Children of Thomas Whitlock (abt. 1745 – 1830) and Wife Hannah Phillips: Sarah Whitlock (1774 – 1837) and Husband Thomas Brooks

In an entry that was, one can safely assume, written by her husband Thomas Brooks, the family bible states,  

Sarah Whitlock was born June 9th 1774 in Bedford County State of Virginia.

The bible register also records the date of marriage of Sarah Whitlock and Thomas Brooks and their dates of death. Regarding their marriage, it states,

They were married together February 14, in the year of our Lord 1796.

Thomas and Sarah were both living in Wythe County, Virginia, at the time this marriage occurred, so that appears to be the place in which the couple married. As noted in another previous posting, the couple moved from Wythe County to Wayne County, Kentucky, in 1798, with their infant daughter Jane, who was born 19 February 1797 in Wythe County.

Thomas and Sarah spent the rest of their adult lives except for their final years in Wayne County, where they had nine children after Jane. Between February 1797 and March 1822, Sarah gave birth to nine children whose birthdates are recorded in the Brooks family bible. At the very end of their lives, Thomas and Sarah Whitlock Brooks moved to Morgan County, Alabama, both dying at the home of their daughter Jane Brooks Lindsey in Oakville in Lawrence County, where Jane nursed both of her parents in their final illnesses.

Though I have abundant records for Thomas Brooks, my records for Sarah throughout her life are sparse, as is usually the case with our female ancestors up to the twentieth century, and perhaps even more so for women living in the American South, where the law of coverture ordained that unmarried women were under the legal control of adult male relatives until they married, and after that, under the control of their husband. Without express permission and only in rare circumstances could women own property independent of the male who had legal control of them. Hence the scarcity of documents to track the lives of most women in the American South, other than socially prominent ones, in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries….

As this previous posting notes, when Thomas and Sarah Brooks Whitlock sold 44 acres of land in Wayne County on 9 January 1818 to Jacob and Daniel Shearer, Sarah co-signed the deed with Thomas, signing by mark — as she consistently did when she signed other deeds.[2] Like many women in her time and place, Sarah was not literate. Later in 1818 on 9 June, Thomas and Sarah sold 35 more acres to Jacob and Daniel Shearer, with Sarah once again making her mark.[3]  On 14 August 1820, Thomas and Sarah Brooks sold to John Williams of Pulaski County, Kentucky, 100 acres in that county, and Sarah once again signed the deed by mark.[4]

As another previous posting indicates, when Sarah’s father Thomas Whitlock made his will in Cumberland County, Kentucky, on 22 January 1824, he named his daughter Sarah Brooks, bequeathing to her two enslaved persons, Lucy and Lucy’s daughter Perlina.[5] As this previous posting states, Lucy and Perlina are listed in the 15 June 1830 inventory of Thomas Whitlock’s estate.[6] At the sale of Thomas Whitlock’s estate on 16 June 1830, Sarah’s husband Thomas Brooks bought another enslaved person, David.[7] As I have also noted previously, tax lists in Wayne County, Kentucky, never show Thomas Brooks owning these enslaved people, nor are they mentioned in his 1838 estate accounts. I suspect that, due to his convictions as a Methodist minister, he may have manumitted Lucy, Perlina, and David after he acquired them. I also think that David was likely related to Lucy and Perlina — perhaps another of Lucy’s children.

As this previous posting states, 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. On 7 November 1836, they sold their homeplace on Beaver Creek in Grassy Valley with 100 acres of land to Daniel Shearer.[8]

The following day on 8 November, Thomas and Sarah sold Thomas Marcum 200 acres on Otter Creek.[9]  And, finally, on 10 November 1836, Thomas and Sarah sold 200 acres to Daniel Shearer, with the deed noting that the land was in Grassy Valley in both Wayne and Pulaski Counties.[10] Sarah signed all these deeds, with the first two indicating that she used her mark and the final one not indicating this — though she would certainly have signed it by mark, too.

These November 1836 deeds show Thomas Brooks and wife Sarah selling out their Kentucky land 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 illnesses from which Sarah would die in August 1837 and Thomas in October 1838. 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. 

As another previous posting recounts, Sarah’s oldest daughter Jane Brooks Lindsey provided care at her residence at Oakville in Lawrence County, Alabama, for both her mother and father as they died in 1837 and 1838.  Proof of this is in Thomas Brooks’s loose-papers estate file held by Morgan County archives. A 13 November 1839 account filed by Jane and found in the estate papers notes that Sarah lodged and boarded her mother for five months, evidently up to Sarah’s death on 16 August 1837. The same account bill and receipts in Thomas’s estate file indicate that Jane nursed and boarded her father for three months as he approached his death on 25 August 1838. 

6 November 1839 account of Dr. Joel Hickey in loose-papers estate file of Thomas Brooks held by Morgan County Archives

The estate file also contains a 5 November 1839 account of Dr. Joel W. Hickey of his visits to Sarah and Thomas at Jane’s house. The account covers the years 1836-7-8. The initial entry in the account states that Dr. Hickey visited a patient on 11 July and prescribing medicine. I think this is likely a visit to Sarah on 11 July 1837, and that the visit was at Jane Lindsey’s house, since Jane’s receipt for lodging and nursing her mother states that she provided care for Sarah for five months, and other entries in Hickey’s account that appear to be for visits to Thomas note that he was at his daughter’s house.

1837-8 account of Edward Wise in loose-papers estate file of Thomas Brooks held by Morgan County Archives

We can infer that the medicine Dr. Hickey prescribed for Sarah was laudanum, since an 1837-8 store account of Edward Wise in the estate file shows Mark Lindsey, Jane’s father-in-law, obtaining two vials of laudanum on Thomas Brooks’s account in August 1837 — the month in which Sarah died.

Dr. Hickey’s account also shows that, as Thomas Brooks approached death, Hickey prescribed medicine for Thomas on 3 September 1838 as Thomas attended a campground meeting, and again on 10th September when Thomas was at his daughter Jane’s house. Dr. Hickey came to Jane’s twice again on the 20th, both times giving Thomas two bottles of morphine. On 24 and 28 September and on 6 October, he came again, each time leaving two bottles of morphine. Thomas then died on 25 October at Jane’s house. The use of laudanum and morphine as Sarah and her husband Thomas died in 1837-8 makes me think both may have died of lingering and painful illnesses like cancer.

The Brooks bible states

Sarah Brooks wife of Thomas Brooks departed this life on 16th of August in the 62nd year of her life in the year of our Lord 1837 who lived together 41 years, 6 months and 1 day.

As a previous posting states, no tombstones marking the graves of Thomas Brooks and wife Sarah have, to my knowledge, yet been found, and their burial place is not certain. Thomas’s estate file contains a 12 June 1850 receipt from Nathaniel G. Blackford showing Thomas’s son-in-law David Dinsmore Lindsey paying Blackford for work on Thomas’s grave. This receipt leads me to think that the burial site was at one time marked, and that both Thomas and wife Sarah likely had tombstones.

As the posting linked in the preceding paragraph states, some researchers have concluded — erroneously, it seems to me — that Thomas and Sarah Whitlock Brooks are buried in a Mathis-Davis-Whitlock cemetery near Tharptown in Franklin County, Alabama. This is 35 miles west of where Thomas and Sarah lived, and some 30 miles west of where they died. Nathaniel G. Blackford, whom Dinsmore Lindsey paid in 1850 to work on Thomas Brooks’s grave, lived in Lawrence County.

I have seen no evidence that Thomas and Sarah Brooks are buried in a cemetery two counties west of where they spent their final days in Alabama. I think it’s highly unlikely that their family members in eastern Lawrence County and western Morgan County would have them buried in Franklin County. In my view, it’s far more likely that Thomas and Sarah Whitlock Brooks were buried close to where they lived in Morgan County.

In January 1999, Brooks researcher Denise Gilliand forwarded to me a message from researcher Scott Bounds, who told Denise that Thomas and Sarah are buried “in the Johnson cemetery” near where they had lived in Morgan County. I’m inclined to think that Scott Bounds is referring to the Johnson Chapel Methodist cemetery between Danville and Neel in Morgan County — right where Thomas and Sarah Brooks lived. The Johnson Chapel church dates from 1845, but since a chapel in its location evidently predated the church itself, in all likelihood people were being buried in what became the Johnson Chapel cemetery prior to 1845.

Noting that the Johnson Chapel cemetery is between Neel and Danville in southwestern Morgan County, John Knox states in his history of Morgan County that the cemetery is the largest rural cemetery in the county.[11] Knox notes that the cemetery was attached to a Methodist church older than the town of Neel, and that the names on its gravestones “provide what is almost a roster of early settlers in the region.” Among the names predominating in the cemetery is that of the “time-honored Puckett family.”

Thomas and Sarah Whitlock Brooks’s sons Alexander, Samuel, and James all married Puckett wives. There are also many connections between Thomas Brooks’s family and the Johnson family for whom Johnson Chapel cemetery is named, including the marriage of two daughters of Thomas and Sarah’s son Charles to sons of Stephen Johnson, one of the appraisers of Thomas Brooks’s estate.

I think in all likelihood Thomas Brooks and Sarah Whitlock are buried in what is now known as Johnson Chapel cemetery in Morgan County, Alabama, and that their grave markers have been lost. They would have been buried there before the church founded in 1845 was named, and before the cemetery was officially “established” as Johnson Chapel Methodist cemetery — at a time in which the chapel out of which the church developed was holding services in their vicinity and, I suspect, already maintaining a burial ground for chapel members.

[1] A transcription of this bible register without information about its provenance is found in “Brooks Bible,” Itawamba [Mississippi] Settlers 8,3 (September 1988), pp. 151-2.

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

[3] Ibid., pp. 6-7.

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

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

[6] Ibid., pp. 428-430.

[7] Ibid., pp. 430-3.

[8] As the posting I’ve just linked in this paragraph states, I have a photocopy of this deed from researcher Corinne Crider, with no indication of its source. I have not been able to find it in Wayne County’s deed books.

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

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

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

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