It began in Baltimore, Maryland during the Revolutionary War with an indentured
servant named Elizabeth Brooks from unknown parts of Ireland. Around 1787 Elizabeth
gave birth out of wedlock to a mulatto baby girl named Sarah or “Sall”. When Sarah
was about four years old, she was bonded or “adopted” by a white couple moving to
Rutherford County, North Carolina.
Sarah grew up as a “bond servant” while being passed from one white family to
another. In 1808, she learned that she was a free woman, not a slave as she had always
believed. Around that same time, she fell in love with a slave living on a nearby
farm in Rutherfod County according to family folklore of two different descendant
Sarah remained faithful to that slave until her death, bearing five children along
the way. All of her free-born children were raised under the unusual circumstance
of having a slave father on a nearby plantation that they apparently had frequent
While it remains a mystery on which plantations Sarah lived as a free person
and which plantation her partner some call Robert lived as a slave, the best candidates
are slaveowners John Oliver Lattimore and John Elliott who maintained bonds with
the Brooks over generations
Two different branches of Brooks tell of the purchase of their ancestor, Sarah’s
slave partner/husband. Folklore of Jerry’s descendants tells of his walking from
his Crowder Mountain homeplace near Kings Mountain to Rutherfordton to purchase
his father’s freedom. Folklore of Winnie’s descendants tell the story from a different
perspective that is in no way contradictory. In fact, both stories are perfectly
compatible. Mother Sarah made the initial time payments for her husband’s freedom
but died owing a balance. Winnie’s son, Daniel Brooks, recalled men coming to get
the balance from his grandfather around 1843. Surely, when son Jerry learned of this,
he walked to the county seat of Rutherfordton to join with sister Winnie to pay the
balance owed, thereby permitting their father to die a free man.
Somewhere in the bowels of the Baltimore city or county archives is the record
of the fine paid by a colored man to release Elizabeth Brooks from prison for the
crime of bastardy after Sarah’s birth. Surely the man named is Sarah’s father.
Likewise, there may be an extant record of the purchase of Sarah’s slave partner
in Rutherford County in the late 1830’s or early 1840’s. Surely that would reveal
the name of this Brooks patriarch as wll as the name of the slaveowner who supported
his life-long relationship with Sarah.