Notable People of Wrentham
As part of Wrentham’s 350th anniversary celebration, the committee planning this year’s events has asked residents to submit memories of significant people and places in the town’s history. Following is a submission the anniversary committee shared with Local Town Pages.
Daniel Brown’s Clock – Fiske Public Library
Questions have been asked as to the history of the beautiful grandfather clock located in Wrentham’s Fiske Public Library on Randall Road. The clock has the manufacturer’s name on the bottom of the face of the clock, which is BIGELOW KENNARD & CO., BOSTON, who built and sold majestic grandfather clocks from 1863 until 1972.
Clocks of this kind were quite expensive and the craftsmanship in their creation was incredible. The mechanics of the clock, the mahogany wood and the fine finish on it, as well as the charming ring of the chimes, makes it a showpiece every home would love to have. The grandfather clock in the Fiske Library has a plaque on it stating that it was a “gift of Daniel Brown.”
In my quest to identify Daniel Brown and why he may have gifted said clock has produced the following results that reasonably identify the Daniel Brown, whom I believe was the giver of such a wonderful clock.
Daniel Brown was born in Ireland in 1841, immigrated to America in about the 1860s with his parents, Alexander (1812-1889) and Margaret (Lawson) Brown (1813-1896) and began his career in the straw business. Daniel married Hester A. Getchell, from Topsfield, Maine on July 22, 1868 and they had two children, Charles E. Brown, born on March 18, 1871 and a daughter, Grace Getchell Brown, born on January 15, 1884. Daniel died in Wrentham on August 16, 1904 and Hester died, also in Wrentham on April 21, 1933.
In the early 1850s, two George brothers, William and Lyman, began a straw business in the Town of Wrentham. The business failed in the panic of 1857, but William reestablished it and was successful for a number of years, when it was finally taken over by Daniel Brown and Hiram Cowell, who was William George’s nephew. Both Brown and Cowell were very successful, with a huge shop and a large boarding house for the workers.
Mr. Brown had a sumptuous home on Common Street (the Hope Hall House) which he bought from the family of A. H. Brahman, whose death was in 1886. Daniel resided there, and his descendants until 1991. The home later became known as the Proctor Mansion.
Mr. Brown bought the home, which included property running clear through to Taunton Street. Behind his home, Mr. Brown had, as a hobby, several greenhouses where he grew huge Concord grapes. Mr. Brown also had a close relationship to Patrick Winter of Mansfield, also a grape hobbyist and a supplier of produce to Boston hotels, which included table grapes as their specialty. Mr. Brown hired Patrick to prune his grapes.
Mr. Brown also owned rental property on Taunton Street and for a small rental fee, he made it possible for the whole Winter family to move to Wrentham in 1901.
Besides the straw business, Mr. Brown also had an interest in a jewelry shop in town. Making jewelry was a thriving business in the Plainville/Wrentham area, but the shop in Wrentham center was not doing well and closed. Mr. Brown took over the building as part of his shares and he was trying to find something to bring business back into town.
Murray and his brother Allen Winter, who lived in Mr. Brown’s rental home on Taunton Street, met Mr. Brown and Mr. Brown asked them why didn’t they start a business in Wrentham and offered them free rent for a year to get started. They were, at that time, making taps and dies at Brown and Sharp in Rhode Island. Soon thereafter, they took on Mr. Brown’s offer and started the very successful Winter Brothers Tap and Die shop on Kendrick Street.
Mr. Daniel Brown lived on Common Street until his death on November 13, 1904 at the age of 63. There is no record that I could find as to when the grandfather clock was gifted to the Fiske Library, or even a note as to whether it was given by Mr. Brown before his death or by his widow, Hester A. (Getchell) Brown. It is from the above history of the man, Mr. Brown and his benevolent personality, that I believe that he or his widow to be the person who gave the clock to the library.
During his life in Wrentham, town records show Daniel as having served in the juror’s box in the Probate Court in 1888 and 1889, but no record has been found that he was elected to any town office.
Charles Edwin Brown (1871-1910), Daniel’s son, married Grace E. Armsby of Wrentham on June 15, 1893 and built a home on the lot next to the straw factory on Common Street, which was destroyed in a fire in later years. Charles and Grace had three children; Anna (1896-?), Daniel (1899-?) and Charles Jr. (1906-1936). Charles E. died on August 16, 1910 from appendicitis.
Grace Getchell Brown, (1884-1943) Daniel’s daughter married Ernest Hall (1881-1938) on June 18, 1913 and they had two daughters, Hope Hester (1917-1991) and Marion Janet (1924-1974).
In Daniel’s will, he left his estate to his wife, Hester and all of his business interests to his son Charles. It states in his will that “having made suitable provisions in my life for my daughter Grace E. Brown, I purposely give her nothing in this will.”
Ernest Hall, Daniel’s son-in-law, was the first librarian for the newly established Fiske Library located on East Street, across from the common. It is believed that the provisions mentioned in Daniel’s will included giving the clock to the Fiske Library and that upon his wife Hester’s death, the home on Common Street would be left to Grace and Ernest as they lived there after Hester’s death. The Hall family lived there until both their daughters, both spinsters, died. In 1991, the last of the Hall family, Hope, died and the home was sold. Upon her death, the home was named Hope Hall Mansion. The family who purchased the home after Hope, named it the Proctor Mansion after its original builder/owner.
Submitted by William H. Jones