James Henry Brewster Home, Independence, Kansas

Today Karen’s Chatt travels virtually to Montgomery County, Kansas, to the once grand home of James Henry Brewster. His home is often referred to as a mansion by family members.

James Henry Brewster home, c1910.

I have written about James Henry Brewster (1841-1916) before. He was my great-great-great-uncle, the brother of my great-great-grandfather Daniel Brewster (1845-1917). My Brewster ancestors originally came from Pennsylvania. Daniel Brewster lived most of his life in Adams County, Indiana, but his brother James Henry moved farther west.

After leaving Pennsylvania James Henry Brewster resided in New Philadelphia, Ohio, until 1884, when he moved to a farm east of Independence, Kansas. He made a beautiful home on that farm, a home that “had all the modern conveniences and comforts of the best homes of the city.”

Another side of James Henry Brewster home, c1910.

There was a gazebo on each side of the house. At one time they contained large bird cages that held bright colorful parrots.

Another view of gazebo, James Henry Brewster home, c1999.

A beautiful chandelier hung from the front porch.

At a time when Independence had no park, James Henry prepared an attractive park on his farm which was the scene of many public gatherings.

James Henry Brewster home, c1999. Note the gazebo on either side.

James Henry Brewster was a well-known Montgomery County, Kansas, general building contractor. He erected the Montgomery County Court House, the Lincoln School, the Washington School, and other prominent buildings in Independence.

Young James Henry Brewster.

James Henry was a business leader in Montgomery County. He was an oil and gas operator, selling natural gas to Independence until they got their own refinery. He tried to get a railroad from Caney to Cherryvale, going through Independence and by his farm. He had the project financed and traveled to London, England, with Col. Porter of Caney on project business. Although the prospects were good at one time the financial conditions in the east and in Europe made it necessary to abandon the project. [1]

James Henry was a successful farmer. He served in the Civil War and he was in the First National Bank, Coffeyville, Kansas, when the Dalton Gang committed their final bank robbery on 5 October 1892.

Barns, James Henry Brewster home, c1999.

Carriage house, James Henry Brewster home, c1999.

And James Henry was a family man. He married Jane Newton in New Philadelphia, Ohio, in 1866 and they had 11 children.

Jane (Newton) Brewster (1840-1940, wife of James Henry.

James Henry Brewster, undated photo.

James Henry Brewster, 1913

Apparently, James Henry Brewster’s mansion is not currently occupied and has run down over the years. However, in its day it was quite impressive.

Thanks to Deb, a direct descent of James Henry Brewster and my fourth cousin, for sharing these photos and some family stories. Deb descends from James Henry’s daughter Caroline “Callie” (Brewster) Wilson (1870-1947). Deb’s mother, now in her 80s, visited the mansion when she was a child and hopes to get to see it again someday.   

[1] Find a Grave.com, James Henry Brewster memorial no.32067930, Mount Hope Cemetery, Independence, Kansas; citing obituary, Independence Daily Reporter, Independence, Kansas, 12 Mar 1916.



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    • Betty Barnett on February 11, 2022 at 2:05 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you for putting pictures of the Brewster home on the computer. Enjoyed them. I remember all the flowers on the screen-in porch. Also, my Great Grandmother laying on a daybed , I think it was in the dining room. I use to stand and look up the stairs wishing I could go upstairs but knew I would get a spanking if I went up there. Also, there was a yellow bathroom as you started into the kitchen. I figure it was an add-on. as you went up two steps. We kids were always given homemade sugar cookies. I have the recipe and made them many times for my family. Hope to go back up there in May.

    1. How wonderful that you got to see the house. It must have been grand! You are the second person to mention the sugar cookies. I must get that recipe. Thank you for sharing your memories and I hope you get to see the house again.

    • Deborah Lynn Bass on February 18, 2022 at 10:09 am
    • Reply

    The Recipe for School Girl Jumbles.
    Great Great Grandma Jane Brewster made.
    2 cups sugar
    1 cup real butter Softened
    4 cups flour
    4 small eggs or 3 large Well beaten
    3 teaspoons of baking powder
    3 Tablespoons of cold Water
    1 teaspoons Vanilla cream butter and sugar, add the vanilla.
    Add eggs and water.
    Add the dry ingredients. Careful not to over mix with electric mixer.
    Chill overnight.
    Roll out 1/4 of the dough on lightly floured surface with cutter. Place on undressed cookie sheet and sprinkle with sugar..
    Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes.

    Remember this recipe is well over a hundred years old and was made by hand mixing. You can make them with a mixer just don’t over beat the batter. These cookies are cake like.
    If your eggs are too, big the dough will be to sticky to roll out.
    This recipe was made for the visiting family and friends by Jane Newton Brewster when they visited the Mansion.

    1. Oh Debbie, thank you so much for sending the recipe! (and the tips) It is wonderful to have an old family recipe like this, one that has been handed down through the generations and has so many memories associated with it. I can’t wait to try them. Again, thank you for the recipe and photos.

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