Mercy Church Brownell

Mercy Church Brownell

1756 – 1837

On April 20, 1769 while her parents, Thomas and Ruth, were away for an election, 13-year old Mercy Church’s house caught fire. The Providence Gazette reported the fire spread so rapidly the family’s belongings could not be saved, especially since there was “no Man at Home.” The article mourns £600 of damage to the home and its fine furnishings, but fails to mention Mercy, her teenaged siblings, and the servants (including Jane, also in this exhibition) who saved themselves and rescued six young children with only “the Cloaths then on their Back.”

Later during the occupation of Newport (1776-1779) Mercy was forced to escape her Sakonnet Point home again, this time to avoid an attack from British troops. The household of 21 people fled to Dighton for the duration.

By comparison, Mercy’s married life to Major Sylvester Brownell, a Revolutionary War veteran, was relatively uneventful. They married in 1778 and lived first in Acoaxet. In 1827 they built a fine home at the intersection of West Main Road and Meeting House Lane. Together they raised 11 children. All survived to adulthood, but half chose to leave Little Compton.

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Outdoor exhibit panel from the 2020 special exhibition, The Little Compton Women’s History Project.