Ella Williams Brownell was born in Newport around 1849. Her father was William Brownell, was at one time the president of the Newport National Bank. Her mother Sally Taggert Williams was also a native Newporter. Ella was the youngest of three children. According to her obituary, Ella was totally blind from an early age as a result of Scarlet Fever. She was sent to the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston. The Perkins Institute included a strong musical education for all of the students, as seen in this advertisement in a Boston paper.
Ella first appears in the 1850 US Census when she was 11 months old.
She was active as an accompanist in Newport. John Vars was a Newport music teacher who was also blind and was a former student at the Perkins Institute for the Blind.
Ella became a music teacher in Newport, living with her family on Thames Street in 1875.
By 1920, she was living on Whitfield Place with her two nieces and had no occupation listed.
Ella Brownell died in 1932. You can read her full obituary below.
As with all of our biographies, when we come across more information about the life of our Newport musicians we will update the record. If you have any information about Ella Brownell that you would like to share, you can contact us here.
P.O. Box 539
Newport, RI 02840