Thomas Brooks (1775-1838) and Wife Sarah Whitlock (1774-1837): Kentucky Years, 1798-1836

The reason for my focus on tax records is that they are the only record I can find documenting Thomas’s years in Wythe County. I find no records indicating that he owned land there before moving to Kentucky. In all likelihood, he farmed with his father, and continued to do so after he and Sarah married. As my posting notes, when Thomas first appears on the Wythe County tax list as Thomas Brooks Jr. in 1796 — he had just married Sarah a month before the tax list was compiled — he’s taxed for 1 poll (himself) and 2 horses, while his father, Thomas Sr., has 1 poll (himself) and 7 horses. Both are enumerated in Captain Samuel Crockett’s district, and though this tax list is alphabetized and does not provide information about who lived next to whom, I think it can safely be surmised that Thomas Brooks Jr. and his new wife Margaret were living near or with Thomas Brooks Sr. and wife Sarah and farming with them.

The year prior in 1795, Thomas Brooks Sr. had been taxed for 2 polls (himself and son Thomas Jr.) and 10 horses (again, see the previous posting on this point). The 1796 tax list appears to indicate that Thomas’s father has given him several horses as the son starts his life as a married man. Thomas Sr.’s son James, who was three years older than his brother Thomas, had already begun living on his own by 1794 and had had land surveyed for himself in 1795.

In 1798, these two oldest of Thomas and Margaret Brooks’s sons decided to make a new life for themselves and their families (I suspect James had married a first wife whose name I have not found; he would marry Nancy Isbell in 1804 in Wayne County, Kentucky) in Kentucky. When they left Wythe County, their parents had still living at home children Sarah, Ruth, Robert, Jesse, Rebecca, John, Susanna, and Rachel. One older daughter, Margaret (1772-1857), had married Joseph Day about 1792.

Kentucky was Virginia’s daughter state, and following the Revolution, Virginians moved by droves into the new state. A primary cause of the Revolution was that, as the largest (in land size) and most populous of the colonies, Virginia had become relatively crowded by the second half of the 1700s, with land divided repeatedly between members of large families. Land-hungry Virginians were eagerly eyeing the fertile virgin lands of Kentucky to the west, and wanted to move beyond the Appalachians to settle on that land — but were prevented from doing so by the Crown, which feared the loss of a tax base if it allowed colonists to head west, beyond control of British authorities.

A primary effect of the Revolution was to open the lands west of the Appalachians for settlement by colonists of European descent, who displaced the native peoples already living on those lands. In the decade in which Thomas Brooks moved to Kentucky, the state’s population increased dramatically, from 7,000 in 1790 to 221,000 in 1800, according to Boynton Merrill.[1]

Thomas Begins Acquiring Land in Kentucky, 1799-1805

Arriving in Kentucky in 1798 as a landless young married man, Thomas Brooks quickly began acquiring property, and by 1835, as he made plans to move to Alabama, he had accumulated 785 acres of land in Pulaski and Wayne Counties, Kentucky, according to his descendant Corinne Crider, an avid researcher of this Brooks family for many years.[2] As the previous posting indicates, Thomas Brooks first patented two pieces of land in Pulaski County in 1799 — 200 acres on Otter Creek on 24 July and another 200 acres in Grassy Valley on 16 August.[3] When Wayne County was formed the following year, both tracts fell into Wayne County. As we’ll see later, when Thomas Brooks and wife Sarah sold their homeplace to Daniel Shearer in November 1836, the deed states that the land they were selling was in Grassy Valley in Wayne County. 

On 18 November 1799, Thomas Brooks patented another 100 acres on Pitman Creek in Pulaski County.[4] He would patent another 135 acres in Wayne County on Beaver and Otter Creeks on 29 October 1805.[5] The 1799 land patents confirm that Thomas had moved his family to Kentucky by 1798, since in this period, in order to patent land in Kentucky, one had to prove that one had lived on the land for a year prior to claiming it.  

Portrait of Micah Taul from unidentified source, uploaded to his Find a Grave memorial page, Taul family cemetery, Mardisville, Alabama, by Mary & Kent

Valuable information about the early settlers of Wayne County is to be found in a memoir written by Micah Taul (1785-1850) in Talladega County, Alabama, in 1848.[6] Taul moved with his parents from Maryland to Kentucky in 1787, and began practicing law in 1801 in Monticello, Wayne County’s county seat. He was elected a U.S. Congressman in 1814, and in 1826, moved to Winchester, Tennessee, and then to Mardisville in Talladega County, Alabama, in 1846, where he died and is buried.[7]

According to Micah Taul, most early settlers of Wayne County, Kentucky, were “rough, backwoodsmen, mostly emigrants, from Western Virginia, & E. Tennessee.” Taul describes these first settlers as “a rough hardy race of men, very large & stout, & altogether an excellent population, for a new country.”[8]

Taul’s memoir also provides interesting information about the route he took when he traveled from Wayne County to Washington, D.C., in November 1815 as he served in the U.S. Congress, a route that some early settlers may have taken into Kentucky: he went east from Wayne County across the Cumberlands, crossing through Cumberland Gap near Bean’s Station, then via Rogersville, Tennessee, and Abingdon, Virginia, to Wytheville, the county seat of Wythe County.[9]

In her book Seedtime on the Cumberland, Harriette Simpson Arnow, who was born in Wayne County and grew up there and in Pulaski County, offers abundant information about the pioneer period of the Cumberland region in Kentucky and Tennessee. Arnow notes that the normal migration path Virginia emigrants moving to Kentucky followed for their first 200 miles to the Kentucky border was the Hunter’s Trail, which passed through the Cumberland Gap, then turned to the ford of the Warrior’s Path near present Pineville, Kentucky.[10]

Arnow provides detailed information about the preparations pioneer emigrants from Virginia to Kentucky made as they got ready for their trip and about the conditions they encountered en route to Kentucky.[11] As she notes, since travel was largely overland, horses were required both to pull wagons and for riding, but also to carry packs of goods. Because the journey to a new homeplace was sometimes long, emigrants occasionally settled temporarily somewhere along the way, having children, keeping school, hunting and fishing. Big game was scarce in Kentucky and Tennessee, but smaller game like turkeys and squirrels were numerous, and game and fish helped feed emigrants as they made their way west.

Settlers brought with them all manner of items including tools, lead and powder for guns, fiddles, books, crockery, and beds and bed furniture. They were dressed generally in clothes spun from homegrown flax and wool, often with cloth mixing linen and wool called linsey-woolsey, with women wearing long, full skirts and blouses of linen, wool, or sometimes cotton. Men in this time and place wore knee-britches with linen shirts, waistcoats, and coats — in winter, a multi-pocketed cloak-like greatcoat.

Perhaps the most precious items settlers brought west with them were seeds — corn, oats, hemp, flax, cotton, vegetable seeds, beans, pumpkin seeds, tobacco, and sweet potatoes for slips and Irish potatoes to be cut into eyes and planted. Grass seed, to be planted in new pastureland, was also often brought west.

It’s clear from a number of documents that the families of James and Thomas Brooks made their move in 1798 from Wythe County, Virginia, to Pulaski County, Kentucky, in the company of other families from Wythe County. As we’ll see in a moment, after Thomas Brooks’s brother-in-law Charles Whitlock was killed by a falling tree in Wythe County in April 1796, William Davies, guardian of Charles’s daughters Agnes and Hannah, filed suit in 1799 on behalf of his wards and their mother, Charles’s widow Mary Davies Whitlock. In March 1804, Thomas Brooks gave an affidavit in Wayne County, Kentucky, in this suit, along with a number of other men in Wayne County who had moved there from Wythe County. These included James Ingram, who moved to Pulaski (later Wayne) County in 1798 — evidently along with Thomas Brooks.[12]

Thomas Brooks begins appearing on the tax list in Pulaski County, Kentucky, in 1799, when he was taxed for 1 male over 21 and 1 white person over 16 (these are two separate categories for one person, Thomas himself).[13] Thomas begins to be taxed in Pulaski for land the following year, when the tax list shows him taxed for 100 acres on Pitman Creek, with a notation that the land had been entered by John Tully. He is taxed also for 1 white male over 21 along with 3 horses.[14] According to Corinne Crider, Thomas paid the tax for his Pulaski County land on 28 July 1800.[15]After this, Thomas Brooks disappears from the Pulaski County tax lists, since his land fell into Wayne County at that county’s formation in 1800. Note that there is no 1800 federal census for Kentucky, too.

Thomas Begins Appearing in Wayne County Records, 1801

As I have just noted, when Thomas Brooks’s brother-in-law Charles Whitlock (abt. 1773 – April 1796) was killed by a falling tree in Wythe County in April 1796, William Davies, guardian of Charles’s infant daughters Agnes (b. 1793) and Hannah (b. 1795), file a lawsuit in Wythe chancery court in September 1799 on behalf of his two wards. At issue was the land on which Mary Davies Whitlock, widow of Charles, lived with her two daughters.[16]

Thomas Whitlock, Charles’s father (and Thomas Brooks’s father-in-law), owned 369 acres on Little Reed Island Creek in Wythe County. William Davies’s affidavit in the suit claimed that, prior to his marriage to Mary, daughter of Henry Davies and Agnes Crockett, Thomas Whitlock had promised to his son Charles half of the land if the marriage took place. Charles then settled on the land and began his family, but after his untimely death and because he had produced only female heirs, Thomas Whitlock withheld title to the land from Charles’s widow Mary — who eventually prevailed in this lawsuit.

The case file for this suit shows that among those giving affidavits in the suit was Thomas Brooks, who deposed in Wayne County, Kentucky, on 10 March 1804 (see the image at the head of the posting). Thomas deposed that he was with his brother-in-law Charles Whitlock a few hours prior to Charles’s death, and Charles told him that he would have to go “to the back woods in quest of Land” since he was living on his father’s land. According to Thomas Brooks, Charles Whitlock told him that his father had money and horses and would assist him in buying new land in the “back woods” (i.e., in Kentucky). This affidavit, from the chancery court case file, is at that head of the posting.

The 1810 federal census shows the family of Thomas Brooks in Wayne County with a household comprised of 2 males under 10, 2 males 10-15, one male 26-45, 1 female under 10, 1 female 26-45, and 1 female over 45.[17] The number of family members and gender designations fit what is known of Thomas’s family in 1810, except that the dates indicated for some family members’ ages are off. Thomas Brooks is the man aged 26-45 (he was 35 in 1810). But the older female, who has to be Sarah, is in the wrong age category: Sarah was 36 in 1810.

Thomas and Sarah had the following children by 1810: Jane, 13, Charles, 10, Margaret, 7, Thomas, 5, and Alexander, 2. All of these children fit the information provided on the census except for Jane, who should have been designated as 10-15, but who appears to be listed as 16-26. It seems the census taker may have put ticks in the wrong age categories for Thomas and Sarah’s oldest daughter and for Sarah herself.

Thomas Brooks appear in Wayne County court records in March 1812, being appointed to work the road in Isaac Summers’s road precinct.[18]  Others appointed to road work in this precinct were Thomas Isbell, Bright Gilstrap, Moses Cornelius, and “the Calhouns.” Thomas Isbell was a brother of Nancy Isbell, wife of Thomas Brooks’s brother James. Moses Cornelius (1784-1846) was, though not a close relative, a member of the Cornelius family into which Thomas Brooks’s oldest son Charles Brooks would marry when he married Deniah Cornelius in 1823. Bright Gilstrap appears as a neighbor of Thomas Brooks in Thomas’s 1836 sale of land to Daniel Shearer as Thomas and Sarah moved to Alabama.

Thomas continues appearing in various capacities in Wayne County court minutes in 1813. At January court 1813, he was ordered along with James Coffey, James Buchanan, and Isaac Crabtree to mark the way for a road from the gap of Poplar Mountain to Monticello.[19] Both Coffey and Buchanan families were neighbors of the Brooks family in Wythe County, Virginia, though I haven’t researched these two men enough to know whether they belong to those Wythe County families. 

March court minutes in 1813 again mention Thomas Brooks, noting that Bright Gilstrap had been appointed surveyor of the road running from Beaver Creek to the top of the ridge between Beaver and Otter Creek, and that the road ran along the land of George Wolfscale, Solomon Summers, Thomas Isbell, and Thomas Brooks.[20] This court record suggests that Thomas Brooks and Thomas Isbell lived adjacent to each other. It might be noted here that George Wolfscale’s/Wolfskill’s daughter Rebecca married Samuel Dinsmore in Wayne County on 26 March 1816. Samuel was a son of John and Phebe Dinsmore and a nephew of Mary Jane Dinsmore, wife of Mark Lindsey.

Thomas Becomes a Justice of the County Court, 1813

In May 1813, court minutes state that either Thomas Brooks or James Coffey was to be appointed a justice of Wayne County in place of Nicholas Loyd, who was now serving as sheriff.[21] Since court minutes for December 1813 show Thomas Brooks as a justice at that court session along with Abraham Vanwinkle, Cornelius Phillips, and Walter Emerson, Esqs., it appears it was Thomas Brooks who filled this vacancy.[22] In 1823, Thomas’s daughter Margaret would marry Abraham Vanwinkle’s son Ransom Vanwinkle. Abraham’s son Micajah Vanwinkle married Cornelius Phillips’s daughter Mary. The posting I have just linked contains more information about Abraham.

Appointment of Thomas Brooks as justice of Wayne County court, May 1813, Wayne County, Kentucky, Court Order Bk. A, p. 220
Wayne County, Kentucky, Court Order Bk. A, p. 250

August 1814 court minutes show Thomas Brooks continuing to sit as a justice of the county court along with Reuben Owens, Archibald Woods, Lewis Coffey, and George McWharter, Esqs.[23] Court minutes for November 1815 say that at that term, Thomas Brooks, Esqr., resigned his office of justice.[24]  

As Harriette Simpson Arnow explains, the judicial system of the Southern states was inherited from England, where the justice of the peace was, as he continued to be in the antebellum South, a “form of neighborhood father, exercising a very great deal of power.”[25] Justices had the authority to bind over to good behavior fathers of bastards, idle vagabonds, and men frequenting or maintaining bawdy houses. The justice was exempt from military duty, and could perform marriages, take depositions regarding loss or theft that would be legal documents in court, and, with another justice, hail before them and fine a single woman with child. Meeting four times a year, justices of the peace formed the county court.[26]

Boynton Merrill notes that the county court system was the most important governmental structure in the antebellum South.[27] The county court and justices of the peace, who composed the court, managed and regulated most of the public affairs and business that occurred in each county. As a result, Merrill indicates, “there was considerable prestige in the office of justice of the peace, even though there were no fees or salaries connected with the position.” Also inherited from the judicial system of England: justices were called by the honorific title of Esquire/Squire — the Esq. designation found in county court records following their names.

September 1815 court minutes show that before Thomas had relinquished his justice’s seat, the court ordered him, along with Mark Lindsey, Bright Gilstrap, and William Bartleson to inventory the estate of Isaac Summers, deceased.[28] Note that this court record connects Thomas to Mark Lindsey, whose sons Dennis and Dinsmore would marry two of Thomas’s daughters — Jane and Sarah. In fact, Dennis Lindsey and Jane Brooks had already married by this date; they married on 18 February 1813, with Thomas giving bond with Dennis Lindsey for his marriage to Jane Brooks.

Wayne County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. C, pp. 4-5

In 1818, Thomas Brooks and wife Sarah sold several pieces of land in Wayne County to Jacob and Daniel Shearer. The first sale was on 9 January 1818, when Thomas and Sarah sold the Shearers 44 acres on Beaver Creek in Grassy Valley for $300.[29] The deed notes that this land was part of the land on which Thomas and Sarah Brooks were then living, and was bounded by Charles Baker, John Hammons, and Daniel Shearer. Thomas signed, with Sarah making her mark, and the deed was witnessed by Charles Baker and Frances Vankory and proven by both witnesses on 21 September 1818. 

John Hammons/Hammonds was Thomas Brooks’s brother-in-law. He married a sister of Sarah Whitlock Brooks whose given name I have not discovered. The 22 January 1824 will of Thomas Whitlock in Cumberland County, Kentucky, names John Hammons as his son-in-law without stating the name of John’s wife, who may have been Thomas’s oldest daughter and have predeceased her father.[30]

Wayne County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. C, pp. 6-7

On 9 June 1818, Thomas Brooks and wife Sarah sold to Jacob and Daniel Shearer 35 more acres on Beaver Creek in Grassy Valley.[31] The land was sold for $250. The deed states that this land was “a part of said Brooks two hundred acre tract bearing date one thousand eight hundred and eleven.” I suspect this land is from the 200 acres Thomas patented in Grassy Valley on 16 August 1799, and that he had gotten title to the land in 1811. Note that the deed Thomas and Sarah Brooks would make to John Williams in Pulaski County on 14 August 1820 would say (this is discussed below) that the Commonwealth of Kentucky made the deed to this land to Thomas on 14 December 1811. The land Thomas and Sarah sold the Shearers in June 1818 bordered John Henderson. Thomas again signed the deed with Sarah making her mark, and, again, Charles Baker and Francis Vankory were witnesses.  Both proved the deed on 21 September 1818.  

Note that the land on which Mark Lindsey settled when he and his Dinsmore in-laws moved from Spartanburg County, South Carolina, to Wayne County, Kentucky, in 1800 was also on Beaver Creek. As this previous posting documents, the land was originally granted to George Bruton prior to June 1801. Bruton assigned it to Mark Lindsey at some point before August 1802, with Mark obtaining a certificate for the land from the Commonwealth of Kentucky on 11 December 1811. Mark and his family lived on the Beaver Creek land continuously up to 13 October 1819, when he and wife Mary Jane sold it to Evin Wright as they moved to Morgan County, Alabama.

Thomas Begins Appearing in Wayne County Methodist Records, 1819

As this previous posting notes, on 31 May 1819, Robert Gillespie willed to the trustees of the Methodist Episcopal church in Wayne County land on which to erect a meeting house.[32] Trustees named in this document included Thomas Brooks, John Francis (whose family is connected by marriage to the Isbells), Isaac Huffaker (whose son Wesley married Thomas’s daughter Hannah), Thomas Isbell (brother of Nancy Isbell Brooks), Elliott Jones, John Vanwinkle, James Lear, and James Frost. 

As a number of previous postings note (herehere, and here), Elliott Jones was a Methodist minister in Wayne County who officiated at the marriage of Dennis Lindsey to Jane Brooks and who moved to Lawrence County, Alabama, not long after the Lindsey family moved there. In their history of Methodism in Wayne County, Bess Stokes and Elizabeth Duncan note that Elliott Jones was one of the first Methodist ministers in the county and performed many of its early marriages.[33] Augusta Phillips Johnson states that Elliott Jones performed the county’s very first marriage between Thomas Stewart and Hannah Allen on 27 May 1801, and then performed most marriages after that for a number of years.[34] James Edmond Saunders includes a biography of Elliott Jones in his Early Settlers of Alabama which notes the many marriages he continued to perform after moving to Lawrence County, and that one of his sons, Judge Elliott P. Jones, represented Fayette County in the Alabama Senate.[35]

When Robert Gillespie’s will was proven at September court 1819, Thomas Brooks was among those appointed to appraise Gillespie’s estate.[36] Other appraisers were Thomas Moody, John Mills, and John Francis. The Brooks and Gillespie families would connect by marriage through the marriage of Thomas Brooks’s son Thomas Whitlock Brooks to Robert Gillespie’s daughter Nancy Gillespie around 1831.[37]

A 22 July 1837 deed of William Gillespie and wife and Andrew Edmonson Gillespie to the then trustees of the Methodist Episcopal church (Thomas and Sarah Whitlock had moved to Alabama by this point) shows the Gillespies deeding the church the 2½ acres on which the meeting house stood.[38] In correspondence with me in the 1990s, county historian Elizabeth Duncan told me that the church in question was named Bethesda, and that it is in a part of the county now called Shearer Valley. A brief history of Bethesda church is in Stokes and Duncan’s history of Methodism in Wayne County, which notes that Bethesda is one of the older churches of the county and that land for it was deeded by William Gillespie.[39]

A Kentucky Department of Highways map of Wayne County in my files shows Bethesda church on highway 200 just south of that highway’s intersection with highway 858, a little less than 5 miles southwest of Monticello. The map shows Shearer Valley not far south of the church. If I’m not mistaken, Beaver Creek, on which Thomas Brooks and Mark Lindsey lived, once ran very close to where the Bethesda church stands, and Otter Creek, where Thomas Brooks also had land and where Mark Lindsey’s Dinsmore in-laws lived, was somewhat west of the church. These creeks have now both largely been taken in by Lake Cumberland. I think it’s likely that Shearer Valley is a later name for Grassy Valley, where Thomas Brooks and his family lived on Beaver Creek just outside Monticello. Augusta Phillips Johnson’s history of Wayne County states that a region of upland knob hills and limestone plains called the Knobs, with fine farms, runs through Wayne County from northeast to southwest.[40] Thomas Brooks’s farm was located in this region.

Thomas Brooks’s daughter Hannah (1811-1853), who married Wesley Huffaker, son of Isaac Huffaker and Elizabeth Hutchinson on 9 December 1828 in Wayne County, is buried with her husband in Bethesda cemetery. According to Augusta Phillips Johnson, both the Phillips and Huffaker families lived just south of Monticello, evidently on Beaver Creek in the vicinity of the Bethesda church.[41]

In her book Wayne County, Kentucky: Pioneer Biographical Sketches June Baldwin Bork transcribes a record from an unrecorded source (but apparently Wayne County court minutes) in which Wesley Huffaker’s brother Simon Peter Huffaker filed suit against his brother Wesley regarding their inheritance from their father Isaac Huffaker.[42] Simon’s legal complaint states, inter alia, that his father died 22 May 1835, leaving a large quantity of valuable lands to his children. Those lands appear to have been in the vicinity of the Bethesda church.

And before I leave behind this discussion of Bethesda Methodist church and its location in Wayne County, a note about the origins of the Methodist movement in this county: according to Bess Stokes and Elizabeth Duncanthe pioneer Methodist minister William Burke of Green County brought Methodism to Wayne County.[43] Burke was appointed to Danville Circuit in 1793 and again in 1799 when Wayne was still part of Pulaski. Mark Lindsey and wife Mary Jane Dinsmore would name one of their sons after William Burke

On 18 August 1819, Thomas Brooks and Elliott Jones, the previously mentioned Methodist minister of Wayne County, witnessed the deed of David and Nancy Bruton of Madison County, Alabama, to Peter Edwards of Wayne County for 146 acres in Wayne County.[44] Both witnesses proved the deed on 21 February. David was a son of George Bruton, who, as noted above, had moved to Wayne County from Spartanburg County, South Carolina, in advance of Mark Lindsey and his Dinsmore in-laws. As also noted above, when the Lindsey and Dinsmore families arrived in Wayne County, Mark obtained land on Beaver Creek from George Bruton.

The 1819 deed tells us that George Bruton’s son David had moved to Madison County, Alabama, from Wayne County, Kentucky, a move that Mark Lindsey’s son Dennis and wife Jane Brooks made in 1817, with Mark and Mary Jane Dinsmore Lindsey following them to Alabama two years later. Elliott Jones would leave Wayne County, Kentucky, for Lawrence County, Alabama, in 1822, with Thomas and Sarah Whitlock Brooks making their move to Morgan County, Alabama, in 1836.

The 1820 federal census shows Thomas Brooks again in Wayne County, KY, with 2 males 0-10, 2 males 10-15, 1 male 16-26, 1 male over 45, 1 female 0-10, 1 female 10-16, and 1 female over 45.[45] Four in the household are employed in agriculture. In addition to the children of Thomas and Sarah Brooks I’ve listed above, who were born by the time the 1810 census was taken, Thomas and Sarah had the following children between 1810-1820: Hannah (born 1811), Micajah or Michael (born 1814), Samuel (born 1815), and James (born 1818). By 1820, Thomas and Sarah’s oldest daughter Jane had married Dennis Lindsey, and is not enumerated in her parents’ household on this census.

Pulaski County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. 4, pp. 328-9

On 14 August 1820, Thomas and Sarah Brooks sold to John Williams of Pulaski County 100 acres in Pulaski granted to Thomas as assignee of John Tully, by patent from the Commonwealth of Kentucky dated 14 December 1811.[46] The land bordered Michael Kinney. Thomas signed the deed and Sarah signed by mark, with witnesses Samuel and Polly Allen. Both witnesses proved the deed 30 October 1821. This tract was the 100 acres that Thomas Brooks had patented on Pitman Creek on 18 November 1799.

On 12 March 1825, Thomas Brooks entered a warrant for 50 acres of vacant land on Beaver Creek in Wayne County under the 1816 vacant lands act.[47] On the same date, he claimed another 100 acres on Beaver Creek.[48]

Thomas Files Credentials as a Methodist Minister, 1826

Credentials of Thomas Brooks as Methodist minister, 29 March 1826, Wayne County, Kentucky, Court Order Bk. B, p. 68

Wayne County court minutes for 29 March 1826 court session show Thomas Brooks presenting the court his credentials of ordination as a Methodist minister, whom the court certified to perform marriages in the county.[49]  The court record states that, as Thomas Brooks presented his ordination credentials, Abraham Vanwinkle and John Eller gave bond with him in the amount of £500.

June Baldwin Bork, Wayne County, Kentucky, Marriages and Vital Records 1801-1860 (priv. publ., Huntington Beach, California, 1972), vol. 2

In one of her volumes of Wayne County records, June Baldwin Bork notes that Thomas Brooks was a Methodist minister in Wayne County, performing marriages in the period 1826-1836.[50] As a previous posting notes, among the marriages I find Thomas performing in Wayne County was the marriage of George Bruton’s daughter Eliza to Daniel Sandusky on 20 July 1828. The marriage file for this marriage has a note from George Bruton giving his permission. Bork also includes in this book a page of signatures taken from Wayne County court records in 1817, including Thomas Brooks’s signature.[51]

As noted above, on 22 January 1824, Thomas Brooks’s father-in-law Thomas Whitlock made his will in Cumberland County, Kentucky, which is on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line as is Wayne County, and is west from and separated from Wayne by Clinton County.[52] The will names Sarah Brooks as a daughter of Thomas Whitlock, and bequeaths to Sarah two enslaved persons, Lucy and her largest child Perlina (the name appears as Pelina in Thomas Whitlock’s estate records). The will was proven at May court 1830 in Cumberland County and an estate sale was held on 16 June 1830. At the sale, Thomas Brooks purchased another enslaved person, identified as a male. I suspect that this male enslaved person was David, who is named in the estate inventory recorded on 19 January 1831.[53] I also think it’s likely David was another child of Lucy, and that Thomas Brooks purchased David so that he could keep Lucy’s family intact.

None of these enslaved persons appear in any subsequent records involving the family of Thomas Brooks. The 1830 federal census shows Thomas Brooks holding no enslaved persons (though the census may have been taken prior to Thomas Whitlock’s death in May 1830. I have not found documents to show what became of Lucy, Pelina, and David, but my guess is that, as a Methodist minister, Thomas Brooks bought these enslaved persons to manumit them. The founders of Methodism spoke against the practice of enslaving other human beings as profoundly evil, and in 1785, the first Methodist Episcopal Book of Discipline stated that any church member who bought or sold slaves other than with the intent to free them was “immediately to be expelled” from membership. 

Many Methodists ignored their church’s prohibition against slaveholding, of course, and this led to a split between Northern and Southern Methodists at the time of the Civil War. However, conscientious Methodists, including some of those living in the Southern states, continued to express serious reservations about the slave system right up to the time of that war, and in many cases, refused to hold enslaved people and/or manumitted enslaved persons they had inherited.

In her sequel to the book Seedtime on the Cumberland Harriette Simpson Arnow comments on the scarcity of enslaved persons in Wayne County in the early 19th century.[54]  She notes that the areas of fertile soil in the county were relatively small, and that in 1801, two districts of Wayne had only 121 slaves to 344 white men above age twenty-one. In district two of nearby Cumberland County, only a tenth of the 350 adult males of the county owned slaves, for a sum of 87 slaveholders.

The family of Thomas Brooks appears on the 1830 federal census once again in Wayne County, Kentucky, with a household comprised of 2 males 5-10, 1 male 15-20, 1 m. 40-50, 1 female 0-5, and 1 female 50-60.[55] The ages listed for Thomas’s family members on this census do not fit all that we know about the Brooks family at this point in time. Thomas himself was, of course, 55 and should be enumerated in a higher age bracket, matching the bracket for his wife Sarah. He and Sarah had no sons born between 1820 and 1825, as far as I know. Living at home in 1830 were, I think, sons Thomas, Alexander, Samuel, and James. The son whose name is either Micajah or Michael (the transcriber of Thomas’s bible could not read the name well) had, I believe, died between 1820 and 1830. But all of these sons were aged 12-25 in 1830. The young female under 5 was Thomas and Sarah’s final child, their daughter Sarah, who was born in 1822.

Thomas’s Father-in-Law Thomas Whitlock Dies in Cumberland County, 1830

From 1830-1832, Thomas Brooks appears in the estate records of his father-in-law Thomas Whitlock as administrator of Thomas Whitlock’s estate, along with Abner Bryson, who married Thomas Whitlock’s daughter Nancy/Ann. The will of Thomas Whitlock had named executors George Swope and William Wood, but the estate documents show Thomas Brooks and Abner Bryson acting as administrators of the estate. 

On 9 March 1832, John Noland and P.H. Williams filed an account of the estate, current with Bryson and Brooks, administrators, which shows, among other things, that by this date, Thomas Brooks, Abner Bryson, and William Hurst, all sons-in-law of Thomas Whitlock, had each received $424.69, their fifths of the estate, with the entire estate account amounting to $2184.27. The account was recorded 21 May 1832.[56] On the same day (9 March 1832), Thomas Brooks and Abner Bryson appealed to court for the final settlement of the estate, and I take it that the 21 May 1832 account was a final settlement.

On 12 March 1832, as administrators of Thomas Whitlock, Abner Bryson and Thomas Brooks deeded to Edward Vincent of Cumberland County 250 acres on Illwill Creek in Cumberland County, half of a tract of 500 acres deeded by the trustees of Lexington Academy to Thomas Whitlock.[57] The deed has no witnesses and was signed by both Thomas and Abner, who both affirmed it the same day. On 14 June 1814, after he and wife Hannah had moved from Wythe County, Virginia, to Cumberland County, Kentucky, in 1805, Thomas Whitlock had bought from the trustees of Lexington Academy 500 acres on Illwill Creek.[58] On 16 August 1823, Thomas and wife Hannah sold half of the 500 acres to son-in-law Abner Bryson, who lived on this land with wife Nancy/Ann Whitlock, according to this 1823 deed.[59]

On 10 April 1834, John Ryan filed a case in Wayne County court contesting the administration of the estate of William Bartleson by William’s son William Jr. Thomas Brooks was William Bartleson’s co-executor along with William Jr. William Bartleson had been Thomas’s neighbor in Grassy Valley. Ryan alleged that William Jr. had mismanaged the proceeds of the estate and had used them as his own.[60] On 27 April 1840, William Bartleson Jr. sold this estate’s land to Absalom Miller, noting that he and Thomas Brooks were executors of the estate; the deed does not mention that Thomas had died in 1838.[61]

Wayne County court minutes for February court 1836 show Thomas Brooks appointed with E.D.R. Fleming, Daniel Shearer, and Isaac Vanwinkle to oversee the road from between Daniel Shearer and Thomas Brooks to the Beaver Creek meeting house.[62]

Thomas and Sarah Sell Their Wayne County Land and Move to Alabama

7 November 1836 deed of Thomas and Sarah Brooks to Daniel Shearer, Wayne County, Kentucky; photocopy sent to me by Corinne Crider without information about the source

Later in 1836, in deeds dated 7th, 8th, and 10th November, Thomas and Sarah sold their land in Wayne County and made their final move, to Morgan County, Alabama. A deed dated 7 November 1836 shows them selling their homeplace on Beaver Creek in Grassy Valley and 100 acres of land to Daniel Shearer. The deed states that the land adjoined James Frost, Daniel Shearer, and Bright Gilstrap. Again, Thomas signed and Sarah made her mark, with Jacob Shearer witnessing. The deed states that it was recorded on 2 January 1915. I have a photocopy of the original sent to me by Corinne Crider with no notation of its source. I have searched for it in the Wayne County index for grantors and grantees without finding it. I have no explanation for why the deed would not have been recorded until some 80 years after it was made.

Wayne County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. I, pp. 391-2

On 8 November 1836, Thomas and Sarah sold to Thomas Marcum the 200 acres Thomas had patented on Otter Creek on 14 July 1799.[63] Thomas signed the deed with Sarah making her mark, and Jacob Shearer and Samuel Caneda (i.e., Canada/Kennedy) witnessed. The two witnesses affirmed the deed on 9 February 1847 and it was recorded.

Wayne County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. G, pp. 152-3

On 10 November 1836, Thomas and Sarah sold another 200 acres to Daniel Shearer, with the deed noting that the land was in Grassy Valley in both Wayne and Pulaski Counties, and bordered John Henderson and John Lear.[64] The deed further states that this land was the 200-acre tract that Thomas had patented on 16 August 1799. This deed states that both Thomas and Sally signed; there were no witnesses. On 12 November, Thomas and Sarah acknowledged the deed, with Sarah relinquishing her dower rights.

In her history of Wayne County, Augusta Phillips Johnson provides information about the Shearer family.[65] She states that Daniel Shearer helped build a Church of Christ at what is now Cooper in 1828, and that among the first families to join the church along with Shearers were the Oatts, Coffeys, Vickerys, Alexanders, and Shearers. In 1852, these families then built a church in Shearer Valley.   

According to Johnson, the Shearers were English Puritans who had land grants in Northern Ireland in the Cromwellian period, and about 1740, they came from County Armagh, Ireland, to New York, then moving to Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Kentucky.[66] The Wayne County Shearers stem from William Shearer (1760-1830), who was born in North Carolina and moved from South Carolina to Kentucky, where he’s buried in the Bethesda cemetery, according to Johnson. Daniel Shearer was William’s son. He married Margaret Vickery, and two of their daughters then married Huffaker men.

Clarissa Ruth Barnes Smart offers a description of Daniel Shearer and wife Margaret Vickery in her book on the Vickery family.[67] Smart says that this information came to her from a granddaughter of Daniel and Margaret, Emma Cook, who was interviewed by Ottie Shearer on 3 August 1942 when Emma Cook was 87 years old. Cook noted that her grandfather Daniel Shearer was “a low man, fair, heavy set, very sociable. He had blue eyes. All or nearly all of that generation had blue eyes.” According to Cook, Daniel Shearer kept the first tavern in his part of Wayne County. This was a successful venture, as people came through that part of the county driving hogs, mules, and cattle. Shearer Valley Tavern was built to house these people. Emma Cook also notes that her grandfather Daniel Shearer opposed the keeping of slaves.

The November 1836 deeds I’ve just discussed indicate that Thomas Brooks and wife Sarah were selling out to move to Alabama. Both were, by the standards of their period, now elderly, he 61 and she 62, and both may have already been sick with the lingering illnesses from which Sarah would die in August 1837 and Thomas in October 1838. In addition to their daughter Jane, who had moved with husband Dennis Lindsey in 1817 to what would soon become Lawrence County, Alabama, their sons Charles and Alexander had also already settled in Lawrence County. Thomas’s brother James had also preceded his brother to Alabama, settling in Lawrence County in 1819. Thomas and Sarah had still living with them in 1836 several unmarried youngest children — Samuel, James, and Sarah.

People normally moved in the fall of the year at this period in the South, after their crops had been gathered in. I think that Thomas and Sarah moved to Morgan County immediately following their sale of their Wayne County, Kentucky, land in November 1836. In the next posting, I’ll pick up the story of Thomas and Sarah after their move to Alabama — the final chapter in their life stories and story as a couple.

[1] Boynton Merrill, Jefferson’s Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1976), p. 90.

[2] Corinne Crider makes this statement about Thomas Brooks’s landholdings in Kentucky in a query she submitted to Brooks Family Exchange 1,3 (November 1980), p. 23.

[3] Kentucky Land Grants, Bk. 8, pp. 469, 473.

[4] Ibid., Bk. 10, p. 259.

[5] Ibid., Bk. 7, p. 99.  

[6] “Memoirs of Micah Taul,” Register of Kentucky State Historical Society 27,79 (January 1929), pp. 343-380. When the Society published Taul’s manuscript in 1929, the original manuscript was in possession of his granddaughter Mrs. Jessie Roach Davis of Brewton, Alabama. The manuscript now appears to be in the Jane Sharp collection of the Society and has been digitized and made available online at the Society’s website.

[7] See Micah Taul’s biography at the website of the U.S. House of Representatives.

[8] “Memoirs of Micah Taul,” pp. 361-3.

[9] Ibid., p. 495.

[10] Harriette Simpson Arnow, Seedtime on the Cumberland (New York: Macmillan, 1960), pp. 223, 156.

[11] Ibid., pp. 214-222.

[12] My information about James Ingram’s move from Wythe County, Virginia, to Pulaski County, Kentucky, in 1798 is from Corinne Crider in a 13 April 1993 letter she sent me from Corsicana, Texas. She states that James was born 26 June 1761, moved from Wythe County to Pulaski County in 1798, and died in Wayne County 1 August 1854. I’ll provide specific information about the lawsuit on behalf of Charles Whitlock’s heirs below.

[13] Pulaski County, Kentucky, tax list, 1799, p. 2.

[14] Ibid., 1800 p. 2.

[15] Corinne Crider sent me this information in a 20 July 1994 letter from Corsicana, Texas.

[16] Whitlock v. Whitlock, Commonwealth of Virginia Chancery District Court, Staunton, box 10, file 38. An abstract of the lawsuit is in Lyman Chalkley, Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia (1912; repr. Baltimore: Genealogical Publ. Co., 1989), vol. 2, p. 71.

[17] 1810 federal census, Wayne County, Kentucky, p. 352.

[18] Wayne County, Kentucky, Court Order Bk. A, p. 197.

[19] Ibid., p. 214.

[20] Ibid., p. 217. (The page is erroneously labeled 417.)

[21] Ibid., p. 220.

[22] Ibid., p. 231.

[23] Ibid., p. 250.

[24] Ibid., p. 284.

[25] Arnow, Seedtime on the Cumberland, p. 315.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Merrill, Jefferson’s Nephews, pp. 351-3.

[28] Wayne County, Kentucky, Court Order Bk. A, p. 280.

[29] Wayne County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. C, pp. 4-5.

[30] Cumberland County, Kentucky, Will Bk. B, pp. 423-4.

[31] Wayne County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. C, pp. 6-7.

[32] Wayne County, Kentucky, Will Bk. A, p. 17.

[33] Bess D. Stokes and Elizabeth F. Duncan, Methodism in Wayne County, Kentucky 1802-1974 (Somerset, Kentucky: Commonwealth Journal, 1974), p. 8. 

[34] Augusta Phillips Johnson, A Century of Wayne County, Kentucky, 1800-1900 (Louisville: Standard, 1939), p. 75 (see also p. 254).

[35] James Edmond Saunders, Early Settlers of Alabama (New Orleans: Graham, 1899), pp. 113-4.

[36] Wayne County, Kentucky, Court Order Bk. A, p. 384.

[37] I have not found a record of this marriage. The biography of Thomas and Nancy’s son William Cleveland Brooks in History of Randolph and Macon Counties, Missouri, (St. Louis: National Historical Co., 1884), pp. 541-3, states that Thomas had married Nancy Gillespie before the couple moved their family to Missouri in 1832. Thomas Whitlock Brooks inherited a share of the estate of Nancy’s father Robert Gillespie: On 19 September 1831, as he prepared to move his family to Missouri, he sold his share of the land of his father-in-law in Wayne County to his brother-in-law Edmonson Gillespie (see Wayne County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. E, p. 448). On 17 July 1838, with the power of attorney stating that Thomas lived in Randolph County, Missouri, Thomas appointed James Gillespie his attorney in Wayne County, Kentucky, to receive from James Carver his share of the estate of  his father-in-law Robert Gillespie in right of his wife Nancy, daughter of Robert Gillespie (see Wayne County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. G, p. 445).  

[38] Wayne County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. G, p. 251. 

[39] Stokes and Duncan, Methodism in Wayne County, Kentucky, pp. 51-3.

[40] Johnson, A Century of Wayne County, Kentucky, pp. 213-4.

[41] Ibid., pp. 172, 186.

[42] June Baldwin Bork, Wayne County, Kentucky: Pioneer Biographical Sketches and Civil Court Records (priv. publ., Huntington Beach, California, 1972), pp. 201-2, 206.

[43] Stokes and Duncan, Methodism in Wayne County, Kentucky, p. 1, citing Augusta Phillips Johnson, A Century of Wayne County, Kentucky. See also Albert Henry Redford, The History of Methodism in Kentucky, vol. 1 (Nashville: Southern, 1868), p. 154; and William Burke, “Autobiography of William Burke,” in Sketches of Western Methodism: Biographical, Historical, and Miscellaneous, ed. James Bradley Finney (Cincinnati: Methodist Book Concern, 1857), pp. 23-92. Burke recounts his conversion in Guilford County, North Carolina, in February 1791, after which he went to the western country and in May 1792 was at the Holston conference at Huffaker’s at Rich Valley of the Holston River, at which Bishop Asbury was present. He and Stephen Brooks were then appointed to the Green circuit in Kentucky. Burke notes that he had relatives in Cumberland County, Kentucky, for whom the county seat, Burkesville, is named. Cumberland was, of course, the county in which Thomas Brooks’s father-in-law Thomas Whitlock settled after he left Wythe County, Virginia.

[44] Wayne County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. C, p. 115.

[45] 1820 federal census, Wayne County, Kentucky, p. 86.

[46] Pulaski County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. 4, pp. 328-9.

[47] Kentucky Land Warrants Bk. S, p. 97.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Wayne County, Kentucky, Court Order Bk. B, p. 68.

[50] June Baldwin Bork, Wayne County, Kentucky, Marriages and Vital Records 1801-1860 (priv. publ., Huntington Beach, California, 1972), vol. 2. (Page number is missing from my photocopy of Bork’s summary of Thomas Brooks’s ministerial history in Wayne County.)

[51] Ibid.; Bork notes that the signatures were traced by Mary Ray Taylor of Orange, California.

[52] See supra, n. 30.

[53] Cumberland County, Kentucky, Will Bk. B, pp. 426-433.

[54] Harriette Simpson Arnow, The Flowering of the Cumberland (New York: Macmillan, 1963), p. 95.

[55] 1830 federal census, Wayne County, Kentucky, p. 258.

[56] Cumberland County, Kentucky, Will Bk. G, p. 21.

[57] Cumberland County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. G, pp. 297.

[58] Ibid., Deed Bk. C, pp. 159-161.

[59] Ibid., Deed Bk. E, pp. 225-6.

[60] Bork, Wayne County, Kentucky: Pioneer Biographical Sketches, vol. 4, pp. 338-99, transcribing the original court record of this case.

[61] Wayne County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. H, p. 275.

[62] Wayne County, Kentucky, Court Order Bk. C, p. 319.

[63] Wayne County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. I, pp. 391-2.

[64] Ibid., Deed Bk. G, pp. 152-3.

[65] Johnson, A Century of Wayne County, Kentucky, p. 84.

[66] Ibid., p. 235.

[67] Clarissa Ruth Barnes Smart, The Descendants of Mary Broyles Vickery and Francis Marion Vickery of Wayne County, Kentucky (Charlottesville, Virginia: Wayside, 1984), p. 577.

3 thoughts on “Thomas Brooks (1775-1838) and Wife Sarah Whitlock (1774-1837): Kentucky Years, 1798-1836

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