Jehiel Brooks vs. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company

When I wrote about the history of the Metropolitan Branch and Colonel Brooks’s suit again the B&O railroad, I did not know the outcome of the case. The Washington papers didn’t report it. I bet you’ve all been losing sleep wondering what happened. Thanks to diligent reader Christopher Pohlhaus, we now know the answer. He pointed me to an article in the Baltimore Sun from April, 1871. Here is the transcription: 


Letter From Washington

April 13, 1871

The jury today decided the case of Jehiel Brooks vs. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company for $2,000 damages, alleged to have accrued to Mr. Brooks in consequence of the refusal of the railroad company to construct proper wagon ways over the track of the Metropolitan road across the plaintiff's farm, near Rock Creek. The evidence showed that the company had constructed wagon ways on Mr. Brooks' farm, but had refused to build a bridge over a cutting as demanded by Mr. Brooks as essential for the convenience of his farm work. Chief Justice Cartter instructed the jury that in determining whether the railroad company had constructed a proper wagon way they must take into consideration the condition of the farm and improvements with reference to the road constructed through it, and the necessities and conveniences involved in the cultivation of the farm; and if they should find that the crossings constructed by the defendant do not serve the convenience of the farm, but that a crossing should be constructed, within the bounds of reasonable expenditure, by bridge or otherwise, that would answer the convenience of the farm, they must hold the company responsible under the law for their neglect to provide such crossing. Mr. Cox, for the railroad company, excepted to the instructions. The case was then submitted without argument, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Mr. Brooks of $577.

The award may not have been all he wanted, but I’m sure the Colonel was pleased. As a side note, Chief Justice David Cartter, who oversaw the Brooks case, was appointed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and two years later was there at his deathbed in the Petersen House the night of the assassination. He helped Secretary of War Edwin Stanton interrogate witnesses.

Thanks again to Christopher Pohlhaus. I updated the original post.

© Robert Malesky 2017