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Thomas Alvah Edison


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Parallel Families: Edison and Breckenridge Families

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Life can draw some interesting parallels - some of them coincidental and some we create ourselves. Take the Edison and Breckenridge families as a example.

Both families arrived in Ohio during the 1840s. Samuel and Nancy Edison settled in Milan, Erie County, with their children. In 1847, Thomas Alvah Edison was born there. Thirty miles away, the family of Lewis and Mary Breckenridge moved to a farm near Camden, Lorain County. Because they were a few years older, the Edisons had older children in the 1850 census than the Breckenridges, but they both had 3 children at that time (the Breckenridges had considerably less wealth, too). In 1854, the Edison family moved to Port Huron, MI, because the railroad bypassed Milan, which had become a booming hub for grain which was hauled to the town in wagon trains and transferred to ships waiting in the canal, while the Breckenridges remained in Camden. In 1860 a son was born and given the name of Seward Lincoln Breckenridge, in honor of former Vice-President, now Secretary of State, William H. Seward and the new President of the United States. Six months after his birth, Seward's mother died and he was adopted by her sister, Sarah, who had married John Fauver. One of the conditions of the adoption, as the family story goes, is that the child retain the Breckenridge surname.

Young Thomas A. Edison, who lost most of his hearing at the age of 12, began selling candy and newspapers on the trains running between Port Huron and Detroit. One day he saved the life of one of the station master's sons by pulling him away from in front of a moving train. In gratitude, the station master, Mr. J. U. MacKenzie, taught Edison how to be a telegrapher. which got him a job with Western Union in Newark, NJ. The Fauver/Breckenridge family took the other direction and moved west - first to Belvidere, NE, then Crook, CO, where Seward (or SL as he was known) became the railroad station master.

Both young men married and had children. Thomas and his wife, Mary Stilwell, had 3 children, a daughter nicknamed "Dot" and 2 sons; the eldest was nicknamed "Dash". After Mary's death, he married Mina Miller and they had a daughter and 2 sons. SL and his wife, Orilla, had 5 children by 1900 - Nora, Dora (no, they were not twins), Effie, John whom they gave the middle name of Edison, and Harold Carnot.

Thomas Edison went on to become one of the most prolific inventors in American history. A copy of his patent for the light bulb is found on Footnote and displayed here. John Edison Breckenridge kept moving west until he became a cattle rancher in Montana, where his son Edison Carnot was born, and Edison Carnot had a son he named John Edison. The Breckenridges maintained contact with railroads; SL's daughter, Nora, even became a telegrapher at Three Forks, MT. Both families now have descendants scattered throughout the United States.

Another interesting aspect of Thomas Edison's family is their longevity. Thomas died at the age of 84. Both his daughters and one of his sons were over 90 when they died, as was his father, Samuel. With the exception of Edison Carnot Breckenridge, who died at the age of 83, earlier male ancestors died in their 70s (one in a car accident), which was still above life expectancy for their time periods.

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Contributor: dbreckenridge
Created: March 26, 2007 · Modified: March 26, 2007

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