Albany Burgesses Corps…

When John(2) Brooks (John1) died in 1898 in Burlington, Vermont, his obituary appeared in two cities, his hometown of Albany, New York and his adopted home of Burlington.

It was only recently that I found John’s Albany obituary and in it were several very interesting items. Neither mention anything about his parents (too bad), but the Albany paper did have this to say:

John Brooks, a former tobacco merchant of this city and the last surviving charter member of the Albany Burgesses Corps., died in his home in Burlington, Vt., Tuesday morning, aged 83 years.

“Last surviving charter member of the Albany Burgesses Corps.” What on earth was that?

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The Albany Burgesses Corps was organized in October of 1833 as an independent, volunteer member, quasi-military unit (militia), complete with elaborate uniforms. The name ‘Burgesses’ was in honor of the original governors of Albany. The organization participated in civic ceremonies and acted as parade escort to visiting dignitaries. They were, for many years, a familiar site in the Albany city parades. Its membership consisted of many of the local merchants and professionals, several of whom held political office. The organization was similar to modern service organizations, in that it raised money for various causes all the while providing political connections for merchants.

Th following was found in the Annual Reports of the War Department, United States. War Department: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1908:

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If John was a charter member then he joined in October of 1833 when they first organized or shortly thereafter. He would have been about 18 or 19 years old at the time. And his membership is confirmed in a February 1838 issue of a local paper:

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February paper The Albany Evening Journal, unknown page, unknown date.

In the above notice from the Albany Evening Journal, John Brooks is mentioned as one of the managers of the upcoming 3rd Annual Ball being given by the Burgesses in honor of George Washington’s birthday.

The first parade the Corps participated in was July 4, 1834 their contingent consisted of 45 muskets and 5 officers. On July 25th of the same year, the Corps assisted in the torchlight obsequies of General Lafayette. The pall-bearers were his revolutionary war companions. The ordinance captured by Lafayette from Yorktown was also in the procession.
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The Albany Burgesses Corps uniform, which was changed from blue to scarlet in 1841 (apparently after much lively debate). I don’t know how those boys kept those things on their heads.

Although the Corps spent much time entertaining visiting Corps and dignitaries, and visiting other corps themselves, they were, for all intents and purposes, a militia organization. It was in this capacity  that they were used to help quell the anti-rent riots in 1839. The Corps along with several other military companies from Albany and Troy marched to Helderberg Mountain, under command of Major Bloodwood. The formidable appearance of the troops in their colorful uniforms had the desired effect of intimidating the rioters. The Corps also participated in the 2nd Helderberg War.

In 1844 the Corps acted as escort at the dedication of Albany Rural Cemetery, where several of our ancestors are now buried. There is a whole section in an Albany History book on the Corps many activities through the years. On a fun side note, the Corps also had a song commissioned as a tribute for its officers and many members.

 

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The Brooks family left Albany for Burlington around 1852. But John did return to his home town in 1883 to help celebrate the “Semi-Centennial” of the Corps, which occurred October 8th and 9th. There were balls, parades and banquettes, even Governor Grover Cleveland attended with his staff. Maybe they played the quick step.

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Source:
Bi-centennial History of Albany: History of the County of Albany, N. Y., from 1609 to 1886, edited by George Rogers Howell, Jonathan Tenne: W. W. Munsell & Company, 1886 – Albany (N.Y.). Vol. 4, Page 714-716.
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A little corner shop

Brooks’ former store, King Street is the one going off to the left in the picture, Pine Street is the one going off to the right.

Sometime around 1855 Almira and John Brooks headed on over to Burlington, Vermont to live. At this time I am not sure exactly when the Brooks started their store in Burlington, but I do know that by 1868 they were living and working at this address which was called ‘corner of King and Pine’ it didn’t have an exact address until sometime between 1872-1882. In this picture it is currently clad in hideous vinyl. It would be nice to see it in its original dress. According to records in 1890 Almira is the owner of the building, and John is still alive. He didn’t pass until 1898. So now the question is why is she the owner of the building and not both of them. Hmmm. Inheritance? She also owed the building next door at 176/178 Pine Street. Which I believe they lived in or used as a home at one time  or another.

The Historic Burlington: University of Vermont website describes the house as:

“This 2 1/2 story, wood frame building, which is clad in vinyl siding and has a pyramidal, slate-clad roof and a 2-story octagonal oriel on its northwest corner, was probably built between 1877 and 1886, although it may be of an earlier date.”

The family actually lived at 79/81 King Street for a year or two, according to city directories. Which is part of the building, see the door off towards the left with the small awning. According to the Historic Burlington: University of Vermont website a birdseye view of Burlington in 1877, apparently, clearly shows no buildings at that location, and the ‘massing’ of the 79/81 King Street building make it doubtful that is was built in the 1860s. I am not sure what we can say about that other than land records would likely clear the matter up along with tax rolls. The address would be considered 174 Pine Street if one numbered it from that side of the streets.

The building was used as a commercial business for a large portion of its life, the lower part being used as a shop of some kind or other, the top being used as apartment rentals. It wasn’t until sometime after the 1970s that the bottom was boarded up.

You can still see the building using google street view. Not very pretty, but it is one of the few remaining older buildings in the town.

I even have an update.

In looking over the website mentioned above, I found two plat maps that have the home listed on them. Which is curious because according to the University’s research the building isn’t there in the 1877 birdseye view map. That may be so, but it shows up on these two:

This plat is from 1853. The family is probably not living here at the time, but as you can see the building is there on the corner of King and Pine.

This map is from 1869. The family is definitely there now, as can be plainly seen by the J. Brooks entry on the map.

The building as it looked in 1933 just barely in the picture on the left edge of image.