Donate to Brooks Historical

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bath Festival May 16th 2009

Today was a big day in Bath and a total surprise for me and my friend as we drove up Hwy 264 to see the sights. We visited Bath, Lake Mattamuskeet, Gul Rock (home of the deer and bears), and a host of other little places scattered amongst the miles of highway... really good highway I might add. The best part was the lack of traffic. When you're used to young students with a few short years of driving experience, it's a real pleasure to find a lonely stretch of road.

As Julie and I came into Bath, we found that the Bath Festival had just begun and we spent the next few hours walking along Main and Craven. There's quite a few historical markers in that block, including one for Mr John Lawson, the quite famous Surveyor General who traveled the Carolina's, recording his travels for all of us to glimpse the past.

He just had to go and get himself tortured and killed by the Tuscarora. Well, he left a legend. Just like his neighbor there... Edward Teach. Speaking of Teach... he may have found it ironic that a Christian singer performed on the front porch of the man who claimed to "come straight from hell."

Bath is a really small, quaint community that seemed to come alive with the festival that included arts and crafts vendors and some good smellin' eats. The excellent view off the point gives you the impression of a great harbor for a pirate periauger or two.

After the festival, we were chased off by the rain. Continuing east on 264, we came across the road north to Lake Mattamuskeet... a very large inland wildlife refuge. It's also a really big lake!

From there, we were directed to a seven mile long road that ended at the Pamlico sound. I could've sworn it was the ocean if I didn't know better. This very remote location was the Gul Rock Wildlife Preserve. According to the genealogical information I have on the Mattamuskeet Indian Brooks, Stephen and Mary Farrow Brooks are buried here... somewhere! lol Maybe I'll find them next trip...

Still, it was a very pleasant day and we almost avoided the rain completely. Almost...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A page from my website on the Brooks of Coastal NC

Joseph Brooks I

b. ?

d. 22 November 1718


Joseph Brooks II

Stephen Brooks

Joseph Brooks I or “Sr.” is known primarily due to his notoriety as a member of Blackbeard’s pirate crew. There’s no way to know where or when Joseph joined the infamous Edward Drummond, Teach or Thatch… whatever was his real name was… we call him “Blackbeard”. But, we know that his son, Joseph was a part of the crew as well.

There is a tradition amongst the descendants of Thomas Brooks, b.1738 Hyde Co, NC that now live in Tennessee, that Thomas’ father was Stephen Brooks b. c1703 and that his father was this Joseph Brooks, the man of notoriety here mentioned.

It is a wild thought, but not without some merit. It is not popularly known that “Outer Bankers” were a surly sort, prone to living by beachcombing after shipwrecks and even creating disaster in order to assist the shipwrecks’ occurrence. There’s no direct evidence, of course. For example, I don’t write down everything I don’t want known. I’m sure they didn’t either… maybe even tended toward extreme privacy. The evidence lay in the effects their activities will have on peripheral events. Studying those will take lots of evidence to make the point and time to sift through it. I’m sure that, given the heavy amount of research (see ) into the Brooks and other related families of Mattamuskeet Indians and their relationship to the Croatan (possible descendants of the Roanoke Colony left on the Carolina Shores in 1587, that more information will come to light.

One of the purposes of that “Lost Colony” was to provide an English presence in the New World to put pressure on the expansion of Spanish colonization, at that time, primarily south of Carolina. They were essentially a force of mostly fighting men that had a number of encounters with the Spanish before settling on Roanoke, where they built elaborate fortifications that had future plans for cannon. In many views, this colony’s underlying purpose was to raid Spanish shipping. I suppose the English would have preferred the term “disrupt”. One author of a recent book called it “Ralegh’s Pirate Colony”.

If the members of that colony had survived after 1587 by living and breeding with the native Croatan, there would have been signs in their descendants such as oddly European-like eye color, hair color and the ability to “write in the book,” or use writing. On one occasion, later Europeans witnessed all of these things among the Croatan (or Hatteras) Indians when they began to re-colonize Carolina in the mid 1650’s. Only 75 or 80 years had passed since the colony was left by Ralph Lane and John White as they left to obtain supplies from England. Unfortunately, the famed “Spanish Armada” of ships attacked England at that time and delayed their departure by three years. What they found upon their return was the now well-known story of “CROATOAN” carved on a post to indicate where they had gone. The pre-arranged alert signal of a cross carved above the name was not there, so they apparently went in peace. Obviously, their supplies dwindled and they could not survive on their own, later to be taken into the local tribe of friendly Croatan Indians. That’s the supposition, anyway. Any number of unknown factors may have come into play.

Descendants of these “pirates” and the native peoples of Carolina would have lived an existence barely above what most Europeans of the time would have thought of as primitive. Yet, many of them took Christian names and had taken up the Christian religion, in which the first contact with them had revealed a strong interest. It’s purely hypothetical, but it wouldn’t be difficult for those colonist/Indians to re-infiltrate English society as the Indians themselves proved possible. Lake Mattamuskeet in now Hyde Co, NC is populated by such descendants even today. As well as Cape Hatteras, around the town of Buxton… site of the original Croatan village as seen by the colonists in 1587. As well as the residents of Chocowinity and Free Union that sparked the interest of the folks at

Would it be such a far cry from “Pirate Colonist” in 1587 to “Pirate-Indian, now Colonist again” in 1650? It seems perfectly natural to me, especially in light of the increased presence of the English in a land that used to belong to the Indian… or, rather in their view… the “domain” of their god. To them, it must have seemed like an invasion and I’m sure that any colonist’s children born as an Indian and raised as an Indian, whether or not he could “write in the book” would have seen it the same way. To the sea-faring folk of these times, piracy would have been a natural result of the distaste, if not outright hatred for the English. Kind of echoes the American Revolution, huh? As was the case with Blackbeard’s crew and many crews like it, I’m sure that their noble original intentions fell to lesser, more base affairs. The sight of “booty” was probably enough. Invasion led to revolution led to piracy. History is replete with this theme.

Would it be so hard to believe that Indian descendants like the Brooks of Currituck & Hyde Co’s, NC became members of this short-lived and little understood profession? It was a way to make your living in a time when there was little authority to tell you otherwise. Besides, England condoned it… so long as the intended victims weren’t English. In this case, unfortunately, they were. England had to send Lt. Maynard of the Royal Navy to “remind” the locals of the need for civilization. Even Gov. Eden of North Carolina had Blackbeard as his guest there in New Bern. Indeed, was somewhat “partnered” with him according to most historians.

We have to remember that North Carolina was wild at this time. There was little “civilized” behavior in even the Governor. Imagine what the average colonist must have been like and especially the “lower-classed” Indians, for which most English had great distrust. A lawless life probably looked perfectly natural to them. But, the Colony of North Carolina was growing fast and Indian ways and Piracy could no longer be tolerated, as Joseph Brooks and his son found out in 1718.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Learning Dates in History

I remember, like most high school students in the '70's, complaining that we students had to learn certain things that we considered useless at the time. At the top of that list has to be the infamous bank of ancient Greek and Arabic knowledge we distastefully called "ALGEBRA." Rene Descartes gave us the "cartesian coordinate system" that we are all painfully familiar with, even though most of us still can't get the abstract notion of geometry to blend with real life problems like a speeding car over a stretch of highway on an incline. What!!?? Just ask the eighth grade fellow I tutor in math. He won't give you a good reference on Descartes.

But, did you know that Descartes was an eye witness to the Siege of La Rochelle in 1628? The last stronghold of French Protestants in a predominantly Catholic country? Did you know that these Protestants left France before 1700 and went to many other parts of the world, especially to very protestant America? If you remember, our ancestors left Europe because of Martin Luther demanding that the Bible be translated into German. Our ancestors tended to agree with Luther and... here we are! Most of us has a French name or two in our genealogies. For me, we have the well-told story of Jean de Fonvielle of Craven County, NC. Most North Carolinians call him John Fonville. And descendants of his include noted Wilmington historian, Chris Fonville, and... of course, me! There's also Mr. Thomas "Tommy" Fonville of Fonville-Morisey Realty Company so well known in this part of the state.

Another big issue with high school students and college students concerns the importance of dates in history. My history professors today don't stress dates so much as they do the issues. This is an important consideration so long as you remain aware of the time period you are concerned with. You know, George Washington wasn't a statesman who had to concern himself with Civil Rights because slaves had not yet been freed in the 18th century. Washington was our first President, right? I hope you said "yes." That was in the 18th century, seventeen hundreds, somewhere around 1776. We hit the general aspects of the date without demanding that you know July 4, 1776 precisely, for the Declaration of Independence. Although the big summer holiday with the fireworks will help you remember that date, I'm sure.

Still, the concepts are stressed more. But, dates are important, too. For instance, I just recently received an email about my genealogy from a man who descends from a neighbor of my ancestor. The 1843 dispute over land commonly held between the two families at different times became an issue that went to the state supreme court. The date of 1843 stirred in my head when I read the email. Why? Well, I looked up the genealogical information for my ancestor and found that he died in 1842. It was certainly significant that he died before this supreme court case.

Another point of research that I was doing for colonial NC concerned some microfilm that I wanted to look at. The lending library informed me that they couldn't send 185 rolls of film on an inter-library loan. So, I looked up the dates associated with each individual roll, knowing that Wilmington's significant date of formation was April, 1733. James Wimble and John Watson had just purchased the land that later became Wilmington in that period... although official records will show 1735. Edward Moseley's map of 1733 was finished and presented to Governor Johnston in April of 1733 and James Wimble's version of the same area was started in... April 1733. The dates of three rolls of the microfilm were 1724-1732, April 1733- January 1734, and January 1734-November 1734. Notice anything? The second roll starts with April 1733 while the first roll wasn't specific at all. These documents are official British correspondence for the Duke of Newcastle who was concerned more with European foreign affairs and his numerous expensive soirees than he was with those "provincials" in America, all the way across the Atlantic. Supposedly, he's not concerned with a little, remote place like North Carolina. Supposedly...

So, why does the second roll, probably the start of another volume of Newcastle's journals, begin with "April 1733?" Did Newcastle himself consider this month important for some reason? Guess I'll find out when I get the microfilm. But, it sure is intriguing and it all depends on a date.

Dates make a difference. They do. Simple notions of "April 1733" could very well change our understanding of the development of one of our most important North Carolina cities. I'm sure that a publication titled "April 1733" is in my near future. I'll know for sure after I spend the countless hours, possibly days in front of a microfilm reader in the basement of the library. My point is... you sometimes have to pay attention to those dates.