The following article was copied from the records and archives of the Presby Museum (as a member of that museum).
The article appeared in the The Goldendale Sentinel Vol. XLIX No. 25. Thursday, June 21, 1928 on Pages 1 and 7.
It is an amazing tribute to a man who was a true mover and shaker for Goldendale and the county of Klickitat and worthy of the time to read this lengthy article.
LIFE OF JUDGE BROOKS WAS ONE OF SERVICE
By W. F. Byars
Last week’s “Sentinel” mentioned in brief the passing of Judge Nelson B. Brooks, Wednesday night, June 13, while sitting in his chair at home. The editor has requested the writer to furnish something for publication concerning the life and activities of the departed. After almost forty years’ intimate acquaintance, with this well known and beloved citizen, who was ever in the van of all activities tending to the advancement of Goldendale and Klickitat county, we ponder where to begin and what to write, for an interesting volume could be written concerning the life of Nelson B. Brooks, a Klickitat county pioneer.
Last Thursday morning the flags were flung to the breeze in honor of flag day, but when it became known that Judge Brooks had answered the Supreme summons, they were lowered to half mast; and Saturday afternoon, the date of the funeral, the same honor as paid the departed.
On account of limited room at the undertaking parlors, the funeral was held in the high school auditorium. Rev. Jordan, of Columbus, read the scripture lesson, offered prayer, and delivered a brief sermon to the largest funeral congregation ever assembled in Klickitat county. He then presented Hon. Dudley Eshelman, formerly of Klickitat county, now of Vnacouver, an old friend of Judge Brooks, who delivered an eloquent and affecting eulogy.
Before delivering his address, Mr. Eshelman read the following brief obituary concerning the departed:
Nelson B. Brooks was born in Lenawee county, Michigan Jan. 23rd, 1858, the son of Emory E. and Martha Brooks, pioneers of that state. In 1873 when 15 years of age, he came to Oregon, with his father and family, and settled at Sholls, Oregon, where he lived on the farm, helped in its development and attended the country school. When 20 years of age, he began teaching in the Willamette Valley.
He came to Klickitat county in 1880, and that spring filed on a homestead at High Prairie, where for seven years he engaged actively in farming. In 1885 he was elected as principal of the Goldendale schools, and two years later became County School Superintendent, serving five years.
He was admitted to the bar on Oct. 8th, 1892, after having studied law for four years, and since that time has been actively engaged in the practice of law at Goldendale, except when he served as Superior Judge for the counties of Klickitat, Skamania and Cowlitz, under appointment by Governor Hart.
He was married at Middleton, Oregon, August 12th, 1883, to Rosa A. Olds, who survives him.
His life has been largely identified with the upbuilding of Goldendale and Klickitat county, and he has at all times given unsparingly of his time and means toward that end, taking an active part in all matters of civic and community work. He served the county as its representative in the Territorial Legislature of 1883, at the age of 24 years, and again in 1913. For a number of years he served as Adjutant of the Second Regiment, Washington National Guard, and at various times has served as school director, councilman, and mayor, his last public office being that of mayor, in 1927. He was a leader in the work of securing railroad connections, for the valley, and later, in the building of good highways. During the war he served as food administrator, chairman of several Liberty Loan drives, and assisted in the work in every way he could. His interest in public affairs, and particularly in road development for the valley continued to the last, he being willing and anxious to assist in any way, the fulfillment of these projects of value to the county and state.
He was a member of the Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows, and of the local Masonic bodies, the Eastern Star, Goldendale Lodge No. 31, Free and Accepted Masons, the Royal Arch and Knights Templar.
He leaves to mourn his death his wife, Rosa A. Brooks, a son Zola O. Brooks, three brothers, Charles Brooks, of Newberg, Ore., Edward Brooks, Goldendale, Rollo Brooks, Colton, Oregon, and two grandchildren, Jerrine and James Nelson Brooks.
He died at his home in Goldendale Wednesday evening, June 13th, 1928 at the age of 70 years, 4 months and 21 days.
Mr. Eshelman, speaking in regard to Judge Brooks’ wont do drive dull care away, while making an address or spending a social hour with friends, quoted the following:
Let me bring a little mirth
To those who share my days on earth,
Let something I have done
Remain when I have traveled on
To prove the man I’ve tried to be
And make men glad they walked with me.
A smile, a flower, a word of cheer
These were his gifts from year to year.
And referring to the Judge’s joy in serving his fellow man and the community in which he lived, he quoted:
There are loyal hearts, there are spirits brave,
There are souls that are warm and true:
Then give to the world the best you have
And the best will come back to you.
Give love and love, to your heart will flow,
A strength in your utmost need;
Have faith and a score of hearts will show
Their faith in your word and deed.
For life is a mirror of King and slave;
‘Tis just what you are and do;
Then give to the world the best you have
And the best will come back to you.
Over one hundred Masons attended the services in addition to members from the Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias and Eastern Star lodges. Friends from far and near were there and among them the Hon. Samuel Hill. The services at the grave were conducted by the Masons.
Until this year Judge Brooks has attended the annual Goldendale-Toppenish picnic, held for the past four years on the Satus near the boundary line of Klickitat and Yakima counties, organized by the two communities for the purpose of hastening the completion between the two towns of the North Bank highway, also known as the Evergreen highway and officially designated as Highway No. 8. At these meetings he has been one of the principal speakers, and was on the program this year, but on account of illness was not able to attend. He was deeply interested in the completion of this link in the highway, as forty-five years ago, while living on his homestead in High Prairie, he hauled freight between The dalles and Yakima Valley points. Before the building of the Northern Pacific railroad, all freight fo rhte Ellensburg and Yakima country was hauled by freight teams from The Dalles through Goldendale by way of the Satus Pass. This road was first opened to travel over half a century ago and within the next two years will become one of the great highways of the Northwest.
Forty years ago Judge Brooks was an active member of the Republican party, but when the free silver issue came up, became a silver republican and supported Bryan for president. He was an admirer of Theodore Roosevelt and supported him for president. Judge Brooks generally voted in the Republican primaries, giving as a reason that he thought that his privilege as he voted for more republicans than democrats.
Judge Brooks, although having deep religious convictions, was not a member of any particular church, but gave financial support to all. Like many others, he regretted the waste in too many church organizations, resulting in poorly paid preachers and wooden shacks for church edifices. No doubt he would have become a member and supported a community church. While residing on his homestead in High Prairie he was superintendent of the local Sunday school. He believed in presenting the flowers of love to the living when they could appreciate the kindness bestowed. Yet we know of no other citizen who had as many floral offerings at their funeral as he.
Judge Brooks was interested in several additions to Goldendale. Brooks’ Addition in the southwest part of town was platted by him, and about the time of the building of the railroad from Lyle, he and C. H. Newell platted Terminal addition in the southeast part of town. As he has bought and sold much real estate and has been a practicing attorney and notary public for over thirty-five years, the name of N.B. Brooks will be found on the county records more times than that of any other individual.
It has been forty years since the big fire that wiped out the business section of Goldendale. The late Judge Stapleton of Portland, was then mayor. He afterwards became mayor of Vancouver, and when he began practicing law in Portland he became mayor of one of the suburb towns, Gresham, where he made his home. We know of no other man who has been mayor of three different municipalities. After the fire, four brick houses were erected – the H. D. Young brick, now the Roloff building, and three buildings at the corner of Main Street and Columbus avenue, the Farmers Mercantile Co., now owned by W. H. Ward, the Gobat jewelry store, on which site the Hudson service station stands, and the W.H. Ward building, now the State Bank building. To lessen fire hazard, Main street was widened from 66 feet in width to 100 feet, for three blocks, the owners on each side donating 17 feet, except 100 feet at the old Marble corner on Chatfield street, where Marble’s machine shop stood, which was afterwards acquired by the municipality for street purposes. No other business bricks were erected, the others being of wooden construction. The result was that Main street had several other disastrous fires. The council then passed an ordinance prohibiting the erection of wooden buildings on Main street in the business section. Judge Brooks bought land in the creek bottom in the north end of town and commenced making brick, his program being a brick building a year. He was the builder and owner, or part owner, of a dozen such structures, which with others constructed have given Main street over a quarter of a mile of brick buildings. His residence and that of his son are of brick construction.
Goldendale and Klickitat county have not grown and developed as fast as some other cities and counties of the state, but who can tell, they may be at the dawn of a wonderful awakening. And yet Judge Brooks in his time has seen much advancement in this section. There have come to Goldendale during his residence here permanent buildings, a water system furnishing water from the cold springs on the Simcoes, unsurpassed by any other municipality; a sewer system, paved streets, electric lights, telephones, high schools, railroads, automobiles, highways, flying machines, movies and radios, in fact every convenience that larger municipalities enjoy. No, there is another needed want, a swimming pool. Then we might add, a decent church building, a municipal hall and rest rooms.
Judge Brooks has delivered more addresses to the people of Klickitat county than any other man: political, patriotic, fraternal, good roads, to the pioneers, high school graduates and funeral audiences. He has ever taken a deep interest in the railroad development and highway construction in Klickitat county and was a member and attended most of the meetings of the Washington Good Roads Association, where he enthused the members with his addresses and entertained them with his humor and wit. He was one of the members of the present road committee of the Goldendale Chamber of Commerce.
Before Klickitat county had a railroad, when our wheat was hauled to the Grants ferry and transported to the other side, or taken over the Columbia mountains, over the sandy flats and Columbia river to The Dalles, our people fretted at their isolation and longed for rail connection with the outside world. Goldendale merchants raised the necessary funds and Jacob Richardson, Judge Brooks and the writer surveyed a line for a narrow gauge railroad from Goldendale through High Prairie to Lyle, there to connect with the Regulator line of boats plying between Portland and The Dalles. Construction work commenced at the Lyle end, but on account of lack of funds was suspended. That portion of the finished grade now forms a part of the roadbed of the present railroad and of the county road up to the Klickitat river canyon.
The O. R. & N. was asked to lower their freight rate for Klickitat valley wheat, which was refused. Our people then decided to ship the bulk of their freight by way of Lyle. But this could not be done on account of heavy grades in the wagon road to that point. So the county commissioners appointed Jacob Richardson, county surveyor, Judge Brooks and the writer as viewers to survey a new grade to Lyle. Which was done, the road built and lower freight rates acquired. The lower end of this road forms part of the Lyle-Klickitat road.
E. E. Lytle, the builder of the Shaniko branch of the O. R. & N., decided to construct a railroad between Lyle and Goldendale. A survey was made, which practically followed the same lines as the present railroad. The Northern Pacific officials saw the hand of the O. R. & N. back of the road, so politely or otherwise told the Oregon road to stay in their own territory. The order was obeyed.
Then the business interests of Portland decided to come to the aid of Klickitat county, and for that purpose Engineer Emory Oliver was secured to report on the feasibility and cost of building a railroad between Goldendale and Lyle. Judge Brooks and the writer met Mr. Oliver and H. C. Campbell, who afterwards became manager of the railroad, at High Prairie. From there the party went to Wahkiacus and walked up to the Swale canyon to the Stacker place. The report of the engineer was favorable, and the Portland men agreed to construct the railroad if the right of way was secured without cost to the company. Our people raised what funds were necessary and Judge Brooks secured the right of way deeds, which were made in trust to Joseph Nesbitt and afterwards deeded to the company. The Goldendale-Lyle railroad has been in operation for twenty-five years, and when the North Bank railroad was completed over twenty years ago became a part of that system, owned jointly by the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads.
At the beginning of construction work on the railroad from Lyle to Goldendale, Judge Brooks and the writer journeyed to Lyle to see the first railroad engine to come into Klickitat county ferried across from the Oregon shore and landed on the north bank of the Columbia. That night we crossed to the Oregon side and “hit the ties” of the O. R. & N. for The Dalles, arriving tired by happy, the end of a perfect day.
The spirit of Judge Brooks has ascended on high, we have consigned his body to the tomb and will cherish his memory forever.