Haleyville librarian Carla Waldrep portrayed Aunt Jenny Brooks, a midwife and medicine woman who lived in the Bankhead National Forest in the mid to late 19th century.
Aunt Jenny is the subject of numerous legends, some of which she likely spun herself. So many stories have been told about her that later generations have begun to believe she was not a real person.
Waldrep thought so too until she began researching the life of Louisa Elisabeth Jane Bates Brooks. She learned that the truth about Aunt Jenny was far more interesting than anything that could be made up.
Waldrep warned the children at the beginning of her presentation that some of the things she had to tell them about Aunt Jenny were not pleasant and might make them question whether she was a nice person.
“I assure you that she was. She actually was a remarkable, strong-willed, tough woman who loved her family,” Waldrep said.
At her death in 1924 at age 98, Aunt Jenny had outlived all but one of her children.
Her husband, Willis Brooks, and her oldest son were killed by a Confederate homeguard as punishment for burying Union soldiers that were killed in a battle near their home.
Aunt Jenny was left alone to raise her eight other children.
She also swore that every man responsible for killing her husband and son would pay for their lives. Legend has it that each one did eventually die at the hands of a Brooks boy or Aunty Jenny herself.
“It was said that if Aunt Jenny liked you and you were her friend, she would go to the ends of the earth for you. But if you harmed her family, it would not be wise to turn your back on her,” Waldrep said.
Waldrep added that all of Aunt Jenny’s sons had violent deaths. She also lost daughters and grandchildren at early ages.
“So yes, Aunt Jenny became very protective of what she had left,” Waldrep said.
Union soldiers once made the mistake of trying to confiscate the family’s horses. Aunt Jenny offered them a hot meal instead.
The group never left the property; she laced their food with poison.
In her 80s, Aunt Jenny donated two and a half acres for the old Macedonia Baptist Church.
She gave her life to Christ and was carried in her rocking chair to be baptized.
The next summer reading program at the Jasper Public Library is Thursday, June 27, at 10 a.m.