ELLIS BRETT, president of the Plymouth County Trust Company, of Brockton, and one of that city’s honored and respected citizens, is a worthy representative of historic New England ancestry, the Brett family having resided in this community since the first settlement of the mother town of Bridgewater, from which the town of North Bridgewater (now Brockton) was set off. Mr. Brett was born in the latter town Oct. 23, 1840, only son of Ephraim and Ruth (Copeland) Brett. The early history of the Brett family in America begins with William Brett of Duxbury and Bridgewater, Massachusetts.
William Brett Family of Duxbury and Bridgewater Massachusetts
William Brett, who came to Duxbury, Mass., in 1645, from Kent, England, and later became one of the fifty-four original proprietors and first settlers of the town of ancient Bridgewater, settling in the West parish of the town. He was an elder in the church, and often when the Rev. James Keith, the first ordained pastor of the church there, was ill, Mr. Brett preached to the people. He was a leading man in both church and town affairs, and was deputy to the General Court from the date of the in-corporation of ancient Bridgewater in 1656 to 1661. That he was well educated and intelligent is manifest from a letter to Governor Winslow, still extant, and he was much esteemed by his brethren and often employed in their secular affairs. He died Dec. 17, 1681, aged sixty-three years. To him and his wife Margaret were born children as follows:
- William Brett (married Elizabeth Cary)
- Elihu Brett
- Nathaniel Brett (of whom more presently)
- Lydia Brett
- Alice Brett (married Joseph Hayward)
- Hannah Brett (married Francis Cary)
Nathaniel Brett of Bridgewater Massachusetts
Nathaniel Brett, son of William, married in 1683 Sarah Hayward, daughter of John and Sarah (Mitchell) Hayward, and granddaughter of Thomas Hayward, who came to Duxbury, Mass., from England, and later became one of the first settlers and original proprietors of Bridgewater. Mr. Brett was a highly respectable man; was deacon of the church, and was town clerk for several years. He died Nov. 19, 1740, and his wife July 11, 1737. Their children were:
- Alice Brett, born Jan. 29, 1686
- Seth Brett, born Feb. 24, 1688, of whom more presently
- Mehetabel Brett, born Aug. 12, 1692, who married in 1721 Samuel Edson
- Sarah Brett, born Jan. 28, 1695
- Hannah Brett, born Oct. 18, 1699, who married Joseph Gannett
- William Brett, born April 26, 1702, who married Bethia Kingsley
- Nathaniel Brett, born Nov. 3, 1704, who married Rebecca.
Seth Brett of Bridgewater Massachusetts
Seth Brett, son of Nathaniel, was born Feb. 24, 1688, and died of smallpox Jan. 11, 1722, in the thirty-fourth year of his age. In 1712 he married Sarah Alden, daughter of Isaac and Mehitable (Allen) Alden, granddaughter of Joseph and Mary (Simmons) Alden, and great-granddaughter of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, of the “Mayflower” company, 1620. Their children were:
- Samuel, born Aug. 22, 1714, who married Hannah Packard
- Silas, born Feb. 28, 1716, who became a clergyman and settled in the town of Berkley, Mass.
- Sarah, born March 3, 1718, who married in 1735 Capt. Matthew Allen
- Simeon, who married Mehitable Packard
- Seth, Jr., born April 13, 1722, who married in 1744 Patience Curtis.
Samuel Brett of Bridgewater Massachusetts
Samuel Brett, son of Seth, was born Aug. 22, 1714, and in 1737 he married Hannah Packard, daughter of David and Hannah (Ames) Packard, and a direct descendant in the fourth generation of Samuel Packard, who with his wife and child came from Windham, England, in the ship “Diligence” of Ipswich, and settled first at Hingham, Mass., later becoming one of the first settlers of the ancient town of Bridgewater. David Packard, her father, and five of his brothers became early-settlers of the North parish of Bridgewater. Samuel Brett died in 1807. His children were:
- Isaac, born Sept. 19, 1738, is mentioned below
- Hannah, born Sept. 29, 1740, married Mark Ford
- Samuel, born Jan. 29, 1749, married Molly Packard
- Sarah, born April 19, 1750, married Benjamin Ford
- Mehitable, born March 8, 1752, married Jonas Packard
- Molly, born Jan. 8, 1755, died unmarried
- William, born April 7, 1758, married Molly Allen. See further lineage below.
- Eunice, born Sept. 4, 1760, died unmarried
Isaac Brett of Bridgewater Massachusetts
Isaac Brett, son of Samuel, born Sept. 19, 1738, married Jan. 17, 1765, Priscilla Jackson, and their children were:
- Isaac, Jr., born in 1768
- Joseph, born in 1770
- Ephraim, born in 1772, who died young; Eliphalet
- Zibeon, who married Lavina Snell and (second) Nancy S. Warren
- Polly, who married Ichabod Reynolds
Joseph Brett of Bridgewater Massachusetts
Joseph Brett, son of Isaac, was born in 1770, and on Dec. 21, 1797, he married Olive Beal, daughter of Jeremiah and Dependence (French) Beal, of North Bridgewater. Jeremiah Beal was the son of Isaac Beal, of Weymouth, Mass., and came to the North Parish of Bridgewater in about 1760, whence he enlisted for service in the Revolutionary war. Joseph Brett was a farmer and mason, and starting in life a poor boy, by prudence and thrift accumulated considerable property. He was a very devout Christian and an enthusiastic member and earnest worker in the Methodist Episcopal Church. He took an active interest in the affairs of the town, particularly in educational matters, he being instrumental in having the first schoolhouse built in his district, it being erected on a part of his land. He resided on Prospect street, where he erected his home, and where he lived until his death, which occurred Nov. 22, 1845. He was gored to death by an ox. Mrs. Brett died Nov. 23, 1860, in the eighty-third year of her age. Their children were:
- Ephraim, born Sept. 19, 1798, is mentioned below
- Polly, born Oct. 30, 1800, married March 26, 1826, Nahum Battles
- Charles, born Jan. 17, 1803, married Jan. 4, 1833, Mary Hawley
- Jeremiah, born Feb. 1, 1805, married July 4, 1830, Elvira A. Hubbard
- Sarah, born June 20, 1807, died unmarried April 22, 1864
- Joel, born Dec. 4, 1809, married Agnes McIntire, of Boston
- David, born April 2, 1816, who served in the Civil war as private in the 9th Massachusetts Light Battery, married Caroline Freeman, of Boston.
Ephraim Brett of North Bridgewater Massachusetts
Ephraim Brett, son of Joseph, born Sept. 19, 1798, in North Bridgewater, married (first) June 16, 1825, Eunice Packard, daughter of Cyrus and Keziah (Kingman) Packard, and to this union was born one daughter, Hannah, who died young. Mr. Brett married (second) Sept. 25, 1837, Ruth Copeland, daughter of Ebenezer and Hannah (Godfrey) Copeland, of West Bridgewater, and this union was blessed with two children:
- Ellis, born Oct. 23, 1840, is mentioned below
- Ruth Augusta, born Sept. 13, 1846, resides in Brockton, unmarried
In early life Ephraim Brett took up the trade of mason with his father, and followed that vocation until shortly after the latter’s death, when he retired from that occupation, devoting the remainder of his life to farming. Mr. Brett was an industrious and energetic man, and a respected citizen of the community where he was born and where his long and active life was spent. In early life he was an old-line Whig, later becoming a supporter of the principles of the Republican party. For many years he was a consistent and active member of the Pearl Street Methodist Episcopal Church, continuing as such until about 1846, in which year he became a believer in the doctrines of the Church of the New Jerusalem, and became a constant attendant of that church. Mr. Brett died Oct. 25, 1874, and his wife survived until she had attained the age of ninety-six years, six months, six days, dying Feb. 2, 1905.
Ellis Brett, son of Ephraim and Ruth (Copeland) Brett, was born in North Bridgewater, Oct. 23, 1840, in the old homestead still standing on Prospect street. He attended the district school of his section, and later the academy of Prof. S. D. Hunt, attending during such portions of the year as he could be spared from the duties on the farm. After leaving school Mr. Brett was occupied with agricultural pursuits, and has so continued. For a number of years he carried it on on an extensive scale, but with the growth of the city and the increased demand for real estate he has disposed of considerable of his land for building purposes.
The official life of Mr. Brett has been strictly honorable and he has had a conscientious interest in the welfare of the town and city of his birth. When the city government was first inaugurated and the officers chosen, in 1882, Mr. Brett was selected as assistant assessor of Ward Seven, and was reelected each year, being the choice of both political parties, until 1885, when he was elected a member of the board of assessors to fill the unexpired term of the late Noah Chessman, which position he held until 1898, having been chairman of the board several years. He was reelected to that position annually until Jan. 7, 1895, when he was reelected for a three years’ term. In January, 1886, Mr. Brett was chosen overseer of the poor, which office he held continuously until Jan. 18, 1894, when he resigned. In 1884 he was chosen tax collector for the city, this being an unsolicited selection, in which capacity he served one year.
Mr. Brett has always lived a very quiet life, and has never been an office seeker. In politics he is a stanch Republican, and was a member of the Republican city committee for several years, and chairman of same for several years, ending with 1892; member of the Plymouth county campaign committee for one year, and its treasurer for two years. For a number of years he took an active interest in the affairs of the Brockton Agricultural Society, serving as judge and clerk for the expert judges on the cattle exhibit at the Brockton fair. Mr. Brett is a member of the Church of the New Jerusalem, and was auditor and chairman of the standing committee for several years. He was a member of the Massachusetts Association of Assessors for a number of years, and was one of the executive committee for years. Fraternally he belongs to Electric Lodge, No. 204, I. O. O. P., of which he was a charter member. He has the confidence of the community in which he dwells to a marked degree, as shown by the trusts imposed upon him as administrator and executor of estates, and in the care of trust properties, alone and with others. He has been prominently identified with the financial institutions of the city, being a director and president of the Plymouth County Safe Deposit & Trust Company, which in 1909 became the Plymouth County Trust Company, and he is also a trustee of the People’s Savings Bank of Brockton.
Mr. Brett is well known as a straightforward, upright, honest man, commanding the respect of his neighbors and fellow citizens. Frank, open-hearted, and social in his habits, he is domestic in his daily life, and of a benevolent, sympathetic and obliging disposition.
Mr. Brett was married, Nov. 10, 1892, to Elizabeth Florence Howes, daughter of Richard Howes and Lucy Hartwell (Alden), the latter a direct descendant of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, of the “Mayflower,” 1620. They had one son, Soger Ellis, born Nov. 17, 1893, who died Dec. 21, 1895.
William Brett of Bridgewater Massachusetts
William Brett (2), son of Samuel, born April 7, 1758, married (first) in 1782 Molly Allen, daughter of Ezra Allen. She died and he married (second) Aug. 27, 1801, Betty Phillips. His children were:
- Susanna Brett, born May 1, 1784, died unmarried
- Zenas Brett, born July 31, 1785, married (first) June 17, 1813, Sibbil French and (second) Nov. 28, 1836, Almira Packard
- William Brett, born Jan. 7, 1787, married Harriet Pray, of Boston
- Cyrus Brett, born Oct. 18, 1789, married Mary Ann Winchester
- Sally Brett, born April 19, 1792, died unmarried
- Polly Brett was born Aug. 30, 1794
- Phebe Brett married June 7, 1818, Jabez Kingman (all born to the first marriage)
- Asa Brett, born in 1801, married Jan. 2, 1823, Izaniah W. Curtis, of Stoughton
- Mary Brett, born Sept. 24, 1803, married Sept. 7, 1833, Moses Mellen
- Betsey Brett, born in September, 1805, married April 20, 1825, Daniel O. Wade
- Almira Brett, born in February, 1807, married Sept. 20, 1829, Lucien B. Keith
Zenas Brett of North Bridgewater Massachusetts
Zenas Brett, son of William, born July 31, 1785, died Oct. 6, 1868. He was a farmer and had a general store which his son William F. Brett continued to conduct, He was one of the prominent citizens of North Bridgewater in his day. He married (first) June 27, 1813, Sibbil, daughter of Capt. William French, of Stoughton, Mass. She died Sept. 22, 1834, and he married (second) Nov. 28, 1836, Almira, daughter of John and Martha (French) Packard, and a direct descendant in the seventh generation of Samuel Packard, the progenitor of the Packard family in this country. Mr. Brett’s children were:
- William French Brett, born July 13, 1816, married Jan. 21, 1836, Rebecca Packard
- Mary Allen Brett, born Aug. 13, 1818, died when young
- Zenas Franklin Brett, born Oct. 20, 1822, married in 1844 Julia F. Tilden
- Sibbil Alma Brett, born Oct. 23, 1824, never married
- Henry Allen Brett, born April 4, 1830, a clothing merchant in Brockton, married Nov. 9, 1851, Hannah Foster Gibbs (all born to the first marriage)
- Mary Ellen Brett, born June 18, 1838, married Timothy Smith
- Charles Edward Brett, born July 29, 1839, married Avis W. Underwood, of Harwich. Mass., where he died
- Cordelia Almira Brett, born May 25, 1841, married Joshua F. Tobey
- Sarah Adelaide Brett, born Nov. 22, 1843, married Charles H. Curtis
- George Elmer Brett, born May 24, 1849, died in infancy
William French Brett of North Bridgewater Massachusetts
William French Brett, son of Zenas and Sibbil (French) Brett, was born July 13, 1816, in the North Parish of ancient Bridgewater, that part which later became the town of North Bridgewater, and still later the town of Brockton. His inclinations led him early to start upon a mercantile career and the age of seventeen years found him with a stock of goods in a small storeroom on North Main street not far away from the old homestead. Seemingly the whole trend of his mind was in the direction of the pursuit he had entered upon, and, giving it the absorbing thought of his active mind, close attention, with the force of his makeup as the years came and went he rapidly forged his way to the front and occupied a place of high rank among New England business men. Continuing in the old North Main street store until the business had outgrown the accommodations he removed it in 1835 to the green near the church, on the west side of Main street, to what was at that time known as the Ephraim Howard store. In 1836 he became associated in business with Mr. Albert Smith, the partnership, however, being of short duration. Ten years later, in 1846, was formed the firm of Brett & Kingman, Mr. Brett having associated with him as a partner in business Mr. Rufus P. Kingman; and for many years this firm was one of distinction in Plymouth County, being a leading one in that section. The firm was dissolved in 1854 and a new one organized, that of Messrs. Brett, Ellis, Ripley & O’Neall. In this same year and at the time of the formation of the firm just named Mr. Brett commenced wholesale business in the city of Boston and was soon interested as whole or part owner in more than thirty country stores throughout New England, among them one in Kingston, one at Duxbury, one each at Foxboro, Wareham, Palmer, Quincy, East Randolph, Halifax, Abington, Bridgewater, Plymouth and Stoughton, in Massachusetts; and one at Lewiston, Maine.
During the Civil war, in 1864, Mr. Brett disposed of his interests in Massachusetts and removed to the city of Washington, D. C., continuing in business there until the year 1872; and from that time until his death, in 1882, he was in business in Boston and a number of Western cities, among them Chicago.
The ideas and business methods of Mr. Brett were without doubt largely in advance of the age in which he lived, and it seemed his privilege to direct as young men some of the afterward distinguished men and merchants of Massachusetts and elsewhere, among these being Hon. H. H. Packard, R. P. Kingman, C. C. Bixby, H. A. Brett and W. W. Cross, all of Brockton; Hon. Nathaniel Wales, of Stoughton; Thomas H. Wood, of New York; George B. Tolmon, of Lynn; H. K. Keith, of Kingston; Henry C. Jackson, of Boston; and Ira Conant, of Bridgewater.
Mr. Brett was a man of peculiar temperament – was shrewd, manly and without pretense, yet dignified and generous. His heart was as tender as that of a woman; no one in business or distress ever appealed to him for advice or assistance in vain. Unceasing attention to business marked every week day of his mercantile career. The use of praise was almost unknown to him; and the absence of criticism or silence was considered the highest commendation by his subordinates.
A beautiful residence and home stands in his native town as a monument to his taste and enterprise.
“His gentle nature and inflexible honesty prevented that large accumulation of property that oftentimes in these days curses the recipient. His mission in life was a noble one, and a grand success, as all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance well know. He believed that integrity was the prime element of success. The influence of his example will last with his friends until the last one is called home, while the future residents of this city (Brockton) will pleasantly note in our cemetery the monument erected by his grateful and admiring townsmen.”
On Jan. 21, 1836, Mr. Brett married Rebecca, daughter of Caleb Packard, and the union was blessed with children:
- William Henry Brett, born Nov. 16, 1838, married Nov. 30, 1858, Elizabeth Copeland
- Rufus Emery Brett, born July 31, 1840, married June 15, 1864, Mary Jane Studley
- Frederic Lyman Brett, born July 21, 1848, married June 15, 1864, Mary Eldora Ward
- Alice Maria Brett was born May 1, 1848
- Clara Amelia Brett, born Dec. 12, 1852, is of Brockton
Zenas Franklin Brett of Brockton Massachusetts
Zenas Franklin Brett, son of Zenas, born Oct. 20, 1822, married in 1844 Julia Frances, daughter of John Tilden, and their children were:
- Julia Franklin Brett, born March 11, 1845, married Edwin Barney, now deceased, and she is living in. Gilmanton, N. H.
- Henry Brett, born April 25, 1848, is now deceased
- Caroline Alma Brett, born Oct. 4, 1850, married a Mr. Lincoln
- George Linden Brett, born Feb. 8, 1853, lives in Boston
- Edward Brett, born April 3, 1855, died young
- Mary Annie Brett, born Oct. 1, 1856, married Frank Wilcox
- Marion Brett, born Dec. 6, 1861, is living in Brookline
- Franklin Brett, born Aug. 1, 1865, follows the trade of florist
Mr. Brett, the father, was a merchant in Boston, with residence in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Henry Allen Brett of Brockton Massachusetts
Henry Allen Brett, son of Zenas, born April 4th 1830, married Nov. 9, 1851, Hannah Foster, daughter of Thomas F. Gibbs, of Bridgewater, Mass. Mr. Brett was a clothing merchant of North Bridgewater, Mass. His children were:
- William Frank Brett, born Sept. 13, 1852, resides in Dorchester
- Isabel Alma Brett, born Dec. 30, 1854, married Fred Tolman, of Brockton
- Harry Mead Brett, born Jan. 20, 1862, died May 21, 1865