Aug 6, 2008

Skeletons in the Attic

Mary Bradley Brooks was an aunt of mine. It's hard to follow the story as you'll see once you try to read her letters! She was convicted of murdering her husband but later pardoned by the Governor of Michigan. It's one of those stories that makes me think of how life changes whole generations later. Just the fact that she mentions in one letter that she wants to move to "newbrasky" with the family made me wonder if that's why they didn't go? My GGG Grandfather (father of Mary) died a short time after her conviction. What if she hadn't been accused and convicted, and they left Michigan for Nebraska? Surely my GG Grandfather would never have married my GG Grandmother and, well.... you can see how this goes.

The trial and sentence for life of Mary Brooks of Kalamo

Eaton County Genealogy Library
May 21, 2002
Eaton County Republican Newspaper - February. 14, 1857

The letters written by Mary Brooks to Watson P. Woodruff in the Spring of 1856, when she first learned that the body of her husband was to be exhumed for examination.

The trial and sentence for life of Mary Brooks of Kalamo, for the murder of her husband, Simeon Brooks, on or about the 15th of March last, is doubtless fresh in the minds of all of our readers. Her trial was on the 5th and 6th of May last. It will be recollected that Watson P. Woodruff testified that the prisoner had at four different times requested him to dig up and secrete the body of her husband. He also admitted that he had received two letters from her, urging him to undertake the concealment of the body. He stated that he told her he hated to do it.

Whether the following letters are those he referred to in his testimony, we know not. But they are evidently letters written to him by Mrs. Brooks, at that time and upon the subject. They were furnished us for publication by Ira Pearl of Kalamo, the man who first made complaint of the murder of Simeon Brooks. We have had them in our possession several weeks, undecided in regard to giving them publicity. Two of the brothers of the unfortunate woman have seen them, and have given their consent to their publication. There is, we think, no reason to doubt the genuineness of the letters. The manner in which they came into the hands of Mr. Pearl we do not feel at liberty to state. To our mind the letters contain strong evidence that Mary Brooks was alone implicated in the commission of the murder.

The letters are written upon three half sheets of letter paper; two of them evidently forming the first letter. We give them verbatim et literatim without taking the usual liberty of correcting the orthography. We wish to give them precisely as they were written.

Sheet 1st
"Watson the county is a going to take Sim up so pres swift told me last night he come from feroes and stoped and told me they aint agoing to do any more about it till he is examined and then they are agoing to take us both up and now i tell you Watson you must talk with Treu about it right of and try to have him help you dig him up for if you Ont it will be to late now you must not deny this time if you want me saved and that is all that will do it that is so now i pray Ont wait any longer grant me my last request i beg on you

(PAGE 2)
for if you Ont i shall have to go to state prison now if you cant get Treu you must do it for i cant stand it so now talk with Treu right off and dig him up right off Ont wait any longer for it will be to late. i feel if it was you and i could almost give my life to save you and that is all that will save me any how now do it Watson wont you tell Treu if he has got much feelings for a sister to save her he would be willing now do it and go west with him from where. from Hare is not Ont wait for it in a getting to late i place my life on you almost and that is all that will save it now Ont deny my last request.

(Sheet 2d)
This half sheet was torn from the one upon which the preceding was written. It is badly spotted, soiled and torn, and upon one side it is directed to Watson P. Woodruff.

"i want you to read the other first tru has promised me he would bring these you and have a talk with you now i want you to burn these up as soon you can after you read them for my sake i am just as sure that was pison in that medicine as can be and if he is dug up and examined states prison is my doom the county is a going to do it pres says that is so now i want you to have
courage and do it i think you can get tru to help you if you have courage yourself do it to save me by all means i think if tru cares much for me he will help for die i shall if it aint done that is so do it right off to night now watson it wont take you a grate while now start and then back out
now tell not to say any thing about these letters and dona you but take a mach and burn them up now save my life while you can for i know if you dont do that i shall get clear taint possible for me to and it will save trouble now remember my last words to you in this you will be sorry hereafter if you dont grant me my request now burn these up so that hereafter they wont make no fuss - M.A. Woodbury - Mary H. Brooks.

do grant i pray my requst in these letters to night now dont back out for that is all that will save me."

(Sheet 3d)
This is also a half-sheet of letter paper of the same color of the sheets upon which the foregoing was written. It was cut from the remainder of the sheet with a pair of scissors, and has been sealed in the form of a letter. It bears no date but it was evidently written after the foregoing.

"watson for the land sake if you have got any mercy on me or want to relieve my trouble do dig him up night off to night i told father jo and tru abaout that medicine and they said it would ruen me and send me to states prison in spite of all they could do if he was

(PAGE 3)
dug up and examined dont say any thing to father about the medcine i told tru that to dig him up and take him away from there was all that would save me and tru said he hated to do any such thing i shall die if you dont do it you will find tools righ at the old house by the fore dore now watson if you want to clear me do it to night for dick is commencing upon me and i dont know what to do father and tru says they shall go to newbrasky as soon as this fus is over now if you want to clear me so i can go dont deny me this last call leave your team and go and talk with tru but dont tell him that i have wrote to you for mercy sake burn this up as soon as you get a chance now watson you do as i want you to wont you dont back out for that is all that will save me and i told tru so now dont fret it off any longer

from your best friend Mary H. Brooks now do it"

Upon the outside of this sheet is written: "you nednet say any thing to tru about it"

Charlotte Tribune
Feb. 18, 1870
Local News

Mrs. Mary Books, convicted of murder in the county June 5, 1856, and sentenced to State Prison for life, has been pardoned by Gov. Baldwin.

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