Gilbert Brooks was the sixth of nine children of Stephen D. and Hannah Bennett Brooks. He was born February 22, 1824, in Redfield, Oswego, New York. He left Redfield at the age of fourteen in 1837 when his family moved to primitive Wisconsin Territory. He spent the remainder of his teenage years on his parents' original property in section 36 of the Town of Vinland, north of the City of Oshkosh.
In 1844, Gilbert was employed by Harrison Reed, the founder of Neenah, Wisconsin - and eventually the ninth governor of Florida (1868-1873). In the History of Winnebago County, Wisconsin, Publius V. Lawson determined that Harrrison Reed came to Neenah in the spring of 1843. Charles Wescott from New York worked for Reed that season but "was succeeded by Mr. Gilbert Brooks in 1844, many years a resident of this county."
On October 11, 1853, Gilbert married Frances A. Adsit - see The History of Frances Amelia Adsit - in a ceremony in the home of Luke Gates at Menasha village in Neenah Township, several miles north of the City of Oshkosh. Henry Alden, Justice of the Peace, conducted the ceremony. Frances was a daughter of Josiah M. and Maria Knapp Adsit of New York and Wisconsin (by way of Ohio). Gilbert and Frances were the parents of eight children: William, Evelyn, Mattie (Martha), Nellie, Andrew, Samuel Brooks (who married Susan Deborah Prentice), Mary, and Jennie (Jane).
By 1860, Gilbert and Frances, with children William, Evelyn, and Mattie, farmed at the Lind Township in Waupaca County, immediately northwest of Winnebago County. It is interesting to note that two neighboring farms were owned by Richard Chambers and William Chambers. Gilbert and Frances one day named a son, Andrew Chambers Brooks - clearly the families were close.
The Brooks family had grown to ten by the time of the 1870 U.S. Census, counting eight children. Gilbert and Frances had made their final "Wisconsin move" to the town of Nekimi just south of Oshkosh City in Winnebago County. He farmed this land beyond 1880, while Frances was "keeping house" as described by the census reports.
In the summer of 1884, Gilbert and Frances sold their properties, gathered their family and worldly possessions, and departed Wisconsin - their home for many decades. They headed westward toward untamed Dakota Territory, arriving in the township of Lisbon, some 25 miles north of where their made their permanent home.
In 2002-2003, Susan M. Kudelka published three volumes of the History of Sargent County, offering insight into the lives of our pioneer family and their neighbors. The years of 1884 (when Gilbert, Frances and family came to Dakota Territory) and 1885 were particularly good crop years. Crops were hauled to Lisbon, which is where the Brookses stayed upon their arrival in Sargent County. The Great Northern Railroad passed through the southern part of Forman Township and Gilbert's property in the southwest quarter of section 30. On September 13, 1888, a farm post office called Mohler was established on this location. August Schrump served as its first postmaster. On February 15, 1890, postmaster Jacob Noteman changed the name of this post office to Brookland, in honor of local pioneers Gilbert Brooks and son Andy Brooks. Kudelka wrote: "In the early days Brookland had a depot, elevator, lumberyard and small store as late as 1918. Residents were Brookses, McNeils, the section boss Mathews, and Sam Brooks. There was also a shack were the section crew stayed. The schoolhouse was moved to a more central location in school district #4, about 1912…Little development occurred, and the post office closed February 28, 1901, with mail to Cogswell [village, four miles north], although the site had a depot, elevator, store, and lumber store as late as 1918…In the early years, Forman Township had four schools. The northeastern section went to the town school, the southeast to Belle Plain, the northwest to the Nelson School near Swen Nelson's farm, and the southwest to Brookland. The school at Brookland later became the township hall…In the western part of the township were Gilbert Brooks and sons, Andy and Sam, [who] came in 1885. John Baird and sons, Charles, James, and Frank [were] on the first immigrant train on the Milwaukee Road in 1886.
Frances' health began to deteriorate. At home at Brookland, on the evening of September 30, 1907, Frances Adsit Brooks quietly passed away.
Gilbert survived his wife of nearly 54 years and remained at Brookland, surrounded by his son Andy's family.
Eventually, Gilbert developed dementia. Andy made what must have been a terribly difficult decision: to move his father to the State Hospital for the Insane in Jamestown, a 100-mile trip from the Brookland farm. Gilbert remained at the hospital for 17 days, until his death at 93 years of age on November 12, 1917. His death certificate listed senility and senile dementia as a contributory cause of death. His body was returned to Brookland, and he was buried alongside Frances Adsit Brooks in the Old Sargent Cemetery, a couple miles south of Cogswell.
Frances Amelia Adsitt Brooks