Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Puritan from Manchester – Thomas Brooks

B. about 1595 in (probably) Manchester, England
M. 2 Feb 1618 in Manchester, England
Wife: Grace Cunliffe
D. 21 May 1667 in Concord, Massachusetts
Emigrated: before 1636

Thomas Brooks was born in about 1595 to a shoemaker also named Thomas Brooks (mother's name unknown). On March 2, 1595, young Thomas was baptized at Manchester Cathedral in Manchester, England, and so it's likely he was born in that city. He married Grace Cunliffe on February 2, 1618 at Manchester Cathedral and is missing from further records in England. Thomas and Grace had four children, but there are no records of their baptisms anywhere. It's been suggested that if he was a Puritan, he may have married in the Church of England in order to legalize his marriage, but didn't need to have his children baptized in the church.

It's unknown when Thomas and his family migrated to America. One source says he came with Richard Saltonstall, a leading member of the Winthrop fleet of 1630, but there's no evidence of this. Another source states Thomas came on a ship in 1635 called the Susan and Ellen. This matches with a younger man named Thomas Brooks who also migrated from England and settled in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Thomas first appears in records of the Massachusetts Bay colony in July 1636 as an inhabitant of Watertown owning 20 acres of land. He became a freeman on December 7th of that year. Not long after, he joined a group at the new settlement of Concord. This was a significant place because it was the first town in Massachusetts inland from the coast. In moving to Concord, Thomas was among a small number of land owners there who would each have a share in future land division of undeveloped land. This meant an opportunity to own different soil types so he could diversify crops, an important advantage for a farmer.

On December 4, 1638, Thomas took the oath to be constable of Concord. He held the office until 1646. He was representative to the General Court in various years between 1642 and 1662. In 1642, he served as captain of the militia. Thomas also was involved with a group of other settlers in 1657 who requested permission to trade beaver furs with the Indians.

Thomas had other dealings with the Indians. In 1654, he and another man were authorized "to sell wine of any sort and strong liquors to the Indians, as to their judgments shall seeme most meete and necessary." He was forbidden to deliver to any one Indian more than a pint of liquor at a time.

In about January of 1663, Thomas was appointed to a committee to establish a permanent record of town deeds with maps. This was a major undertaking with the men on the committee making an official book of who owned what land in the town of Concord. It was thought to be necessary for "the comfort and peace of ourselves, and posterity after us."

In 1660, Thomas made a major purchase of land with his son-in-law Timothy Wheeler. Together they paid £404 for 400 acres of land in Medford that included a house and "some artifacts." The property bordered on the Mystic River and remained in the Brooks family until the 1940s. Today some 82 acres remain as the Brooks Estate, owned by the city of Medford.

Thomas' wife Grace died at Concord on May 12, 1664. Thomas sold his Concord house a few months later, possibly to live with one of his children. He died on May 21, 1667, leaving no will. His three sons and one son-in-law banded together to inventory the estate and divide it up amongst themselves, in order to keep it out of the courts. The estate including land was valued at over £368.

Children:
1. Mary Brooks – B. about 1623, England; D. 4 Oct 1693, Concord, Massachusetts; M. Timothy Wheeler (~1604-1687), about 1655, Concord, Massachusetts

2. Joshua Brooks – B. about 1630, England; M. Hannah Mason (1636-?), 17 Oct 1653, Watertown, Massachusetts

3. Caleb Brooks – B. about 1632, England; D. 29 Jul 1696, Medford, Massachusetts; M. (1) Susannah Atkinson (1641-1669), 10 Apr 1660, Concord, Massachusetts; (2) Hannah Atkinson (1643-1709), about 1670

4. Gershom Brooks – B. Massachusetts; D. 1686, Massachusetts; M. Hannah Eckles (?-1717), 12 Mar 1667, Concord, Massachusetts

Sources:
Historic homes and institutions and personal memoirs of Worcester County, Massachusetts, Ellery Bicknell Crane, 1907
Genealogies of the families and descendants of the early settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts, Henry Bond and Horatio Gates Jones, 1860
The Brooks Estate – Medford, Massachusetts [website]
Tributaries – The Genealogies of the Brooks Families of New England [website]

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