Not only are the agricultural fortunes of McDonough County inseparably associated with those bearing the name of Brooking, but practically every war of importance in the country which has caused the spirit of independence to rise with renewed strength above the smoke of its battle-fields, has counted among its valiant soldiers men of of this family of pioneers. William T. Brooking, a retired farmer of Macomb, all but ten of whose eighty-three years have been passed within the boundaries of this county, upholds the character and ideals of his forefathers. Born May 6, 1824, in Union County, KY., he is a son of Thomas A. and grandson of Thomas V. Brooking, both natives of Richmond, Va., and the latter of whom married Elizabeth Sherwin. His mother, Mary Louis (Threshly) Brooking, was born on a farm near Frankfort, KY., a daughter of William and Lucy (Upshaw) Threshly, natives of Kentucky and England, respectively. The father of Thomas V. Brooking and the father of his wife, Elizabeth Sherwin, were both Colonels in the War of the American Revolution. Thomas A. Brooking and his father also shouldered muskets in the War of 1812.
Thomas A. moved in early manhood to Kentucky, married there, and in 1834 went overland to McDonough County, Ill. There he found silent prairies, uncrossed by fences or directing roads. The red men's teepee still adorned the landscape. Chicago, then the mart of the Central West, was a log-hut settlement, populated by about one hundred whites and half-breeds and seventy soldiers. Yet the Virginian's heart quailed not, and he bravely took up his life of self-sacrifice and consecration to the unfolding of the resources around him. Entering eighty acres of land, he added thereto until he owned at one time 500 acres. A man of education and refinement, he engaged in school teaching for one year at Macomb, and he subsequently established a brick manufactory on the site of the present Catholic cemetery. His farms were his chief concern and most ready source of income, however, and upon his retirement from active life to the village of Macomb, he was the possessor of large wealth - as wealth was counted in those days. His death occurred in February, 1858, while yet men were arriving who called themselves pioneers, yet who could never realize the trials and privations to which he himself had been subjected. He was the parent of four sons and seven daughters.
William T. Brooking lived at home until he was twenty-six years old - or until his marriage, March 7, 1850, to Louisana Walker, who was born in Indiana in 1833. Up to this time his life had been devoted to hard work, and even the meager schooling of the early subscription institutions was acquired with difficulty, owing to the tasks which pressed around his youth. A break in the monotony of farming presented itself in the disturbance at Nauvoo, in 1845, when the Mormons were driven out of the town. Mr. Brooking was on the scene at the time, but taking his departure at eleven in the morning, he escaped the riot which followed the killing of Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith the same evening. With his young wife he established his home on 160 acres of land across the road from his father's homestead, but disposed of this tract in 1864, and soon after purchased 270 acres of the old place, upon which he moved in the spring of 1866. In 1885 he thought to retire permanently from farming, sold all his land, and engaged in the grocery business in Macomb. The peace of the country again called him in 1893, and he settled on a farm recently purchased, consisting of eighty acres, which remained his home until retiring from active life to Macomb in 1898. While no partisan, Mr. Brooking has always been a stalwart Republican. His official services extended back to the early history of the county. In 1870 he was Assessor of Macomb Township, and for twenty years was a member of the School Board. For many years he has been a prominent and popular member of the Masonic fraternity. The shadow of loss fell across his life January 5, 1902, when the wife who had shared his struggles and successes for fifty-two years passed away. There were six children born of this union: W. A.; Lucian Threshly; Dolly, wife of W. M. Winslow; two who died in infancy, and one who died at the age of twelve years. Mr. Brooking's career has given direction and character to the development of Macomb Township. His undertakings have been invested with conservatism and resulted in substantial success. As an agriculturist and business man, his well known integrity and good judgment have materially smoothed his path, and brought him an unassailable confidence. He is kindly in manner and generous of heart, and those who have known him for many years are still his friends and well wishers.
Source: The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of McDonough County, compiled by Dr. Newton Bateman, and Paul Shelby, 1907. Submitted by Joanne Scobee Morgan <[email protected]>