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Major Edward G. Brooke

Submitted by vsample on Mon, 2016-03-28 14:05

[ This article was excerpted from the book "Progressive Men of the State of Montana"]



Major Edward G. Brooke  is one of the oldest and most highly respected residents of Whitehall, Jefferson county, Mont. He was born at Deer Park, Allegany (now Garrett) county, Md., on September 25, 1819, the son of Dr. Thomas F. and Mary (Coddington) Brooke, the former of Prince George county and the latter of Allegany county, Md. On both sides of the family they came of stalwart, patriotic Revolutionary stock, and Dr. Thomas F. Brooke served in the war of 1812 against Great Britain, holding a commission as surgeon of the Second Maryland Regiment. He was a relative of Capt. Brooke, of the Chesapeake, on which Capt. Lawrence's "Don't give up the ship," was uttered. Following the war of 1812 Dr. Thomas F. Brooke removed to Morgantown and resumed medical practice, the demand for his services soon extending throughout portions of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. After his death, in 1836, his widow removed to St. Louis and later to Helena, Mont. where she resided with her son, Benjamin C. Brooke. M. D., until her death in 1877, at the venerable age of eighty-eight years. The paternal grandparents were Richard Brooke, M. D., and Annie (Duckett) Brooke, both natives of Maryland. He was a surgeon in the Revolutionary army. The maternal grandparents were Benjamin and Annie (Crane) Coddington, both of Trenton,N. J. The former was a volunteer in the Continental army, having enlisted with three of his brothers at Elizabethtown, N. J., immediately after the Declaration of Independence. The remaining three brothers joined the army as soon as they were of sufficient age. Benjamin Coddington took part in four battles of prominence, was wounded three times, and rendered good service as scout. He also served in the navy for a time.

When E. G. Brooke was two vears of age his father removed with his family to Morgantown,now West Virginia, and there he attended the Monongahela Academy. After his father's death in 1836 he became a clerk in a store, and worked in that capacity until 1840. He then opened business on his own account near the county seat, which, in 1841, he sold and started west. To his new wagon he had attached a brake, a recent invention, and as he moved westward he observed that the brake attracted attention and found that his was the first wagon with such an appliance to cross the Mississippi. He was en route for Howard county. Mo., where he had friends in business, and had left Virginia on August 23, 1841, with a two-horse wagon and 1,650 pounds of writing paper. Crossing the Ohio at Wheeling the second day out, he overtook two teams from New Hampshire, one horse and three vehicles to each. With the owners he contracted to haul the heaviest wagon for fifty cents a day and everything moved along satisfactorily until Sunday. Maj. Brooke refused to travel on the Sabbath, and the party claimed that he had engaged to haul the wagon and tried to coerce him, but he was taken with a chill, followed by a fever, and compelled to lay up. The trip was resumed on Monday morning.

He arrived in Fayette, Mo., in October, 1841, met his friends, unloaded his goods and went to freighting for ten days, also making about $300 by trading his paper for dried apples, which he carried to Burlington, Iowa, and sold to good advantage. That winter he was occupied in Burlington as a clerk and in the spring returned to Virginia and remained until 1852. The first two years he passed in a store in which he had an interest, then became deputy sheriff, serving nearly three years, and then engaged in merchandising and milling. In 1852 be removed to St. Louis, and for a couple of years he was employed in the office of the city weigher. On August 7, 1854, an exciting election took place, with considerable rioting. Maj. Brooke volunteered on the citizens' force committee to preserve order. Previous to the organization of this committee about twenty people had been killed, but after it got into action no further trouble occurred. On the day following this election Maj. Brooke was appointed to a position in the city marshal's office, where he continued to serve until 1864. Then his health failed, and, on the advice of his brother, Benjamin C. Brooke,M. D., he removed to Montana, arriving in Virginia City on August 18, 1864.

In the spring of 1866 he decided to return to St. Louis by the river. A party of nineteen persons who had recently arrived, advised him to delay his trip as the Indians were decidedly hostile. Nothing daunted the Major started on the journey and when below Livingston Indians fired on the boat, killing one man. The rest of the party hastily landed on the other side of the river and returned to Virginia City. Maj. Brooke then located on a ranch in the Beaverhead valley, above Twin Bridges, where he remained about a year, and came to Whitehall. This was the only white frame house between Virginia City and Helena. Maj. Brooke called it "Whitehall," and from this christening the present flourishing town acquired its name. The house is still owned by the Major andlater he kept here a hotel, the Whitehall House, which he conducted until 1893, deriving a good income therefrom. He also engaged extensively in cattle and sheep ranching, and in his eighty-third year is enjoying excellent health and is apparently as vigorous as are many men at forty. He can ride any horse (buckers excepted), and is ready any day to demonstrate his ability to ride the sixty-five miles to Helena, and he did so by daylight in the summer of 1900. He recently rode to Boulder and back the same day, sixty-two miles.

On April 9, 1846, Maj. Brooke was united in marriage at Morgantown, now West Virginia, to Miss Eliza Kiger, a native of Virginia. She died on September 14, 1847, leaving a son, Fielding L., who died at the age of seven months. On May 10, 1852, he was married, in St. Louis county. Mo., to Miss Elizabeth Wolverton, also a native of Virginia, who died on April 19, 1855, leaving one son, Walter C. W., now in the employment of the Northern Pacific Railroad. On December 31, 1857, he was married to Miss Rachel Wolverton, also of Virginia. By her he has had three children, Mary B., now Mrs. Noble, of Whitehall ; Marvin, deceased at the age of thirteen, and Lulu L., now the wife of Rev. E. J. Stanley, located in Bitter Root valley.

The financial, political and social life of Maj. E. G. Brooke has been successful in an emiment degree. Among the people of Whitehall and the surrounding country he is highly respected and he enjoys the confidence of all. This confidence is well illustrated by the fact that he has served three terms in the territorial and state legislatures of Montana. Fraternally he is a Mason, having taken the master mason's degree in 1843. He became a Knight Templar in i860, and is a stanch member of the Methodist church South.