Who was Katherine Carson Breckinridge?

KCB was born in northeastern Louisiana in 1853. Her father was Dr. James Green Carson and her mother was Catherine Breckinridge Carson. Her father owned three large plantations in Louisiana and Mississippi (Canebrake, Oasis, and Airlie). Her father and brothers fought for the Confederacy and in 1863, her father died of diphtheria. In the aftermath of war, her mother sent KCB to live with her aunt and uncle, James and Susanna Preston Lees (SPL), at Hazelwood, their estate in Highbridge, New York.

Upon her return to the South, Breckinridge lived with her mother in Memphis, Tennessee until her marriage to Clifton Rodes Breckinridge (CRB), a distant cousin whom she met at her aunt’s estate. The Breckinridges moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas and entered political life. The citizens of Arkansas elected Clifton Rodes Breckinridge as their United States Congressman from the Second Congressional District in 1882 and he served six terms. During the Breckinridges’ time in Washington, D.C., KCB participated in hereditary organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). She was appointed State Regent for the Arkansas Chapter of the DAR.

In 1893, President Grover Cleveland appointed CRB Minister to Russia. From 1894 to 1898, the Breckinridges lived in Saint Petersburg, attended ceremonies of the Imperial Court, and traveled throughout Europe. KCB’s letters to family and friends in the United States paint a vivid portrait of late nineteenth century Russia and provide intricate details of the Imperial Court. She provides rare first-hand accounts of the wedding of Nicholas II to Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt and the coronation of the Tsar and Tsarina.

The Breckinridges had four children – James Carson Breckinridge, Mary Carson Breckinridge, Susanna Preston Lees Breckinridge and Clifton Rodes Breckinridge, Jr. After returning from Russia, the Breckinridges settled in Fort Smith, Arkansas (CRB was on the Dawes Commission).

KCB died in 1921 at the age of 68.