James Brooks was the son of Cornelius Brooks. Permanently settling in Cattaraugus County in 1808, after he had first arrived in 1806. . He took the oath of office as judge on May 27, 1817, the year Cattaraugus County was chartered. According to the Everts’s History of the Cattaraugus County, “Judge Brooks was noted for his profuse hospitality, and it is said by one who knew him well that for several years prior to his death the family scarcely ever sat down to a meal without some visitor.” The judge’s residence was known as the ‘Methodist Tavern’ or ‘House of Refuge’. Judge Brooks was reverently recognized as the father of Methodism in this part of the country. He was also a firm supporter of the temperance cause. He was an ardent abolitionist and his house was frequently made a station on the “underground railroad” by fugitive slaves escaping to Canada. Judge Brooks died at the old homestead on April 17, 1854.
The above picture of the Brooks home was from the files in the Cattaraugus County Historical Museum with the note that Judge Brooks’s home was built in 1840 and destroyed by fire in 1920. Note the waterway near the home, a frequent way for runaway slaves to travel. The home in the center of the photo belonged to Reuben Anglesworth Brooks, a nephew of Judge Brooks.
Adams, William. Historical Gazetteer and Biographical Memorial to Cattaraugus County, NY. Syracuse, NY: Lyman, Harton & Co. 1893.
Everts, L. H. History of Cattaraugus Co., New York. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1879.