Henrietta Brownell Jewell

Henrietta Brownell Jewell

1869 – 1965

Henrietta Brownell Jewell. Courtesy of Pat Pond.

Henrietta (Etta) Maria Brownell was born on  April 4, 1869 in Middleborough, Massachusetts to Cyrus Augustus Brownell  (1832-1897) and Caroline Maria Chase (1835-1887).  Cyrus had run off to sea for a year-long whaling voyage in 1849 but in 1856, after six more years of sea life on merchant vessels, he fell in love with Caroline and settled down as a spool turner in a mill in Middleborough as a married man. The couple had three other daughters, (Abby Louisa, Caroline Luella (Carrie) and Annie Lee and a son, Thomas (who died in 1862 within a year of birth) before Etta was born.   By 1875 the family had moved to Lincoln, RI where she started school.  In 1885 Etta was 16, still living in Lincoln and occupied as a spool threader.  Her mother died in 1887.

In 1892 she was 23 and the family was living in Central Falls.  Her father was still a spool maker so she was probably working in the same mill.  On the 14th of November of that year she married John Henry Jewell who had been brought south from his birthplace in Athens, Maine  as a young child when his father sought work in industrialized Massachusetts. John was an accomplished pattern maker.

They continued to live in Central Falls where their first child Florence Luella was born in 1895. 

In 1899 they moved to the Brownell farm on Maple Avenue where Willard Brownell Jewell was born.

In 1900, Henrietta and John bought the property from the remaining heirs of Deborah Taylor Brownell.

“Etta” became a typical farmer’s wife while John utilized his woodworking skills carpentering in addition to farming.  Etta would raise a flock of 1,000 Rhode Island Red chickens, selling the eggs to the market wagon that came by every week.  In 1902 her second daughter, Ethel May, was  born.

Within a few years John built a fine new barn to replace the original 100 year-old one and in 1915 he renovated the old Cape Cod house with its large center chimney by adding dormers.  The big chimney was taken down and replaced by two smaller chimneys so that there could be stoves in each room.  The children went to the nearby one room school houses, with Florence and Ethel teaching in them when they grew up. 

Etta and John were religious folk, attending the Methodist church on the Commons  and frequently traveled to nearby gatherings in the summer.  She always had a twinkle in her eye and loved playing jokes on family and friends.  One time Etta disguised herself as a man and offered Ethel and Florence a ride as they walked home then drove in a different direction, making them think they were being abducted. Eventually she stopped and they realized who she was. She made her point: don’t take rides from strangers. Ethel said they were truly terrified.  When she went on a trip to visit relatives she would dress in layers of dresses so she did not need to handle luggage.

John died in 1947 and Etta continued living in the house until 1957.  She lived with her daughter, Florence Shurtleff and in a nursing home until her death on 25 May 1965.  She is buried in The Pleasant View Cemetery in Tiverton, Rhode Island with her husband John, son Willard, daughter Ethel and their spouses.

Henrietta Brownell Jewell, c. 1956. Courtesy Pat Pond.

Franklin “Pat” Pond

April 2020


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