Nelson L. Brakeman, Obituary/Death NoticePorter County obituaries and death notices . . . .

Nelson L. Brakeman


Rev. Nelson L. Brakeman, A. M., pastor of the M. E. church here, died at his residence at 10 o'clock last Sabbath morning of apoplexy. He was preparing for the regular pulpit service when taken, and the apalling information of his sudden demise was announced by Hon. M. L. DeMotte to his amazed congregation at about the moment when his personal appearance was expected. He had been in poor health some time, having suffered a stroke and paralysis shortly before the last conference. His death, therefore, though occasion of anguish, was not a great surprise to those best acquainted with his condition. Rev. Mr. Brakeman was regarded as one of the leading Methodists of the state. He was an able exponent of the Christian religion and his life was that of one faithful to his mission. He was a noble example of manhood, who had the full confidence and esteem and admiration not only of his congregation but of all the people of his familiar acquaintance. His abrupt death and departure from our midst have cast gloom and sadness over the entire community. Service was held over his remains in the M. E. church on Monday at 4 p. m., conducted by Rev. R. Beer, of the Presbyterian church, whose remarks were very appropriate and impressive. On Tuesday his body, attended by Undertaker Lepell, Brothers M. L. DeMotee, Wm. H. Vail, M. F. Winslow and E. L. Whitcomb and by his only child, Miss Minnie, was taken for interment to Kalamazoo, Mich. To be laid beside that of his deceased wife, which four weeks before had been exhumed from Valparaiso cemetry and taken there by himself for re-burial. Inexpressible sympathy goes with the bereft daughter, who alone remains. We reprint below, from "A Biographical History of Eminent and self-made Men of the State of Indiana," a sketch of his life.


Rev. Nelson L. Brakeman, A. M., of Valparaiso, is the son of Lewis J. and Candace Brakeman, who were natives, respectively, of New York City and Hartford, Connecticut. Lewis J. Brakeman -- a local preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church -- was a German, and the grandfather was a native of Darmstadt, Germany. Nelson L. was born October 8, 1829, in Michigan, St. Clair County, Clay Township. His father was a merchant and furrier at Algonac, Michigan, and owned a vessel on the lakes. He lost his wife by the shipwreck of his own vessel, in December, 1832. In the settlement of the estate the widowed mother and her children -- three daughters and an only son -- were fraudulently deprived of almost the entire amount. At the age of thirteen Nelson had to go into the world for himself. His early educational advantages were limited to the district school, but he improved them well. He inherited strong religious tendencies, and in his twelfth year united with the Methodist Episcopal Church; after which, steadfastly, under all circumstances, he maintained a consistent, active, devoted Christian life. While at work as a mechanic, he diligently improved his evenings and other leisure hours in prosecuting his studies. Meanwhile he had been appointed class-leader in the Church and had received a license to exhort. In his eighteenth year the way was opened for him to attend the academy at Niles, Michigan, which he improved for two years and a half, teaching in the winter, but keeping up his academic studies, and reading in theology as well. He thus prepared himself for entering the college at Albion, Michigan, under Dr. Hinman as president, with a view of preparing for and entering the ministry. Before settling down to a college course, he resolved to make a tour of observation, and traveled through New York state, New England, and into Canada, gathering much useful knowledge by the way. Returning by the route of Niagara Falls, sickness hindered his entering college at the time appointed, and he went to Michigan City, Indiana, to spend the winter, intending to enter college at the spring term. At this last-named place the Church authorities unwisely persuaded him to abandon his college course, and enter at once upon his contemplated life-work. He reluctantly yielded to their solicitations (the mistake of his life), and on the 13th of March, 1850, was licensed to preach, and was appointed, by the presiding elder, to the Crown Point Circuit, which he traveled on foot. He was obliged to journey one hundred and sixty miles every four weeks, and meet eighteen regular appointments, some of the Sabbaths requiring a a walk of twenty-one miles, and three sermons. The official cash receipts for seven months of that kind of walking and talking were three dollars and sixty cents. Of those who were converted, two became ministers and one a professor in college. In October of that year he was received on trial in the North-west Indiana Conference as a traveling preacher. In two years he was received into full connection in the conference and ordained a deacon, at Attica, Indiana, by Bishop Ames, and in two years more (1854) was ordained an elder, at Delphi, by the same bishop. In September, 1860, he was stationed at Strange Chapel, in Indianapolis, (now California St. Church), and on the breaking out of the war with the South he was commissioned by Governor Morton as chaplain of the 21st Indiana Regiment Light Infantry (afterwards 1st Heavy Artillery). June 6th, 1861, his regiment was ordered to Baltimore, Maryland, and tehnce to Fortress Monroe, Virginia. In March, 1862, they were attached to General Butler's expedition to the South-west and, after a week's sailing, reached Ship Island, in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Mississippi coast. Of his services as chaplain the Indianapolis Daily Journal says this:

"Mr. Brakeman was the only chaplain from Indiana who went into the war at the beginning, and stuck to the work in the field till the war closed. It is worthy of note that he had but one leave of duty during the entire war, and that was a sick-leave of but sixty days. He saw his family but once in three years. During the war he became known, especially in Indiana, as an army correspondent. The Journal of those days and the Church Advocates contain several of his letters, which were widely copied into other periodicals. The chaplain is honorable mentioned in 'Indiana's Roll of Honor,' and in the 'Indiana Soldier.' In the latter work (Vol. 1, p. 564) the historian, after complimenting the surgeons for faithfulness and bravery at the battle of Baton Rouge, says: 'The chaplain, N. L. Brakeman, was equally attentive to his duty. At the siege of Port Hudson he was 'on hand' in all the fighting, and at the front with the men, serving, by request, on the general's staff, as aid, in all engagements.' In the official report of the siege he is thus mentioned: 'Chaplain Brakeman rendered efficient services in repeatedly carrying orders, under fire of the enemy.' ('Indiana Soldier,' Vol. II, p. 320.) Near the close of the war he received a commission from President Lincoln, and was appointed post chaplain at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, whereupon the officers of his regiment called a meeting complimentary of him, and passed, among others, the following resolution:

'Resolved, That while we forbear to express our high estimate of his labors among us during over three years in the field, in all of which time he has been absent from the regiment but sixty days, and then on 'sick-leave,' we bear cheerful testimony to his faithfulness and efficiency in all that pertains to the office and work of a chaplain. And it gives us peculiar pleasure to here renew with emphasis the special confidence we posed in his partiotism, valor, fidelity and ability, when, in 1861, he was unanimously chosen our chaplain. He leaves us as he came to us, and has lived among us, with an unblemished character as a man and Christian minister, and bearing with him the benediction of the entire regiment.'"

August 4, 1865, while serving as post chaplain at Baton Rouge, he met with a severe and dangerous accident, which resulted in the complete dislocation of his right ankle, and the breaking of the leg below the knee, nearly costing him his life. Previous to this accident Mr. Brakeman had been selected by the Methodist bishops as one fo the few men to whom was to be committed the difficult work of reorganizing the Methodist Episcopal Church in the Gulf Department -- Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. On his leaving the service for this work, the New Orleans Times of October 17, 1865, among other things, has the following:

"Mr. Brakeman came to the Gulf Department early in 1862, and of all the chaplains who came with General Phelps and Butler he is the only one remaining in it. He contemplates returning to the regular work of the ministry, now that the war is over, and is in the city to settle his accounts with Uncle Sam. He has served through the entire war, and now leaves the service most honorably, and with very favorable written indorsements from his own regiment, and from Generals Butler, Banks, Sherman, Canby, and Sheridan. When he is mustered out the government will lose a competent and faithful servant."

Dec. 25, 1865, the three states above named were organized into the Mississippi Mission Conference, and Mr. Brakeman was appointed the presiding elder of the Mississippi District, with that entire state for a district. Dr. Phelps, of Philadelphia, went to Texas, and Dr. Newman to Louisiana. Rev. A. C. McDonald, D. D., writing of that year's work by Mr. Brakeman, in the Southwestern Advocate, says:

"There are those who can never forget the prejudices, persecutions, toils and perils amid which he that year planted the M. E. Church at Meridian, Macon, Columbus, Aberdeen, (the home of Bishop Paine, of the Church South), Corinth, Holly Springs, Oxford, Jackson, Brandon, Natchez, Vicksburg, Yazoo City and other points. With one traveling preacher on trial (sent to him after the work was begun), with the entire state for a district, without a place of worship or a single member to worship with, surrounded by enemies, but with God on his side, he began the work; and the year closed with thirty local preachers, thirteen Sunday-schools, nine churches three parsonages, and over two thousand three hundred members, and about as many Sunday-school scholars. . .In 1873, only seven years from the beginning, the one traveling preacher had grown to one hundred and twenty-three.; the eleven Churches to nearly one hundred; the thirty local preachers to three hundred and twenty-nine; and the two thousand three hundred members to thirty thousand three hundred and forty-three, with a proportinate increase in the Sabbath-school work. . .Thirty thousand souls in seven years is certainly a fine increase. What other annual conference can show a like increase in the same length of time?"

The next year Mr. Brakeman was transferred to the New Orleans District, Louisiana, and the following extract from the Minutes of the Mississippi Mission Conference for 1867, pages 1 and 2, gives the progress of the work in the New Orleans District for that year:

"Number of churches and chapels built during the year, thirteen; two had been purchased, and Wesleyan Hall, a large substantial school building belonging to Wesley Chapel, had been built and dedicated -- in all sixteen buildings erected or purchased for God and his cause this year. . . .The erection and completion of the Ames M. E. Church in N. Orleans marked an era in the progress of our cause in the Mississippi Mission Conference. It coast $50,000, and will accommodate a thousand hearers. . .The actual increase of members in the district this year has been over two thousand."

With the organization of the Mississippi Mission Conference, a weekly Church paper -- the New Orleans Advocate, now the Southwestern -- was established, and Mr. Brakeman was appointed one of its editors, in which position he served three years. His ready and vigorous pen added greatly to its strength and influence. During the severe yellow fever epidemic of 1867, in New Orleans, Mr. Brakeman was a victim to the scourge, from which he barely escaped with his life. As it was, it brought on asthma, from which he still suffers greatly at times. In 1868 he returned North, and was appointed to the First M. E. Church in Lafayette, Indiana. This he served three years, during which time the society built Trinity Church, but did not complete it, owing to the fact that the same organization aided in erecting and finishing another edifice in Chauncy, and set off some forty of its own membership to the Chauncey organization. The Trinity building was completed the next year, and is by faf the best in the entire conference. In 1870 Mr. Brakeman was elected by the faculty to deliver the annual literary address at Asbury University in Greencastle, Indiana. Appreciating his general literary abilities and the excellence of the address, the trustees conferred upon him the degree of Master of Arts, which he wears with credit alike to himself and the institution which gave it. In 1871 his conference elected him a delegate to the General Conference, which convened in Brooklyn, N. Y., the following May. That was the most important session of the supreme court of Methodism ever held; for it admitted lay delegation and elected eight bishops. His appointments since leaving Lafayette are Michigan City, Terre Haute, Frankfurt, and Valparaiso, where he, as usual, is doing good work. During the war of the rebellion, and after it, he preached in Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana -- most of the time in the last two states. Since entering the ministry, he has built an average of one church per year, received into the church over four thousand persons, and preached over five thousand sermons. From among those coverted in his own regiment during the war, and received into the Church, six became ministers of the gospel, two local preachers, and four gave themselves to the regular work; namely, Rev. A. Motz, an efficient minister in the Protestant Methodist Church; Rev. A. B. Roberts, of the United Brethren Church, formerly stationed at Pine Village, Indiana, and then sent as a missionary to Upper Canada (a man of excellent character and standing in his Church); the late Rev. W. T. Erwin, of the Indiana Conference (a one-armed soldier), a young man, self-made, and of marked ability, who was early disabled by sickness, visited Europe for his health, but returned only to die; and Rev. A. M. Danely, who, after the war, graduated at the Indiana Asbury University, and is now a promising member of the Illinois Conference. In all the varied relations and responsibilities in which Mr. Brakeman has been called to serve -- civil, military, and ecclesiastical, -- he has labored diligently, successfully, honorably, and is worthyily classed among the "eminent and self-made men of Indiana." Sept. 7, 1857, Mr. Brakeman was married to Miss Ibie Louise Beach, of Kalamazoo, Michigan. An only child, a daughter, now in college at Cincinnati, Ohio, has blessed their union. Mrs. Brakeman was educated at the Kalamazoo Female College, is an accomplished Christian lady, and a true and worthy helper of her husband. Br. Brakeman excels both as a writer and speaker, and whether read or heard is at once original and suggestive, entertaining and instructive. In reporting one of his sermons, the Baltimore American, in 1861, said of him:

"Mr. Brakeman is a bold and earnest speaker, devoted to his country, and as pious as he is patriotic. He called things by their right names, and preached the truth like a true Christian soldier, feeling, fearlessly, forcibly, and at times eloquently. He is the right kind of a chaplain, and is deservedly popular with his men."

The same may be said of him in all the Churches he has served. His sermon on the death of President Lincoln, first delivered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at the time of the assassination, was published by the order of the commanding general at the post, and a copy was sent for by Hon. E. McPherson, the clerk of the House of Representatives (to be preserved in the national archives of Washington), who declared it to be "one of the memorial sermons for the martyred president worthy of such distinguished honor." He farther said of it: "The sermon is much above the level of those preached on the occasion, of which I have now one hundred and forty. The theme is well grasped and well handled. The sermon has permanent value, and will remain in our literature." The same may be said of other of Mr. Brakeman's sermons, lectures, addresses, and essays, a number of which have already been published. The positions which Mr. Brakeman has filled, the important interests from time to time committed to his keeping, the efficient work he has always and everywhere done, the fruit of his arduous labors, the fine audiences uniformly attending his ministrations, the unblemished character he has borne, all tell more forrcibly than words can, his intelligence, integrity, and ability; his usefulness, influence, and worth to the state and the church as a man and Christian minister.

Newspaper: Porter County Vidette
Date of Publication: May 19, 1881
Volume Number: 25
Issue Number: 20
Page: 1
Column(s): 4-6

Key to Newspaper Publication Locations:
    Newspapers Published in Chesterton, Porter County, Indiana
                Chesterton Tribune
                The Tribune
                Westchester Tribune

    Newspapers Published in Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana
                Porter County Vidette
                Practical Observer
                Valparaiso Practical Observer
                Vidette and Republic
                Western Ranger

The obituaries and death notices appearing on this website have been transcribed exactly as they were originally published in the newspaper. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of obituaries and death notices appearing on this website.

Obituary/death notice transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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