Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Gentle Man: Great-Grandfather Emery Brooks (1884-1933)

Emery Brooks (1884-1933)

My paternal grandmother's father, Emery was the son of James Franklin Brooks (1832-1893) and Sarah ? (Possible options for her last name are Richardson or Fultz)  (1841-1932). Emery was the youngest of eight children, and was born in Cooter, Missouri.

He had twin fingers on his left hand, according to his WWI draft card. In one photo you can see he's covering that hand with his other. The WWI card also states that he had blue eyes and black hair, which isn't surprising because my grandmother's hair was naturally black.

Note: From a cousin and fellow researcher: Emery was born with  2 fingers on one hand, she believes it was the middle and the ring finger, that never separated in utero.  Both Aunt Geneva and Grandma Susie told her about this.  The medical term is called syndactyly

Emery's father would die when he was only ten years old, in 1894. The cause is unknown at this time  In 1900, he lived in Missouri with his mother, Sarah, his set of twin siblings: Noah and Dora, and Great Aunt Elizabeth, his father's brother William's wife. There was also a boarder in the house, 20-year-old C.F. Warner, who was a dredger.

Like most of the men in his line, Emery would grow up to become a farmer.

On December 30, 1906, when he was 22, he married my great-grandmother, a 17-year-old, part-Cherokee girl named Susie Jane Patrick (1889-1973).  Both Emery and Susie were educated, and both grew up in Cooter, Missouri, so they may have gone to school together at some point.

On November 19th, 1907,  they had their first daughter, Floella, but she only lived seven months, dying from unknown cause(s) on June 23rd, 1908. Susie would have been about three months pregnant with their second daughter, Geneva, who was born later that year on December 7, 1908. Geneva would live until 1997 and was a favorite aunt among her nieces and nephews.  

Emery, Susie, and Geneva

 Jane was born the next year, September 24, 1909, but she was either stillborn, or died that same day.

L to R: Mildred, Frank, and Geneva with their maternal grandmother Nancy Melinda Cole Patrick
My grandma Mildred and grandpa Larvous

My grandmother, Mildred, was born a couple years later on July 10, 1911. She passed away just four days shy of her 92nd birthday on July 6, 2003. (Much more about her later.)

Charles' in WWII
Emery and Susie's first and only son was born next: Charles Frank, on April 14th, 1914. He was stationed in England during WWII, where he met his wife, Doreen. After the war, he was a grain elevator operator. He died in 2000 and is buried in Belleville, Illinois.

Here is a copy of Emery's WWI draft card, where I believe he was rejected for service because of his hand:

Their last child, Mary Sue, was born fifteen years later, on April 29th, 1929. She is a retired elementary school teacher.

Geneva, Mary Sue, and my grandmother Mildred, seated

A snapshot of life in 1920, Cooter, Missouri:

Emery (35) was farming. Susie (30) took care of the house. Geneva, (11), Mildred (8), Charles (5), as well as a 5-year-old niece named Ethel Brooks, laughed, played, got in trouble, and helped around the farm. A boarder also lived with them, a 28-year-old farm laborer named Lavann Keliham.

My grandma, Mildred, felt very close to her father as he was a "gentle soul".

From an Aunt:
 It seemed to me that Susie must have been the no-nonsense, disciplinarian in the household. Mama would go to her daddy for "comfort" because she was a little silly and rebellious and was often "in trouble" with Susie.

As you can see from the photos, he was a handsome man and Grandma Susie was beautiful but stern. Mama idolized her father. I adored Grandma Susie who was a kind-hearted, gentle, lady but had to be tough to survive the obvious hardships she endured as a young widow.
Not only was Emery a tender-hearted and good man, he was also a successful farmer. In 1930, Emery's estate was worth more than almost all of his neighbors. It was valued at $2,000, a great deal of money for that time and area. Though he was a general farmer, the family apparently did not live in the farm. They lived in a house on Main Street in Cooter. Charles and Mary Sue lived at home.

Geneva married Chester Bare on May 1, 1931 in St. James, Missouri. My grandma Mildred married Larvous Lee Sellers on and began their own families nearby.

Emery's death certificate

In 1933, a cyst or cabunkle developed on the base of his spine. An infection spread to his blood stream and he ultimately died. This is a testament to the real lack of medical knowledge in those days. Emery died on the day after Thanksgiving.

Susie was 44 when her husband died. My grandma was 21. In a letter she sent me after my own dad died, she said she "hurt a long time after" Emery's passing.


  1. My middle name is Brooks, after my paternal (I think) grandmother's maiden name. Her name was Hattie Brooks, in case we're related, you know. Heh. (To my knowledge, that whole family flourished in Georgia.)

  2. Oh how exciting! What if we were related! My dad's middle name was also Brooks. Weird.

  3. Oh, I totally screwed up that lineage too. It's my MATERNAL Grandfather's Mother's maiden name. Sheesh. I don't know what I was thinking up there. I'll ask around, but I don't think my mom knows much about that side of her family. But who knows?

  4. I will certainly let you know if I come across any Hattie Brookses.