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Saturday, August 30, 2014

52 Ancestors #35: Reverend Robert Breck, Renowned Minister

   Robert Breck was a sort of rock star of his day.  He was a famous Congregational Minister. He was born on 7 December 1682 at Dorchester, Suffolk, Massachusetts. His father was Captain John Breck and his mother was Susanna Clapp. His father was a selectman of Dorchester and known as a very "ingenious and worthy man." Robert had 3 brothers and five sisters.  His father died in  February 1691 when Robert was only eight years old.

   Robert was a scholar.  He graduated from Harvard College in 1700 at the age of eighteen. Four years later, in 1704, he was ordained as a Minister ("obtained license to preach"), first preaching at Newton. Long Island, New York. But he no doubt wished to return to Massachusetts so that in Oct 1704 he was ordained in Marlborough, Massachusetts and became the second minister at the First congregational church of Marlborough.  He served there for 26 years until his death on 26 Jan 1731, aged 48. hundreds flocked to his funeral and three different addresses were given all of which were published and can be read today. In those days, a Minister's sermon was published and widely read.  Robert published two, an election sermon, 1728, and a "Sacramental Sermon" entitled, "The danger of Falling away after a Profession", also 1728.

   Robert Breck was known for being proficient in Hebrew and Greek.  It was said that he often read aloud to his family at breakfast from the Bible in the original Hebrew or Greek. Imagine the younger children sitting through that! Although he probably had a great delivery and translated for them as he went. He married Elizabeth Wainwright and they had six children, five girls and one son.  His son, Robert Breck, became a Minister as well.

   He was held in such high regard by his parishioners and townspeople that when he lay gravely ill a day of fasting and prayer was observed in his church with special reference to his case.  Several ministers in the area  were on hand to conduct the service. 

   After his death, the Boston Weekly Journal, on 18 Jan 1731, wrote of him:

     "As to his learning, there were few of his standing that even his equals; he was a master of the learned languages...His attainments in Philosophy, and especially in Mathematics, were above the common rate, in the study thereof, whenever he met any thing difficult or perplexed, his genius and close application son overcame it. He was well versed in History both civil and ecclesiastical, especially of our nation. His religion was vital and undisguised.  Pride, hypocrisy and affectation were his aver and covetousness was what he was a stranger to. His temper was grave and thoughtful, and, yet cheerful at times, especially with friends and acquaintances, and his conversation entertaining and agreeable.  In his conduct he was prudent and careful of his character, both a Minister and a Christian; rather sparing of speech, and more inclined to hear and learn from others.

   "His house was open to strangers, and his heart to his friends, and he took great delight in entertaining...and treated them with good manners. He was a lover of good government and good order, and, would express himself with warmth against that Leveling spirit which too much prevails." He was much missed by his family and friends and the people of Marlborough and neighboring towns. Many boys were named after him in years to come.  The name Breck was often spelled Brick so one may find either Robert Breck or Robert Brick. In our family, Robert Brick Hudson is named after him by his mother, Susannah Brigham Hudson.  She was a great granddaughter of Robert Breck. And 245 years after him, his sixth great grandson, John Marshall Peterson, followed in his footsteps and graduated from Harvard Business School in 1945.

   To end I want to repeat one line from the Boston Weekly Journal which is a nice tribute to him: "His house is open to strangers and his heart to his friends."

    As a note about the pictures.  I could find no picture of Robert Breck.  This is a picture of Increase Mather who was also a Congregational Minister in Massachusetts around the same time as Robert. In fact, he graduated from Harvard eight years before Robert. In the painting he is shown with several books which is how Robert would have often been found also. The original Harvard buildings that Robert attended burned down in 1764, however the Harvard Yard is the same spot as when Robert attended.


  1. Breck Cousin, FYI: https://parkmangenealogy.wordpress.com/2009/11/14/rev-ebenezer-parkmans-grave-westboro-ma/

  2. Breck Cousin, FYI: https://parkmangenealogy.wordpress.com/2009/11/14/rev-ebenezer-parkmans-grave-westboro-ma/