Three Aged, Eccentric Brothers Have a Reunion

Introduction: In this article, Melissa Davenport Berry writes about the 1906 reunion of the three Brackett brothers, whose combined age was 248. Melissa is a genealogist who has a website, americana-archives.com, and a Facebook group, New England Family Genealogy and History.

In 1906 three aged Yankee brothers made it into the newspaper with the catchy headline “Trio Whose Combined Ages Is 248 Yeas Hold Reunion.” These three fellows were prolific artists, dedicated patriots, staunch abolitionists, and wildly eccentric.

An article about the Brackett brothers, Boston Journal newspaper 1 February 1906
Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 1 February 1906, page 3

Photo caption:

Three Aged Brothers in Reunion.

Standing – Walter Brackett, artist. Below – Col. G. B. Brackett, connected with pomological [study and cultivation of fruit] work in Washington; E. A. Brackett of the Fish and Game Commission.

This article reports:

Hearty and hale and as lively as men many times less their age, three old citizens of this town [Winchester, Massachusetts], whose combined ages is 248 years, held an informal reunion last week.

They were E. A. Brackett, Walter Brackett, and Col G. B. Brackett, brothers, who have made for themselves an enviable record on the world’s ledger.

And so pleased were they that at once they went to the nearest photographer, where a group picture was taken. In order of their names, their ages are 87, 82, and 79, a total of 248 years.

Edward A. [Augustus] Brackett, the first named, was born in Vassalboro, Me., Oct. 1, 1818, a son of Reuben and Elizabeth (Starkey) Brackett. His early life was devoted to sculpturing and at that he achieved quite a reputation. During the Civil War he was appointed by Gov. Andrew as first lieutenant and battalion quartermaster of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry. Dec. 6, 1904, he was appointed by Gov. Bates as a member of the board of fish and game commissioners, and is now serving in that capacity in spite of his advanced years. [Read more: “How Winchester’s Edward Brackett Created an Icon for the Abolitionist Movement.”]

Photo: earliest known photo of Edward Brackett, from a daguerreotype. Credit: Winchester Archival Center.
Photo: earliest known photo of Edward Brackett, from a daguerreotype. Credit: Winchester Archival Center.

Walter [Moses Brackett], the next oldest brother, has also achieved considerable fame as a painter of salmon, [and] is probably one of the best known of Boston artists. “As a painter of fish he has never been equaled,” is the statement attributed to a big London art man.

Photo: Walter Brackett working in his studio in Boston, Massachusetts. Credit: Maine Memory Network via Maine Historical Society.
Photo: Walter Brackett working in his studio in Boston, Massachusetts. Credit: Maine Memory Network via Maine Historical Society.

Col. G. [Gustavus] B. [Benson] Brackett, the [youngest] of the trio, is connected with the pomological department of the United States at Washington, and is known throughout the country. His war record is also a brilliant one. [Col. Brackett was appointed first lieutenant in Company I, Engineer Regiment of the West, and promoted to captain July 5, 1862. He was chief of engineers under General Grant and was topographical engineer with General Sherman in his famous march to the sea. After the war he was for a time a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Militia.]

Photo: Gustavus Brackett. Credit: Iowa University Archives.
Photo: Gustavus Brackett. Credit: Iowa University Archives.

More Genealogy:

  • Edward Augustus Brackett (1818-1908) married Amanda Folger, daughter of Zacheus and Betsey (Ross) Folger. The couple left descendants. Not only was Edward popular for his work as a sculptor, he was also a noted author and Spiritualist. Sources say he held seances at his home. That story is in the works, so stay tuned.
  • Walter Moses Brackett (1823-1919) married Maria Louisa Loring, daughter of Caleb Gould and Harriet (Tuttle) Loring. The couple left descendants.
  • Gustavus Benson Brackett (1827-1915) married Anna Houston (1828-1886), daughter of Ira and Elizabeth Rand (Epps) Houston. The couple left descendants.

I found a photograph of Walter in Photo-Era Magazine noting his love for nature and his plans to venture in the Canadian wilderness as he does every year. He was 92 at the time.

Photo: Walter Brackett. Credit: Photo-Era Magazine.
Photo: Walter Brackett. Credit: Photo-Era Magazine.

A photo album of the Brackett family has been preserved, and you can view it online at the Winchester Archival Center.

Here are photos of the parents of the Brackett brothers taken by photographer J. W. Black of Boston. Clock and watchmaker Reuben Brackett (1791-1867), son of Reuben Sr. and Jane Harrison (McArthur) Brackett; and wife Elizabeth (Starkey) Brackett (1799-1877), daughter of Moses and Eunice (Tabor) Starkey.

Photo: Reuben and Elizabeth Brackett. Credit Winchester Archival Center.
Photo: Reuben and Elizabeth Brackett. Credit Winchester Archival Center.

Other Children Born to Reuben and Elizabeth (Starkey) Brackett:

  • Jane Elizabeth Brackett (1821-1893) marred Alexander Hamilton Field, son of William and Mary (McAlister) Field. The couple left descendants.
  • George Coleman Brackett (1830-1903) married Harriet Gabriel, daughter of Alanson and Permelia (Plummer) Gabriel. The couple left descendants.

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Note on the header image: the Brackett brothers. Credit: Boston Journal, 1 February 1906.

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