Historical Fragments #1:
Washington Brick & Lime’s
Wally Lee Parker
(Member: Clayton/Deer Park Historical Society)
I personally don’t like working any type of puzzle — unless it’s something in the nature of a jumbled pile of antique data fragments. Maybe it’s the challenge of finding a bunch of historical bric-a-brac from various sources and then trying to fit them all together tightly enough to make sense. I think it may be that interpretive challenge — a challenge that seems inherent in historical research — that makes history such an interesting hobby — providing one finds infuriation and frustration interesting.
Take for example the riddle of Henry Brook and Joseph H. Spear. Those are names that should interest Washington State’s Clayton/Deer Park Historical Society. Brook and Spear are the two individuals most responsible for founding the town of Clayton — as a logical by-product of creating Clayton’s brick and terra cotta works. If you’re happy leaving it at that — just a couple of disembodies names – there’s no reason to read further. But if you’ve a modicum of curiosity about who they were and how their founding of Clayton came about, then we have a mystery.
Other than a few paragraphs regurgitated from this or that random article, we don’t really know that much about them. As far as I know there’s no published biography on either — meaning there’s no readily available compendium of notes. So if we want to understand these people, their lives, their motivations, we’re going to have to dig the facts out for ourselves. This all assumes there are sufficient facts stuffed into this and that musty archive to dig out — sufficient facts that we’ll be able to puzzle together images meaningful enough to mollify our curiosity at least a little.
And that’s what this occasion column, “Historical Fragments,” is all about — finding shards from the past and puzzling them together. This kind of thing is likely to prove a collaborative and often argumentative process. If it works, bits of the past will come into some degree of hear-to-for unrealized focus. If it doesn’t, it may be best to lay any given puzzle aside and come back to it some other day — after a few more shards have been uncovered.
Whichever, let’s drop a few bits of data regarding Mr. Brook — the slightly senior of the Brook and Spear partnership — on the table, move those bits around a bit and see what we can see.
First, there’s this notation from page 190 of an 1887 book by Chauncey Hobart, Doctor of Divinity, titled History of Methodism in Minnesota.
“From the Richfield charge Henry Brook, now in Spokane Falls, Washington Territory, was recommended to the traveling connection. He labored faithfully in several charges in the Minnesota Annual Conference. On account of failing health he was later compelled to take a supernumerary relation which still continues.”
To me this ecclesiastic terminology amounts to Greek. I could troll the internet for an explanation, but sometimes, even in this age of electronic marvels, the quickest answers can be found by chucking my 15 pound Random House Dictionary of the English Language onto my desk. Definition #37 of the word “charge” is when a religious congregation is “committed to the spiritual care of a pastor.” By that I assume Random House is saying the pastor is spiritually caring for the congregation, not vice versa — though I suppose it actually goes both ways. And as for “supernumerary,” I think definition #2 is telling me that Henry Brook may have moved into the territories — that somehow referenced by the term “traveling connection” — but as far as his continuing activities within the Methodist ministry, that was being continued though reduced to the role of “an assistant or substitute in case of necessity.”
So, are we anywhere close to understanding the above? And if we are, what exactly is meant by the above mentioned “failing health?”
The answer to the last appears on page 3, in column 2 of the January 18, 1908 Spokesman-Review. In one of those endless headlines newspapers were once so fond of, the story begins, “Henry Brook Dies on Ship / Widely Known Spokane Man Succumbs on River / Accompanied by Wife and Son-in-law, He Was on Way to California.”
“Portland, Ore., Jan, 17, - Henry Brook, a brick manufacturer of Spokane, die of heart disease at 11:30 o’clock Tuesday night, on board the steamship Roanoke, while that vessel was bound down the (Columbia) river. The body was taken ashore at Astoria and prepared for shipment to Spokane. Mr. Brook was attended by his wife and J. M. Moore, a son-in-law.
“Deceased was 60 years old, and in route to California for his heath. He had engaged passage for himself, wife and son-in-law to San Pedro. He had suffered a stroke of paralysis about three months ago. When Mr. Brook was seized with violent pains in the heart, Captain Dunham of the vessel was summoned, but life was extinct before the master reached the stateroom. When Astoria was reached the remains were covered with the ship’s flag and as the body was being carried ashore the bell tolled in accordance with the time-honored custom. The body was shipped to Spokane tonight.
“Henry Brook, who died on the steamer Roanoke, was a pioneer contractor and builder in Spokane.
“He left here recently for California, accompanied by his wife and his son-in-law, J. M. Moore, 1023 Sixth Avenue, this city. Besides his wife, he leaves four daughters, three of whom, Mrs., W. S. McCrea, Mrs. J. M. Moore and Mrs. Mark F. Mendenhall, live in the city, and Mrs. J. E. Daniels of Northport, Wash.
“Mr. Brook was born in England in 1842. After coming to this country he was a minister in the Methodist church in Minnesota for several years until throat trouble made it impossible for him to do the work. He came to Spokane in 1883 and worked as a general building contractor. He was president of the Washington Brick, Lime and Manufacturing Company. It is expected the body will arrive here today.”
That in general specifies why Mister Brook had to step down from the pulpit but could still continue on within the church. We can reasonably assume (always a chancy thing) that public speaking and “throat trouble” are not a happy combination. Regarding an exact diagnosis, even in 1908 there was such a thing as patient confidentiality.
As for what those “supernumerary” duties mentioned in Chauncey Hobart’s book may have been, a fragment of an article appearing on page 6, column 4, of the January 29, 1916, edition of the Spokane Daily Chronicle, and titled “Saw Spokane in Seventy-Eight / Get Mark of Pioneer Wedding / Theodore Pynn is One of Those Who Apply for Their Certificates,” hints at an answer.
The “certificates” the above headline is alluding to appears to be a stash of “11,000 uncalled-for marriage certificates” that had been accumulating in the care of Spokane County Clerk Glen B. Creighton, who was, as of the date of the article, attempting to “locate the owners” of said certificates. And here enters the above noted “Mr. Pynn,” whom, the paper reported, “marched into Spokane as a soldier in 1878 (and) today appeared at Mr. Creighton’s office and secured the certificate of his marriage on January 1, 1885, to Theolinda Charlotta Johnson.”
So what does the above have to do with our Mister Brook? That appears in a later paragraph.
“He (Mr. Pynn) took out his marriage license on December 20, 1884, and a weird looking specimen of official paper is the certificate of his marriage, which was written on the New Years’ day following. It could easily be mistaken for a sheet dropped from a personal letter, being written by Henry W. Brook, the minister, upon a decidedly commonplace looking blue-lined correspondence paper, absolutely devoid of any embellishment except the big gold seal placed upon it today by Mr. Creighton.”
It would be interesting to try to figure out what this “11,000 uncalled-for marriage certificates” was all about — such alluring distractions being one of the hazards of historical research. But what we’re specifically interested in is the name of the minister — one Henry W. Brook.
Is this our Mister Brook, co-founder of Clayton, Washington? Most likely — but the ‘W’ gives me pause. That’s the first time I’ve run into Henry’s middle initial. So until we see some reliable cross-referencing, that middle initial, along with this newspaper article, will remain slightly iffy.
However, there’s no ambiguity in this recollection from this 1954 issue of the Spokane Daily Chronicle. Dated Tuesday, November 9, this page 5, column 1, 2, and 3 article headlines “Pioneer Church Goer to Be Honored.” The pioneer in question being the same Mrs. W. S. McCrea mention as family in the above death notice — Mrs. McCrea being one of Henry’s daughters.
The McCrea’s 1954 address is given as W1023 Sixth, Spokane — the same address given in the above 1908 obituary for son-in-law J. M. Moore.
We should record addresses when we find them. While it might be of some interest to the people currently living in those homes — assuming the buildings still stand — changes in those addresses might also tell us something about our subject’s changing social and economic circumstance.
In this particular instance is it significant? We don’t know.
In this “Pioneer Church Goer” article Mrs. McCrea identifies herself as a daughter of Henry Brook, the co-founder of Washington Brick and Lime. Significantly, that social nicety of early Spokane — and that general Victorian era nicety of submerging a married woman’s identity beneath that of her husband — has frayed enough that we now know Mrs. W. S. has a name of her own. Katharine.
In this article (still, incidentally, under copyright), Katharine describes her family’s 1883 arrival in Spokane on a Northern Pacific Railroad train. “It took us a week to make the trip,” she said. “We had to carry our own food on the train and our own bedding. The berths were just slats of wood.” Not exactly the kind of travel amenities we’d expect for the wealthy.
Katharine described Spokane — seen through 8 year old eyes — as “all sunshiny and lovely.” But of the town itself she said, “The wooden sidewalks were not uniform and the streets weren’t paved.” Suffice to say that a lot of the brick used to initially pave over those streets would come from a company her father — along with Joseph Spear — would, within 5 or 6 years, incorporate.
But the headline for this particular article reads “Pioneer Church Goer.” That alluded to the fact that Katharine had been going to the same church for 71 years. Her entire family started attending Spokane’s First Methodist Church “the next day” after arriving in Spokane. The article noted that in 1918 the church’s name was change to Central Methodist Church. But Katharine’s attendance record is nearly unblemished — and then only with an occasional Sunday off for illness.
The article adds several other threads that may prove of use to us. It describes Katharine’s father as “a Methodist minister” — not a onetime Methodist minister. And to that it adds, “He preached in Minnesota, but not after coming to Spokane.”
And that takes us back to Theodore Pynn — out and about in 1916 looking to retrieve the original and now certified copy of his marriage license. Said marriage license suggests the Methodist Church did indeed continue to recognize Henry, Spokane businessman, as a minister even after he had become “supernumerary” to the pulpit.
But the “Pioneer Church Goer” article has a puzzle to mix in among the answers. We’ve seen mention of Henry Brook’s daughters, but in passing this Spokane Daily Chronicle article used the phrase “Katharine Brook came west from Minnesota with her parents and brothers and sisters.” So far that’s the only mention of “brothers” found. Is that an error on the part of the reporter — a misread note or lapse of memory? Or is there a suggestion of tragedy, since later articles only refer to daughters?
But even with the daughters there was some tragedy.
On Sunday, June 9, 1940, page 1 of section 3 of the Spokesman-Review carried across columns 7 and 8 the following typically June headline, “Engagements, Weddings Feature Month of Romance.”
Among the current weddings noted under that headline was the announcement of the 50th anniversary of the June 3, 1890, marriage of Mrs. J. E. Daniels “in the house still standing at Fifth and Wall as one of the early day landmarks.” No actual address is given, but the significant lines in this article read, “Mrs. Daniels is one of five daughters of the late Mr. and Mrs. Henry Brook. Her youngest sister was drowned in a lake tragedy years ago.” And then continues to list the other sisters, “Mrs. William S. McCrea of Spokane, Mrs. M. F. Mendenhall of Seattle, and Mrs. W. H. Moore of Tacoma.”
So, three more items to watch out for — the missing “brothers,” the lost sister, and why Mrs. J. M. Moore is also listed as Mrs. W. H. Moore? Typo? Report’s error? Remarriage to another Moore? As all researchers eventually learn, it can prove very embarrassing to assume too much too quickly.
As for the not missing sisters, we still need ‘real’ names. On Sunday, January 22, 1893, page 18, column 4 of the Spokesman Review notes that “Mr. and Mrs. Henry Brook have issued invitations to the marriage reception of their daughter Harriet Helen to Mr. Mark Francis Mendenhall, Tuesday evening, January 31, from 8 to 10 o’clock, 700 Fifth Avenue.”
Two things then. Mrs. Mendenhall has now become Harriet Helen (Brook) Mendenhall, and the “house still standing at Fifty and Wall as one of the early day landmarks” in the June 9, 1940, article may have an address.
Of course things are never that simple. Is the above Harriet Helen Mendenhall really Harriet Helen. A Spokane Daily Chronicle article published on page 2, column 2 of the February 4, 1893 issue states, “Mr. Mark F. Mendenhall and Miss Nellie Brook were united in marriage at the residence of the bride’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Henry Brook on Tuesday evening.”
Between readers of the Spokane Chronicle and Spokesman-Review in those early days, the question was always which newspaper to believe. Just as in later years when both were owned by the same family — when the Chronicle was the morning paper and the Review the evening — people said it was a choice between the morning liar and the evening repeater. Did the Spokesman have it wrong? Did the Chronicle have it wrong? Or was “Nellie” actually Harriet Helen’s nickname? It’s a puzzle.
As regards that 1940 Sunday article above — a Spokesman Review article printed just a few days before on Tuesday, June 4, 1940, had noted this on page 8, column 1. “On a sunny afternoon, June 3, 1890, the then Miss Mary E. Brook became the bride of James E. Daniels, at a ceremony that took place at the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs., Henry Brook, W706 Fifth.”
In 1890 Henry and wife are living at W706 Fifth. So where does the house addressed at 700 Fifth Avenue fit in? Isn’t historical research wonderful?
The June 4th article goes on to give us some much need background on Mary E. (Brook) Daniels’ husband, James. Since this article is still under copyright, we need to exercise some caution. James — coming from Wisconsin where he was born — arrived in the area in 1886. He first settled in Cheney, and in 1887 moved to Spokane. A “collector of customs” at Northport, Washington, “for several years,” he was also appointed “Chinese Inspector” by President Harrison.
There’s an unsavory story in just the sound of that term. And indeed, it was exactly as it sounds — the job of enforcing the Chinese exclusion laws in effect from 1882 until 1943.
The article also notes that “for a while” James was “associated with Mr. Brook as superintendent of the Washington Brick, and Lime Company at Springdale.” The article finishes by noting that Daniels was also the United States Customs collector at Spokane for many years.
And then there’s this last little oddity regarding Henry’s son-in-law, J. M. Moore — the son-in-law that was with him when he died. During the Spanish-American War he appears to have been a Captain in company L of the Washington Volunteers — then engaged in actions on the Philippine Islands. A Spokane Daily Chronicle article found on page 1, column 7 of the May 12, 1899 issue says, “Letters from the volunteers contain some interesting bits of information that the press dispatches do not give. A recent letter from Captain Moore of Company L to Mrs. Henry Brook of this city relates some amusing incidents. He says the Filipinos declare there are three kinds of soldiers — the regulars, the volunteers, and “those big Washington devils.” They say the latter are not like other soldiers for “they never stop to eat, sleep or smoke — just fight all the time. They are those big, dirty, fellows.”
Would the above Captain Moore have been Mr. J. M. Moore, Mrs. Brook’s son-in-law? Or was it W. H. Moore — whose name also appears on occasion? Or is all this confusion a by-product of a time when newspaper type was set by hand and similar names easily transposed? Add to that the fact that the optical search engines used to scour these old newspapers are far from perfect. By that I’m suggesting a lot is being missed.
But at least now we know Henry Brook had a family. We know more than one of his four son-in-laws was something of a force within the community. We know that more than one of his daughters was often mentioned in the society section of the newspapers. And we know Henry continued to be a strong force within Spokane’s religious community. And all this suggests that if we dig hard enough, in time the puzzle of Henry Brook will resolve into much more than just a name.