Obituary of Lewis Brooks, Sr.
Submitted by: Sharon Kouns
Lewis Brooks Sr. died last Saturday at his home on Centre-st., aged 80 years. He was a well-known colored citizen of Red Hill, back of Proctorville, until about two years ago, when his property was burned and he moved to Ironton. The deceased was an active participant in the tragic events of slavery days, both in the South and on this side of the Ohio river. He belonged to the Brooks family near Richmond, while his wife and her ten children were owned by the Garland estate nearby, and were freed by Mary Garland, a lovely young lady whose memory of the family has cherished among the most precious things of life. At the same time, the father was freed by the provisions of a will, but the heirs contested the will and he won his freedom by a decision of the courts. So, they were all sent to Ohio by Mary Garland, and crossed from Guyandotte to Proctorville on the 9th of November, 1852, just 44 years from the day he was buried.
Edward Brooks, who was then six years old, well remembers how the family went to Richmond to be registered and get their “free papers,” and while there were confined in Lumkins’ “nigger trade pen.” He relates an interesting circumstance in this connection. Miss Garland’s brother objected to her generous act, and in this the famous trader Lumkins joined, saying if the slaves were freed they should be sent to Africa. But their fair mistress said they should go where they wished, and to Ohio they came.
In due time the war broke out, and the six year old slave as a Union soldier was detailed to take charge of another Lumkins trading pen at Huntsville, Ala. The two Lumkins were brothers. One bought slaves in Richmond, and shipped them to Huntsville to a higher market. Now when the Brooks family passed through the Richmond pen the wife of the Huntsville trader was there, and when she heard Ed’s name as a soldier she remembered him and told him of it. It was then Ed fully understood the desire of the Richmond trader, that the freed slaves should go to Africa, rather than to help swell the tide of anti-slavery sentiment in the north.
Lewis Brooks’ home back of Proctorville was a station on “the underground railway,” and many were the fugitive slaves who received assistance there, in the hour of great peril.