George Washington contacted his friend Alexander Spotswood during the summer of 1798 to inform him that he needed to hire a carpenter and joiner to oversee his slave carpenters. Spotswood wrote back on September 11 stating that the first man he contacted about the job was not interested, but that he had met a young man named Thomas Brooks who should meet Washington's needs. Spotswood wrote Washington: "he was down yesterday and brought with him a young man by the name of Brookes—who Says he will engage with you for 45 pr year, Mr Richards tells me he has known him from his infancy, that he is industrious—and much to be depended on—This young man, as well as my overseer—wishes to know as early as possible your determination as to them."1
Washington wrote back to Spotswood on September 14 explaining that Brooks sounded like a good fit: "From the character you have received of Brookes (the Carpenter) I have no hesitation in requesting that he may be engaged immediately, and I did not care how soon he would come up: for as he is spoken of as a complete Joiner, I have work enough for him in that way before the time of the present Overlooker of my Carpenters expires. . .upon the supposition that Brookes is a single man. If on the contrary he is a married one, his wife cannot be brought here (altho' he might come himself immediately) until my other Carpenter moves his family away, & the house in which they live, is given up. If he is single, he wd not live in that, but in one of the houses in my Yard, and eat, as beforementioned, with the Housekeeper & others." Brooke accepted Washington's offer, and agreed to begin work at Mount Vernon in early October of 1798. Between December of that year and October of 1799, Brooks was paid $150.2
While working for Washington, Brooks did a variety of jobs at many of the outbuildings including the mill, stables, distillery, fowl houses, barn, and greenhouse. Brooks worked making garden gates, door frames for the cellar of the Mansion, hot beds for the gardener, and a sash for the greenhouse. References to Brooks also appear in Washington's financial records which show that Brooks began working for George Washington in October of 1798 at an annual salary of forty-five pounds per year. Brooks was also paid $92.75 in October of 1799 "in full of his wages."3
1. The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series, Vol. 2 eds. Dorothy Twohig and W.W. Abbot (Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1999), 614.
2. "George Washington to Alexander Spotswood, 14 September 1798." The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, ed. John Fitzpatrick (Washington, D.C.: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1931)
3. Mesick, Cohen & Waite, Historic Structures Report, (unpublished report prepared for the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, February 1993), 2-30; George Washington, "5 October 1798, Cash Memoranda," (Mount Vernon Ladies' Association), 33; George Washington, "7 October 1799, Cash Memoranda" (Mount Vernon Ladies' Association), 57.