Offered by Bruce I. Barner – 4th great grandson of Adam Barner
Last weekend I discovered Abraham Breneman’s grave in the oldest part of the cemetery of the Mennonite Church in Lindale, Virginia (north of Edom, Virginia) along with many members of his family. I discovered there was a “Breneman Saw Mill” on the German River northwest of Edom near the West Virginia state line at the furthest reaches of navigable waters that feed into the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. I also discovered Abraham Breneman died from “camp fever” (a form of bacterial Typhus) in early 1813 shortly after soldiers returned home to the Shenandoah Valley from fighting in the War of 1812. That explains how his life came to an abrupt end at the age of 70 (most Brenneman’s live well past 70) with a house headed by his second wife 23 years younger than he with most of his 16 children still at home.
The “Breneman House” (just north of Edom, several hundred yards from the cemetery) was apparently built by his son, Melchoir, in 1826 (we are all related to another Melchoir Brenneman who lived in Lancaster County in the 1700’s), but one of the books I found in the Rockingham County Historical Society showed the house was built in 1805 – which would mean Abraham Breneman would have built it. This earlier date would make sense since Abraham Breneman gave some of his land to the Lindale Mennonite Church and the church, cemetery, and the “Breneman House” are all very close together. The “Abraham Lincoln family home” and graveyard is only a couple of miles north and is identified with an historical marker (identifying the graveyard as holding several members of the Lincoln family and two slaves). When the Union Army spent nine days burning 100’s of barns and mills (and some homes – against direct orders of their commanding officers) throughout the Shenandoah Valley in 1864 Abe Lincoln’s cousin identified herself “as the president’s cousin” and asked that they spare the destruction of her property. The records show one “wealthy” Breneman nearly impoverished himself and his family buying the “release” of his sons from serving with the Confederate Army (at a cost of $500 for each son – maybe making payments more than once). They were Mennonite and did not believe in fighting in wars and killing. I also found reference to at least two Breneman’s serving in the Confederate Army some forty years after Abraham Breneman died (but can’t cite the source). I also confirm the Lincoln’s who moved west did not own any slaves – their church forbade owning slaves. I did learn Abe’s grandfather was killed during an Indian raid while farming in Kentucky (witnessed by Abe’s father). Makes my reading of Abe Lincoln’s service as a US Army Captain during the Black Hawk War more meaningful.
The small town of Edom, the Breneman Mill, the Lindale Mennonite Church and cemetery, the “Breneman House”, and the Lincoln family home are all located along the Linville Creek (though the Lincoln’s are more identified with Lacey Springs which isa bit east of the Lincoln home). On my stop at the Rockingham County Historical Society in Dayton (a quaint historic town southwest of Harrisonburg) I learned the “Harrison House” (Fort Harrison; built of solid stone) was the “frontier” (subject to attacks from Indians) in 1745. It was there that I found numerous references to the Breneman Mill and discovered Abraham Lincoln’s grandparents left the Shenandoah Valley to live in wooded Kentucky at the urging of their old friend and neighbor from Pennsylvania – Daniel Boone! If you did not know the Lincoln’s and Boone’s were neighbors (both homes are preserved just east of Reading, PA … 25 miles west of where I live today). The forest in Kentucky just southeast of where Abe Lincoln was born is named the Daniel Boone National Forest today. Hope you enjoyed this “historic tour” and all the connections I made. I did not find any direct references of Abraham Breneman knowing any of the Lincoln family though they lived two miles apart. Note: The Lincoln’s came from Massachusetts, moved into and through Pennsylvania and Virginia before moving to Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. Abe Lincoln’s grandparents (and father, as a young child) lived a short horseback ride away from where the Breneman’s lived near Edom from 1766 to 1782 (Abraham Breneman moved to Virginia from Lancaster County in 1770). My guess: During the 12 years (1770-1782) when they were “neighbors” they must have known each other.