Children of Thomas Brooks (abt. 1747 – 1805) and Wife Margaret: James Brooks (1772 – 1835) and Wife Nancy Isbell (2)

He then moved to Wayne County, Kentucky, where his brother Thomas had settled, making that move in 1803 or 1804, and on 8 March 1804 in Wayne County, he married Nancy, daughter of Godfrey and Hannah Isbell. In 1807 or not long thereafter, James and Nancy then moved with the three children that had been born to them in Wayne County — Godfrey Isbell, Thomas R., and Hannah Isbell Brooks — to Warren County, Tennessee, where the family remained until 1819, when James begins appearing in Alabama records first in Morgan County, Alabama, and then in contiguous Lawrence County, where he lived at Oakville in southeastern Lawrence County up to his death in 1835.

My previous posting tells you that James’s wife Nancy died at Oakville on 9 October 1835, a fact we know from a medical account of Dr. J.W. Michaux, who attended her in her final illness that is preserved in a loose-papers court file in Lawrence County which contains James’s estate documents.[1] The previous posting, which is linked at the start of this one, has a digital image of Dr. Michaux’s account, showing that he attended Nancy Isbell Brooks almost daily from 28 September to 9 October 1835, when the account ends and it’s evident Nancy had died.

Affidavit of John Ellis about Dr. Michaux’s bill in estate file of James Brooks, Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers, box 165, folder 66

An affidavit of John Ellis dated 22 November 1838 and filed in the loose-papers estate file says that sometime in 1836 Dr. Michaux had handed him a note for services rendered in treating Thomas Brooks’s mother, with the note being for $50 and Thomas having paid him only $30. The Thomas about whom John Ellis is speaking is James and Nancy Isbell Brooks’s son Thomas R. Brooks, who administered his father’s estate.

Account of Dr. Edward Jones for doctor’s visits and medicine in estate file of James Brooks, Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers, box 165, folder 66

James Brooks died shortly after his wife Nancy died, on or shortly after 17 October. We can deduce this from several documents in his estate file, coupled with county orphans court records. The estate file contains a bill submitted by Dr. Edward Jones to Thomas R. Brooks as James’s administrator, which shows that Dr. Jones made visits to the household on 27 and 31 July 1835, 11 and 23 August, 8 September, and 12 and 17 October, sometimes staying overnight and prescribing medicine on most of these visits, most frequently quinine pills. This bill suggests to me that not only was James’s wife Nancy seriously ill in September and October 1835 when Dr. J.W. Michaux was visiting her and prescribing medicine for her, but James was as well. And the fact that Dr. Jones’s bill ends on 17 October suggests to me that James died on or shortly after that date. Four days later his son Thomas would be made administrator of James’s estate, as we’ll see in a moment.

It’s possible that James and Nancy had been laid low with the same sickness. Dr. Michaux’s bill for treating Nancy does not specify the medicine he prescribed, simply billing the family for his visits and “med.” The use of quinine to treat James up to 17 October — that final bill is obviously for James and not Nancy, since Dr. Michaux’s bill for Nancy ends on 9 October and other bills show the family starting to prepare for her laying out and funeral by the 8th — makes me wonder if James died of malaria, and if this was also the illness that ended Nancy’s wife. 

Quinine did not come into widespread use as an anti-malarial until the middle of the 1800s, but its efficacy against malaria had long been known by then, and it was definitely already being used prior to 1850 by some doctors to deal with malaria. Jesuit missionaries in Peru had learned from native peoples by the 1600s that the bark of the cinchona (quina-quina) tree was effective against malaria, and had brought that medicine back to Europe.[2] Research of Scottish doctor George Cleghorn in the 1700s then confirmed quinine’s usefulness against malaria and it began to be used in various places as an anti-malarial medicine.

As a previous posting notes, in his book Early Settlers of Alabama, James Edmond Saunders indicates that epidemics of malaria carried off great numbers of people in Lawrence County in its formative years. I have wondered if this was the cause of the early death of Dennis Lindsey, husband of James Brooks’s niece Jane Brooks, on 28 August 1836, less than a year after James and Nancy Isbell Brooks died.[3]

A bill from G.W. McWhorter in James’s estate file shows the Brooks family buying on 8 October, the day before Nancy died, 5½ yards jackinet, 3 yards of footing, and ¾ yards of bobinet. Jaconet was a cotton cloth with a stiff finish, and bobbinet (or bobbinette) is a lacy tulle fabric. I’m not entirely sure what footing is. It seems evident that the family knew Nancy’s death was imminent when they purchased these items, and that they were being purchased to prepare her and perhaps the parlor of the family’s house for her laying out and funeral.

The estate file also has a bill from the firm of Price and Puckett showing the family of James Brooks buying a bottle of castor oil on 18 September 1835, a vial of something that looks like “salup” (see the p.s. below on this) on 25 September, a bottle of castor oil on 26 September, 7 pounds of sugar on 30 September, and on 12 October, three days after Nancy died, two sperm (i.e., spermaceti) candles and 6 yards of cambric. Again, I wonder if the candles and cambric were being purchased for Nancy’s laying out. Several days later on the 26th, the family purchased 9 pounds of coffee and a vest of a fabric whose name I cannot make out. Since James died on the 17th or shortly after, it seems, I think it’s possible the coffee was being bought for his laying out for a post-funeral gathering — and perhaps the vest was for James’s laying out.

Bill of John Gault for two coffins in estate file of James Brooks, Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers, box 165, folder 66

The estate file has a 27 November 1838 bill presented by James’s son James Irwin Brooks on behalf of John Gault for $24 for making two coffins. The date of Gault’s bill for the coffins is not stated; the bill suggests to me that coffins for both James and Nancy were probably ordered when both died within days of each other, or a coffin initially for Nancy on the 9th, followed by another on the 17th for James. The register of births, marriages, and deaths in James Brooks’s bible, discussed in this previous posting and in the last posting, states that James died in 1838, but this is clearly not correct. James’s son Thomas R. Brooks was appointed by the Lawrence County court to be administrator of his father’s estate on 21 October 1835.[4] On that date, Thomas gave bond with John Bentley and William Burke Lindsey for the administration of the estate, and was given permission to sell the estate’s personal property.

As we’ve seen previously, Burke Lindsey was a son of Mark Lindsey and Mary Jane Dinsmore and La brother to Fielding Wesley Lindsey who married James’s daughter Clarissa, and to Dennis and Dinsmore Lindsey, who married Jane and Sarah Brooks, Clarissa’s first cousins.  As the posting just linked indicates, from the mid-1830s up to 1838, Burke Lindsey was a business partner of Alexander Mackey Brooks, brother of Jane and Sarah Brooks. On 2 July 1835 in Lawrence County, he married Carolina Puckett, niece of the Richard Puckett who, as the last pointing indicates, was the “leading man” of Oakville, according to James Edmond Saunders in his Early Settlers of Alabama. In the fall of 1838, Alexander M. Brooks left for Texas, leaving wife Carolina behind in Alabama, and in 1843, the Alabama legislature granted Carolina a divorce on grounds of abandonment, and she married Burke Lindsey.

The John Bentley who was Thomas R. Brooks’s other bondsman for his administration of his father’s estate was a brother of Luvisa Bentley, who married John T. Hunter. As has been noted previously, the Hunter/Todhunter family was connected to the Lindsey and Brooks families in multiple ways — e.g., by the marriage of Margaret Tranquilla Lindsey, daughter of Dennis and Jane Brooks Lindsey, to William Hunter, a son of John T. Hunter and Luvisa Bentley.

At the same court session on 21 October 1835 at which Thomas R. Brooks was granted administration of the estate of James Brooks, the court appointed John T. Hunter, William and John Elliott, and William and James Saffell, or any three of these men, to appraise the personal property of James Brooks and report the results of their work in three months.[5]  

On 27 January 1836, an appraisal of James’s estate by James G. Saffell, John T. Hunter, and William T. Elliott was presented in court.[6] It showed the personal property of the estate valued at $144.25, and consisting of livestock (hogs, a horse), farm tools, kitchen items, and furniture including a loom and a looking glass. One large bible is listed in the inventory. The inventory is obviously not comprehensive, since the account of the sale of the property shows items (e.g., a feather bed, three coverlets, a doctor’s book) not listed in the appraisal.

Account of sale of James Brooks’s personal property from estate file of James Brooks, Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers, box 165, folder 66

Two days later on 29 January, Thomas R. Brooks held a sale of the personal property of his father. The original sale account is in the estate file, signed by Thomas Brooks by mark with a note it’s recorded in Orphans Court Book D and was presented at March court.[7] The sale account shows the sale netting $191. Primary buyers were James’s sons Thomas and James. James’s nephew Alexander M. Brooks also bought items, as did Richard Puckett and neighbors John Bentley, James McDaniel, and Samuel White. The large bible was bought by James McDaniel, so either it’s not the family bible that passed to James Brooks’s son James Irwin Brooks, or James’s son James I. Brooks acquired the bible from McDaniel after McDaniel bought it. Alternatively, the bible whose register Memory A. Lester transcribed and labeled as the bible of James Brooks could actually have been a bible belonging to James I. Brooks, who had copied the information in the bible register of his parents before adding his own family’s information — a common practice in the past. 

On 6 August 1838, the court ordered that Thomas R. Brooks make a final settlement of his father’s estate and present it at November court.[8] On 5 November 1838, Thomas R. Brooks returned the final settlement to court, itemizing charges against the estate and showing payments it had made, and concluding that the estate had $21.38 left, of which portions were owed to Thomas himself and to Campbell and Balch for an outstanding debt. 

The notes against the estate itemized in this final settlement are all in the loose-papers estate file. They include notes by Drs. Edward Jones and J.W. Michaux for medical services rendered; by the firms of Price and Puckett, G.W. McWhorter, and Jesse G. Thomas for goods purchased; by John Gault for two coffins; and from T.W. Walker and A.M. McCartney for unspecified items or services. 

Summary of debt owed by James Brooks’s estate to Campbell and Balch from estate file of James Brooks, Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers, box 165, folder 66

Prior to James’s death, Archibald Campbell and Theron Balch had sued him in Lawrence County circuit court for a debt based on a promissory note in the amount of $65 that James made to them on 31 March 1827. The note is in the case file, which shows James’s son Thomas R. Brooks dealing with the debt following his father’s death.[9] In the case file is an itemized account showing that Campbell and Balch had judgment 17 September 1834 for the $65 debt and various court and legal fees resulted in a bill of $117.47 owed to them. This was entered into record 5 February 1837.

The estate file shows that James had purchased from Jesse G. Thomas 9 yards of cambrick [sic] on 31 July 1835 for $6.75, and that Thomas Brooks had paid the bill on 25 December 1835. This was proven at court by Thomas McDaniel, j.p., on 26 November 1838.

Thomas Brooks’s account payment to Edward Jones in estate file of James Brooks, Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers, box 165, folder 66

Also on 26 November, Thomas Brooks’s payment of $9 to Dr. Edward Jones at an unspecified date in 1836 was proven. The bill presented by Edward Jones is in the estate file (see the digital image included earlier in this posting), showing the vists Edward Jones made to the Brooks household in July, August, September, and October discussed above, on which he administered quiniine.

Account of G.W. McWhorter in estate file of James Brooks, Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers, box 165, folder 66

A payment to G.W. McWhorter by Thomas Brooks on 25 December 1835 was also proven on 26 November 1838. This is the bill submitted by McWhorter discussed previously, showing the estate paying McWhorter for materials (jaconet, bobbinett, footing) James Brooks had bought on 8 October 1835. McWhorter acknowledged that Thomas Brooks paid him on 25 December 1835. 

Account of Price and Puckett in estate file of James Brooks, Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers, box 165, folder 66

On 26 November, Darius Lynch also verified that Thomas R. Brooks had paid Price and Puckett $13.06 on 10 January 1838, for a bill that firm had presented via Darius Lynch. This is the account discussed previously showing James Brooks buying castor oil on two occasions in September 1835, as well as sugar, and candles and cambric in October shortly after his wife Nancy died, with his household then buying coffee and a vest on 26 October after James had died. 

The following day on 27 November 1838, Thomas Brooks’s payment of $24 to John Gault for making two coffins purchased on an unspecified date was proven in court. This is the bill presented by Gault discussed previously. This payment had been filed originally on 27 March 1838, according to the document in the estate file, which shows James I. Brooks presenting Gault’s bill to his brother Thomas. The original document mistakenly had James’s signature by mark, when it was Thomas R. Brooks who was administrator and signed documents by mark, while his brother James I. Brooks could sign his name. 

Thomas Brooks’s account of money loaned by James Brooks to son Thomas in estate file of James Brooks, Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers, box 165, folder 66

Also on 27 November 1838, Thomas R. Brooks presented an account stating that his father James had loaned him $18 cash in James’s lifetime. It’s not clear to me whether this means that the estate owed Thomas that amount of money or that Thomas owed this back to the estate.

The file has an account by T.W. Walker showing James owing him $24.50 on 20 March 1835 for something unspecified. Thomas Brooks had paid Walker in July 1836 with Walker acknowledging receipt of the payment.  Thomas had also paid A.M. McCartney $3.50 on 22 September 1836 for unspecified goods or services. 

As a previous posting notes, erroneous information about the burial place of James Brooks’s brother Thomas and his wife Sarah Whitlock has been circulated, with claims that they are buried in in a Mathis-Davis-Whitlock cemetery near Tharptown in Franklin County, Alabama, over 30 miles from where they lived and died. It also has been claimed that Thomas’s brother James Brooks and wife Nancy Isbell are buried in the same cemetery. 

As the posting linked at the start of the preceding paragraph notes, I’ve seen no evidence that these two Brooks brothers and their wives are buried in a cemetery in another county than the one in which they died, at quite a distance from where they lived and died. That posting cites information from researcher Scott Bounds which states that Thomas and Sarah Whitlock Brooks are buried “in the Johnson cemetery” near where they had lived.

Scott Bounds is referring to the Johnson Chapel Methodist cemetery in Morgan County, which is right in the vicinity of where Thomas and Sarah Whitlock Brooks lived. The Johnson Chapel church dates from 1845, but since a chapel evidently predated the church itself, in all likelihood people were being buried in what became the Johnson Chapel cemetery prior to 1845. In his history of Morgan County, John Knox notes that the Johnson Chapel cemetery is between Neel and Danville in southwestern Morgan County and that the names on its gravestones provide “what is almost a roster of early settlers in the region.”[10] Among the names predominating in the cemetery is that of the “time-honored Puckett family,” Knox says.

In my view, Thomas Brooks and wife Sarah Whitlock and James Brooks and wife Nancy Isbell are likely all buried in the Johnson Chapel cemetery. I also think it’s likely all once had markers for their graves. A receipt in the loose-papers estate file of Thomas Brooks in Morgan County shows Dinsmore Lindsey paying Nathaniel G. Blackford in 1850 to do work on Thomas Brooks’s grave. 

According to Brooks researcher Corinne Crider, some of the records for James Brooks’s estate in Lawrence County orphans court minutes refer to James with the initial E. — James E. Brooks or E. James Brooks. If this is correct information, James may have had another name (Edward?) that yielded the initial E.

A 1916 biography of James Brooks’s grandson John Lee Brooks and his father Charles Wesley Brooks states that James Brooks was “a prominent Alabama planter.”[11] I have not found any documentation to substantiate that claim. 

In a subsequent posting, I will provide information about the children of James Brooks and Nancy Isbell.

P.S. An eagle-eyed and very knowledgeable reader of this blog, John Blythe, has identified the mystery medicine whose name I could not make out in the Price and Puckett bill above: it’s jalap, a cathartic preparation with purgative and laxative effects.


[1] Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers, box 165, folder 66, estate of James Brooks.

[2] See J. Malar, “Quinine, an old anti-malarial drug in a modern world: role in the treatment of malaria,” Malaria Journal 10 (2011), article 144, online at the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnology Information website.

[3] James Edmond Saunders, Early Settlers of Alabama (New Orleans, 1899), p. 43.

[4] Lawrence County, Alabama, Orphans Court Minute Bk. E, p. 288.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., Bk. D, pp. 162-3.

[7] Ibid., pp. 164-5.

[8] Ibid., Bk. E, p. 467. 

[9] Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers box 283, file 9, circuit court case 1721.

[10] John Knox, A History of Morgan County, Alabama (Decatur: Decatur Printing Co., 1967), pp. 123-4.

[11] Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and (Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1916), p. 1468.

One thought on “Children of Thomas Brooks (abt. 1747 – 1805) and Wife Margaret: James Brooks (1772 – 1835) and Wife Nancy Isbell (2)

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