems very likely. Steuben Jenkins gave an address at the 100th anniversary celebration of Horseheads where he stated that the Brees family in Horseheads were related to Sidney Brees of Shrewsbury, England, but no researcher that has gone to England has ever been able to find documentation there to confirm that. The records there indicate that Sidney was an only child, and not the brother of John, Henry & Cornelius Brees who emigrated to America as Steuben Jenkins said. There is also an old handwritten chart that traces the family back to Holland that has passed down through some of the lines of descendants of John Brees & Hannah Gildlersleeve. It indicates some of the descendants of John's who went Horseheads, NY, Tioga, PA and Wyoming PA among other places. I have a scan of the chart on my website at:

Once on that page click on the link for Brees & Thorn records 1800's and the chart is the first record listed.

It would be great if the picture on your page really was Hannah's portrait, as I do not have any pictures of her or her husband John Brees. The earliest Brees photo in my line I have seen is of Elias Brees, brother of the John who married Mary Ann Truesdale.

Thanks again for the work you have done on your site - it is excellent,

Kari Northup

    Here is the photo of Elias Breese, oldest brother of John Breese Jr.
                            Andy Zachow

First Added to the Site on 22 DEC 2002
By Joyce M. Tice

You are our welcome visitor since 22 DEC 2002