NEW MILFORD, CONNECTICUT
|CAPTAIN GARRY BROOKS
Born in New Milford, CT
July 5, 1806
|Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
July 5, 1906
HIS LIFE HAS COVERED ONE HUNDRED YEARS
In all Monroe County, perhaps in all Western New York, there is only one man
who can say this morning that his life has covered 100 years, and he is
Captain Garry Brooks, of Fairport, who rounds out a full century of years
today. When he first saw the sunlight in Connecticut, Rochester was not
yet on the map; indeed, six years were to pass before the first house would
be erected upon the site of what is now a rich and powerful city.
The Erie Canal, upon which he was to travel in later years, was only a dream
in the minds of men who were looked upon as being mildly insane; the second
war with England was more than half a decade in the future; the American
clipper-built ship, the swiftest commercial sailing craft the world has
seen, was yet to come; the first steamboat, Fulton's Clermont, was only
begun; steam railroads were utterly unheard of and a quarter of a century
was to pass before the locomotive would become an accomplished fact in
America; forty years before the telegraph would come into general use, and
the span of a man's life, three score years and ten, before spoken words
would be heard through what men now call the telephone.
Fifty years were to pass before the Republican party, of which Captain
Brooks was a member for fifty years, would put its first presidential
candidate in the field. Tippecanoe had not been fought, Illinois had not yet become a territory and the Western frontier was not far from where Cleveland and Detroit now are. Those were the ancient days, and yet Captain Brooks is today, on his 100th birthday, as hale and hearty as many men twenty years his junior. His eye is clear, his mind is unclouded and the grasp of his hand is as strong and cordial as it was twenty-five years ago.
Son of an Early Patriot.
Captain Brooks was born in New Milford, Conn., on July 5, 1806. His father
was Samuel Louis Brooks, who commanded a battery of artillery under
Washington at West Point during the Revolutionary war. Later he served
under General LaFayette, and was with the latter during the siege of
Yorktownn and the surrender of Lord Cornwallis. Samuel Lewis Brooks was
born in 1750 and died in 1846, aged 96 years. He was the son of Rev. Thomas
Brooks, of Brookfield, Conn., from whom the town took its name. The same
fighting spirit that showed itself in his son and grandson was apparent in
the Rev. Thomas Brooks. He was born in England in 1719, and at an early age
became connected with the Presbyterian Church. It was an intolerant age,
Presbyterians were not welcomed in the community and England soon became so
warm for the young man that he chose, rather than give up his faith, to
cross the sea. He settled in Connecticut, married Hannah Lewis shortly
after his arrival, and in that colony his children were born. Exactly when
Rev. Thomas Brooks came to America is not known, but it is known that he
assumed the pastorate of the Presbyterian Church in what is now Brookfield
in 1748, and that he preached there until his death, fifty years later.
Thus, the lives of the grandfather, father, and son cover the period from
1719 to 1906, a total of 187 years.
Garry Brooks attended the public schools in Connecticut, but while still a
lad was apprenticed to a tailor in Bridgeport to learn the cutting portion
of the business. Before he had served his apprenticeship his father and
mother moved to Western New York, and purchased a farm in what is now the
town of Penfield, leaving Garry in Bridgeport to complete his trade.
Came West in 1824.
Even before he had completed his apprenticeship, the boy turned his eyes
westward, and in 1824, immediately after he had learned his trade, he left
Bridgeport and removed to Monroe County, by way of the Erie canal. He
landed first at Fullamtown, a port on the canal between Fairport and
Rochester, and which was then larger than Fairport. Almost immediately he
went to live with his parents on the farm, where he remained until he
retired from active life in 1868 and removed to Fairport.
The soldier instinct showed itself in Garry Brooks while he was yet a boy,
and after he settled in Western New York he became identified with a militia
company. He rose through the various grades and eventually became captain.
Those were the days when the militiamen were minute men, likely to be called
upon almost at a moment's notice to enter upon active service. In
consequence it was necessary for an applicant to stand a government
inspection and examination before he was admitted, and after he was accepted
it was a case of hard work in learning the manual of arms and mastering the
duties of a soldier. Four or five times each year there were "general
training days," when several companies would assemble at a given point for
further instruction under field officers.
Captain Brooks mastered all the details, and it is said that his company
went through its paces more like regulars than militiamen. Whether this is
true, it is one of the captain's cherished memories than in 1835 he won a
silver cup and pitcher for having the best drilled company in Western New
About the same year Captain Brooks married Miss Emma Chauncey, a direct
descendant of Charles Chauncey, the celebrated president of Harvard College,
who died in 1672. Miss Chauncey was born and reared in Connecticut, but at
the time of her marriage was living with her parents a short distance west
of this city.
Captain Brooks had two brothers, Rev. Lemuel Brooks of Churchville, and
Lewis Brooks, of this city. At the time the construction of what is now the
main line of the New York Central into Rochester was contemplated, the three
brothers became interested in the project and were instrumental in securing
most of the right of way for the proposed railroad between the city and the
Wayne County line.
When the Civil war opened Captain Brooks desired very much to enter the
government service, but was prevented by age. Instead, he became very
active in the work of enlisting sympathy for the North and in raising troops
for active service. Meetings were held at various points in the vicinity of
the home of Captain Brooks, and he was always present. His presence was
particularly desired when a meeting for the purpose of securing recruits was
held in a hostile neighborhood.
Home in Fairport Since 1868.
Captain Brooks remained on the farm in Penfield after his parents died and
until 1868, when he retired from active business and removed to Fairport,
where he has since lived. He was converted under the preaching of Rev.
Charles Phinney, who conducted a famous revival in this country in 1854 and
1855, and united with the Penfield Presbyterian Church. As there is no
Presbyterian Church in Fairport he became identified with the Fairport
Congregational Church in 1868, of which he has ever since been an active and
Mrs. Brooks died October 26, 1889. To Captain and Mrs. Brooks four children
were born, three of whom are now living. Lewis S. Brooks, a farmer by
occupation, who lives on the west side of Main Street at the summit of the
hill at the South end of Fairport; Mrs. Fanny L. Harris and Mrs. Emma J.
Saleno, also of Fairport.
Lewis Brooks, who lived in this city at the time of his death eleven years
ago, was for many years a director of the New York Central & Hudson River
Railroad Company, and at the time of his death was a director in four or
five banks. When Lewis Brooks died, Captain Brooks, who was by no means
poor, received a competency, which placed him in more comfortable
circumstances than he had before been in. Captain Brooks and his brothers
Lewis and Rev. Lemuel Brooks were greatly interested in higher education and
gave liberally to several institutions. Oberlin College, Berea College, the
University of Virginia and Lake Forest University, Lake Forest, Ill., have
been partakers of their bounty. Lewis Brooks, before his death, undertook
to supply the University of Virginia with a natural history building. The
work, which was not completed at the time of his death, was continued and
completed by Captain and Rev. Lemuel Brooks, who also supplied equipment to
Comes of Long-lived Family.
That Captain Brooks is a member of a long-lived family is evident from the
records. His brother Lemuel was 84 when he died and Lewis was 86. Their
father was 96 at the time of his death and their grandfather was 78. The
records on the maternal side do not show such ages.
Mr. Brooks cast his first presidential vote in 1832. Since the formation of
the Republican party he has been one of its staunch supporters, but has
never been an aspirant for public office. He is a broad-minded man, has
always looked upon the world from the bright side of life, has made the most
of his opportunities, has used his powers to an unusual degree for the
benefit of others, and now in the late evening of life can look upon the
past without regret and toward the future without fear.
When asked what he would most like to say at this time Captain Brooks took
up a small hymn book, published in London, and turning to one of the hymns
said: "I think that this hymn best expresses my thoughts at this time."
This is the hymn:
"When we survey the wondrous cross
On which the Lord of glory died,
Our richest gain we count but loss
And pour contempt on all our pride.
Our god forbid that we should boast,
Save in the death of Christ, our Lord;
All the vain things that charm us most,
We'd sacrifice them at His word.
There from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flowed mingled down;
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature ours,
That were an offering far too small;
Love that transcends our highest powers,
Demands our soul, our life, our all."
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February 24, 2002
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