(OH) Legendary Gunsmith Turns 90


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Drizzt
February 19, 2003, 06:39 PM
'It's an honor to know him'

By Connie Cartmell, ccartmell@mariettatimes.com


Cecil Brooks is a quiet, humble man who builds an incredible gun.

"You never lose with him," Don Schafer, of Marietta, said. "A Cecil Brooks gun is a great investment."
Brooks, of Lowell, celebrated his 90th birthday Sunday.

U.S. presidents, senators, movie and television stars, sports personalities and just plain folks own and covet handmade guns and rifles produced in Cecil Brooks' Lowell workshop. Since 1955 he has made a signature presentation rifle for the principal speaker of the National Rifle Association's annual convention.

In the living room of Cecil and Mary Brooks' Lowell home, there's an autographed picture of Charlton Heston, who also owns a Brooks rifle.

Known for impeccable woods, mostly tight-grained curly maple, and intricate silver detailing and engravings, many of his guns have been donated to auctions and benefits throughout the region to help raise funds for worthy causes. Others find their way to private collections, where they are held as priceless treasures.

"I've made a bunch of them," Brooks said when asked the number of guns he's built throughout the decades. "I'm working on one of my better ones now, a copy of a Vincent rifle I did, but updated. It's real light and very fine curly maple that came from Slippery Rock, Pa."

Brooks said the very finest maple he ever came upon was from a 5-foot across tree that fell down the hillside off Ohio 676 on Harmar Hill during the mid-1940s.

A Cecil Brooks gun requires 300 to 500 hours of intense, detailed labor. Many nights he and his assistant for 14 years, gunsmith Lee Hamel, of Lower Salem, work past midnight to complete a gun for a show or presentation.

Brooks has become a legend as a gunsmith, not only in Washington County and in Ohio, but across the nation.

"No one else I know has worked as many years as Cecil," Phil Brown, of Lowell, a friend for years, said. "Cecil will never have a dime. He gets one and somebody asks for help and he'll help them out. It's an honor to know him."

Brown owns three Brooks presentation rifles. He's watched many of these special guns come and go over the years. Flintlock rifles are of the late 1700s time period, while percussion rifles date from the 1820s to the 1870s.

"He's given a lot to charity and to auction. The highest I've seen one go for was $20,000," Brown said. "I saw a lot of them go for $19,000. A lot of local people buy them."

John Briley, manager of Campus Martius Museum, calls Brooks a master craftsman and a premier gunsmith who has made a significant contribution in his lifetime.

"We have Cecil's first rifle in the museum, and, of course, have a number of John Vincent and John Calab Vincent rifles. Each has its own characteristics. Cecil's are mainly presentation rifles of premier craftsmanship. Vincent's were 'shootin' guns."

At a dinner party Friday, in honor of Brooks' 90th birthday, Phil Brown presented his friend a handmade Bowie knife. It was given to Brooks by the NRA, a gift the group gives only to its national presidents.

Brooks said he is the last of his family. His fondest memories of childhood, growing up in Belpre, is being in the woods and of fishing.

Of Brooks, Wayne Offenberger, of Marietta, also a gunsmith who builds a similar weapon, said: "He's been his own man, done his own thing and is an outstanding craftsman."

Brooks is still trying to catch up on all his gun orders.

"There was a fellow here today from Athens, checking on his order," Brooks said Friday. "I started his gun in 1992 I believe. He's willing to wait some more."


About Cecil Brooks

Birthday: Feb. 16, 1913.

Parents: James Harley and Beatrice Blanch Brooks.

Hometown: Lowell, although he was born in Belpre.

Wife: Mary Brooks, married in 1970.

Passion: Building and restoring antique guns, mostly hand-tooled Kentucky longrifles.

Hobby: Fishing, if he ever gets a chance.

http://www.mariettatimes.com/news/story/0218202003_new06honn.asp

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444
February 19, 2003, 07:06 PM
My cousin lives in Lowell Ohio. I went deer hunting with him a few months ago and he took me to a restraunt basically right next door to this guy. My cousin and the owner of the restraunt spent the whole lunch telling me about Cecil Brooks.

Shooter 2.5
February 19, 2003, 07:12 PM
I thought this was the guy everyone hated?:confused:

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