William Walker Brooks
Mary Louisa Crompton Brooks
The surrounding lawn frequently encroaches on the simple, flat stone placed in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Brooks, the last white-European people buried in the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery. Placed right at the fence line bordering Auburn Way, the grave lies at some distance from the other remaining graves and is barely noticeable today. The marker’s unassuming simplicity is well suited for the simple couple who lived lives typical of Auburn’s early residents.
William Walker Brooks married Mary Louisa Crompton in Pendleton, Lancashire, England in spring of 1876. After a few years as husband and wife, the couple decided to immigrate to the United States, probably at the same time that James Hart (future cemetery trustee) immigrated with his parents. Louisa Hart, James’ mother, served as Mrs. Brooks’ Godmother during Mary’s childhood years. The families were surely close back in England, and remained so once they arrived in America. It appears both spent time in Tacoma before settling for good in Auburn around 1880.
Other than their childhood connections, however, the couples did not appear to have a great deal in common. James Hart established himself in Auburn as a prominent attorney and architect, eventually designing an elaborate home that he named “Summerfield,” despite the fact that affectations such as named estates were nearly unheard of in Washington. Nevertheless, his esteem continued to rise among his neighbors, and he was a well-respected community leader throughout his life here.
William Walker Brooks was probably equally well-respected, but he, in contrast, started out in America as a simple laborer. He eventually took bookkeeping positions at various Auburn businesses. Mary Brooks supplemented their household income by teaching music lessons in their modest home on South Division Street—and later set up a millinery shop there as well.
As the years passed, Mr. and Mrs. Brooks relied increasingly on their friends for companionship since they had few family members in this country. Some records indicate that there was a small marker reading “B” on their plot at the cemetery, commemorating a baby they lost during their first years in Auburn. The marker—if it was ever there—has since disappeared. Except for this rumored baby, the couple never had children of their own. They remained close to Mary’s sister Emily Anders and her family, but after the Anders family moved on the Vancouver, British Columbia, they were without any family locally.
We know, however, that they had many friends ready to celebrate life’s milestones with them. One such celebration was reported in the Auburn newspaper of April 13, 1901. The article described a party hosted by the Hart family at Summerfield in honor Mr. and Mrs. Brooks’ 25th wedding anniversary. “The hearty welcome extended by the host and hostess made the many guests regret when the hour to separate came. The drawing-room was hung with silver garlands and festooned with holly grouped with palms and flowering plants, while the library and dining rooms were bowered with daffodils and Chinese lanterns. The beautiful and costly gifts in silver were displayed in the library.” The reporter went on to list the many guests in attendance during the festivities; it was, no doubt, a magical night for honored couple.
William and Mary Brooks went on to celebrate their 50th anniversary in 1926, but the party marking that later occasion, if there was one, was probably a much more modest affair. By that time, their friend James Hart had passed away, as had his parents (and tragically, his young son Stanley). James’ wife Eliza Hart followed in 1930. By the time William and Mary passed away themselves (in 1933 and 1935 respectively), they could certainly have chosen to be buried at Mountain View Cemetery, a more fashionable choice than the tired Pioneer Cemetery in the valley. Perhaps Mary chose the Pioneer Cemetery for their final resting place in order to be near that baby who was rumored to have been buried there many years before. It’s just as likely, however, that she chose the Pioneer Cemetery as a way to honor the Hart family—buried just a few plots away—whose love and friendship had served as a guiding beacon for so much of her and William’s lives.