Descendant of William Penn Brooks visits Hokkaido University

University News | December 01, 2023

On November 2, 2023, James Newhall Smith, a great-great-grandson of William Penn Brooks, visited Hokkaido University. Brooks was an agricultural scientist who came to Hokkaido in 1877 on the recommendation of William Smith Clark, and spent twelve years here contributing to the development of Sapporo Agricultural College, the predecessor to Hokkaido University.

(From left) Nami Mabuchi, Tokuji Hisada, Aya Takahashi, Kiyohiro Houkin, James Newhall Smith, Atsushi Yokota and Eri Hata (Photo: Sohail Keegan Pinto)

Upon arriving at Hokkaido University, Smith first met with Hokkaido University President Kiyohiro Houkin, Executive Vice Presidents Aya Takahashi and Atsushi Yokota (and three others). Smith was shown a short presentation about the University, and both parties shared stories of Brooks during his times in Sapporo and after his return to the United States. President Houkin emphasized that Hokkaido University values the contribution made by William Smith Clark, William Penn Brooks, William Wheeler and David Pearce Penhallow, and cherishes its continuing connection with their descendants. Smith mentioned that he was in possession of letters written by Brooks to his sister during his stay in Japan, and offered to share information from them with the University.

The American teachers at Sapporo Agricultural College and their wives in 1879. From far right: Cecil Hobart Peabody, William Penn Brooks, the wife of William Wheeler, David Pearce Penhallow, the wife of David Pearce Penhallow, William Wheeler, and John Clarence Cutter. (Photo by Seiichi TAKEBAYASHI).

After an exchange of gifts, Smith visited the University’s Experimental Farm No. 2, where buildings from the time of Brooks still stand. Professor Emeritus Seiji Kondo guided Smith around the Experimental Farm, detailing the contributions of Brooks. Brooks’ greatest contributions to Japan were in the field of agriculture: he is credited with introducing onions, corn, beans, forage and other plants to Hokkaido. Smith was most interested in the architectural plans for the model barn, as he is an architect by profession.

James Newhall Smith (left) conversing with Seiji Kondo (right) at the Model Barn. In the background are photos of William Smith Clark (left) and William Penn Brooks (right).

Their next destination was the Hokkaido University Museum. Professor Masahiro Ohara led Smith through the exhibits on the history of Hokkaido University, and also to the popular paleontology exhibit, as well as the Einstein Dome.

The tour of the University ended with visits to the Hokkaido University Archives and to the Central Library, where Smith viewed photos of and documents by Brooks.

Hokkaido University President Kiyohiro Houkin and James Newhall Smith (Photo: Sohail Keegan Pinto)

Asked about his impressions, Smith commented, “It has been a lifelong dream to visit Hokkaido University, where my great-great-grandfather taught for 12 years. He is part of our family lore, and I am happy to finally see all that he has done for Japan and the Japanese people with my own eyes. I am also pleased to see that Hokkaido University remembers his contributions and honors them.”

Written by Sohail Keegan Pinto