Theron A. Breese was born on November 21, 1841, in Frankfort, Herkimer County, New York, the son of New York natives Theron (b. 1810) and Jane (b. 1823).
By 1850 Theron was attending school with his two younger siblings and living with his family in Elmira, Chemung County, New York where Theron (elder) worked as a carpenter.
Theron (younger) eventually left New York and moved westward, settling in Michigan. By 1860 he was a laborer working for and/or living with C. B. Andrews, a farmer in Farmington, Oakland County.
He was 18 years old and still living in Oakland County when he enlisted in Company F on May 13, 1861.
He was reported absent sick in the hospital in August of 1862, but he apparently recovered and was subsequently transferred to Company L, 2nd United States cavalry (known originally as the 2nd Dragoons its designation was changed in 1861), on or about November 20 or 28, 1862, at Washington, DC. Theron joined the Regiment on or about December 1 from Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania and by mid-April he was listed as sick in camp near Falmouth, Virginia. He was mustered out of service at White House Landing, Virginia, on June 10, 1864, in the field.
It is not known if Theron ever returned to Michigan after his discharge from the army.
He may have in fact returned to his family home in New York where he was possibly living when he married Matilda A. Staring (d. 1921) at her family home in Horseheads, Chemung County, New York, on December 6, 1865. They had three children: Alda (b. 1867), Cora (b. 1871) and George (b. 1878), all of whom were deceased by 1900.
By 1870 Theron w as working as an express agent and living with his wife and daughter in Starkey, Yates County, New York.
According to a statement made by his wife in 1900, sometime around 1879 Theron abandoned her and their three children and never returned. By 1880 Matilda was reported as the head of the household and living with her three children in Horseheads, New York. (According to another source he deserted her in 1877.) Apparently Theor had moved out west and in 1880 he reported himself as a widower, working as a railroad agent and boarding with the Malkins family in Round Grove, Macon County, Missouri. In 1890 Matilda listed herself as Theron’s widow and was reportedly living in Elmira, Chemung County, New York.
Theron was not dead but had in fact remarried Mrs. Jennie Shannon, on November 23, 1886, in Harris County, Texas. (Curiously, he shows up in the 1890 veterans’ census as living in Elmira, New York.)
On August 30, 1887, Theron was living in Liberty County, Texas, working as a telegraph operator when he was convicted of embezzlement of property and sentenced to two years in the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville. He was pardoned on May 14, 1888.
By December of 1894 Theron was working as a telephone operator and living in Baghdad, California. By November of 1897 he was residing in Seattle, Washington (at “Coleman Dock”) when he applied for a pension (no. 1162511). His wife claimed he had also applied in 1894 when he was living in California. Either way, the certificate was never granted.
Theron eventually moved north, settling in British Columbia when he reportedly died of heart failure on March 29, 1900, in Revelstoke, British Columbia.
His widow Jennie eventually settled in Fort Worth, Texas, where she was living from about 1904 to 1912.
By May of 1900 Matilda (the “other” widow) was residing at 459 Church Street in Elmira, New York. That same month she wrote to the pension bureau to say that she intended to “file an application for a pension on account of [Theron’s] death. I am indirectly informed that my husband lived with some woman since he left me and fearing that some one claiming to be the widow of this deceased soldier might make some application for a pension and thus impose upon your department, I write you this letter at this time to advise you of the true facts in the case so that you may see to it that no improper person shall receive any pension on account of my husband’s death.” She was eventually granted a pension (no. 548371). By 1921 she was living at 18 Steuben Street in Horseheads, Chemung County, New York.