William Gilbert Brooks

Neenah, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, USA
Death 30 Apr 1941 (aged 86)
Seattle, King County, Washington, USA
Burial Lake Forest Park, King County, Washington, USA
Memorial ID 119866199 View Source

[From "The History of Frances Amelia Adsit (Frances A. Brooks)," by Jan Patrick Mongoven in 2011.]

William Gilbert Brooks was born October 22, 1854, at Neenah, several miles north of his grandfather Stephen Brooks' original 40-acre claim at Vinland (now part of the city of Oshkosh). He grew up on farms at Neenah, Lind (by Weyauwega village in nearby Waupaca County), and Nekimi (south of Oshkosh), before moving with his parents and siblings to Dakota Territory in 1884. He was at Brookland with the Andy Brooks family when the 1900 census took place and worked as an engineer at a local saw mill. Approaching fifty, William likely felt the need to get out of his younger brother's household.

In the spring of 1904, William joined the Adam Prentice and Sam Brooks families in the upstart village of Richville in Otter Tail County, Minnesota. The 1905 Minnesota state census gives his occupation as "day laborer" in that town. But William didn't stay there long – after his mother passed away in 1907, he began working his way across the Great Northwest. The 1910 census shows him at Rice in Nicolette County, North Dakota. A 55-year-old bachelor, he boarded with a German immigrant named Fred Ziegler, while working in the village as a blacksmith.

Finally, around 1911, William married Iowa-born Mellie Smallwood. She was in her mid-40s at the time, and so the couple remained childless. In July 1914, they homesteaded 160 acres in sparsely populated Petroleum County, Montana, and then did the same with 158.65 acres in adjacent Chouteau County two years later. When the 1920 census was conducted, William (65) and Mellie (54) lived at Rudyard in Hill County, Montana, where he toiled as a blacksmith in his own shop.

The Brookses' Northwest saga continued during the 1920s, and they arrived at Seattle around 1929. The Great Depression had begun, but William still had work. The 1930 census listed the 75-year-old as "proprietor" of a grocery store. Mellie, who was 65, remained at home. The census tells us that they rented a place at 1117 E. Cherry and had no radio – strange today but not uncommon in Depression-era America.

Mellie died at Seattle on March 20, 1932, at age 66. William remained in the city at 3209 62nd S.W., until his death at age 86 in the afternoon of April 30, 1941. His death certificate reveals that he died of hypertensive cardiovascular and renal disease, resulting from a stroke which affected the left side of his body. He had been confined to King County Hospital #1 for a period of 16 days. He had no children and lived with his widowed younger sister, Jennie (Brooks) Mcphail, who was with him and served as the informant on his death certificate. His occupation was given as "retired merchant" in the "grocery business." William's remains were cremated by Acacia Crematory in Seattle.

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