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By Danielle DeVantier, Old North Illuminated Intern

Sketch of Charles Henry Jewell, found in Mary Kent Davey Babcock's book "Christ Church, Salem Street, Boston: the Old North Church of Paul Revere fame: historic sketches, colonial period, 1723-1775." Depicts Charles using the chiming system of bells at Old North Church.For nearly a century, a member of the Jewell family rang the historic bells at Old North Church. John H. S. Jewell began ringing the bells in 1847 and created a family tradition by teaching his younger brother Frederick Morse Jewell how to ring. The tradition continued when Frederick’s son, Charles Henry Jewell, took over for his father in 1888. Charles rang Old North’s bells until he retired from bellringing in the summer of 1935, aside from a short period from 1894 to 1895 when the Old Colony Guild of Bell Ringers took over the ropes.[1] The Old Colony Guild practiced change ringing at Old North, while the Jewells used a chiming system. Change ringing required a group, while a chiming system only required one person.[2]

Civil War Service

Frederick Jewell served in the Union Navy during the American Civil War. He was a landsman, a military rank given to new recruits, aboard three ships: the USS Marblehead, USS Ohio, and the USS Princeton.[3] Both the USS Ohio and Princeton were utilized as receiving ships during the Civil War period, becoming places to train incoming soldiers.[4] The USS Marblehead supported Union troops by patrolling and blockading the southeast Atlantic coast to prevent the movement of Confederate supplies and attempts to bust the Union blockade.[5] The Jewell family has remembered Frederick’s service by passing down a story that describes his time in the American South and his love of bellringing:

Around the time of General Lee’s surrender, Frederick marched with the army into a Southern town. Upon seeing a church with a set of bells, Frederick asked the minister if he could play them since he loved the music they created. He played two Stephen Collins Foster songs, “Old Kentucky Home, Goodnight” and “Old Black Joe.” The bells that Frederick rang in that Southern town were heard far and wide at the end of the war.[6]

Both of the songs that Frederick played were regarded as anti-slavery compositions by abolitionists, as they awoke sympathies for enslaved people and allowed anti-slavery ideas to grow.[7]

Family Connections

The Jewell family is also related to Mary Ann Brown Patten, a woman famous for her heroic exploits at sea. Frederick Morse Jewell married Isabella Elizabeth Brown, who was the younger sister of Mary Ann Brown Patten.[8] The Brown sisters were from Chelsea, MA, born to George Brown and Elizabeth Spavin. Mary Ann Brown Patten was the first woman to sail a clipper ship around South America and the first female commander of an American merchant vessel.[9] At nineteen years old and five months pregnant, Mary Ann captained the Neptune’s Car for 59 days after her husband Captain Joshua Patten had fallen ill. Today, Mary Ann Brown Patten is remembered by her Jewell relations and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy’s Patten Hospital in Kings Point, New York as the “Florence Nightingale of the Ocean” and “The Heroine of Cape Horn,” due to her time caring for her husband while courageously captaining the ship.[10]

Beyond Bell Ringing

Photo of Charles Henry Jewell teaching a boy how to ring the chime bells at Old North Church during the 1930s.

In addition to their roles at Old North Church as bell ringers, the three ringers from the Jewell family had “day jobs” as well. John H.S. Jewell was a courier.[11] Frederick Morse was a porter (someone who carries baggage for patrons at a hotel or transportation terminal).[12] Charles Henry was a bookkeeper.[13] Frederick and Charles also rang the bells at the Arlington Street Church.[14] The Jewell bell ringers had a great passion for playing the bells and their years of service have woven their family into the rich tapestry of Old North’s history.

Works Cited

[1] Mary Kent Davey Babcock, Christ Church, Salem Street, Boston: the Old North Church of Paul Revere Fame: Historical Sketches, Colonial Period, 1723-1775, (Boston: Thomas Todd Company) 1947, p. 194-195.

[2] T.J. Todd, “99% Sure: The Bells of Old North,” Old North Church, Feb. 14, 2022, https://www.oldnorth.com/blog/bells-of-old-north/.

[3] “United States Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards, 1907-1933,” FamilySearch, Washington, D.C., National Archives and Records Administration, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939K-XC3Q-GV?i=273&cc=1832324&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AK6H3-VLJ.

[4] “Princeton II (ScStr),” Naval History and Heritage Command, August, 24, 2015, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/p/princeton-ii.html; “Ohio II,” Naval History and Heritage Command, August 17, 2015, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/o/ohio-ii.html.

[5] “Marblehead I (ScGbt),” Naval History and Heritage Command, August 5, 2015, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/m/marblehead-i.html.

[6] Eileen (Jewell) Surette, emails from a Jewell family descendant, August through October 2023.

[7] Fredrick Douglass, My Bondage And My Freedom, (South Bend: Infomotions, Inc)  2000, p. 225.

[8] “Massachusetts State Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch, State Archives, Boston, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-69B9-Y54?view=index&personArk=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AMDSC-K7K&action=view.

[9] “Women Pioneers of the Sea,” Mystic Seaport Museum, accessed November 18, 2023, https://mysticseaport.org/explore/planetarium/women-pioneers-of-the-sea/; “Mary Ann Brown Patten” National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian, accessed November 21, 2023, https://npg.si.edu/object/npg_S_NPG.2006.55.

[10] Lauren T. Furey, “Patten Down the Hatches!” The Mariners’ Museum and Park, April 21, 2020, https://www.marinersmuseum.org/2020/04/patten-down-the-hatches/, Everett Hollister Northrop, “Florence Nightingale of the Ocean: Patten Hospital at Kings Point is Named in Honor of Mary A. Patten, this is the Reason,” United States: U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, 1959.

[11] “United States Census, 1850,” FamilySearch, Washington, D.C., National Archives and Records Administration, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-69B9-T9R?i=112&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AMDSC-CKH.

[12] “Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915, 1921-1924,” FamilySearch, State Archives Boston, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6QTS-PQZ?i=1035&cc=1463156.

[13] “Massachusetts Marriages, 1841-1915,” FamilySearch, State Archives Boston, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-XXD8-PF?i=89&cc=1469062.

[14] Babcock, Christ Church, Salem Street, Boston: the Old North Church of Paul Revere Fame: Historical Sketches, Colonial Period, 1723-1775, p. 194-195.