Biographical Profile: Corp. John Parker Brest, Company E, Pennsylvania Volunteers, 100th Regiment

Transcribed by Tami McConahy, 2nd great-grandniece of Corp. Thomas John Martin, Co. F. from "History of Lawrence County, Aaron Hazen, 1908.

History of Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, by Aaron L. Hazen,1908

Page 851

John Parker Brest, a representative citizen of North Beaver Township, and an honored veteran of the Civil War, resides on his valuable farm of fifty-three acres, which is situated in the Second precinct. He was born in Plaingrove Township, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, August 14, 1840, and is a son of David and Catherine (Remley) Brest.

The grandfather, Andrew Brest, was a soldier in the War of 1812. Subsequently he came from Westmoreland to Mercer County, where he reared a family, acquired property, and finally passed away. David Brest, father of John P., was born and died in Mercer County, although he was a resident of Lawrence County for many years, including the period of the Civil War. The Brest family has been one of noted patriotism, and a number of the brothers of David Brest, as well as three of his sons, were soldiers in the service of their country during the Civil War. Washington, Andrew, John and Nathaniel, uncles of John P. Brest, all were brave soldiers, three of them being members of the Fifty-seventh Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, at the battle of Gettysburg, and one a member of the One Hundred and Fortieth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Washington Brest, whose name is inscribed with those of other heroes on the monumental shaft erected in the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, fell at Gettysburg, and his remains lie in an unknown grave. His name is also inscribed on the Soldiers' Monument at New Castle. Two brothers of John P. Brest, Louis Francis and David W., were both members of Company E, Fifty-seventh Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and both were wounded, though not mortally, at the battle of the Wilderness. All these soldiers, including John Parker Brest, suffered greatly in the service, but all lived to return home with the exception of Washington.

John Parker Brest was reared and educated as a farmer boy, in Plaingrove Township. He had just reached his majority and had made plans for his future which had nothing to do with the battle field, when the Civil War broke out, and he immediately began preparations to go to the front as a soldier. On August 27, 1861, he enlisted first, becoming a member of Company E, in the famous One Hundredth "Roundhead" Regiment, which made such a noble record for courage and efficiency. The commander of his company was the brave Captain Bentley, and Mr. Brest contacted to serve as a private for three years, although at the time the general opinion was that the struggle would not be protracted for so long a period. That this hope was soon shattered, our country's records show. After the conclusion of his first enlistment, Mr. Brest re-enlisted in the same regiment and same company, in December, 1863, agreeing to serve for three more years. He participated in seventeen battles, many of these being the most important ones in the whole war. His regiment was not at Gettysburg, at the time being at an equally dangerous point, Vicksburg, Miss. He was in every engagement in which his regiment took part until on June 2, 1864, when he was so seriously wounded at the battle of Cold Harbor that the field surgeon found it necessary to amputate his shattered left leg, on the following day. At the previous battle, at Spottsylvania, his company had lost thirty-nine men of its one hundred six being mortally wounded and the rest terribly injured, all of the officers down to the corporals being among the victims. Promotions were made from the ranks, and Mr. Brest was made a corporal, but his injury so quickly followed that he never served in that capacity. He had well earned the promotion. When the battle was raging and the captain called for volunteers to go out on the vedette line, a post of the greatest danger, from which even an ordinarily brave man shrank, John P. Brest was one of the first to volunteer, and when the order to charge was given, he was one of the leaders to break into the Confederate line. Other occasions came for him to show his mettle as a soldier, and on no occasion did his officers or companions ever find him lacking in courage. At the battle of the Wilderness, May 6, 1864, his brigade was massed and his regiment ordered to charge on the enemy who had captured the first line, and it was the "Roundheads" who swept the Confederates back to the bushes, and Mr. Brest was one of the very first soldiers to cross the line and make the opening for the brigade who took possession of the enemy's works. This was the occasion when, through pure courage, he made a notable capture, that of an armed Confederate lieutenant and a private, and at the point of the lieutenant's own sword he marched them to headquarters and delivered them up as prisoners. This sword is now preserved among the archives of the "Roundhead" Regiment.

Several days before the battle of Cold Harbor, when the tired soldiers were marching along a Virginia highway, in the wake of a Confederate force, Mr. Brest discovered a Confederate knapsack that had been discarded by its owner. On investigation into its contents he found a small Bible, and this he preserved, and intending to send it home as a souvenir he placed it in his haversack. Being compelled to ford a river shortly afterward, he put it into his knapsack, in order to protect it from getting wet, and this cared of the little volume proved to be the saving of his life. When he entered the subsequent battle of Cold Harbor, the little book was in his knapsack, and after he was so cruelly injured and was lying helpless on the battlefield, with shells shrieking and exploding over him and rifle balls still doing their fatal work all around him, one of the latter struck the knapsack, just where it would have passed entirely through the helpless soldier's body had not the holy book caused it to glance off, leaving merely a flesh wound behind. As may be imagined, this Bible is one of the most valued possessions of his children. For eight months after his injury, Mr. Brest was confined to the Harwood Hospital, at Washington, D.C., and then returned to his little farm in Plaingrove Township.

On March 3, 1964, while on a furlough, Mr. Brest was married to Ruth Ann Rodgers, a daughter of Thomas Rodgers, of Plaingrove Township. To this union were born nine children, all of whom survive with the exception of the eldest and youngest - Elden E., Harvey Taylor, Clarence O., Elmira E., Perry N., Scott Stanley, John E., Margaret L., and Blaine. Elmira E. married N.E. Rodgers, and has two children - Ralph Wesley and Treva Gertrude. Harvey Taylor married Cora B. Runkle, and had three children - Ora L., Harold Clyde and Frederick Stanley, the last mentioned being now deceased. Clarence O. married Minnie Odessa Forney, and has three children - Ruth, Flora and Nuna Murl. Perry N. married Nettie McFate, and has three children - Everett Eugene, Kenneth Lynn, and Charlie Leverne. Scott Stanley married Mabel Victoria Leslie, and has one child, John Parker Leslie. John E. married Ida Mitchell, and has two children - Dorothy Pearl and Frances Leonora. Margaret L. married Charles Sylvester Meade, and they have two children - Charles Elden and Thelma Margaret.

Mr. Brest moved to Mercer County in 1868, purchasing a property on which he resided for some twenty-one years. In 1889 he bought his present farm in North Beaver Township, coming to it at that time, and here he has been engaged in general farming and fruit growing ever since. He is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and the Union Veterans Legion, and belongs also to the Protected Home Circle. In politics he is a Republican, and is one of the two men elected jury commissioners in Lawrence County, his co-worker being a Democrat.

Page 643

Scott Stanley Brest, residing on a well-cultivated farm of fifty-six acres, which is situated in North Beaver Township, and one and one-half miles west of Moravia, on the Moravia-Petersburg road was born in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, January 11, 1877, and is a son of John Parker and Ruth Ann (Rodgers) Brest.

John P. Brest was born in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, and was reared near the Mercer County line, not far from Plain Grove. His present residence is in North Beaver Township and his occupation is farming. He served for over three years in the Civil War, a member of the One Hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and suffered the loss of a leg at the battle of Cold Harbor. He was a brave and gallant soldier. In December, 1889, he removed from Mercer County to North Beaver Township, Lawrence County.

Scott S. Brest was reared in Mercer County and from boyhood has been associated with farm life. On February 28, 1906, he married Mabel Victoria Leslie, who is a daughter of Maria Jane and the late John N. Leslie. Mr. Leslie was born in Lawrence County, November 7, 1833, and his parents moved to the farm on which Mr. and Mrs. Brest now live when Mr. Leslie was eight years old. He followed the carpenter trade for a number of years and later took up farming. He died January 8, 1905.

The property on which Mr. Brest now lives was purchased May, 1905, from the heirs of the late John N. Leslie, Mrs. Brest being the third generation of Leslies to own it. Mr. and Mrs. Brest have one child, John Parker Leslie, who was born February 16, 1907.

Back to Biographies Page