MARTIN BROOKS was one of the pioneer coal dealers of Springfield, so long connected with the business that his name is inseparably associated with activity along that line. He settled in Springfield in 1853, being at that time a young man of about twenty-nine years. His birth occurred in Galway, Ireland, in November, 1824, his parents being Francis and Margaret (Larkin) Brooks, who were also natives of the Emerald Isle, where they resided for many years. The father died in that county, while the mother spent her last days in England.
Martin Brooks attended the best schools of his native county and acquired a good education in Ireland, but feeling that he could benefit by better business opportunities in the new world he sailed for America in 1852, landing in New Orleans. He afterward went to St. Louis, Missouri, where he had friends living, but after a brief period he came to Springfield in 1853. Here he accepted a clerkship in the grocery store owned by James Nolan, with whom he worked for several years. He was afterward employed as a brick-molder in Nolan's brickyard for several years and then with the capital which he had saved from his earnings he purchased some land four miles southeast of Springfield, on Sugar creek. There he sunk a coal shaft and was engaged in coal mining for nine years, employing a number of workmen, but on account of his age and health he sold his mine and began dealing in coal as a retail merchant of Springfield, continuing in that department of business activity until his death, which was occasioned by accident. He slipped and fell from one of his wagons and was almost killed instantly on the 16th of May 1887.
On the 6th of August, 1855, Mr. Brooks had been married to Miss Helen Roach, who was born in Ireland, April 21, 1836, a daughter of Henry and Mary (O'Donohue) Roach, who always lived in Ireland, her father carrying on business as a cattle dealer. He died during the girlhood days of Mrs. Brooks, who in 1852 came to America with a brother. Ten children were born unto Mr. and Mrs. Brooks, of whom six are now living: Francis Joseph, who resides with his mother; Margaret, who is manager of the millinery department in the store of Reisch & Thoma, of Springfield; Henry, who married Margaret Croake, and is a city fireman on engine No. 3; Cecilia, wife of Arthur Becker, of Springfield, and Charles Augustus, who married Anna Mathewson, who is employed by the street commissioner of Springfield. Mr. and Mrs. George Loose make their home with Mrs. Brooks while in Springfield and they had two children, George, now deceased, and Georga Marie. Mr. and Mrs. Brooks lost four children, Mary Ellen, Thomas, Marie and one that died unnamed.
Mr. Brooks always took an active interest in politics and gave his early support to the Republican party, but afterward joined the ranks of the Democracy, although at local elections he often voted independently. He always refused office. He was a member of the Immaculate Conception church, in the work of which he took deep interest, and his family are also communicants of that church. Mrs. Brooks was baptized a Catholic in the cathedral at Tuam, County Galway, Ireland. This church was established by St. Jarlath in the year 455 A.D. She was baptized by Archbishop Joannes MacHale, who was particular friend of the famous Cardinal Newman, who wrote the hymn, "Lead, Kindly Light." All the children of the Brooks family were baptized in the Immaculate Conception church. Mr. Brooks lived a life of enterprise and energy, realizing that labor is the basis of all true success, and through his strong purpose and diligence he was enabled to leave his family in very comfortable circumstances. His widow owns much valuable property in Springfield. She recently sold sixteen building lots which she owned in the northern part of the city and has also disposed of much other property, but she still owns the old homestead at No. 1210 East Jackson street, where she and her children reside.