Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Our Portsmouth Brownell Family, Macho Has A Down Side

Thomas Brownell (1608-1664) came from Ryecroft Parish of Rawmarsh in West Riding, Yorkshire, a bit farther north than our usual English immigrant.  He married Anne Bourne (1607-1666) at St. Peter’s Wharf in London in 1637.  Anne hailed from Cranfield in Bedfordshire, England, notably south of Thomas’ northern England Yorkshire.  Thomas and his brother George had moved to London to work for an uncle who was a fabric merchant, doubtless as young men, perhaps about 18-20 years old.  Did he meet Anne there?  Was she Austin-like staying with an aunt to meet London society?  She was 30 when they married - almost elderly for an unmarried woman in those days.

Thomas and Anne sailed to Boston on the ship Whale in 1638.  They settled on six acres in Braintree, MA, worked the small farm - perhaps Thomas also found some work in the fabric business here - and had one child before selling their house in Braintree to move to Portsmouth in 1640.  Was the Braintree-Portsmouth connection William Coddington, a key Antonimian/banned from Boston guy who was given land grants in Braintree between 1635 and 1637?  Did the Brownells find the Puritan government of Braintree less to their liking than separation of church and state in Portsmouth?

The first town record of Thomas in Portsmouth was in 1647 when he witnessed John Walker’s will.  Thomas held several public offices - as expected for a freeman - and had a 40 acre farm on the west side of the northwest end of the island extending down to Narragansett Bay.  These days, Brownell Lane runs through this location.

In 1664, 56 year old Thomas was killed in an equestrian accident racing 21 year old Daniel Lawton while returning from Daniel’s dad’s farm back into Portsmouth.  Young Daniel in the lead saw a riderless horse headed into the swamp when he looked back. Backtracking, he found the lifeless Thomas and a great deal of blood, hair and blood stuck to a tree, and brains spilling out as described in detail by Daniel at the inquest. 

Thomas and Anne had nine children, and 55 grandchildren!  How does one ever find enough names?  Given his sudden death, Thomas left no will and the Town Council divided the estate using the custom of primogeniture.  The bulk of the estate went to the oldest son, George, then age 19.  Anne retained the use, benefit and profit of the house and lands, but she died a year later.  The other sons received 20 pounds when they reached 21; the daughters were given 10 shillings until they were married.  They would then receive their 20 pounds.  Heaven forbid young women be given money to manage on their own!  What if the daughter didn’t remarry, like his youngest Susanna who died never married at about age 74?  She was pretty much up a creek, so to speak.  Well, we ladies got some help in this area a couple + centuries later.  Ever hear of Susan B. Anthony?  It’s Susan Brownell Anthony, for your information - not a direct descendant but named after a paternal aunt.

George Brownell Lot, Portsmouth
Thomas and Anne are buried in the historical George Brownell Lot in Portsmouth located 104 feet west of West Shore Road at telephone pole #11.

George Brownell (1647-1718) inherited his father’s lands and house at a young age and so worked the Portsmouth farm his entire life, likely lived in the town house, and held various positions in Portsmouth town.  He married 21 year old Susannah Pearce (1652-1743) in 1673 and they had eight children, all born in Portsmouth.  Several of George’s siblings spread out to Freetown and Little Compton.  Brother, Thomas Jr., married Susannah’s sister, Mary Pearce, in 1678.

George and Susannah are also buried in the George Brownell Lot in Portsmouth.

Daughter, Sarah Brownell (1681-1715) married Joseph Borden (1680-1715) in Portsmouth in 1703, another link into our Borden family.  They had 4 children, spaced apart about every two to three years, and died relatively young at ages 35 and 34 respectively.  See Sarah Brownell in the Borden post.
Plaque at Oak Grove Cemetery, Fall River
Here are interred the remains of Stephen Borden, his wife, and fifteen of their immediate relatives removed from the family burying ground on Central Street, April 12, 1909.
Sarah and Joseph were the first Bordens buried in downtown Fall River where Central Street now runs between Durfee and Harbor Street.  All 23 graves from the Stephen Borden family burying ground were disinterred in 1909 and reburied in Oak Grove Cemetery, a beautiful Gothic arched cemetery which opened in 1855.  The automobile was coming into vogue in 1909, so I suspect a lot of other city cemeteries on the East Coast were being dug up to make way for street building.  


We have a 1909 newspaper photo of our great grandfather Joseph Nute riding in a “motor truck” purchased by the Fall River Gas Works Company.  According to the article, “it had coil springs in the rear - what we call “knee action” today - was chain driven and had solid rubber tires.”  The photo was taken at the “Narrows,” exactly the area where would have been the Borden cemetery.  Did Joseph Nute know his wife’s ancestors’ bones were dug up that year to make way for his motor truck?

Thomas Brownell is our 9th great grandfather, George our 8th, and Sarah our 7th great grandmother.

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