Johann Jakob Brechtel and family emigrated from Durlach (a suburb of Karlsruhe) Germany via Rotterdam aboard the Patience and Margaret, arriving in Philadelphia in 1737 (see the *.PDF file immigration record). Initially, they settled in Frederick County, Virginia. Early deeds and wills for the area just south of what is now Moorefield, Hardy County, West Virginia, tell us that the family name was changed from Brechtel to Brake upon moving to America. The family purchased a large plot on the South Fork, South Branch of the Potomac River.
About the time Johann's family was settling in Virginia, another possibly related Brake family was settling in North Carolina. Read about that family here. Johann (John) Jacob Brake had a son, also named Johann Jacob, which has confused genealogists. To further confuse the issue, the younger Johann has been called both John (see this 1796 court record where "John" was appointed overseer of a local road) andJacob Brake, and since Jacob had a son named Jacob, the elder is referred to as Jacob, Sr., and the younger as Jacob, Jr. I can trace my roots all the way back in Johann Jacob Brake's lineage through his son, Jacob, Sr. If you study my family tree, you will see I claim Jacob, Sr.'s son, Isaac, as my 4-Great Grandfather and father of my 3-Great Grandfather, James. No proof of that connection has been found. Another possibility is that James' father is Michael Brake, Jacob Sr.'s son by his second wife, Catherine Stump. While living in Hardy County, James was known as James Davis. Upon migrating to Lewis County, he took the Brake name. A Davis family lived on land adjacent to the Brake farm, as did the Dasher family. In The Commonwealth vs. Michael Brake (transcription or actual document), we see Michael was an active lad, fathering a daughter in 1800 with Elizabeth Dasher before marrying her. It could be that he also fathered James earlier (~1795) with a Davis female. No record of such a birth has been found. Also of interest is the estate sale of John Rohrbough's property (last entry on "deeds and wills" above). Michael and James Brake were buyers. Since there was no other James Brake on the South Fork at the time, this James is possibly my 3-great grandfather. Another possible indicator...James Brake named his second son Nimrod See Brake. Could that be in honor of Nimrod See, Michael's son-in-law, and James' brother-in-law? And lastly, Michael was known to take in several orphans. Listed in the 1820 federal census are two young men born in 1794/5 who were not listed in later censuses in the South Fork area. Could one of them be James?
Family legend tells us that Jacob Brake, Sr.'s first wife was a Delaware Indian princess called Miss Naddie Neiswanger or sometimes, Nyeswanan. The claim that Jacob had been married to anyone prior to marrying Maria Elizabetha Kiefer (Cooper) cannot be substantiated. The legend might have had something to do with Jacob's brother-in-law, John Nieswanger. Another legend that Johann Jacob Brake, Jacob, Sr.'s father, was a baron from northern Germany has also been debunked. It is fairly well established that, although wealthy, he was a commoner from southern Germany (near present day Karlsruhe).
Other family stories tell us that Jacob Brake, Sr.'s first wife, Elizabeth Cooper, was captured by Shawnee Indians just prior to the "Battle of the Trough" in 1756. Although she probably was captured by Shawnee, that probably didn't happen until 1764 when the last Indian raid was made through the South Fork valley. Being pregnant when captured, Elizabeth couldn't keep up with the Indian raiding party as they made their escape and consequently, was killed. At least one Brake child, later to be known as Jacob "The Captive", was taken to the Indian settlements in what is now Ohio where he remained for eleven years. Returning to western Virginia, he joined family members in what is now Upshur County, WV, serving as a scout during the Revolutionary War. He is buried in Heavener Cemetery, Buckhannon, West Virginia (see his stone below).
Jacob the Captive's Stone - Heavener Cemetery, Buckhannon, Upshur Co, WV
Life along the South Branch and, in fact, anywhere in western Virginia during the 1700s wasn't easy be any means. Johann Brake descendant, Linnie Louise Brake Cunningham gives us an idea in her manuscript what life was like on the original Brake farm. Jacob, Sr., his family, and at least one slave (see the July 25. 1775 Notice of Runaway Slave below) operated a blacksmith shop, distillery, and grist mill, the latter drawing its power from the falls you see at the top of this page. The gathering of families and shops was known as Brake's Run in the early days, and simply as Brake, Unincorporated today. McMaster's History of Hardy Countymentions the village of Brake.
The Brake farm was apparently of considerable worth with fine fields and thriving stock. The main house has been referred to as a "mansion" although there is little remaining today that would evidence such. There is, however, a sturdy log house that we know was used as a Post Office as late as 1860 when Leonard Brake (grandson of Jacob, Sr.) was Postmaster. The "town" at that time was called "Brake's Run" in recognition of the nearby creek of the same name. Leonard and wife, Margaret Simon Brake, are pictured at right. Both are buried in the Brake Cemetery on the site of the old homestead (their grave stones are shown below).
The same log house may have been at Brake's Run much earlier than 1860, however. When I visited the farm in 1999, a family was living in the cabin (and its adjoining wood frame structure added in recent years). The man of the family told me the date "1762" is etched into the stone hearth of the fireplace. This could mean the building was there in 1762, or that the building was built around an existing fireplace that might have been in one of the early buildings. Or it could mean simply that someone chisled the date in the stone as a reminder that the original farm was settled in that time frame. The fireplace IS old, however, as shown in the photo at right, clandestinely taken by Sherri Brake-Recco through a window when the house was unoccupied.
During the Revolutionary War period, many families living in western Virginia remained loyal to King George. Johann Brake and his family were among those remaining faithful to the British crown known collectively as "Tories." The Tory supporters along the South Fork of the Potomac, led by one John Claypool (also called "Claypole") staqed an uprising and planned to join General Cornwallis's forces in eastern Virginia. While meeting at the home of Johann Brake, the Tories were confronted by patriots under Colonel VanMeter in what became known as the Claypole Rebellion. The Tories were convinced of the error of their ways, surrendered, and many went on to be valuable supporters of the revolution. Shortly after writing his will, Johann Brake returned to Germany leaving the South Fork farm to Jacob, Sr.
After the premature death of his first wife, Elizabeth Cooper, Jacob Brake, Sr., married a local lady, Catherine Stump. Together, Jacob and Catherine had at least one child, Michael Brake, who was born in 1770. Jacob died in 1808, and when Catherine died eight years later, she left all her worldly possessions to son, Michael, specifically stating in her will that nothing should go to Jacob's children through his previous marriage.
As shown in an extract from the 1850 federal census for the Moorefield region of what became Hardy County, Michael and his wife, Elizabeth Dasher, were living on the Brake farm at Brake's Run. Also living with them was a 16 year old female, Margaret Simon. Just who this young lady is and why she is living with Michael and Elizabeth is not known. My theory is that she is Michael and Elizabeth's granddaughter, and daughter of Jacob B. Simon and Elizabeth Brake. I am hoping someone reading this page will know who she is and contact me.
All the male children of Jacob and Elizabeth Cooper Brake appear to have migrated westward in the late 1700s, some "removing" to Harrison County (now Upshur County, WV), and at least one, Isaac and his wife, Roseanna Almon, to what is now Union County, Ohio. Prior to that move, one of the theories is that he fathered the child, James, mentioned earlier on this page. Isaac's life in Union County is chronicled in histories of that area. I have not yet visited the area, but have been told by other researchers that Isaac and Roseanna's stones are nowhere to be found, although those of their descendants are.
Michael Brake, apparently the only child of Jacob Brake, Sr. to remain on the South Fork in what is now Hardy County, died in January 1861, just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War in the area. He passed on without leaving a will. His son, Leonard, had already married Margaret Simon and was living on the family farm at the time. His daughter, Magdeline, had married Nimrod See and had lived with him on nearby Lost River prior to dying before 1861. Jacob's daughter, Elizabeth, had married Jacob B. Simon and was living on the Brake family farm on the South Fork in 1861.
When Michael died, Leonard and sister, Elizabeth, remained on the family farm. In an 1861 civil suit well known to Brake researchers as Brake vs. See, Leonard and Elizabeth sued Nimrod See and his offspring to gain relief from See family claims to what the plaintiffs considered Brake property on the South Fork. The court case was interrupted by the Civil War and was not finally settled until 1871 when it was determined that Leonard, Elizabeth, and the See family would each get a portion of the Brake farm.
The map below is taken from the Brake vs. See court file with coloring and a typed note and arrow pointing to Brake Falls added for clarity. Of the 783 acres regarded as Brake property at Michael's death, Lot #1 consisting of 450 acres, including the by then-decrepit grist mill, was awarded to Leonard. His house is colored blue on the map, and his acreage extends on both sides of the South Fork (the vertical blue stream), above the two horizontal streams. As shown on the map, the stream extending to the right on the map is called "Brake Spring." The stream extending to the left does not have a name on the map. Today, what is Brake Spring on the map is Dumpling Run, and the stream extending to the left is Brake's Run. Brake Falls shown at the top of this page is on Dumpling Run.
Nimrod See and his children were award Lot #2 consisting of 171 acres on the left (east, more or less) side of the South Fork, and below the unnamed stream extending to the left (Brake's Run today). Elizabeth (Brake) Simon was awarded Lot #2, the remaining 162 acres. Her house is shown in blue. The grist mill is shown in red.
If this map is used to orient oneself at the location, it is important to note that north is not "straight up" as most maps are drawn. Rather, north is approximately toward the lower right corner of the map.
During the Civil War, there were at least two incidents of note concerning the Brake farm. Leonard Brake and presumably, other Brake's in the area, were supporters of the federal cause. The overall population along the South Branch of the Potomac was evenly divided in their loyalties. Knowing that Brakes and others in the area were feeding information on rebel troop movements to federal forces, General J. "Stonewall" Jackson dispatched troops to eliminate the problem. In his book on the history of Frederick County, VA, Cartmell records the outcome of this 1862 Civil War incident were Leonard Brake, two of his sons-in-law, and others were taken prisoner but later escaped and returned to the South Fork. Rebel forces must have considered the area relatively secure. Later the same year, Confederate General John Imboden bivouaced his troops on the Brake farmfor several months in late 1862, early '63. While there, Imboden's forces were attacked by the 23rd Illinois Infantry. See other Brakes involved in the Civil War.
Today, the old Brake farm is subdivided with several families owning various parcels. On the west side of the South Fork, the log house once used as a Post Office stands guard over the Brake Cemetery across the county road and on land belonging to Millard and Wanda Nesselrodt. At the foot of Brake Falls is an A-frame home belonging to Bob Bonner and wife, Lela, a Brake descendant. Across the South Fork on what would have been Lot #3 described in Brake vs. See is an abandoned farm house accessible only with off-road vehicles. And atop a prominent, forested knob behind the house is the final resting place of Angus See, born in 1870 just one year before the See family gained ownership of Lot #3.
Angus M. See, 1870 - 1925
Catherine (Stump) Brake, b. October 22, 1741, d. March 31, 1816.
The Brake Cemetery
Margaret (Simon) Brake, b. April 14, 1804, d. May 5, 1893
Two mystery stones adjacent to Catherine (Stump) Brake's stone. One appears to be at the head of a grave, the other at the foot. Both appear to be inscribed with "C8," "1789," and "A.G." or "A.U." If 1789 is the date of death, it would have been one of the first burials in the Brake Cemetery.
Leonard Brake, b. April 2, 1804, d. July 2, 1891
Elizabeth (Brake) Simon, b. September 10, 1809, d. September 26, 1894
This web page is dedicated to those who rest in the Brake Cemetery, Brake, Hardy County, West Virginia. Remaining stones are shown here:
Daniel A. Sites, b. June 2, 1836, d. June 8, 1909
Margaret (Brake) Sites (Leonard's daughter), b. January 12, 1834, d. December 12, 1906.
Dice R. P. See, b. June 16, 1891, d. March 20, 1923. (Dice was the great grandson of Magdeline Brake.) See.)
Shortly after marriage, James and Ann moved to the vicinity of what is now Buckhannon, Upshur County, WV. James changed his name to James Brake, and the widely accepted conclusion is that his father was a Brake and he was raised in a Davis family, possibly that of his Davis mother. After marriage, Ann was known as Anne or Anna Mumford, the two last names having be used interchangeably by the extended Mumbert/Mumford family in Pendleton County. As mentioned earlier on this page, I have assigned Isaac Brake as James' father, but there are also indications that his father might be Michael Brake, son of Jacob, Sr., and Catherine Stump. Before his untimely death when a tree fell on him, James and wife, Anna, had three sons, Cyrus B., Jacob James, and Nimrod See Brake. Nimrod's middle name, See, could be an indication that his grandfather was a See. There was much interaction between Michael Brake and the See family as indicated in the court case, Brake vs. See, described above. Although Isaac Brake undoubtedly knew the See family, there is no indication that he might have have been so involved with them that one of his grandsons would have the middle name, See. Another hint that James might have been Michael's son is that Michael was known to have tendencies toward trysts with neighboring young ladies, one of which led to him fathering Elizabeth, daughter of his neighbor and eventual wife,
Cyrus and wife, Sarah McAvoy, had several children, including William Hunter Brake. William and wife, Mary Jane Armstrong, had several children including Arthur David Brake. Arthur and wife, Lucy G. Perry, had several children including James (born "Basil"), my Dad. To review Brake marriages in Upshur County from the mid-1800s through the mid-1900s, check this list sorted alphabetically by the husband's name, or this one sorted by the wife's name.
Another Leonard Brake was killed under unusual circumstances during the Civil War. Read a little bit about his story and visit his cemetery here.
Update!! During an August 2005 visit to Hardy County, Sherri Brake-Recco, her family, and I were allowed entry to the "post office." Sure enough, "1762" is inscribed in the firebox, upside down and backwards. Through the magic of digital photography, its mirror image is shown below.
The rocks above, at the bottom of the hill behind the log house, are reportedly part of the foundation of the original "mansion."
In about 1795, James Davis was born in Hampshire County, Virginia (now West Virginia). On June 17, 1817, he married Ann Mumbert in neighboring Pendleton County.
Since July 2008
For a recent (July 2009) discovery on children of Johann Brake (Sr.) click here. Research by Ancestry Seekers commissioned by Perry Brake