Death by Railroad Car

new-york-central-railroad

KILLED AT HUDSON. [1911]

Charles Brooks, a former resident of Cherry Valley, was killed by the cars at Hudson, Sunday [February 26th]. Particulars of his death have not been received. He was in the employ of the Western Union Telegraph company and was one of the most valued of its employees. Mr. Brooks was born in Cherry Valley about fifty years ago, and his boyhood and early manhood were passed there. He was a pleasant, companionable man and had many warm friends here, who will feel deep sorrow at his loss. He leaves a widow and one child, as well as one sister, Mrs. Samuel Millson [Eliza Jane or Jennie], of North Adams, Mass. and two brothers, Andrew of this village, and Benjamin of Hawthorne.1

Charles Brooks was the youngest known child of David Brooks (brother of my ggg-grandfather John Brooks). His sister Sarah, who married a Woodward, was actually still alive but not mentioned in the obituary. She was living in Rochester, New York with one of her daughters.

According to his wife’s obituary from 1953:

Her husband, who was an employee of the New York Central railroad, was killed in a rail accident on February 26, 1911. An only son of the couple met with accidental death while with the Armed Forces in [Delhamps, Mobile County] Alabama on January 5, 1917.2

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find out anymore on their only child’s death. I can only assume it was a military training accident. A sad end to this Brooks line.


1. The Otsego Farmer, Vol. XXV, No. 13, (Cooperstown, New York), March 3, 1911, page 1; http://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html.

2. The Freeman’s Journal (Cooperstown, New York), January 14, 1953, page 6; http://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html.

Source for image: https://ssl.bing.com/images/search?q=New+York+Central+Railroad&form=RESTAB&first=1&cw=2007&ch=1219

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Andrew Brooks had a patent

In my recent search of newspapers regarding the Brooks family of Cherry Valley, I found an article about David’s son Andrew*, (the only son to  follow in his father’s tinsmithing footsteps). He had apparently won a patent on a new kind of fastener for milk can tops.

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Otsego Farmer, June 10, 1910, page 1.

It took a while but I finally found the patent using the Google Patent search engine. Trying to search the patent office for records before 1975 is very difficult if you don’t know exact dates, patent numbers, etc. The Google Patent search worked great.

So below is the sketch of what the device looked like, along with detailed instructions on how it was suppose to work.

 

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patent_brooksAndrew_US964385 copy 2

patent_brooksAndrew_US964385 copy

It is very likely that Andrew’s tin-smithing skills, and his experience working at the local dairy influenced this innovative design. There is no information on how successful this fastener was, so I don’t know if he got rich off of it.

This is the second relative of mine to have a patent. Dillon Hatch (husband of Almyra Brooks), together with two other men, applied for, and received, a patent on a door design in 1891 (which I wrote about in an earlier post).

Andrew and his wife Elizabeth had one child, a daughter Mary L. Brooks, who appears to have died in her early 20s, leaving no heirs. Which means there were no descendants around to brag about Andrew’s clever invention. Maybe this post will make up for that loss.

*Andrew is my mother’s 1st cousin 3 times removed.

 

David Brooks’ final tragedy

Earlier this year I wrote about David Brooks of Cherry Valley, New York regarding the fire that destroyed the family’s home and belongings in July of 1866. I ended with the hope that this was the extent of the family’s trials. Unfortunately that hope was squashed when I found this newspaper article:

David Brooks, aged 70, a tinner of Cherry Valley, committed suicide a while ago by hanging himself to his bedpost during a temporary fit of insanity.1

I tried to find more about this sad event, and a couple more articles showed up, each with a slightly different account in them 2, 3:

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David Brooks was John Brooks’ brother. I do not know if they kept in touch when they both left Albany, with John moving to Vermont, and David heading to Cherry Valley, NY.  There was no family history passed down in our family regarding either of the brothers.

David was survived by his wife Margaret, who died about 1891 and five children Sarah, Jennie, Andrew, Benjamin, and Charles.

Source:
1. 1882-10-1 Utica Weekly Herald, Utica, New York, page 5, column 2 [http://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html].
2. 1882-10-12 The Radii, Canajoharie, New York, page unknown [http://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html].
3. 1882-10-10 The Canajoarie Courier, Tuesday, page unknown [http://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html].

 

Is Almira’s mother Cornelia?

In my ever vigilant search for information on Almira Johnson Brooks’ parents, I have come across an interesting puzzle.

Almira’s death certificate/registration indicates that her parents were Catherine and Samuel with no last name (we do not know who gave the information). Almira and John Brooks’ son John, jr. has his mother listed as Almira Johnson on his death registration, with no indication of who gave the information. Another child of theirs has Almira’s surname as Johnston. So it has always been assumed by me that Almira’s mother was Catherine _____ Johnson/Johnston.

Something interesting popped up when I was looking into this matter recently. In the 1840 and 1841 city directories for Albany, New York, Diana/Dinah (Smith) (Brooks) Little is living at the same address as a Cornelia Johnson. Cornelia is also found in the 1840 census and, as would be expected as they are living in the same household, she is listed right after Diana Little in the entries.

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Then Cornelia disappears. Meaning I can find no further record of Cornelia in Albany. At all.

When I first created my ‘directory’ database for all the relevant surnames of my Albany ancestors, I was looking for patterns, and I did this by sorting the information on different parameters. That’s when I found the entries for a Cornelia Johnson at the same address as Diana Little (along with her son John and his wife Almira). My first thoughts were that Almira Johnson Brooks, had a sister Cornelia who was also living with the Little/Brooks family. And these thoughts stayed pretty much the same until recently, when I decided to check the 1840 census for Cornelia.

When I found her entry, I was a little taken aback, because both Diana, and Cornelia are listed as 50-60 years of age, a little old to be a sibling to Almira. Could this mean that Cornelia is actually Almira’s mother? Why else would an elderlyish women with the surname of Johnson be living with Almira’s mother-in-law?

If Cornelia is Almira’s mother, then her father Samuel probably had died before 1839 and it is possible that Cornelia died by 1842, as no further record can be found for her after 1841 (yet).

It is an interesting puzzle waiting to be solved.

Up in smoke…

Fire in some way or another has made its appearance often in my ancestor’s lives. The most devastating one being the Peshtigo Fire of 1871, a much nastier event than that little dust up they had in Chicago the same day. Most of the other fires seem to have been house or chimney fires of which I can count at least 6 having occurred to various ancestral families, so far. For the David Brooks family we have the following account.

David Brooks was John Brooks’ elder brother. He was born about 1812 in Albany, Albany County, New York. Both John and David lived with their mother until sometime after 1841 when we can find John at his own address in the city, as well as David.

David most likely trained or apprenticed as a tin smith in his early years, an occupation he continued throughout his life.

Sometime between 1855 and 1860 David and his wife Margaret packed up the tin smith business and the family jewels and headed to Otsego County, New York. Cherry Valley to be exact.CVSCAPE

 

The family wasn’t in the area long before we find this newspaper article in their county paper:

fire
The Freeman’s Journal, July 13, 1866, Page 3.

It doesn’t appear that any lives were lost in the fire, but the family most likely did lose a goodly amount of their possessions and possibly even their tin business for a short time.

David and Margaret continued to stay and raise their family in Cherry Valley. Together they had at least 5 children. Their son Andrew is the only one to take on the tin smith trade.

I can find information on only three of their children. Andrew who married and had one daughter who died without any heirs. Sarah who married and had 9 children, all Woodwards. Benjamin married and had one daughter and has descendants from her. There appears to be no sons that carried on the Brooks surname in his line.

David died in 1882 at the age of about 70. Hopefully this was the only nasty event to occur to the family.

Off to Academy…

According to John Brooks, jr.’s obituary, printed in the 1898 Albany paper, another item of interest was mentioned: that he had attended the Albany Academy.

The Albany Academy was chartered in March of 1813 “to educate the sons of Albany’s political elite and rapidly growing merchant class” (according to wikipedia). In the case of John this would appear to be true because his occupation and trade was cigar manufacturer,  definitely of the merchant class.

As the Academy is actually still a functioning school, I was able to contact the archives to try to find more information regarding its academic program, and if there were any record of John Brooks having attended.

Unfortunately at this time, no records have been found that can corroborate this claim. I don’t doubt that it is true, but can’t confirm. According to the gentleman who contacted me in response to my inquiry:

“The youngest students of the 1820s were about 10 years old. Their programs were anywhere from a few quarters to eight years. They selected either a classical or “English” program.”

Albany_Academy_1907
This the original building, which is now used as the Joseph Henry Memorial.

A copy of the Academy Statutes was provided to me and it makes for some light amusing reading regarding expected behavior of the students. Below is a page pulled from the statutes giving an example to some rules. They seem pretty consistent with rules for students today, with some exceptions, of course.

AAStatutes1829

John probably took the mercantile course which lasted four years and included the basics along with mercantile studies – ex.: accounting, book-keeping, etc.

merchantile
Here is the page covering the 4 year Mercantile course. The whole Academy pamphlet makes for interesting reading.

The family was in the business of cigar manufacturing until John passed way in 1898. His son John was a saloon and pool hall owner. I don’t think he was much interested in continuing the trade. His daughter Almyra married a furniture manufacturer and had moved to Ohio. The other children had died before John, or were daughters who married and moved away, so the business pretty much died when he did.

Fun little note: Andy Rooney attended the same academy as did Theodore Roosevelt III.

A musical interlude…

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 2.09.11 PMThanks to my very generous nephew-in-law and his musical talents – I have an excellent update I can make to my Albany Burgesses Corps post.

As I mentioned in my little history of the Corps, they had a quick step written for the organization and played it at many a celebration. I approached my niece and her husband, because they do ‘music’, and I have zero musicality – although I am told my voice won’t break eardrums. Troy was finally able to make time in his busy schedule to put this ditty together for everyone’s enjoyment.

Bateaux’s Quick Step

 Of course now I want to know what the steps were to this little piece.

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.