Monday, September 02, 2013

Memories of Rev. Edgar Marcelus Brooks

Rev. E. M. Brooks
Reverend Edgar Marcelus Brooks was my grandfather.  He was born February 5, 1861, only son of Culpeper "Cullen" P. and Louisa Lowery Allen Brooks of Union County, North Carolina, 100 years and one month before me.  He had two sisters.

Yes, he was born three months before South Carolina shells struck Fort Sumter, beginning the Civil War!  Three generations, 100 years apart, in itself, has been touted as quite an achievement.  However, my grandfather may deserve a great deal more credit than simply being a verifiable historical figure himself. 

E.M. Brooks was a baptist minister from Union/Stanly/Anson Counties, not unlike many religious folk from his day.   Which county a Brooks hailed from depended upon which side or end of the Rocky River he happened to be on at the time.  As a minister, he served many localities in North Carolina, including Albemarle, Norwood, Palmerville, Lumberton, and Fayetteville where my father made his mark as a pharmacist and where I was later born, 100 years and a month after Grandpa! 

Aside from serving the state's baptists as a brother reverend, Grandpa wrote articles and contributed to the Biblical Recorder, the noted publication of the Southern Baptist Association.   His first article, titled "Good Reasons For Writing," appeared in the June 27, 1900 issue, detailing his great welcome as pastor with a flood of practical gifts: sugar, salt, flour, etc. in a ceremony they locally called "pounding."  

My father, Baylus Cade Brooks Sr. was named of course for a renowned local historical figure, minister, lawyer, inventor, and former governor's secretary Baylus Cade of Shelby, held in high regard by my grandfather.  Dad was born on January 1, 1916 in Palmerville, North Carolina and the following 26th, appeared this article in the Biblical Recorder, telling of the family's recent move from Norwood to Palmerville before he was born:

Page 14 from the January 26, 1916 edition of the Biblical Recorder including "From Norwood to Palmerville," by E. M. Brooks

Rev. Brooks' station at Palmerville left him in charge of three churches (Palmerville, Ebenezer, and New London) in that district which also included the town of Baden, very important as the location of the aluminum plant still in operation today.  Apparently, baptists owned two acres in the center of town that they refused to sell, "at any price!"  

To say that my grandfather had a flair for the historic is simply not to do his strong feelings justice.  At the end of his letter here mentioned, he congratulated his "predecessors, both immediate and remote" as worthy men.  Then, he listed six of them by name, obviously having dug deep into his facility's local history.  Not surprisingly, nine years later, he produced a full history of the Brooks family.  

Scholarship may separate him from the general herd.  In 1925, he wrote History of the Brooks family of Union County, North Carolina which has been republished by Eden Press in 1991.  I, as the later family historian, have attempted to verify the information in this book and, with only minor exception, he turned out to be quite the historical scholar.  This fact greatly appealed to me.  

Grandpa collected records from 1814-1881 that pertained to the family, including sales of slaves, wills, and letters from which he drew material for his book.  I have since published these documents as Brooks Family Documents Collection, through Cafepress in 2004 and most recently, Lulu Press of Morrisville, in 2007.  

Grandpa saved a collection of newspaper articles, personal anecdotes, and facts that he collected during the latter years of his life.  They date from about 1931-1939.  Grandpa died four years later, in 1943 in New London.  By this act of fate, I never knew the man with whom I had so much in common.  This scrapbook, however, held many of the memories and stories that a grandfather might share with his wide-eyed grandson in front of the crackling fireplace one evening after supper.  His secrets simply awaited to be unlocked by an historian like myself, trained with the ability to pick that lock and travel in time.  H.G. Wells, get ready to learn something!

Also, as a budding paper conservator, I found a unique opportunity to practice my craft and restore this frail scrapbook while exploring its many secrets.  This article is but the first in a series of many to come, describing the scrapbook kept by a man of such historical knowledge.  Grabbing my starch paste, Japanese tissue paper, and the many tools and soaking pans, and, like my grandfather, my great love of the historical, I set about keeping his memories safe and sharing a few experiences with him at the same time!  Pull up an easy chair beside Grandpa and me, smell the pungent odor of the hickory firewood, listen to the occasional light pops and crackles as the warmth spreads around us, and share these stories with me... 

This is a page from the Rev. Edgar Marcelus Brooks Scrapbook Collection (1931-1939) - it holds great memories for my grandfather.  He wrote captions beside each of these articles, one which describes the "Ezekiel Wallis House" (c1778), one of the oldest extant houses in Mecklenburg County. 

My grandfather remembered seeing the house as he passed it, on his way to Charlotte one day, no doubt, with his father Culpeper, perhaps rolling along in a horse and buggy at the age of 10 in 1870-71.  Grandpa writes this at the margin beside the picture of the old stone home.  Fortunately the degradation that reached from the open edges of the page had not reached the inner part of the scrapbook and the detail survived.  Still, the pages were extremely frail until restoration could be effected by patching it with the Japanese tissue paper and starch paste after careful washing and de-acidification.  This picture came from a newspaper (most likely Charlotte Observer) from about 1933.  

Photo circa 1955 - Library of Congress
Library of Congress photos show the house in 1955 and the decorative stonework on this unique structure. The North Carolina State University digital collection page where detailed plans and interior shots can be seen also holds the architectural plans drawn by Clyde Rich and Earl Pope in 1955.

Ezekiel Wallis had been born in 1735 in Somerset, Maryland, built this sturdy home, and died January 24, 1813 in Mecklenburg, North Carolina.  

"East elevation and details, Ezekiel Wallis House,
Mecklenburg County, North Carolina," 1955.
He had come down the Pennsylvania-Carolina Wagon Road with many of Mecklenburg's early residents, including the Alexanders, one of whom Wallis married, Miss Margaret McKnitt Alexander from Cecil County, Maryland.  The Wallises and Alexanders became long-term
pioneers of (then called) western Anson County.  

Rev. Brooks may have thought about his great uncle Alexander Brooks who was likely named for this family.  Alexander Brooks may even have been the son of one Lydia Alexander, who may have been the first wife of William Brooks I, my grandfather's grandfather, born 1736 in Virginia.  Lydia was the daughter of James Alexander, a signer of the Mecklenburg Declaration on May 20, 1775, one of the dates on the North Carolina state flag.

Passing this old stone structure, looking as strong as any that he had likely ever seen, with its heart shaped figure eight decoration on the side, must have been memorable for my grandfather, dreaming of the family whose history he would one day write.  It grounded him to his western Carolina roots.  The house was nearly 100 years old when he saw it c1870.  The area had a long history and several generations of Wallace/Walllises, Alexanders, Allens and Brooks had passed together there.  

Matthew Wallis, a son of Ezekiel's had also married Mildred Allen, perhaps a relative of Rev. Brooks' mother Louisa Lowery Allen.  Rev. Brooks mother was the daughter of Darling Allen, reputed to have been killed by Moses, one of his slaves "at the chimney end of the house."  

This old home meant something to my grandfather and he might have told me these stories by that fire...

Photo: Real photo postcard by Alorice (sp?), Tacoma, Washington, ca. 1918. Stamped on reverse in blue ink "World's Smallest Mother Dolletta and my two Caesarian Babies: Lucretia E. Boykin [13] yrs., Charles J. Boykin [7] yrs." Handwritten in black ink, "I am 37 yrs., 28 ins., 37 lbs." and the ages of the children. Elizabeth J. Anderson's collection.

Dolletta Buck Article
The other article that Rev. E. M. Brooks included on this page involved Mrs. Dolletta [Dodd Boykin] Buck, 52, of Burlington.  He recalls meeting and speaking with this woman, known for being the world's smallest mother at 2'4".  Her son, Charlie married in Danforth, Virginia about the time of this article, in 1933. Despite being the son of two dwarves, Charlie was six feet tall!

Dolletta must have fascinated my grandfather such that he would include an article about her attending her son's wedding in Danforth on the same page as an article that held such family significance.  

Elizabeth J. Anderson, "sole proprietess" of Phreequeshop, can tell us more about Dollettta's life:

There have been many "World's Smallest Mothers", but perhaps the smallest of all was little Dolletta Dodd, a 28"-tall dwarf from Quincy, Illinois. Dolletta was born October 14, 1881, to the wife of B.F. Dodd, a civil engineer. The third of ten children, Dolletta was said to be so small at birth that she fit in the palm of her 5'9"-tall father's hand and could be completely covered with the other hand. She was precocious, however, and could walk and talk by the age of 11 months. By the time she was 18 months old, she weighed but four pounds and was nine inches tall, less than half the weight and length of her newborn baby brother.

Dolletta's parents insisted that she receive a normal college education despite her diminutive size. She attended school in Fremont, Nebraska, and taught school there for three years after her graduation. Around 1900 she left her teaching job to become a lecturer with a circus sideshow. As a performer, she was quite successful. She rode a miniature chariot drawn by Shetland ponies, trained dogs, and played the harmonica and piano. In her spare time she wrote and recited poetry. Her sideshow resume included Greater Alamo Shows, H.W. Campbell's Shows and Frank Taylor Circus.

Dolletta, Charlie & Lucretia
Dolletta married Major James A. Boykin, a 42"-tall dwarf, around 1904. Their first daughter, Lucretia, was born January 16, 1906 by Caesarian section. A son, Charles, followed on February 12, 1912. Dolletta and her "two Caesarian babies" travelled together as an enormously popular sideshow attraction and were featured in Robert Ripley’s Believe it or Not?! comic strip. 

After Major Boykin died, Dolletta remarried to 6'-tall circus trick roper C.H. Buck, who carried his wife in his arms like a small child. Buck, it seemed, liked unusual women, for he had previously been married to Hungarian bearded lady Sidonia de Barcsy. Dolletta underwent a third and final Caesarian section at Rochester, Minnesota's, prestigious Mayo Clinic on August 8, 1924. Her baby daughter was named Dottella Mayo Buck in honor of the clinic. All three of Dolletta’s children later married and chose to remain in showbusiness.

Dolletta retired in 1939 to Joplin, Missouri, after her vision began to fail. She was active in the Joplin Service Club for the Blind and a member of the South Joplin Christian Church, and she got around using a custom-built wheelchair. Although she strove to "remain active" in her declining years, a stroke in December 1947 left her bedridden. After living for seven years in a nursing-home room custom furnished to her size, she died in her miniature bed on January 10, 1948. She is buried in the Ozark Memorial Park Cemetary. A beloved mother, wife and entertainer, Dolletta claimed she could do anything an everage-sized person could do – her only regret was that she couldn't drive a car.

This is but one side of one page in a set of 35 double-sided pages in my grandfather's scrapbook, which includes several loose newspaper articles as well.  The richness of his life and experiences come alive with just a bit of research to fill out the missing pages of his life's book.  Thanks for spending time with Grandpa and me... next time, we'll prepare some hot apple cider, fresh from the orchard with a cinnamon stick!  Stay tuned, for there's plenty more to come!

Emma Eugenia and Rev. Edgar Marcelus Brooks at their last home together in New London, North Carolina.  Photo circa 1941 by Baylus C. Brooks Sr.
Dad says "Hi!"
The photographer, Baylus Cade Brooks Sr. behind his Kodak 35mm camera, taking a shot in a mirror at Matthews Pharmacy on Hay Street in downtown Fayetteville, NC, circa 1939.


Unknown said...

Hello I have been going through some of my Dads old photos. He was a Nazarene preacher. I came across an old photo. Of a Rev Brooke’s, along with some other well know preachers from the early 1900’s. Trying figure out who he is.

Baylus C. Brooks said...

Hi Patty,

If you can send me a scan of the photo, I can tell you if it's my family. Nazarenes are basically Wesleyans and an uncle of mine, Rev. William Brooks III from Carroll Co, GA was Methodist. It's a long shot, but possible.