James Hall Brookes was born in Pulaski, Giles County, Tennessee, on 27 February 1830. His parents were Rev. James Hall Brookes Sr. and Judith Lacy. His younger sister, Henrietta (Brookes) Treadway, was born in 1832. Sadly for the young family, Rev. Brookes died in 1833. As a young man, Brookes reportedly declined an invitation to West Point, instead making his way to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He then spent less than a year at Princeton Theological Seminary, leaving due to financial hardship. Returning to Ohio, he was installed as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Dayton and married Susan Ann Oliver (1828 –1910).

In 1858, Brookes was called to Second Presbyterian Church in St. Louis. A new congregation, which became Walnut Street Presbyterian Church and later Washington and Compton Presbyterian Church, was spun off with Brookes as its pastor. He served that congregation until his death on 18 April 1897. At his death, Benjamin B. Warfield, then a professor of theology at Princeton Seminary, wrote of Brookes: “Large in figure, commanding in carriage, fluent and forceful in speech, fired with intense convictions, infused with emotion, whether in pulpit or on platform his oratory not only caught the attention but dominated the feelings and controlled the convictions of his audience.”

Reverend and Mrs. Brookes had five daughters.

    • Etta Oliver Brookes (1856–1872) was born in Dayton, Ohio. Unfortunately, she died at age sixteen with burial in Bellefontaine Cemetery in what became the family burial plot.
James Hall Brookes
James Hall Brookes
Photo in the collection of the Brookes Bible Institute
Used with permission
    • Susan Mary Brookes (1861–1936) was born in St. Louis. She married Selden P. Spencer, who became a United States Senator. They had three surviving sons: James Brookes Spencer, a businessman with American Brake Shoe Company; Selden Palmer Spencer Jr., a Presbyterian missionary to China; and Oliver Wade Spencer, also with American Brake Shoe Company.
    • Sarah “Susie” Lacy Brookes (1864–1886) was born in St. Louis. She married Ethelbert Dudley Warfield in 1886, but she died later the same year.
    • Judith Bertha Brookes (1866–1905) married Harry French Knight, an investment broker, in 1887. They had four children: James Brookes Knight became a geologist, serving at the Smithsonian Institute. Fanny Knight and Oliver Dudley Knight were born in Kansas. Fanny married Clarence O. Gamble.  Oliver was an oil company executive. Harry Hall Knight was the youngest child. He became an investment banker and president of the St. Louis Flying Club. In 1927, together with his father and banker Harold Bixby, he raised the funds that underwrote Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic in the “Spirit of St. Louis.” Unfortunately, Judith died in 1905 well before all this excitement.
    • The youngest of the Brookes’s children was Olive J. Brookes (1872–1930). Her first marriage was to David Riddle Williams, who authored a memoir of his father-in-law. To that marriage two children were born: James Brookes Williams and Elizabeth Susan Williams. Olive and David divorced, and she married Harris H. Gregg, who became pastor of Washington and Compton Presbyterian Church following his father-in-law’s death.

Both Dr. and Mrs. Brookes are buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery along with all of their children except for Judith.

Written by Kathleen E. Buescher Milligan
June 2021

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