Early St. Louis



Druggist, Insurance Agent & Executor of Joshua Pilcher's Will

Born in Pennsylvania in August of 1809, Edward Brooks came to St. Louis during the winter of 1830-1831 and was among the few druggists in St. Louis and those small villages scattered along the navigable streams near the city.  He had succeeded the likes of Joseph Charless who had been head of Charless, Blow & Co. before his assassination.

A few years after his arrival in St. Louis, Brooks was united in marriage in December of 1834 to Virginia, the daughter of Thomas and his wife Eliza (Carr) Riddick.  It was during this period as a druggist that Edward was made executor of Joshua Pilcher's Last Will and Testament.  Pilcher and the Riddick family were no doubt well acquainted in Lexington (and possibly Virginia) prior to the arrival of each in St. Louis.

Nonetheless, Joshua's detailed will left his family perplexed and suspicious of its authenticity, and rumours of his death the night after he had dined with his friend Senator Benton continued to swirl about the Pilcher family for decades.  Despite these family innuendos and interesting newspaper articles, there are many records to substantiate the fact that Brooks, Pilcher, Riddick and Billon had all moved in the same business and social circles and appear to have been the most intimate of friends.

In 1845 James Green's St. Louis City Directory locates the offices of Edward Brooks at 26 North First Street, and his dwelling at the north side of Walnut Street, west of 7th.  Although there are advertisements for Druggists within the directory such as "N.B. Atwood, Wholesale and Retail Druggist, No. 6 South Main Street;  Emanuel Deroin, Wholesale and Retail Druggist and Apothecary, No. 48 Main Street; Botanic Medicines, L.P. Britt, Wholesale and Retail Dealer in Botanic Medicines, NO. 164 Fourth Street; John Bunding, dealer in Drugs, Medicines, Paints, Oils, Dye-stuffs, Varnishes, Window Glass, Glassware, &c, Wholesale and Retail, No. 100 Main Street; and Barron & Rothwell, Wholesale Druggists, Nos. 10 and 12 Vine Street," Brooks did not have an advertisement placed in the directory.

Sometime after 1845, Edward Brooks business was located on the corner of Chestnut and Main, and here he operated until he was burnt out in the great fire of 1849.  He soon after engaged full time in the insurance business, but apparently had already been a director of The Saint Louis Insurance Company in 1845 as is noted in Green's City Directory. At some point following, he accepted the position of secretary of the Boatman's Insurance Co. and during that time was elected to city treasurer - positions he would fill with honor and credit, up to within a few days of his death.

In 1850 Brooks was enumerated in the Federal Census as an insurance agent with a personal estate of $3000, and in the 1850 Slave Schedule6 as owning one eight year old female - though it should be noted that in 1865 his signature bears witness that he had pledged the oath of loyalty to the State of Missouri and the United States.  By 1860, his value of real estate was $5,000 with a personal estate of $300, figures which are dramatically improved in 1870 at which time he was listed as the Clerk of City Treasury.  This year his real estate was valued at $20,000 and personal estate of $5,000.

In 1878 Tom Lynch began his labor of love to write the history of The Volunteer Fire Department of St. Louis7, and in so doing considered himself "peculiarly fortunate in the preparation of the work before the death of Edward Brooks, as without the aid of his retentive memory, the task would have been impossible.
As noted in Lynch's work, Edward Brooks was one of the founders of the Central Fire Co. which was organized in the spring of 1832, and served for many years as its president.  He was also the founder and patron of the Fireman's Fund which was instituted at the beginning of 1841, as well as one of the founders of the Missouri Historical Society.

Edward died at age sixty-nine on the 23rd of January, 1879, and was remembered as a kind husband and father, and one whose generosity, gentleness, and honor earned the love and respect of many.  He was preceded in death by sons Frederick and Thomas, and left behind his wife, Virginia; sons Samuel, Henry, and Frank; and daughters Elizabeth Waterworth and Josie Brooks - all of whom were later laid to rest at Bellefontaine except daughter Josie, who was buried at Saint Matthew Cemetery.

As always, I'd like to extend my thanks to Connie Nisinger for photos of the Brooks headstone, and to Dona (Carr) Mooring for the additional Brooks family information she has provided at Find A Grave.

    • Pharmaceutical record and weekly market review, Volume 7, ed. P.W. Bedford, 1887
    • Will of Joshua Pilcher
    • St. Louis newspaper clippings regarding the death of Joshua Pilcher at my Early St. Louis website
    • Green's 1845 St. Louis City Directory
    • Federal Census Records 1850, 1860, 1870 (St. Louis, MO)
    • 1850 Federal Census Slave Schedule
    • The Volunteer Fire Department of St. Louis, 1819-1859 by Tom Lynch, Saint Louis, 1880

    • At the time of his death on 05 Jun 1843, Joshua Pilcher was Superintendent of Indian Affairs having succeeded William Clark who had appointed him previously as Indian Agent at St. Louis.
    • Joshua's Will (which can be read in its entirety on my Early St. Louis website) first bequeaths holdings to Senator Benton's daughter Susan, 2nd to his sister Margaret Shaw of Lexington, 3rd to faithful friend John Havery of St. Louis, 4th to Eliza M. Riddick, widow of Charles P. Billon by his present wife (Frances Riddick, sister of Virginia), his trunk to be sent to his sister Margaret; and in an 1843 codicil wrote directions respecting his burial at the Episcopal cemetery.
    • When the Christ Church cemetery was closed, Virginia (Riddick) Brooks, widow of Edward, authorized Joshua's remains to be removed to the Brooks' plot in Bellefontaine, where his remains are marked by a headstone honoring his achievements.
    • Besides Edward Brooks, the other directors of the St. Louis Insurance Co. which was located at the S.E. corner of Main and Olive streets, were: Edward Tracy, Benjamin Clapp, Robert Campbell, N. Berthoud, George K. McGunnegle, J.C. Rust, J.E. Yeatman, Thomas Shore, William T. Christy, N.E. Janney, Lyman Farwell, and Kenneth Mackenzie. 


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