Footprints: Brookings settles in Del Norte

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By David Gray

During the early 1850s, a group of men in Sailor Diggings, Calif., was formed for the purpose of preparing an agreement to found a new town on the coast.

The agreement was called the Paragon Bay Agreement. It established a company to locate and build a town on and near Paragon Bay, on the Pacific Coast near the boundary between the State of California and the Oregon Territory.

The company was the Point St. George Exploratory Company. This agreement was signed on Jan. 31, 1853. The signers of the agreement were: C. Mathias Smythe, John D. Cook, Phileemon A. Azmus, Alexander Coyle, Picket H. Kennedy (two shares), Thomas H. McGrew, Ranger Ward, Michael Martin, James McCoy, J. B. Taylor, and Judson D. C. Lewis.

The town became Crescent City, and Paragon Bay became the Crescent City harbor.

Losing his claim

James Brooking (andquot;Sailor jumps ship, joins search for coastal town,andquot; Feb. 2) returned Waldo, Calif., in April 1853. During his absence, many settlers had arrived and he found that he had lost his rights to the land that he had settled on.

Undaunted, he went to Gold Beach in the Oregon Territory. Re remained in Gold Beach for four years and took part in the Indian Wars which were such a bloody part of the history of Oregon. He was very successful in his mining adventure.

Brookings came to Del Norte County in 1856 and purchased 320 acres which he proceed to clear for his ranch.

He married Sarah Lane in 1860. He was 31 and ready to settle down and raise a family. However, shortly after the wedding he went on a very successful mining expedition in the Oregon Territory.

Upon his return to Del Norte County, he resumed his ranching activities in the Elk Valley for three years. Then he purchased a ranch in the Smith River Valley.

In 1868, Brookings built and established the Brooking Hotel in Smith River. The Brooking Hotel housed the first post office in the Town of Smith River. Later the hotel was moved to its present location. The hotel was operated by the Brooking family untill 1900 when it was sold to William Plaisted.

Brooking built a two-story frame house to raise his family. He also acquired several properties in the Town of Smith River.

Brooking was the first postmaster of Smith River, a position which he held for nineteen years. He was also justice of the peace for 21years and a Notary Public for 21 years.

Progeny

James and Sarah had five children: Walter, Bertha, Helen, Harry and George. Their oldest son, Walter, was born in 1861. In November 1900, Walter left his home at Smith River Corners with his dog to meet his friend Paul Fredericks at his cabin in Winchuck, about 10 miles away. They were to go hunting together. Walter never made it. The next day search parties were sent out, but no trace of Walter or his dog were ever found. Bertha Brooking married Henry Westbrook Sr.

Brooking was a well-liked and important member of the Smith River community and contributed much to the community. James Brooking died on Nov. 23, 1913, at the age of 85.

Reach David Gray, a Del Norte Historical Society volunteer, at dtg@linkcc.com .

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