Biography of Phoebe Walker Caldwell Brooks
1802 – after 1880 or 1895

Phoebe Walker Caldwell was born about 1802, the sixth or seventh child of  William Caldwell and Mary "Polly" Walker Caldwell of Weare, NH and later of Newburyport, MA.  Although her name was sometimes spelled "Phebe," she spelled it "Phoebe" in legal documents.  She was the only child in her family who was born in New York; the rest of her siblings were born in Weare, New Hampshire.  In June of 1810 she moved with her mother, father, and siblings to Newburyport, Massachusetts where her father opened or managed a hotel and tavern.  She probably was at the wedding of her older sister Charlotte Walker Caldwell to Levi Swain, a widower and local merchant in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on April 10th, 1814, an event recorded in her brother Samuel Brooks Tobie Caldwell's diary.  Phoebe was about twelve years old in 1814 and Samuel was in his early twenties.

Phoebe probably moved to Loudoun county, Virginia with her mother and twin sisters after her father, William, died in Newburyport in January of 1830.  Her eldest brother, Samuel B T Caldwell had settled there earlier.  Her mother lived in and around Leesburg in Loudoun with her son, Samuel, and died there at age 90 in 1851.  Phoebe married Charles Brooks, born about 1805, in Loudoun County, Virginia on  October 22, 1844.  Charles Brooks' family of origin is unknown. 

Phoebe and Charles moved to Rock Island, Illinois sometime between 1844 and 1849.  In 1849, Charles left Rock Island for Marysville, California, probably in response to the Gold Rush. He left Phoebe behind in Rock Island.  On his way back home in October of 1850, Charles stopped in San Francisco, became ill with cholera, and died there. Because Charles died intestate, Phoebe had to go through Illinois probate court and provide information about her husband and his estate.   In a sworn statement to the Probate Court of Rock Island County dated June 16, 1851, Charles's acquaintance, William S. Jacks, stated that he and Charles left Illinois for California about the same time in 1849 and that Charles spent most of his time in Marysville, California.  Jacks stated in his affidavit that he got the information of Charles' death "from those who were with him at the time of his sickness, & at whose hands he died...."  Death information from San Francisco states the following: "Brooks, Charles (from) Illinois (died) 1850 (age) 45 (buried) Yerba Buena, moved to City Cem. 1870."

Phoebe was appointed by the Rock Island court as administratrix of her husband's estate on October 6th, 1851.  Her administrator's bond cost her $200.   Her account of the estate indicated they had very little in assets.  Phoebe believed Charles had lots in Marysville but no way to prove it. The estate amounted to $283 in outstanding notes with $15 cash on hand.   The note for $200 could not be collected because the man who owed it went to Texas and died there.  She stated in her affidavit that Charles had no real estate in Illinois.  By the time the court released her of her administrative duties in 1858, she had nothing left. 

Phoebe was listed as a member of the Cutter family in the 1850 Federal Census for Rock Island.  The census was taken on October 22nd, 1850.  She may not have known of her husband Charles' death at the time of the census.  The Cutter household, according to the 1850 census, consisted of Amos, aged 38, a harness maker; Mahala (his first wife), also aged 38, and children Sarah W., 13; Charles D., 11; Mary E., 8; Amos F., 5; and Cora J., 1.  Two non-family members were listed after baby Cora: "Polly" Brooks, 40 (probably Phoebe – her mother was called Polly, also) and Samuel Semple, aged 17, a laborer.  Amos F. Cutter helped Phoebe during her bout with the probate court and signed as a witness on the probate documents.  The relationship of the Cutters to Phoebe is unknown.   Living next door to them was James Boyle, a merchant, whose name appeared as one of the appraisers for the probate court's assessment of Phoebe's property.  E. C. Cropper, police magistrate, was also appointed as an appraiser for the estate.

In the 1860 Federal Census for Rock Island, Illinois, Phoebe was listed as a 50 year old widow born in New York, with a real estate value of $1800, and personal value of $500. She seemed to be living alone. She was probably older than 50 – her age fluctuated from census to census. 

The 1870 Federal Census for Rock Island listed Phoebe (Phebe) age 61 "keeping house" with 14 year old Emma Frank "at home."  Phoebe's personal estate was valued at $100.  Young Emma's parents were both "of foreign birth" and she attended school during the year.  No other information is known about Emma; perhaps she was a boarder while attending school.  She may have been a source of income for Phoebe, not an uncommon way to bring in money, especially for widows.  Living next door, on the corner of 14th and 4th Ave. was the family she lived with in 1850, Amos F. Cutter, aged 50, listed as a dealer in terracotta ware and his wife, Martha (probably a second wife) age 40, both of whom were born in Massachusetts where Phoebe also grew up.  Possibly Phoebe and Emma were living in a rental property belonging to the Cutters who may have built a larger home for their family.  The Cutters had two children living with them, Cora, aged 21 a school teacher and Frances, aged 11 and in school.  Also residing with them were a domestic servant, Maggie Fleming aged 20 from Ireland, and an "errand boy" Peter Colcomb aged 10 from Sweden.  Amos F. Cutter was 66 (?) and married when he died in January 1880 of a bladder infection, according to the 1880 U. S. Census Mortality Schedule for Illinois.  His occupation was listed as real estate dealer and a resident of Rock Island, Illinois for 30 years.

The 1880 Federal Census listed Phoebe as a 78 year old widow "keeping house" and apparently living alone.  This census did not list assets or values.  Her next door neighbor was Martha A. Cutter, aged 50 and a widow, living with her daughter, Frances A., aged 21, single, and "at home." 

In 1895, Phoebe's nephew, William Caldwell Belcher, eldest son of her older sister Anna Gray Caldwell Belcher, died in California.  He was a wealthy Marysville and San Francisco lawyer and judge who never married and who, in his will, was extremely generous towards his relatives.  He had set up a trust of $600 a year to care for his aunt Phoebe during her lifetime and expected it to be continued by his brother, Isaac Sawyer Belcher, his executor, until Phoebe's death.  The 1895 Marysville Appeal newspaper account of his death and the probate of his will specifically mentions his aunt, Phoebe W. Brooks, who would have been in her mid-90s at the time of her nephew William's death. 

Phoebe W. C. Brooks was not mentioned in the 1900 Federal Census for Rock Island and is presumed to have died by 1900; by then she would have been close to 100 years of age.  Although where she is buried is unknown at the present time, she may have been buried in the Chippiannock Cemetery as a long-time resident and / or with the Cutter family.  The Cropper family also is buried there.

I would greatly appreciate any information that might lead to the discovery of Phoebe W. C. Brooks death date and burial.  caroleemoore@yahoo.com

"The Rock Island and Moline , Ill. Directories, 1882, 1883, 1884,1885, 1886, 1887, 1888 listed Mrs. Phoebe W. Brooks, widow, living at 1417 Fourth Ave. , Rock Island .  The Directories for 1891 and 1892 list Mrs. Phoebe W. C. Brooks, widow of Charles, living at 1417 Fourth Ave., Rock Island."

 

Submitted by Carolee Moore

 

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