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Part 5 of 5: Henry Buxton says…BROOKS FAMILY OF ORRINGTON NOTABLE CLAN

Transcribed by Anne (Bowden) Allen from Henry Buxton’s column for the Bangor Daily News.

Feb. 22, 1937

FIRST OHIO STEAMBOAT MAN

“In 1816, John Brooks constructed the first steamboat ever built in Cincinnati–the first to operate on the Ohio river.  He became a wealthy man and invested most of his money in Cincinnati real estate.  Later Nicholas Longworth, grandfather of the late Congressman Nicholas Longworth, who married Alice Roosevelt, laid claim to this real estate.  There followed a series of law suits which extended over a period of years.  Finally Longworth won and John Brooks became a ruined man.  He died in 1822.

“James Brooks, a son of John Brooks, a native of Orrington, migrated to New Albany in Indiana, established a grocery store, and later was the organizer and president of the first railroad from the Ohio river to the Great Lakes.  This transportation line was known as the New Albany and Salem railroad, and to accomplish its construction it was necessary to build a road 228 miles long through a country which had not yet entirely emerged from the conditions of pioneer life.  But this indomitable man succeeded beyond the wildest expectations of his more sanguine backers.

“When the Civil War broke out, James Brooks was appointed by Secretary of War Stanton, as quartermaster general of the western federal army and the gunboats on the Mississippi river.  He purchased the old Mississippi river flat floats and supervised their conversion into the Yankee gunboats which were a big factor in demolishing the Confederate forts on the Mississippi.  Under the direction of James Brooks supplies were accumulated at Louisville for the use of General Sherman in his historic march to the sea.  At one time during the war, James Brooks loaned the Federal government $240,000 from his private fortune.  He was later reimbursed.”

In tomorrow’s column Mr. Brooks will tell the story of the ancient pottery in the Bangor district.  This is a story which should appeal to many of the old timers who can remember when tinware was practically non-existent and the utensils such as milk pans, jugs and pitchers were made from Penobscot river clay.

 

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Part 4 of 5: Henry Buxton says…BROOKS FAMILY OF ORRINGTON NOTABLE CLAN

Transcribed by Anne (Bowden) Allen from Henry Buxton’s column for the Bangor Daily News.

Feb. 22, 1937 

VERSATILE CRAFTSMAN OF ORRINGTON

“George Brooks’ gift as a craftsman revealed itself almost immediately after settling in Orrington.  He built himself a blacksmith shop and did all kinds of blacksmithing for his neighbors.  I have some of his tools made from iron imported from England.  he also tanned leather for the other settlers, and set up a Dutch windmill.  In company with a neighbor, Simeon Fowler, he made a kiln or two of bricks every year.  He manufactured his own charcoal, and made all of his own nails.  He built the first grist mill in Orrington.

“He was a strong, capable character all around, according to the records that have come down to me, and there was much grief at his death in Orrington, December 15, 1807.  Before he died, he built a comfortable farmhouse for his family.  After his death his widow was married for the third time to Deacon Mark Hatch of Castine.  She was famed over the countryside for her grace and beauty.  She died March 2, 1817, at the age of 68 years.

“After my great grandfather’s death, my grandfather, James Brooks, took over the farm and carried it on.  On the place he built a substantial brick house in which I was born.

“John Brooks, a shipwright, who was my grandfather’s brother, and my great uncle, married Sallie Dean, and in 1814 heard the magic call of the west.  He built an immigrant wagon and transported himself and family from Orrington to Cincinnati, where he built the noted brig Cincinnati in 1815.  This ship was loaded with ears of Ohio corn and cleared for Boston via New Orleans.  John Brooks arranged that some of this corn be sent to his old neighbors in Orrington.”

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Part 3 of 5: Henry Buxton says…BROOKS FAMILY OF ORRINGTON NOTABLE CLAN

Transcribed by Anne (Bowden) Allen from Henry Buxton’s column for the Bangor Daily News.

Feb. 22, 1937 

HEARTH BRICKS FROM GREAT GRANDMOTHER’S HOME

Mr. Brooks drew contentedly on a well-seasoned corncob pipe as we chatted beside a blazing hearth in the spacious living room of his comfortable Brewer home.  Pointing to the hearth bricks, he told me that he dug them out of the cellar hole of his great grandmother’s home at Castine.  British officers were quartered in this ancient house during the War of 1812, and one of them, an artist, was so intrigued by the beauty of Mr. Brooks’ great grandmother that he spent weeks painting her portrait.  This portrait is still in the possession of the Brooks family.

“I dug those bricks out of the old cellar hole in Castine,” he said, “because I thought that it would be pleasant over the years to toast my feet over my great grandmother’s hearth bricks.”

This genial and cultured potter, brickmaker and anthropologist is one of the most entertaining raconteurs I have heard in many a long day, and to listen to him was akin to perusing the pages of a fascinating book.  He spun me a tale of Brookses past and present that not only was livened by the tang of adventure and the sparkle of wit, but contained here and there a touch of pathos.

“My great grandfather, George Brooks”, he said, “was born in Bradford, England, and at the age of 17 left for Newfoundland to engage in the fishing trade.  The following summer he entered the whaling business with a certain Captain Doan of Cape Cod, and there on Cape Cod in 1775 he met Mrs. Mary Atwood Thompson, the charming widowed sister of Captain Doan.  They were married after an ardent and romantic courtship, and the following year migrated with a party of Cape Coders to Orrington.

“My great grandfather took up a wooded grant of 200 acres, built a log house, and cleared 50 acres.  His cabin was located near the dwelling of James Gorton, a squatter, and later he purchased this squatter’s rights.”

 

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