Family histories are made from legacies in name, character, and achievement or acquisition. The strengths and weaknesses making us who we are seem to pass from one generation to the next. Call it fate if you will, but some families obtain wealth and yet may be socially ineffective. Others may be poor as church mice and still give freely of what little they own. The mix making us who we are can be exciting. While most people in this world live quiet lives of mediocrity, some natural force leads but a few people to greater achievement.
In this post I’ll begin to focus on the lands along Island Creek where its waters bend to meet the Rocky River. It’s there where the above photographed relic of our past stands in watch over time itself. Like many fine southern homes, this house has been added to and modified by the family making it the stately old home it is today. There are so many stories this old home place can tell. There was the time when the house took a direct hit by a vicious cyclone in which two girls were carried away to near death by the violent winds. The storm gave up its threat, safely dropping the girls near the river. At one point the house was the home of Ezekiel who inherited his share of the family wealth and yet was a man very simple in mind. The story of Ezekiel is where we’ll actually begin our study of land. But first, it’s important to let you know that among the Brooks family were prominent farmers, preachers and politically astute leaders. And, we mustn’t forget the trial and punishment dealt to King Pharaoh, a prized bull who ultimately went bad. Likely occurring near the Brooks lands, the poor creature was accused of trapping and killing a family member coincidentally named King David Brooks. In this epic battle of royalty, King David Brooks met his fate when he crossed paths with the bull while tempting to take a short cut across a pasture.
Such stories have been told and retold so there’s really no need for me to go there. However, very little can be found online pertaining to the family holdings and of land and how that in turn leads us to a better understanding of this critically important neighborhood. The creek serves as an anchor for extending understanding up and down the river. Some of the family properties cross the river allowing us to merge ours with stories originating from the other side. The mapping of land sounds rather boring but I promise it leads us to stories just as exciting as those of bulls and cyclones. So, let’s get started.
“In or about 1820, …Siddy Green, a woman without property or character knowing your orator [Ezekiel Brooks] was an idiot from his birth conceived the design of procuring the ceremony of marriage to be performed between your orator and her …”
In the face of Siddy Green’s sad display of character, Ezekiel Brooks’ brother took action and was awarded guardianship. In 1849 the brother, named Alexander Brooks, filed a bill of complaint in which the above quote is found. Over time the litigation made its way to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Likely a preliminary action that led to the aforementioned Supreme Court case, one of the most interesting records I’ve ever found is buried in a type of Superior Court file called loose ejectments. Being the court ordered removal from land of one person by another, this valuable source record is studied by only a few family researchers. The following document includes a comprehensive survey plat as well as a bit of descriptive wording. Surveyed by Allen Carpenter on behalf of Alexander Brooks, note that the plat locates the house of Siddy Brooks as well as key tracts making up the likely estate of William Brooks, the father of Alexander and Ezekiel.
To me this is all so very awesome in that Siddy’s house marked on the 1848 survey is basically the same house photographed at the top of this post. The house really is old and you know it’s witnessed much history. Besides locating the home place, the plat also identifies several streams. There’s of course Rocky River and Island Creek, as well as the lesser prongs of Big Branch, North Prong and Fox Branch. And, of most importance is the compiled platting of William Brooks’ and Goin Morgan’s original land grant surveys. Reaching back prior to the American Revolution’s campaign through the south, some of the tracts drawn by Allen Carpenter provide us with a solid starting point for telling the story of early settlements along Rocky River. Actually, beyond what’s shown on the survey, there was a whole other and even earlier layer of history that I’ll only hint about in this three part series of posts. Let’s move to part two.