As far as I know none of the recent generations have made a pilgrimage back to our ancestral home in Carolina for several years. Last fall while vacationing in the East I determined to visit Stokes County, North Carolina, where my great-great grandfather, William Brooks, lived and from which place my great grand father, John Brooks, with his infant son, Madison, my grandfather, migrated to Indiana.
Stokes County, North Carolina, is located on the North State line and is bounded on the north by the state of Virginia. It is bounded on the south by Forsythe County of which Winston Salem is the county seat. Stokes County is in the mountains or rather the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 1848 Forsythe County was formed from Stokes County and knowing that Winston was its county seat and a city of considerable size I imagined it was the original settlement and that all the early records would be there so we determined to make that city our headquarters for our investigations. Upon arriving there I spent a half-day in the public library searching through their genealogy division for any information that might be found there. I found nothing there that shed any light on our particular family. However, there were numerous references to the name. One amusing incident that I will repeat of course sheds no light but provoked a smile. In their genealogical library was a volume entitled “Famous Lawsuits of N.C.”. Thinking it might be a source of some interesting facts I found the name of George Brooks, I believe it was, and who turned out to be a federal judge. While I could not establish him with our family yet I swelled with pride to find one with our name who had reached such high distinction on our family name. Another name I found indexed was a woman named Brooks and though she might shed further distinction on our family name. Upon further investigation I found where she had sued the Ku Klux Klan for a flogging she had received as their hands. Upon further investigation I found her testimony was all impeached, as she was a notorious prostitute, an inveterate liar and a debased character. This of course was nothing to be proud of, however, I could not establish her as a member of our family for which I am thankful.
In fact I did not find anything in their whole genealogical library that shed any light on our family.
I next went to the “keeper of the deeds”, an officer that corresponds to our Recorder in Indiana. They told me that they were quite a young county compared to Stokes County as Stokes was the original county and all records prior to 1848 would be in Danbury, the County Seat of the now Stokes County. The next day we made our way to Danbury. Stokes County is, as I said, a mountainous county and quite primitive. The terrain reminds me of our Brown County, however it is, I should say, at least many times as rough and many times less primitive. The principal occupation is tobacco raising, and tobacco drying sheds are quite numerous. Of course the acreage, I presume, is quite large however most of the acreage is in quite small patches many of which would be less than an acre in extent. Most of the homes are of logs and I did not see a single pump while there, the walls all being walled with slab limestone and each having a windless ----with which to water is drawn.
Danbury is a crossroads village, a store, garage, and a dozen or more houses on the mountainside, no paved streets, sidewalks, or electric lights. The courthouse is a one-story brick structure; I should say about 50 feet square. My hopes of finding anything were not very great. However, the keep of the Deeds had all books completely indexed and most of the early volumes were recently newly bound., by WPA [Workers Project Administration] I suppose, and soon I was in the midst of records that were of importance. The records were in longhand and were quite legible, the style and phrases and certain letters were to say the least quite unique.
Many of these names do not coincide with our records, but I will give you them as I found them. Later research may connect many of them directly. In the granters deed record, I found the following:
Mathew Brooks deeded land to John South in 1792 and to Joseph Phillips, 1793, also to William Sheppard 1793, and many others followed.
In 1799 David Books deeded land to John Brooks (Book 3, p. 373). This probably was my paternal great grandfather.
In 1813 Humphry Brooks deeded land to Robert and Jne. Carter Payne (Book 5, p. 503).
In 1813 William Brooks Sr. deeded land to William Brooks Jr (Book 5, p. 542). This was no doubt my paternal great-great grandfather.
In 1813 John Brooks was appointed administrator to Wm Jaen Sr. This was probably not my paternal great grandfather as tradition and other evidence was that he left North Carolina for Indiana in 1813.
In 1813 Wm. Brooks Sr. (my paternal great-great grandfather) deeded to John Heath (Book 5, p. 676) as follows: “Indenture made this 4th day of Jan. in the year of our lord, one thousand 8 hundred 13, between William Brooks and John Heath $84 for 60 ½ acres. Witnesses: David Lewis and Baxter Heath. Deed made in 1876, deed was proven in open court and registered in 1813”. This was evidently the John Heath, the father of Sarah Heath, the first wife of John Brooks; also the John Heath, the father of Samuel Heath, the father of Elizabeth Heath, who when 14 years old became the second wife of John Brooks.
John Heath’s will was probated in 1820 in three parts.
David Brooks’s will was probated in 1815, one part conveyed to Jane, Mary and Elizabeth Brooks, the next part conveyed to Martha Brooks, and the last part conveyed to Jesse Brooks and John Brooks. I am venturing a guess was a brother of our William Brooks, but only circumstantial evidence is all that I have.
I seem to have lost one page of my notes but one of them conveyed the information that William Brooks lived at Beaver Dam Creek. Thinking that I would get a county map and locate this creek, I found there had never been a map issued for the county. The County Surveyor had a map drawn on the walls of his office of the county. On the Eastern county line, it showed a Beaver Island Creek. I found out from the surveyor that it seldom carried any water except in a rainy season. He had never hear of it being called anything else but by that name. However at a later date, I found out from the keeper of the Deeds that it was changed from Beaver Dam Creek to Beaver Island Creek.
I finally found a small map that the County Agent had made and have one of them attached herewith so we can locate the William Brooks farm reasonably well from it. I found out too late to investigate that State Road 704 parallels Beaver Island Creek about one mile from the creek bed. Also that State Road 770 parallels it on the north some one to four miles. Both run into State Road 7 which is west of the source of Beaver Island Creek. So William Brooks lived within the three state roads and the County Line on the east. Within this area are some 12 or 14 graded mountain roads.
Beaver Island Creek according to the map runs slightly in a south easterly direction. On a later investigation it seem that William Brooks’ land was located on the eastern side of the creek, but according to the way we would look at the map we would guess that the farm lies on the north side of the creek bed. I shall refer to that investigation later.
I found where William Brooks conveyed his land but could not find where or how he procured it. I next consulted a professional genealogist and from her found the following facts: All records of Stokes County prior to 1771 were in Salisbury, Roan County, North Carolina. In 1771, Surry County was cut out from Roan County, in 1789 Stokes County was cut out from Surry County, Yedkin was cut out (?) and Forsythe was cut out from Stokes in 1852 (this is four years later than the date of another investigation.
Roan County is now (1940) the second county from Stokes, and Salisbury is the County Seat. We visited there to investigate further and from the records there that in 1798 or 1799 (Book 16, p. 581) that John Miles of Rowan, N.C., conveyed by deed to William Brooks of Moore County for the sum of 60 pounds all that part or parcel of land lying on the east side of the Grassy fork of Beaver Dam Creek, it being a tract of 300 acres computed to be 75 acres more or less beginning on the bank of the creek at a stake turning west and with Lewis Mason’s old line, to a pine, thence North to a stake thence east to a stake on the bank of the aforesaid land and tenements, heretitaments and premises, hereby granted with the appurtenance to said William Brooks, his heirs, and assigns to the only proper use and behoove of the said William Brooks his assigns forever. This sheds further light on where William Brooks lived prior to his having moved to Stokes County. That of Moore County.
I then being in Rowan County and the next county seat east was Randolph and Moore was southeast from Randolph. My time was then getting limited and I did not feel like driving back two counties, probably to find that Moore County may have been cut from some other. However this will be an interesting lean for further investigations. According to our Secretary’s book William Brooks served for 5 years in the Revolutionary war from Virginia or North Carolina, Stokes County. (Nehemiah Brooks was the authority for this statement.)
I have checked with the veterans’ administration and found that there were two William Brooks in the war from this territory. One in question was born in Middlesex County, Virginia. He enlisted from Hertford County, North Carolina. He was allowed a pension on his application executed August 23, 1832, while residing in Gates County, North Carolina, where he stated, he had lived ever since the revolution. This last statement excludes him from being our William Brooks. I also checked with the U.S. Accounting Office concerning his pension and found his children were Catherine, Sally Nocols, Agatha Harreell, and William C.
The other one in question was from Culpepper County, Virginia, and he had four sons and one daughter, vis: James, Thomas, Philip, Middleton, and Susanah. This excluded him from being our William Brooks. This seemed to be rather conclusive evidence that Nehemiah’s statement was in error. I stated this fact to Mrs. Adelaide L. Fries, a professional genealogist and archivist of the Moravian Church of America. From her, I learned that that section of North Carolina was thickly populated by Moravians, a religious sect that like the Friends were opposed to bearing arms. While there is no evidence to date of our William Brooks being a Moravian, however, not only Moravians but most of the residents not belonging to that church also took the same stand on the question of bearing arms. As Mrs. Fries states, they would not pull the trigger to shoot the enemy but they carried up the ammunition and loaded the guns and aided the cause in every way possible. After the way was over and the government began paying pensions they felt they were not recognized sufficiently for the services they rendered. They likewise made out a set of claims and filed them hoping to get pensions on the evidence. There were twelve volumes of these books, and they are deposited in the state house at Raleigh. It requires a day to search all the indexes in the twelve books. I did not have the time to go to Raleigh neither would I have been familiar with the indicies so employed Mrs. Fries to make this search some time when she was that way. Her services cost me $5.00.
The results of her research are as follows:
The name William Brooks appears in three localities in North Carolina: in the Edenton District, which is in the eastern part of the state; in the Washington District, which was what is now part of Tennessee and in the Salisbury District, which includes the counties of Rowan, Surry, Stokes, and several others. In the Salisbury District, there were three items, one for military services, allowed July 14, 1781, and two others for “public claims” what they may have been, all three in the name of William Brooks.
This now brings up a question as follows: If William Brooks was in Moore County prior to 1798 the claim from the Salisbury evidently refers to some other William Brooks. While the U.S. Government never recognized these Revolutionary Claims as evidence sufficient on which to pay pensions, however the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution does recognize them and will grant membership on these grounds. It would be necessary to establish the fact that there was no other William Brooks other than the one we descended from and if so we have to establish the claim was made for our ancestor.
Another fact I learned since coming home. The Moore County Court House burned in 1880 and all the records in it burned. Another thing I have since learned that Moore County was cut from Cumberland County in 1784. It might be also state that there were no revolutionary claims filed for the name of William Brooks from Cumberland County. The name should be searched fro from there as a future project, however. I also found out there were no birth or death records kept in Raleigh for any date as early as that of William Brooks. The Moravians and Friends kept such records at that time, but I also found out his mane does not appear on their records.
From the U.S. Census of 1790, there was a Black family from Stokes County and according to our records, William married Sarah Black. One should look over the marriage bond in Salisbury to ascertain if the name of William Brooks and Sarah Black appears.
Another question also comes up since I have studied the evidence that I secured. There was also a Beaver Dam in Roan County and the William Brooks referred to from Moore County may not have been the same one we are interested in. In fact, Mrs. Fries says the deed is not a Stokes County deed. I do not doubt her word, but the Keeper of the Deeds assured me that it was and that the deed described the creek in the now Stokes County. This is something that should be further investigated.
Another source that should be investigated is in Dobson Sutty County in as much as that was the county seat of what is now Stokes County during the revolutionary times. The marriage bonds there should also be investigated.
In Yadkin County, the county immediately west of Rowan, there is a place called “Brooks Cross Roads”. I have sent several letters to learn the origin of the naming of that place but have never received any information on the subject.
While in Winston Salem, I copied all the names and phones of Brooks, and Heaths and Blacks from Winston Salem, Greensboro, and High Point. I thought I might sometime get out a questionnaire and send to these in hope I might locate some descendent in our line that may have more information concerning our early ancestors than we have.
There is a list of things that could be done, but it all takes money and that is probably why I cannot report more as every investigation either yields or eliminates certain possibilities or opens new avenues for investigation.