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John Sawyer Brooks papers

Call Number: GEN MSS 1435

Scope and Contents

The John Sawyer Brooks Papers contain correspondence, scrapbooks, photographs and drawings, and other papers, most relating to missionaries and mission administration at the Mendi Mission in Sierra Leone, 1851-1859. Also present are papers relating to missionaries in Queen's Bush Settlement, Ontario, 1846-1855, and to the Brooks family, 1850s-circa 2000.

Most correspondence, 1851-1859 and undated, consists of letters, some with reports and financial accounts, to Brooks from American Missionary Association officials, Mendi Mission missionaries and other employees, and members of the Mission church and students at the Mission school. Also present are letters from Brooks, some with drawings of Mendi Mission scenes, and letterpress copies of letters from Brooks, 1855-1859, to many of the same correspondents and to members of the Brooks family. Four scrapbooks contain additional similar correspondence, 1846-1859, and clippings from unidentified newspapers, probably 1850s, about religion, abolition, and missionary work, including articles about the Mendi Mission, George Thompson, John Sawyer Brooks, and Susan Teall Brooks. Correspondents in letters and scrapbooks include American Missionary Association officials Lewis Tappan and George Whipple; missionaries T. G. Cole, D. K. Flickinger, A. W. Hanson, David J. Lee, Hannah More, Morris Officer, J. Cutler Tefft, and George Thompson; phonographer Isaac Pitman, including letters in phonetic English, with printed material about phonetic English; and Brooks’s sisters, Sarah Brooks Pierce and Rebecca Stone Brooks Simmons.

Other papers relating to the Mendi Mission include autograph manuscript sermons and sermon notes by Brooks, 1859 and undated; autograph manuscript compositions by students at the Mission school, 1854 and undated; printed treaties relating to war in Sierra Leone, 1849-1853; a manuscript document transferring ownership of a slave to the Mission, undated; other legal and administrative documents, 1853-1855 and undated; Mendi Garamo, a printed publication about the Mende language, 1857 October; an issue of The Early Dawn, a newspaper published in Good Hope, Sherbro Island, 1861 May; and drawings by Brooks of Mendi Mission and other African scenes, 1850s.

Papers relating to missionaries in Queen's Bush Settlement, Ontario, include a small amount of correspondence of Fidelia Coburn Brooks, 1846; letters to Brooks from Susan Teall Brooks, 1853-1855; legal documents relating to Brooks, 1849; and drawings by Brooks of mission buildings, 1840s. In addition to correspondence, papers relating to the Brooks family include an ambrotype of John Sawyer Brooks, 1850s-1860s, and photographs of his parents, Rufus Brooks and Mary Wood Sawyer Brooks, 1870s-1890; his brothers Asa Whitcomb Brooks and Jonathan Brooks, circa 1862; and his sisters, Rebecca Stone Brooks Simmons and Sarah Brooks Pierce, and her daughter, Susanne Fidelia Pierce, circa 1880 and 1927.


  • 1846 - 2000
  • Majority of material found within 1851 - 1859


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Boxes 5-8, 11: Restricted fragile material. May not be seen without the permission of the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The John Sawyer Brooks Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Candace Brown on the Frederick W. and Carrie S. Beinecke Fund for Western Americana, the Chandler White and Philena Pennell Smith Acquisitions Fund, and the Edwin J. Beinecke Book Fund, 2017.


Organized into four series: I. Correspondence, 1846-1859. II. Scrapbooks, 1846-1859. III. Photographs and Drawings, 1840s-1927. IV. Other Papers, 1849-2000.


2.29 Linear Feet (11 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The John Sawyer Brooks Papers contain correspondence, scrapbooks, photographs and drawings, and other papers, most relating to missionaries and mission administration at the Mendi Mission in Sierra Leone, 1851-1859. Also present are papers relating to the Mount Pleasant Mission in Peel Township, Ontario, 1846-1855, and to the Brooks family, 1850s-circa 2000.

John Sawyer Brooks (1823-1864)

John Sawyer Brooks (1823-1864), American clergyman and missionary. Brooks was born in Groton, Massachusetts, a son of Rufus Brooks (1800-1892) and Mary Wood Sawyer Brooks (1803-1876). His siblings included Asa Whitcomb Brooks (1821-1862) and Jonathan Brooks (circa 1837-1862), both of whom died in the Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia, while serving in the 16th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment during the Civil War; Sarah Brooks Pierce (1832-1929), whose home in Greenfield, Massachusetts, was an underground railroad safe house; and Rebecca Stone Brooks Simmons (1840-). John Sawyer Brooks married Fidelia Coburn (1805-1850) in 1847, and during 1842-1847 both worked as missionaries among fugitives from American slavery at Mount Pleasant Mission, founded by the American Abolition Society in Peel Township, Queen's Bush Settlement, Ontario. In 1850, they succeeded George Thompson at the American Missionary Association’s Mendi Mission in, Sierra Leone. Fidelia Coburn Brooks died in York, Sierra Leone, in 1850; in 1855 Brooks married Susan Teall, also formerly a missionary in Queen's Bush Settlement, who died in 1855 in Good Hope Station, Sierra Leone. John Sawyer Brooks continued to work as a missionary at the Mendi Mission until 1861. He died in Sierra Leone in 1864.

The American Missionary Association and the Mendi Mission

The American Missionary Association was founded in New York City in 1846 by Congregational and other Christian missionaries advocating abolition of slavery. In 1846, the Association merged with the Union Missionary Society and assumed direction of the Mendi Mission, founded in 1842 by the Society and former Amistad captives at Kaw Mendi, Sierra Leone, in the present Bonthe District, near Sherbro Island. George Thompson (-1893) worked as a missionary at the Mendi Mission, arriving in 1848, and was followed by other missionaries, including John Sawyer Brooks and Fidelia Coburn Brooks in 1850. During 1850-1854, the Mission opened Tissana, Mo Tappan, and Boom Falls Stations in the interior and Good Hope Station on Sherbro Island. The Mendi Mission and its stations were transferred to the Church of the United Brethern in Christ in 1882.


Beard, Augustus Field. A Crusade of Brotherhood: a History of the American Missionary Association (New York, AMS Press, 1972)

Thompson, George. Thompson in Africa (New York: printed for the author, 1854)

Guide to the John Sawyer Brooks Papers
In Progress
Karen Spicher
2017 February
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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