HORATIO G. BROOKS was born in Portsmouth, N. H., October 30th, 1828. In 1838 his parents removed to Dover, N. H. He gave early evidence of a strong predilection for the locomotive, which at times was the cause of no little anxiety to his parents, as at fourteen his ambition seemed to seek dangerous amusements and bring home “the pieces” as trophies. With the bent of his mind so strongly fixed in the direction of what was to be his future profession it was a difficult matter to keep him at school; and at the age of sixteen, much to his delight, he was allowed to enter the works of his cousins, Isaac and Seth Adams, South Boston, Mass., as apprentice to the trade of machinist. His tastes, however, were so pronounced in favor of railway and locomotive service, that in 1846, with the consent of his employers, he entered the shops of the Boston and Maine Railroad, then located at Andover, Mass.
Eager for information upon the subject of the business he had chosen he lost no opportunity of informing himself; and, while fond of amusement, appreciating the delight of living as only a perfectly healthy organization can, was still a close student. Never satisfied to know simple results, he constantly sought to secure information as to causes. For this reason his progress was rapid. At the age of twenty he was sent out of the shop to learn the road as fireman, and was promoted to the position of engineer in the month of May, 1849. In October, 1850, he left Boston in charge of engine No. 90, built by Hinckley & Drury for the N.Y. & E. Railroad. After various vicissitudes he arrived at Dunkirk with his charge, via Erie Canal and Lake Erie, the 28th day of November, 1850. He has the honor of having blown the first locomotive whistle in the County of Chautauqua.
March 6th, 1851, he was married to Miss Julia A. Haggett, at the residence of her father in North Edgcomb, Me. Three daughters remain to them as the fruit of their marriage, while one has gone “over the river.”
Mr. Brooks thoroughly believes in the efficiency and helpfulness of a true woman, and attributes much of his success in life to the influence of his wife and his faith in her judgment.
He attended thoroughly to his duty as a locomotive engineer until November, 1856, when, without solicitation upon his part, he was called to the position of master mechanic of the Dunkirk shops. In October, 1862, he was appointed superintendent of the western division of the newly organized Erie Railway, still retaining the position of master mechanic of the Western & Northwestern divisions.
In March, 1865, he resigned these positions to accept that of superintendent of motive power and machinery of the entire road, which position he resigned in October, 1869.
In October, 1869, Mr. Jay Gould, then president of the Erie Railway, ordered the Dunkirk shops to be permanently closed and the machinery removed to other locations. To prevent this great misfortune from falling upon the home of his adoption, and upon many men and their families to whom by long association he had become deeply attached, as well as to protect his own interests, Mr. Brooks conceived the idea of leasing the property from the Erie Railway for the purpose of establishing the business of locomotive manufacturing. He made the proposition to the company and it was accepted. On the 13th of November, 1869, the Brooks’ Locomotive Works were organized, the capacity of the works being but one locomotive per month. New tools were added and facilities improved until 1872, when twenty-two locomotives were turned out during the year.
In 1873 the panic crushed the industries of the country, and made no exception in favor of the Brooks’ Locomotive Works.
Through the years following the panic the works were kept running at a great loss; but Mr. Brooks never lost heart nor faith in the recuperation of the prostrated industries of the country. The intervening years between 1874 and 1879 were spent in improving the methods of construction in the works to such an extent that when business finally revived, in the fall of 1879, the facilities were vastly improved, and one hundred locomotives were turned out in 1880. The capacity of the works will be fifteen locomotives per month from July 1st, 1881.
Mr. Brooks has been honored by the citizens of Dunkirk by an election to the office of chief magistrate for three terms. He feels a deep interest in everything which can benefit or improve the surroundings of the people at large, and is always ready to work for such a purpose and contributes liberally to secure such a result. He fully appreciates the assistance he has received from his co-workers in the great manufacturing industry which now forms so important an element in the prosperity of Dunkirk, and has great faith in the average excellence of human nature.
He believes life too short to harbor resentments, and therefore has charity for all. He loves his friends and does not hate his enemies.