Biography of Otis Brooks
Jefferson County, NY Biographies

Otis Brooks, deceased, was one of the prominent business men of the North Country. He was president and founder of the Otis Brooks Lumber Company. He was born at Antwerp, Jefferson County, March 29, 1833, and died at Philadelphia, N. Y., in 1909. He was a son of a pioneer settler of the county, Julius Brooks. He was thought to have been born in Connecticut but may have been a native of Champion, where his father was an early settler.

Julius Brooks was reared at Champion, attended the district schools, and aided so far as he was able in clearing a farm. He married Sally Otis, a native of the town of Rutland, and the daughter of an early settler in that town. She died in 1836, leaving five children. Mr. Brooks located in the northern part of Antwerp about 1830, in a neighborhood known as "New Connecticut," where he purchased a farm. He later sold it and removed to Theresa. At the time of his death in October, 1874, he was living on a farm and was 74 years of age. This farm consisted of 100 acres in the northwestern part of Antwerp. He was an industrious and successful farmer. He was a Democrat in politics in early life and later became a Republican. His second wife was Sally Davidson, daughter of John Davidson, of Fowler, St. Lawrence County. She was the mother of four children. The first of Mr. Brooks' children, Franklin, was killed by a falling tree when 11 years of age; Aliens, the second child, became the wife of John Randall, of Antwerp, and later died in Philadelphia; Edwin left home when 18 years of age and was never again heard of; Sarah, married Nathaniel Hanson, and lived at Sterlingville, N. Y.; and Otis. His children by his second marriage were: Lucinda, who married Ely Hanson; Achsah; Gurley; Mary; and Destin.

Otis Brooks spent his entire life in the vicinity of his birthplace, with the exception of three years which were spent as a soldier in the Union army during the Civil War. He remained on the old homestead until he was 18 years old, and obtained his education in the district schools. He learned the trade of carpenter and about 1854 began to build houses on his own account. He constructed a considerable number of homes in the village of Theresa and adjacent country, besides other buildings, and maintained a shop on the river for making doors and other building parts used in his business. His shop was swept away by a flood at one time, which caused him to abandon his business temporarily.

On Aug. 11, 1862, Mr. Brooks enlisted as a member of Company F, 10th New York Heavy Artillery, and soon after was sent to the front. For a period of over 20 months this organization did garrison duty about the defenses of Washington, and was then sent into the field about Petersburg and the Shenandoah Valley. He saw active service at the battle of Petersburg and along the James River, and was one of the fortunate few who did not receive any injury in battle, and the hardships endured by him did not seem to diminish his vitality. He was honorably discharged in June, 1865, having acted as duty sergeant, quartermaster and orderly.

Returning to Theresa, Mr. Brooks soon after went to Oswego, where he was employed in house building. In the spring of 1866 he bought a sawmill at Wood's Settlement, adjoining the town of Antwerp, in the town of Wilna, and this he operated for a period of six years. He then sold out and removed to Carthage, where he erected a grist mill on the west side of the river, which he sold after operating for two years. In 1874 he went to Philadelphia, N. Y., which village he made his home in, and he operated a grist mill there for a time also, as well as a box factory. This was sold to his son after he had conducted it for five or six years. In partnership with William Roberts he next constructed a steam sawmill at Philadelphia, which was in successful operation four years under the management of Roberts & Brooks, when the latter sold his share to Mr. Roberts. Mr. Brooks immediately bought an interest with George Strough in the lumber yard and wood working shop at Clayton. Not being able to agree well with his new partner, Mr. Brooks employed a man to take his place in the operation of the plant, and devoted his time to his other interests. For 12 years the business was operated under the name of Strough & Brooks, after which the latter became sole owner by purchasing his partner's interests. After operating four years as owner, Mr. Brooks formed a stock company known as the Otis Brooks Lumber Company, and the company still carries that name.

In 1890 Mr. Brooks bought a cheese box factory at Rensselaer Falls, which he operated for 12 years. For a short time he rented a steam mill for cutting material at Antwerp, and in 1903 he purchased a mill at Sterlingburg, and took possession on Jan. 1, 1904. The mill had a capacity of 125,000 cheese boxes per year, and also had facilities for grinding feed, which was driven by the waters of Indian River.

In 1904 the Otis Brooks Lumber Company, of Clayton, was incorporated, and the officers were: Otis Brooks, president; Robert D. Grant, vice president; William J. Patch, secretary; and John W. Williams, treasurer and manager.

Upon the death of Mr. Brooks in 1909 his son, Frank H. Brooks, succeeded him as president of the company. The present officers are: W. S. Brooks, president and treasurer; R. D. Grant, vice president; and C. A. Keefer, secretary. They are general lumber dealers and also are extensive and widely known manufacturers of woodwork, sashes, doors, and builders' supplies.

Otis Brooks was married on March 4, 1857, to Miss Celestia Ballard, who was born at Pamelia, Four Corners, the daughter of Hiram and Susan (Wylie) Ballard. She died in 1910. To Mr. and Mrs. Brooks were born three children: 1. Frank, who died in 1922, married Mary Scofield, who lives in Santa Barbara, Calif. Their children were: Edith, married Frank Richards, lives at Los Angeles, Calif.; William S., married Miss Helen Keefer, lives at Clayton, and he is president of the Otis Brooks Lumber Company; Daniel, deceased; Elizabeth lives at Santa Barbara, Calif.; Otis F., resides in Hankow, China; Marjorie, married Russell Perry, lives at Santa Barbara, Calif.; and Harlan, lives at Los Angeles, Calif. 2. Grace, who is deceased. 3. Allie B., who lives at Clayton.


The North Country
A History, Embracing
Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Oswego, Lewis
and Franklin Counties, New York.
By: Harry F. Landon
Historical Publishing Company
Indianopolis, Indiana 1932

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