Micah Brooks (1775 - 1857)

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Nicknames: "Major General Micah Brooks", "Honorable Micah Brooks"
Birthplace: Cheshire, New Haven, CT
Death: Died in Livingston, New York, NY
Occupation: Surveyor/Politician/Soldier/Teacher
Managed by: Bjørn P. Brox
Last Updated:

About Micah Brooks

http://www.archive.org/details/histpioneersett00turnrich

HISTORY OF THE PIONEER SETTLEMENT - PHELPS AND GORHAM S PURCHASE AND MORRIS RESERVE

p. 193-198

MICAH BROOKS.

Micah Brooks, was a son of David Brooks, A. M., of Cheshire, Conn. The father was a graduate of Yale College. He belonged to the first quota of men furnished by the town of Cheshire ; entering the service first as a private soldier, but soon becoming the quarter master of his regiment. He was a member of the legislature of Connecticut, at the period of the surrender of Burgoyne, and a delegate to the State Convention that adopted the U. S. con stitution at Hartford. After his first military service, he alternated in discharging the duties of a minister and then of a soldier going out in cases of exigency with his shouldered musket ; especially at the burning of Danbury and the attack upon New Haven. After the Revolution, he retired to his farm in Cheshire, where he died in 1802.

Micah Brooks, in 1796, having just arrived at the age of twenty-one years, set out from his father s house to visit the new region, the fame of which was then spreading throughout New England. After a pretty thorough exploration of western New York, he returned to Whitestown, and visited the country again in the fall of 1797, stopping at Bloomfield and engaging as a school teacher ; helping to build his own log school house. DCP See reminiscences of Mr. James Sperry. Returning to Cheshire, he spent a part of a summer in studying surveying with Professor Meigs, with the design of enter ing into the service of the Holland Company. In the fall of 98, he returned, and passing Bloomfield, extended his travels to the Falls of Niagara on foot, pursuing the old Niagara trail ; meeting with none of his race, except travellers, and Poudry, at Tonawanda, with whom and his Squaw wife, he remained over night. After visiting the Falls seeing for himself the wonder of which he had read so imperfect descriptions in New England school books, he went up the Canada side to Fort Erie, crossing the river at Black Rock. The author gives a graphic account of his morning s walk from Black Rock to where Buffalo now is, in his own language, as he is quite confident he could not improve it : " It was a bright, clear morning in November. In my lonely walk along the bank of the Lake, I looked out upon its vast expanse of water, that unstirred by the wind, was as transparent as a sea of glass. There was no marks of civilization upon its shores, no American sail to float upon its surface. Standing to contemplate the scene, - here, I reflected, the goodness of a Supreme Being has prepared a new creation, ready to be occupied by the people of his choice. At what period will the shores of this beautiful Lake be adorned with dwellings and all the appointments of civilized life, as now seen upon the shores of the Atlantic ? I began to tax my mathematical powers to see when the east would become so overstocked with population, as to be enabled to furnish a surplus to fill up the unoccupied space between me and my New England friends. It was a hard question to solve ; and I concluded if my New England friends could see me, a solitary wanderer, upon the shores of a far off western Lake, indulging in such wild speculations, they would advise me to return and leave such questions to future generations. But I have often thought that I had then, a presentiment of apart of what half a century has accomplished." Walking on to the rude log tavern of Palmer, which was one of the then, but two or three habitations, on all the present site of Buffalo, he added to his stock of bread and cheese, and struck off again into the wilderness, on the Indian trail, slept one night in the surveyor s camp of James Smedley, and after getting lost in the dense dark woods where Batavia now is, reached the transit line, where Mr. Ellicott's hands were engaged in erecting their primitive log store house.

Renewing his school teaching in Bloomfield, in 99, he purchased the farm where he resided for many years. It was at a period of land speculation, and inflation of prices, and he paid the high price of 86 per acre. Boarding at Deacon Bronson s working for him two days in the week for his board, and for others during haying and harvesting, he commenced a small improvement.

Returning to Connecticut, he kept a school for the winter, and in the spring came out with some building materials ; building a small framed house in the course of the season. In 1801 he brought out two sisters as house keepers, one of whom as has been stated, be came the wife of Col. Asher Saxton, and the other Curtiss, a settler in Gorham. In 1802 he married the daughter of Deacon Abel Hall of Lyme, Conn., a sister of Mrs. Clark Peck of Bloomfield.

He became a prominent, public spirited, and useful Pioneer. Receiving in one of the earliest years of his residence in the new country, a military commission, he passed through the different gradations to that of Major General. Appointed to the office of justice of the peace in 1806, he was an assistant justice of the county courts in 1808, and was the same year elected, to the Legislature from Ontario county. In 1800, he was an associate commissioner with Hugh McNair and Mathevv Warner, to lay out a road from Canandaigua to Olean ; and another from Hornellsville to the mouth of the Genesee River. In the war of 1812, he was out on the frontier in two campaigns, serving with the rank of Colonel. In 1814 was elected to Congress. He was a member of the State Convention in 1822, and a Presidential Elector in 1824. He was for twenty years a Judge of the Ontario county courts.

In 1823, he purchased in connection with Jellis Clute and John B. Gibson, of Mary Jemison, commonly called the White Woman, the Gardeau tract on the Genesee River. Selecting a fine portion of it for a large farm and residence, on the road from Mount Morris to Nunda, he removed to it soon after the purchase. The small village and place of his residence is called " Brook's Grove. "

Gen. Brooks is now 75 years of age, retaining his mental faculties unimpaired ; as an evidence that his physical constitution holds out well, after a long life of toil and enterprise, it may be remarked that in the most inclement month of the last winter, he made a journey to New England and the city of New York. His present wife was a sister of the first wife of Frederick Smith, Esq. of Palmyra, and of the second wife of Gen. Mills, of Mount Morris. His sons are Lorenzo H. Brooks, of Canadea, and Micah W. Brooks, residing at the homestead. A daughter is the wife of Henry O'Rielly Esq., formerly the editor of the Rochester Daily Advertiser, and P. M. of Rochester ; now a resident of New York, widely known as the enterprising proprietor of thousands of miles of Telegraph lines in different States of the Union ; another, is the wife of Mr. George Elhvanger, one of the enterprising proprietors of Mount Hope Garden and Nursery ; another the wife of Theodore F. Hall, formerly of Rochester, now of Brook s Grove. He has two unmarried daughters, one of whom is a well educated mute, and is now a teacher in the deaf and dumb institution at Hartford, Conn.

The history of Micah Brooks furnishes a remarkable instance of a man well educated, and yet unschooled. The successful teacher, the competent Justice and Judge as a member of our State and National councils, the drafter of bills and competent debater the author of able essays upon internal improvements, and other subjects even now in his old age, a vigorous writer, and a frequent contributor to the public press: never enjoyed, in all, a twelve months of school tuition! The small library of his father, a good native intellect, intercourse with the world, a laudable ambition and self reliance, supplied the rest.

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page 132 - 134 (personal reminiscence of Maj. Gen. Brooks)

" It was my lot to have my birth under the Colonial Government. In childhood, I saw our fathers go to the field of battle, and our mothers to the harvest field to gather the scanty crops. Food and clothing for the army was but in part provided ; and at the end of the war, the soldiers, who had suffered almost beyond endurance, were discharged without pay ; the patriots, who had supplied food and clothing for the army, had been paid in Government paper, which had become worthless ; the great portion of laborers drawn from the farms and the workshops, had reduced the country to poverty; and commerce was nearly annihilated. The fisheries abandoned, the labor and capital of the people diverted into other channels, and the acts of peace had not returned to give any surplus for exportation. A national debt justly due, of $100,000,000, and the Continental Congress no power to collect duties on imports, or to compel the States to raise their quotas. The end of the war brought no internal peace. In 1785, Congress attempted to make commercial treaties with England, France, Spain and Portugal ; each refused ; assigning as a reason, that under the Confederacy, Congress had no power to bind the States. Spain closed the Mississippi against our trade, and we were expelled from the Mediter ranean by Barbary pirates ; and we were without the means to fight them, or money to buy their peace. The attempt of the States to extend their commerce was abortive ; salt rose to $5 and $8 per bushel ; and packing meat for exportation ceased. Massa chusetts prohibited the exportation of American products in British bottoms ; and some of the States imposed a countervailing duty on foreign tonnage. Pennsylvania imposed a duty on foreign goods, while New Jersey admitted them free of duty.

" During the war, various causes had operated to make a new distribution of property : those equally friendly to the British had secretly traded with the enemy, and supplied them with fresh provisions, while their troops were quartered in various parts of the country ; thus filling their pockets with British gold. At the close of the war, a large amount of British goods were sent into the country, absorbing much of its precious metals; tending to render us still dependent on British favor. While all those whose time and property had been devoted to the cause of liberty and independ ence, were scarcely able to hold their lands, taxation brought dis tress and ruin on a great portion of our most worlhy citizens. Time was required by those who had lost their time and property, to re-establish themselves in their former occupations ; yet, some of the States resorted to vigorous taxation, which created discon tent and open resistance. The great and general pressure, at this time, seemed to create a universal attempt of all creditors to en force in the courts of law all their demands before they should be put at hazard by the sweeping taxation, which was evidently coming.

" It may be well to call to mind the condition of the country, as to law and government. At the period of the Declaration of Inde pendence, we had neither constitutions nor government, and the people took the power into their hands to conduct the affairs of the nation. The people, in their primary assemblies, attempted to car ry out the recommendations of the American Congress ; and that in many instances, by town committees ; and to furnish recruits for the army. The citizens of a town would form themselves into classes ; each class to furnish a man, equipped for service. The towns punished treason, arrested and expelled tories, levied taxes, and cordially co-operated in all the leading measures of that day, so far as related to our National Independence.

" In 1786, 7, a boy, I saw the Revolutionary fathers in their primary assemblies. The scene was solemn and portentous ! They found their common country without a constitution and govern ment, and without a union. The supposed oppressive measures of an adjoining State had so alarmed the people of a portion of it, that open resistance was made for self-protection, and the protection of property. An army, in resistance to a proceeding of the courts of law in Massachusetts, had been raised, and had taken the field. Col. P., a man of gigantic stature, and a soldier of the Rev olution, with his associates in arms, entered the court-house at Northampton, silenced the court; and in a voice of thunder, order ed it out, closing the doors, and using the court-house as his castle. In the county of Berkshire, a General, with three hundred volun teers, had taken the field, in open resistance to State authority ; and the blood of the citizens had been shed, and the execution of State laws had been suspended. Other sections of our country were in a state of insurrection, and no prospect of relief from any source of mediatorial power then existing. The appalling scenes that followed, filled the American people with fear and dread. The distress that existed, might be an apology for the resistance of the laws, which was afterwards regretted by those who partook in it, a number of whom I saw who had left their homes and wandered as fugitives to evade the punishment that the law would inflict on them.

" A new field was now opened to exhibit the powers, genius and energies of the American people. They soon discovered what was essential to their security and prosperity ; and in their deliberations, moved and adopted an ordinance, or constitution, which they declared to be in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, and provide for the general defence ; promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity ; and, although defects and doubts of its renovating power existed, yet, in a spirit of conciliation, they adopted it.

"At the time the new constitution went into effect, a new class of laborers appeared. These sturdy boys, who were taught in business habits during the war, had grown to manhood, and with redoubled energy, repaired the depredations which contending armies had spread. And many of those soldiers who composed Sullivan s army, and who had penetrated the western wilds of this State, to chastise the savages for cruelties inflicted on their friends and relations ; those who had viewed the beauties of the Genesee, and the rich table lands of Western New York, resolved to leave the sterile soil, the worn and exhausted lands of New England, and with their families, under the guidance and protection of a kind Providence, gathered their small substance, pioneered the way through a long wilderness, to the land of promise the Genesee country.

In 1796, in common with the sons of New England, I had a strong disposition to explore the regions of the west, and avail myself if possible, of a more productive soil, where a more bountiful reward would relieve the toil of labor. I traversed the Mohawk, the Susquehannah, the Seneca and the Genesee. I saw the scattered Pioneers of the wilderness in their lonely cabins, cheered by the hope and promise of a generous reward, for all the temporary privations they then suffered. Their hearts were cheered with the sight of a stranger, and they greeted him with a welcome. I found in most of the pioneer localities, that three-fourths of the heads of families had been soldiers of the Revolution. Schooled in the principles that had achieved that glorious work, they only appreciated the responsibilities they had assumed, in becoming founders of new settlements, and the proprietors of local, religious, educational and moral institutions. These Pioneers inherited the principles and firmness of their forefathers ; and whatever in reason and propriety they desired to accomplish, their energy and perseverance carried into effect. They subdued the forest, opened avenues of intercourse, built houses and temples for worship, with a rapidity unknown in former ages. For intelligence and useful acquirements they were not out done in any age ; and were well skilled in all the practical duties of life. In seven or eight years from the first entrance of a settler, a number of towns in Ontario county, were furnished with well chosen public libraries."

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p. 193 REMINISCENCES OF JAMES SPERRY.

In the fall of [17]97, a young man with a pack on his back, came into the neighborhood of Gunn, Goss, King, Larnberton, and the Bronsons, two miles east of the south west school, and one mile north of may father's, and introduced himself as a schoolteacher from the land of steady habits ; proposing that they form a new district, and he would keep their school. The proposition was accepted, and all turned out late in the season, the young man volunteering his assistance, and built another log school house in which he kept a school in the winter of 97 and 8, and the ensuing winter. The school was as full both winters as the house could hold. Two young men, John Lamberton and Jesse Tainter, studied surveying both winters, and in 1800, Lamberton commenced surveying for the Holland Company, doing a larger amount of Surveying upon their Purchase than any other man. He now lives near Pine Hill, a few miles north of Batavia. The first winter, my father sent seven to this school, and the second winter eight. In this school, most of us learned for the first time that the earth was round, and turned round upon its axis once in 24 hours, and revolves around the sun once a year. I shall never forget the teacher's manner of illustrating these facts : For the want of a globe, he took an old hat, the crown having "gone up to seed," doubled in the old limber trim, marked with chalk a line round the middle for the equator, and another representing the eliptic, arid held it up to the scholars, with the " seed end " towards them, and turning it, commenced the two revolutions. The simultaneous shout which went up from small to great, was a " caution " to all young school masters how they introduce " new things" to young Pioneers. Although the school master was a favorite with parents and pupils, the " most orthodox " thought he was talking of some thing of which he knew nothing, and was teaching for sound doctrine what was contrary to the common sense of all; for every body knew that the earth was flat and immovably fixed, and that the sun rose and set every day. That teacher finally settled in Bloomfield, was afterwards many years a Justice of the Peace ; for one term, member of the legislature ; and for one term, a member of Congress; now known as Gen. Micah Brooks, of Brook's Grove, Livingston county.

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Micah Brooks's Timeline

1775
May 14, 1775
Cheshire, New Haven, CT
1802
December 13, 1802
Age 27
New Haven, New Haven, CT
1804
January 2, 1804
Age 28
1806
June 25, 1806
Age 31
Cheshire,,CT
1808
January 14, 1808
Age 32
CT
1811
December 2, 1811
Age 36
Brooks Grove,,NY
1813
November 29, 1813
Age 38
Chesshire,,CT
1815
March 4, 1815
- March 3, 1817
Age 39
US Congress
1817
July 21, 1817
Age 42
CT
1822
March 20, 1822
Age 46
CT