Thursday, February 3, 2011

57. James G. S. Brehon, aka James Somerville

There was a student named James G. S. Brehon at the Mordecai school for one session, the second half of 1811. He was a local boy in Warrenton.

Wait, what? Yes, boys attended the Mordecai school. They were usually young local boys, probably filling seats when enrollment dipped, or sitting in with a sister.

James G. S. Brehon was apparently kin the town's Irish-born doctor, James Gloster Brehon (1740-1819; the Gloster in his name is a simplified spelling of "Gloucester"). Dr. Brehon was a trustee of the Warrenton Academy when it was founded in 1786, and donated the land for its building in 1805. (Jacob Mordecai had worked briefly as steward at the Warrenton Academy, before opening his own school.) But who was he, exactly? Well.... he seems to have been a nephew, James Somerville, who was not actually called by the name Brehon as a boy, except after 1819, when childless(?) widower Dr. Brehon required the name change in a will, for James to inherit land. (Solomon Mordecai to his sisters, 11 April 1819, letter in the Mordecai papers at Duke University)

This makes him a cousin to the Gloster children, Arthur and Elizabeth, who were also at the school (more on them when we get to the Gs). The existence of several Brehons and Glosters in Warrenton, including the name-changing nephew, leads to some confusion in local histories.

A letter by Ellen Mordecai written in 1820 intimated that James was a heavy drinker (of his grandfather's whiskey, left to him as part of his inheritance), and " it is generally thought he will become deranged." But he seems to have become a doctor, married and become the father of a daughter, Rebecca Brehon (Mrs. Thomas Crossan).

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