Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Good Son of a Pirate: G5 Grandfather, Stephen Brooks (1703-1775)

G5 Grandfather, Stephen Brooks (1703-1775)

The Brooks line could have gone down with father and son pirate duo Joseph Brooks and Jr., but thanks to Stephen Brooks, it didn't.  His father and brother were killed in 1718, when Stephen would have only been 15. It is unknown whether he would have joined Blackbeard's crew had he been older. I like to think he was different from them. In any case, at 15, he was the man of the house. I do not know whether his mother, Esther, had any other children, but none are recorded.

For a man living in the 18th century in the wild lands of North Carolina, much is known about his life.

He was a mariner and ship builder, and spent his life in the Outerbanks. According to another researcher, Stephen owned his own ship but it was confiscated by the King. It's unknown why, but we do know that he tried to petition to have his ship returned to him. Colonial Records of NC states that he was denied. Whether or not this proves Stephen had ties to piracy like his brother and father is unknown, but it is suspicious.

He was a landowner. According to deeds for Currituck County, on June 16th, 1763, he purchased 80 acres of land near Hatteras Bank from Thomas Robb. Earlier that summer, he purchased 200 acres from Christopher Neal. 

Incidentally, the land he owned would have had a view of the place where his father was killed in the battle with Maynard decades earlier.
This would have been what his land looked like for sure. 

He had a wife, (name unknown), and together they had at least 4 sons: Stephen Jr., Isaac, Willoughby, and Thomas. Thomas was the youngest, and would become my G4 Grandfather.

Stephen would have known various ways to survive in a hard land. He knew how to grow crops in a swamp, how to survive a hurricane (a strong storm came through in September, 1715), he might have known how trap crabs, fish, hunt whales. The Atlantic and sounds of the Outerbanks would have been as familiar to him as the lines on his own hands. I like to think about how quiet it would have been out there, how dark at night, and how he might have seen wild horses grazing on his marsh, flocks of geese lifting through the surely thick morning fog.

He died on May 16, 1775, just a month after the Revolutionary War began. He was roughly 71 years old. Though he lived much of his life in Currituck County near the border of Virginia, he is said to be buried in Hyde County, near Mattasmuskeet Lake, which is further south, just inland from Ocracoke Inlet.

My impression of Stephen was that he was born on the fringes of society, in a remote and wild place to a father much like the land. Living down this reputation wouldn't have been easy. By accumulating land, he tried to enter a higher class, thereby securing a place for his sons and future generations.

Stephen's Legacy:

Stephen II was born in 1725. In 1752, when he was 25, he married Hyde County native, Mary Farrow (1730-1795). Mary was 22. Together, they had eight children: Celia Elizabeth (1753-1818), Isaac (1754-?), William, Esther, Jacob, Charity, Stephen III, and Sally. He owned quite a bit of land, much of which he purchased from his father-in-law Jacob Farrow.

Willoughby was born next. He married a woman named Frances and they had six children: Ann, Hannah, John, Mary, Thomas, and Isaac. He owned quite a bit of land in Currituck County, some of which he inherited from his father. At the time of his death, he provided for his heirs fairly and handsomely. According to his will, he owned a black horse named Bow, and a 2 year old mare named Inna.

This is what he gave his wife:
Item I give to my Wife Frances a negro gairl named Penny and her increase, one linnen wheel, one wooling wheal, one feather bed and furniture whereon she lays, four stocks of bees, the first choice, and two cows and calfs first choice one iron pot and three barrels of pork ten barrels of corn, twenty head of hogs first choice one with mare caled quen to her and heirs for ever.

There was quite an operation to divvy up: sheep, furniture, slaves.

Not much is known about Isaac at this time. There are so many Isaac Brooks it is hard to determine who was who.

Thomas was born in 1738. He fought in the Revolutionary War, married a french woman named Angelica Riordame, and had a nine children: Thomas Jr., David, John, Christopher, Deuteronomy, Polly, Midget, Stephen, and Jeremiah. He also became a Methodist minister, as did many of his sons and nephews. Much more about him later.

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