Tuesday, November 03, 2009

John Brooks I of Currituck County

John Brooks I

b. c1650

d. 1708 Currituck Co, NC

m. Mary


John Brooks II

Elizabeth Brooks

Frances Brooks

Mary Brooks

Ann Brooks Scott b.c1690

What we know of John Brooks I of Currituck Co, NC comes to us from one of the earlier wills of our state:

John Brooks

July 19, 1707 - April 27, 1708

In the name of God Amen.

I John BROOKS of ye precent of Corratuck being verye Sick and weak of body but perfec in mind & memory doe make ordain Constitute & opiene? this my Last will and testament in maner & forme following holy revoaking & declaring all other my former wills to be null & voyd to all persons? & purposes? as if Such wills had never been made.

first I bequeath my sould to almighty god from whomd it had in originall being & _____ beseeching him to [next several words unreadable] into his mercy with full and graceous pardon for all my Sins through ye merritts of Jesus Christ - my Saviour.

My body I Committ to ye Earth to Receive decent & Chrisian Buriall & so to Remaine in hopes of a Joyfull Resurraction and a reunion with ye Soull.

As to my wordly goods & Estat it hath pleased god to Endow me with I bequeath as followetth vizz------------

Item I give and bequeath to my Son in Law William SCOTT one gun and one yearling heifor.

Item I give to my Loveing wife Mary BROOKS ye use of my plantation wheron I now live & all ye appertanances therto beloning during ye ____ & _____ of her widowhood after my deceas & I modiastly? after hur _____ or next Marriage I give ye sd plantation with ye Improvments theron & all other its appurtenances ther unto belonging or apportayning I [give] unto my Son John BROOKS & his heirs.

Item I give & bequeath unto my Loving wife Mary BROOKS ye use of one pair of Qui__ Milstones? during hur widowhood after my deceas & afterwards to my Loving daughter Elizabeth BROOKS.

Item and all other my Estate goods Chattles movable and Imoviable my will & desire is that they are Equaly devided between my Loveing wife Mary BROOKS & my four Children namly my son John BROOKS and my daughter Elizabeth BROOKS & my daughter Frances BROOKS & my daughter Mary BROOKS.

I doe herby Constitue & appoynt my Loving wife Mary BROOKS Sold Execurtix of this my Last will & testament In witness wherof I have herunto sett my hand & Seal this 19th day of July 1707.


John BROOKS [his mark looked to be a B on its side]

Signed Sealed in presents of us


James I. BETTS


Att a Cort holden for the pearect of Corahtuck the 27th Day of April anno Dom 1708

This wth in Will was proved by the wth in Evidances viz. Mr Will SWANN and James BETTS.

Test. Edward TAYLOR Clk Court

[Source: North Carolina State Archives - MARS ID: (folder)]

(“Betts” shows up in Craven County some time later:
In 1745 Elisha Betts witnessed a Wm Carruthers sale to Mark Harford on s side of
Bay River, which Wm Carruthers had just patented.
1746 Wm Carruthers sold Wm Betts 133a e side of Browns Creek, patented 1735 by Wm Carruthers. wit Elisha Betts.)

Another, earlier record that is probably our “John Brooks” Ist comes to us from Currituck Co, North Carolina Higher Court Minutes:


The Colonial Records - Higher Court Records (1670-1696)

Editor: Mattie Erma Edwards Parker

June 12, 1676. The Full and Just sume of Foure Hundred ninety Five pounds of Good Sound well condished tobacco in Cask at or before the tenth day of October next Ensueing The date Heareof as witness my Hand This 12^th of June 1676. /s/ John DENNE Testis: Richard FOSTER, Noah PARKER June 30, 1676. This Bill Bindeth mee Temprence STEPHENS my heirs Excutors or Administrators to pay or Cause to bee paid Unto Mr. Richard MEDLYCOTT and Mr. Jacob JASSON Marchants of Boston in New England thare heirs Executors or Asignes the Just som of fowre hundred fifty Eight pounds of good Marchantable Tobaco and Cask to bee paid Convenent in Corotocke att or befor the tenth of October next as wittnes my hand this 30 of June 1676. /s/ The mark of Temprence STEPHENS Testis: Edward WAAD, John BROOKE

The “Lost” or Roanoke Colony of 1587 is one that most of you will be familiar with. Since that ill-fated, late-16th century colony, though some successful settlement had occurred in “Virginia”. There was Jamestown in 1607. For several years following 1607, Jamestown settlers searched for Raleigh’s Roanoke Colony in hopes that they might be able to provide them with some “intel” on the Virginia backcountry. While they found no colonists, they did hear stories from local natives of a tribe of Indians that wore clothes and lived in European-like houses. On one occasion in May, 1607, they met a native with blonde hair and white skin!

Some Brooks show on the 1624 census of the Jamestown area:

1624 WEST SHERLOW VA B620 BROCKE , William





Settlers from that colony filtered down the coast into present day Currituck County, North Carolina beginning about 1654. So, there were likely some pioneers already in this northeastern most corner of North Carolina when John Brooks came, but there were no amenities. You couldn’t just buy a Big Mac for dinner to eat while you caught the latest episode of “Big Brother” on TV. This was fresh, virgin territory quite befitting the namesake “virgin” queen herself.

I know there’s a lighthouse at the top of the page on this website but, you have to remember when John Brooks first came down (possibly) from the James River of present day Virginia, he saw nothing of the sort. And, he wasn’t leaving Virginia. He was just pioneering south to barely settled territory.

The area comprising Currituck Co, NC was first known as the Albemarle precinct of the Virginia colony. Even by as late as 1696, few white men had ventured far from Jamestown:

Rent Roll of Land Upon Record…in Albemarle County
Thomas Cox, Majock Creek Corratuck…640
George Bullock, Tulls Creek Corratuck…550
Benjamin Regnaud Corratuck…300
(possible source for “Rigney”)
John Sanderson Chowingiak Bay in Coratuck…300
John Shroud Majock Creek Coratuck…300
Edward Warren Tulls Creek Coratuck…350
Saml. Jones Holly Neck Point Coratuck…203
Andrew Cashaul Coratuck…050
Dennis Cashaull Coratuck…290
Richard Harris Coratuck…268
Richard Bright Majock Creek Coratuck…550
Wm. Stafford Majock Creek Coratuck…640

[Following Wm. Stafford's name, the list is somewhat more difficult to read, and most entries do not include specific precincts. The following men included on the list are either known or thought to have been early residents of Currituck Precinct]

Richd. Comingford…413
Henry Slade…299
Thos. Vandermulen…800
Christopher Merchant…908
Sanderson Esqr….898
Sanderson Jr
John Pell…250

John Brooks does not appear on this list… or any list for this precinct. Perhaps he was in Currituck Precinct at this time, but did not appear on this list. If the inhabitants of “Beechland” in modern Tyrrell Co, NC were, indeed “European” Indians that remained relatively hidden until at least 1775, John Brooks I may have spent some time there.

It must be remembered that the Tuscarora War was still two decades away and the Croatoan/Mattamuskeets had joined in that war against white settlers. The most unusual aspect of these “Beechland” and “Gum Neck” towns was that they produced goods that they sold outside of their hidden swampland oasis… even in Barbados! Their residents could, in effect have two lives… the legitimate outside life of the European settler as well as the Indian “underground” life.

The will of 1708 was the first sign we can be certain of for John Brooks I… and what we hear is that he died. Fever? Some injury? Indian attack? Pirate trouble (for or against)? The will apparently suggests that John Brooks II was his only male descendant and his four children were listed in this too… only one of whom is married (that we know of).1 That puts his daughter (presumably the oldest daughter) at about 18 years old, at least in 1708. So, her birth would have been c1690. Adding another generation to John gives us c1670 for his birthdate. But, if he witnessed a deed in 1676, he would have to have been at least 16. That puts his birthday at 1660… probably earlier. This is the just the latest end of the possible range. He could have been born as early as 1650 or even 1640. But, the older we get makes him less likely to pioneer “virgin” territory like the Indian “infested” lands of Currituck County“Currituck” being a derivation of an Indian word meaning “wild goose”. I don’t mean to imply that the natives were an “infestation”… simply that the early colonists would most certainly have viewed them as such.

1It’s extremely important to note here that John Brooks I made an attempt to include all of his children in his will, even his daughter Ann who had married by this time to William Scott. It seems likely that he would have no other children and that Stephen Brooks, b.1703 must have been the son of another Brooks. This makes the tale of the Tennessee descendants of Stephen Brooks even more likely that he came from Joseph’s line (or at least another Brooks besides John).

The “William Scott” that John mentions as his “son-in-law” in the will stays in Currituck Co, NC for the rest of his life… on the same 50 acres of land. He’s on every tax list up to 1755. And, believe me, there are a lot of tax records for Currituck Co, NC still remaining… 1715-1721 (every year), 1735, 1751-2, 1755 & 1779.2 The first time that his family shows any sign of growth is 1751 when William is listed with 2 polls. Later, this extra guy turns out to be William Scott, Jr. The elder Scott married Ms. Brooks before 1708 and didn’t have a male child until 1751!? They must have married young indeed! Or he remarried. But, the man didn’t go anywhere! He stayed on the same 50 acres of land that was deeded to him when he got there c1705. He may have had daughters. That could be why his farm never grew… no males to work the fields. Still, the fields weren’t just for the men. These were hard times and women did the same work as their fathers and husbands. So, we mustn’t apply modern prejudice to a time that would seem very alien to us.

2Note that the date of the first Tax list for Currituck Co, NC is the year AFTER the treaty with the Croatoan/Mattamuskeet Indians which ended the guerrilla attacks that came after the Tuscarora War and resulted in these Indians becoming landed citizenry of the Carolina Colony. There was little need to continue hiding.

Gov. Pollock reported in 1713 that the Mattamuskeet and Coranine tribes…

“… of late have done us great mischief, having killed and taken our people since my last to you, about 45 at Croatan Roanoke Island, and Alligator River, these being about 50 or 60 men of them got together between Matchapungo River and Roanoke Island which is about 100 miles in length and of considerable breadth, all in a manner lakes, quagmires and cane swamps, and is, I believe, one of the greatest deserts in the world, where it is almost impossible for white men to follow them. They have got likewise boats and canoes, being expert watermen, wherein they can transport themselves where they please.”

This gives an excellent account of the social context within which the Brooks lived. White men and Indians lived in close proximity and, for the most part, got along just fine. In fact, it has become clear to me that many of them were eclipsed by our ways and they blended in rather well (Stephen Brooks of Lake Mattamuskeet and his family, for instance), especially after 1714. I expect that they married frequently and had children whom we later find in deeds and court records of later years. This is the supposition that Fred Willard and his colleagues have been going on… the Lost Colony is still here today. We didn’t notice them because they blended back in with our society.

Is John Brooks I one of these descendants? There was a “John Brooke” in the 1587 colony. Grandfather, perhaps?

John Brooks I’s son-in-law, William Scott dies after August 18, 1766 when he leaves his will in Currituck Co, NC stating wife, Ann (another daughter of John Brooks I) and children: William, Mary Credel, Elizabeth Jarvis. Wit: David Savin, Willoughby Brooks, Lydia Savin.

This contains enough info to establish that William Scott only had one male child… in fact, three children total most likely and that Ann is a previously unmentioned (in will of 1708) daughter of John Brooks, probably his eldest daughter (Scott’s mention was sufficient to John Brooks I, it would seem). They married c1705 just before John Brooks’ death. So far, no orphan info has turned up on the Brooks children and it is possible that they found themselves also living in the Beechland or Gum Neck seclusion.

This “Willoughby Brooks” in William Scott’s will makes the Currituck/Hyde/Pitt/Beaufort/Craven connection seem all the more likely for the Brooks:

Hyde Co, NC records:

316 (567-78) Willoughby Addams late of Hyde Co to Benjamin Slade, planter of Hyde Co 9 pounds pc 50 acres Hyde Co E side Machapongo River; beg river swamp, bending along tree line dividing 100 acres between Willoughby Addams and Joseph Cox; Slades part: beg head line at end of marked trees, to river swamp, to corner mulberry, to first marked black gum. Pat 1745 by John Smight Jr. 2 Oct 1756. Willoughby Adams, Elizabeth Adams. Wit: Benjn Smith, James (J) Brooks. Test: Stepn Denning, Reg.

James Brooks was living in Beaufort Co, NC and the county boundaries would change in 1761, creating Pitt Co, NC. These counties and the land that they sat on was meandering and confusing for interpreting our early Brooks and, to make matters worse, they moved about across the county boundaries often. The later Brooks information from this region will spell this out. One detail for the famous “James Brooks of Pitt Co, NC” is that he lived most of his life in Pitt Co, NC (prob. never was far from his land on Swift Creek) but served on the militia from Beaufort Co, NC in 1781. He has dealings to the south in Craven and Beaufort as well as northeast, in Currituck and Hyde Counties as well.

I know there’s a lot of info to absorb on the Brooks’ surroundings and this “William Scott” fella, but it is essential to understanding the meaning of the information contained in the 1708 will of John Brooks and the records that follow over a rather large area of NC.

Social commentary…

What was the social context of early colonial life in this seaside community? Did the Brooks just arrive and settle in North Carolina? Or, had they already been here? Were they still dependant upon each other (or Indian relatives) for the basics? Would they huddle together in a single dwelling or would young men be able to seek out lives for themselves, apart from their families? My feelings on this (and that’s really the best I can do) is that maybe times required them to huddle together. For one thing, it might be reminiscent of their Indian ways. Or, it could be that times were truly difficult. What I’ve seen of many folks in this time would go along with that. But, it’s still just a guess.

To illustrate how it must have been:

A native Hatteras Islander, Con Farrow, remembered the 1920s on the island in a 1976 interview. He said the islanders had no radio, no TV and little communication with outside world but they were happy. They lived in tune with the natural world: “You could listen to the ocean’s roar and tell pretty well what direction the wind would be the next day.” Everyone had a garden, hogs and knew how to fish. Animals roamed freely. Access to food, building materials and clothing was difficult. Medical care was nonexistent and education was hard. The islanders were self-sufficient. They all went to church and depended on each other’s support. There were no taverns and no need for police. No one had electricity. Hatteras Village got electricity in the mid-1930s, but the rest of island had to wait until the early 1950s.

If life on Hatteras was like this in the twentieth century, what must it have been like in the early 18th century? I think it was not that different, really. This was the life of the native population, carefree and self-sufficient. Only, in the twentieth century, they don’t have much to worry about… no attacks from the Spanish, the English nor rival Indian tribes that might have made them feel less secure, hardening them to societies outside their own, giving them a tendency towards lawlessness… piracy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thank you very much for your work and willingness to share information.

susan prince