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Brooking gave up sea for life out west

In 1856, James Brooking bought a ranch in Smith River, and then built the Brookings Hotel in 1868, which housed the first post office in Smith River. Brooking was postmaster for 19 years and was justice of the peace for 21 years. (Photo courtesy of Del Norte County Historical Society).
In 1856, James Brooking bought a ranch in Smith River, and then built the Brookings Hotel in 1868, which housed the first post office in Smith River. Brooking was postmaster for 19 years and was justice of the peace for 21 years. (Photo courtesy of Del Norte County Historical Society).

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

James Brooking became one of County's pioneers because of his reaction to receiving a pick and a pan as his pay from an irate sea captain.

History writer Esther Ruth Smith does not explain in her book, "Del Norte County Pioneers," why a pick and a pan was his pay.

But Brooking, son of James Brooking, Sr. of New Hampshire, gave up the sea and went mining because of the insult he perceived.

He had left his home in Grofton County, N.H., when he was 11 and had seen much of the world during the eight years he was at sea.

Brooking followed the whaling business for years, sailing around the Horn several times.

He left the sea at San Francisco and first mined on the Trinity River.

From there he went to Redding Springs and lost the $5,000 he'd earned from gold.

After operating mercantile stores in Yreka and Jacksonville, Ore., Brooking headed for Waldo to organize a group of 11 people to explore the coast.

The group left Waldo, reaching Crescent City in early December. Unfortunately for the group, the food they'd arranged to be delivered to Crescent City did not reach them. The lack of food forced their return to Waldo a few month later.

Brooking fought in the Indian wars of his day for four years, and bought a ranch in Smith River Valley in 1856.

He married Sarah A. Lane four years later and settled in, eventually becoming the town's postmaster for 19 years, justice of the peace for 21 years, notary public for 28 years and county coroner in 1890.

He built and established Brooking Hotel in Smith River, which at one time housed the first post office to serve the growing community.

The hotel was moved at one point and was operating by the Brooking family until 1900, when the Brookings sold it to William Bates Plaisted.

James and Sarah Brooking had five children, Bertha, Walter, Helen, Harry and George.

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