Edmund Munger Breisford (E.M.) arrived on the shores of Lake Worth in May 1880 [Pierce, p.129] on a hunting and fishing trip with his brother, John Hale Brelsford (Doc). They liked what they found and bought Frank Dimick’s place on the east side of the lake. Then E.M. went back to Ohio, leaving Doc in charge of their newly acquired home.
E.M. Brelsford, son of Dr. James R. and Dorinda Hale Breisford, was born 3 December 1853 at Belibrook, Ohio. In the fall of 1880, he returned to Lake Worth with his widowed mother and his sister, Minna, and rejoined Doc. They brought the first music to the lake. E.M. played the violin, Doc, the cello, and Minna played the piano.
The Breisford brothers went into partnership with Captain U.D. Hendrickson and constructed a general store on what became known as Brelsford’s Point. They built a dock for their schooner, “Bessie B.” to unload supplies from Jacksonville. The well-stocked store became a local gathering place, besides offering transportation to and from Jacksonville. The settlers applied for a postoffice, sending in the name Palm City to the government, but it was rejected because there was already a postoffice by that name in Florida. One man suggested Palm Beach, which was accepted. The postoffice was located in Brelsford Brothers’ store, with E.M. as the first postmaster.
Sometime later, the partnership was dissolved. Captain Hendrickson built his own store farther north on the lakeshore, bought a schooner, “Mary B.,” to get his own supplies, and went into competition with Brelsford Brothers. Now the other pioneers had their choice of two stores and two means of transportation. Because of the need for a regular service between Jupiter and Palm Beach, the Brelsfords and Cap Dimick organized a hack line between the two points in
In June of 1886, E.M. and Doc Brelsford took along two witnesses and set off for Gainesville to prove their homestead claims. The trip to Jacksonville was made in the “Bessie B.” From there they traveled by train to Gainesville. The return trip was not so smooth. The usual two- day ocean run from Jacksonville to Palm Beach lasted twelve days and nights, due to bad weather, but the homestead claims were proved.
In 1889, E.M. went to Jacksonville and married Laura Elizabeth Bell, of Ohio, and brought her back to Palm Beach. They had four children:
* Frederika, Marjorie, Mildred and Edmund, Jr. E.M. was interested in many facets of the new community. Not only storekeeper and postmaster, he was first commodore of the Palm Beach Yacht Club, a Mason (32nd degree), and a vestryman in the first church in Palm Beach, Bethesda, which he helped build.
E.M. and Doc sold their store location in 1893 to Henry M. Flagler, who built his mansion, “Whitehall”, on the property. The brothers then set about organizing the first bank in Palm Beach, Dade County State bank. Doc was president and they were both directors. In 1909, they moved it across the lake and renamed it Pioneer Bank. E.M. also helped organize the Bank of Palm Beach, the First Bank & Trust Company of Palm Beach and First National Bank in Miami.
E.M. and Laura decided to build a house of their own design at 1 South Lake Trail. When construction started in 1901, Laura took the children and stayed at St. Augustine until the house was finished. Named “The Banyans,” it was an impressive three-storied, white, Greek-revival mansion. It cost E.M. $13,000 and he supervised every detail of the building. The third floor had a large gymnasium with a stage, where the children would present plays for their parents. E.M. had two Banyan trees planted on the grounds, as well as rows of Royal Palms and other trees and flowering shrubs. “The Banyans” became the center for many social events.
Laura died, after a long illness, in a nursing home at Battle Creek, Michigan, on 14 September 1927. Funeral services were held at “The Banyans” and burial was at Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach. E.M. lived ten more years, dying 20 June 1937, and is buried beside Laura.
Frederika Breisford, born February 1892 in Tennessee, grew up in Palm Beach. She married David Forrest Dunkle, a lawyer, at “The Banyans,” where they lived at first, afterward moving to West Palm Beach. Their children: Elizabeth Carlisle Dunkle Axford, David Forrest Dunkle, Jr., and John Brelsford Dunkle. David, Sr., died 22 November 1956, Frederika died 5 December 1985, and they are both buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Marjorie Brelsford, born March 1895 at Palm Beach, married W.H. Tilson, and was living in Staunton, Virginia, in 1937.
Mildred Brelsford, born a twin in August 1898 at Palm Beach, married Charles Clarke, son of another pioneer, in 1921. They had a son, Thomas, and were living in Paris in 1937. Mildred died 12 December 1946 and is buried in
Edmund Munger Brelsford, Jr., born a twin in August 1898 at Palm Beach, married twice and had four children: Alicia, Dorinda, Edmund M., ITT, and James Edmund.