Miss Clara Brownell – Spanning Two Centuries

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Clara Bronwell as a ChildBy the 1880's the Universalist Society in Wakefield was a busy church with an active Sunday school. In 1963, for the 150th anniversary of the church, Miss Clara Brownell reminisced about her childhood in the church in the late 1800's.  Between 1876 and 1908 seven ministers served the church. Then as now, it was volunteers from the congregation who kept the church going steadily. 

Miss Brownell was born in Wakefield on October 14, 1876 to Alstead W. and Helen Sawyer Brownell. By 1882 Mr. Brownell was the clerk of the church, so it may have seemed inevitable that Clara would attend the Sunday school. She didn’t remember it that way.

She wrote, “My first contact with the Sunday School was attendance at the Christmas tree exercises with an older girl who lived nearby. I was thrilled when Santa called my name and presented me with a pair of mittens; after that I went to Sunday school regularly. It was the custom to have Sunday school concerts four times a year: Harvest, Christmas, Easter and Children’s Day. The platform was elaborately decorated each time. It was my proud boast that I had been invited to “speak a line” at every concert that season.”

Miss Brownell fondly remembered many of the teachers and Sunday School Superintendents she had known.  Nathaniel D. Cutler who owned Cutler Brothers store, and Arthur Ware, a foreman at the rattan factory, were Superintendents in her youth. Miss Brownell described Mr. Cutler, “He had a good bass voice and loved to sing, so we had leaflets of music appropriate to the season which we learned for the various concerts.”   

Clara Bronwell as an Adult

Teachers she remembered so many years later included Mrs. N.E. Cutler, Miss Margaret Chandler, Miss Clara Bancroft, Mr. Everett Hart and Mrs. Laura Parker. Of Mrs. Parker she wrote, “We girls were at the age when we preferred whispering and giggling to lessons, and we must have tried her patience greatly. But she never was cross: she just reached over and touched her hand to ours, and we subsided.”

Miss Brownell had special praise for Miss F. Addie Mansfield, a mainstay of the church for many years.  She was the “teacher of innumerable classes, some of which she took because they were considered problem classes and no one else would take them.  With her usual tact and ability as a teacher she accepted them. It didn’t even faze her when one of the boys took a small, lively, green snake from his pocket! That boy is now a Deacon in the Wakefield Baptist Church.”

Like Mr. Cutler, Miss Mansfield, her father and many others she wrote about, Miss Brownell became a loyal volunteer, both for the church and for the Town of Wakefield. At church, she served as church treasurer for 18 years, served on a 1939 building committee and was active in both her ladies circle and the Parker class. In the community she worked for the Wakefield Cooperative Bank.  She served as President of both the Wakefield Historic Society and the EE Boit home, and participated in many other civic activities.  

Event Date: 
Sunday, September 23, 2012 - 12:15am