Looking Back: The final chapter of the Brackett story

Etta (Jones) Brackett Carpenter (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

In Seattle, on June 20, 1877, Etta Jones was 18 years old, still a teenager, when she married George Brackett, a 36-year-old man, twice her age. It must have been an overwhelming experience for her when the following year, along with baby George, she and her husband moved to a new home on their land at the Ten-Mile Beach Settlement (Edmonds).

During the development of Edmonds, Etta (Jones) Brackett stood beside her husband, and as other families began arriving at the small Puget Sound settlement, she appeared to become a leader in introducing culture and a woman touch to a rugged logging village.

Personally, I have often been curious about the background of Etta (Jones) Brackett. Thus, I decided to see what could be found about her life, mainly before she met and married George Brackett.

Among the few records Etta Brackett left behind were her remembrances of some of the early days of Edmonds. Two informative recollections were found in a special magazine edition of the Edmonds Review dated Sept. 15, 1905 and quoted in the book Edmonds, The Gem of Puget Sound, a History of the City of Edmonds (1953) by Ray Cloud, longtime editor of the Edmonds Tribune-Review.

“The Fourth of July was the grand reunion day for the white people who were scattered up and down the Sound,” she wrote. “We had the largest house in the country at that time, and after a dinner in the woods, the crowd would usually gather at our place for a dance in the evening. Prayer meetings were held frequently at different homes and those also made occasion for general reunions.”

“Of course, there was no such luxury as a wharf in those days, and when we wanted to go to Seattle we were obliged to go out to the passing steamers in small boats. This was all right when the weather was fine, but when the wind was up, it was not a particularly desirable task to board the steamers, particularly for a lady.”

The formative years in the life of Etta Jones, the future Mrs. George Brackett

Etta E. Jones was born in March of 1859 in the newly established state of Minnesota.  She began life in what at that time was one of the frontier states in our country.

Etta’s father, Edwin E. Jones, was born in 1832 in New York. Her mother Melvina Kennedy was born in January of 1842 in Clayton County, Iowa, the daughter of Ambrose Kennedy and Mary McDowell.

In 1850, the Kennedy family lived on their farm in Garnavillo, Clayton County, Iowa. The family later moved to Minnesota, where in 1859, Ambrose Kennedy received a land patent for a 40-acre homestead at Traverse des Sioux in Nicollet County—near St. Peter.

While living with her parents on the farm, 16-year-old Melvina Kennedy met Edwin E. Jones, and they were married on January 17, 1858 in the neighboring county of LeSueur, Minn. In the year 1860, they made their home in Altoona, Nebraska Territory, where 27-year-old Edwin Jones worked as a miner. At this time, daughter Etta Jones was 1 year old.

In 1861, the United States involvement in the Civil War would bring about change for the Jones family.

A war and tragedy for the Jones family

The catalyst that brought about the change for the Jones family occurred in the summer of 1862. In St. Paul, Minn., on Aug. 15, 1862, Edwin Jones enlisted for the Union in the Sixth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment and was then attached to Company G as a private. The Civil War had begun the year before, and the volunteers thought they would soon be heading south to fight against the Confederacy. Instead they were assigned to local duty and stationed at Fort Snelling in Minnesota.

With her husband serving in the army, Melvina Jones and little Etta found it necessary to move back to Nicolette County in Minnesota to live with the Kennedys on their farm at Traverse des Sioux.

It wasn’t until June of 1864, that the men of the Sixth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment were finally ordered south to join the war against the Confederacy. Stationed first at Helena, Ark., the regiment was assigned mainly to guard duty, and were seldom on the battlefield. Instead, they were encamped where they were surrounded by malaria-infested swamps. Disease, rather than battle wounds, soon took its toll. The regiment lost more men to disease than they did in battle. One of those to suffer was Etta Jones’ father, Private Edwin E. Jones. Records show that due to disability, Pvt. Jones was discharged on Oct. 6, 1864 at Memphis, Tenn.

Back home, while still in his early 30s, Edwin E. Jones died in March of 1865. He left behind a young and pregnant widow, and Etta, their 6-year-old daughter. A son, Edwin A. Jones, was born after his father’s death.

A new beginning for Etta Jones and her mother

Left a widow with children to care for, Melvina Jones on April 4, 1865 applied for and began receiving a widow’s pension based on the war-time service of her deceased husband. With only the small widow’s pension for support, Melvina Jones and her two children, Etta and Edwin Jr., lived with Etta’s maternal Kennedy grandparents on their 40-acre farm in Traverse des Sioux, Minn. Traverse des Sioux was a French name meaning “crossing of the Sioux.”A post office was established there in 1853, and the name was shortened to Traverse in 1896.

By 1870, Etta Jones was 11 years old, and her mother Melvina had married again — this time to William McKenderie Wixon, also a veteran of the Civil War. Etta Jones’ stepfather was born in New York on July 11, 1841. He was single when he enlisted in the Union Army at Fort Snelling, Minn. on Sept. 25, 1861. He served in Co. C of the Fourth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment and took part in the Civil War in different campaigns in Mississippi and Chattanooga, Tennessee. His term of duty over, he was discharged in October of 1864.

The family first lived on a farm in Forest Prairie, Meeker County, Minn. They later moved to St. Paul, Minn. and two of Etta Jones’ half-sisters were born: Susan Melvina Wixon in 1871, and Almeda Eleanor Wixon, in 1874.

Etta Jones heads west to live in Washington and California 

In 1875, when Etta Jones was 16 years old, the Wixon/Jones family left Minnesota and headed west to settle at Apple Tree Cove (Kingston) in Kitsap County, Washington Territory, a short distance across Puget Sound from the settlement that would become Edmonds. From the earlier George Brackett story, we know that Etta Jones and George Brackett were married in Seattle in 1877, and divorced in 1905.

On Nov. 12,1907, at the court house in Seattle, Etta Brackett remarried. Her new husband was Edward D. Carpenter, an Edmonds neighbor. Mr. Carpenter was vice president of Edmonds Mill Co., shingle manufacturers located north of the Edmonds city dock, and he also owned real estate on north Third Street in Edmonds.

After their marriage, Etta and Edward Carpenter first lived in Edmonds on front street. They then moved to Everett, and he was employed at a saw mill in that town. Their final move was to California in the 1920s. The Carpenters owned a home where they lived in National City, San Diego County, Calif. In later years, Edward Carpenter worked as a watchman at the jail.

Etta (Jones) Brackett Carpenter died in San Diego County on March 12, 1934 at the age of 75. She was survived by her second husband, and four of her six children: George Sumner Brackett, Fannie (Brackett) Sill, Edith (Brackett) Cary and Nellie (Brackett) Sinclair-Knickerbocker-McDonald. Her youngest son, Ronald Crawford Brackett, had died in Alaska about 10 years earlier, and daughter Mary (Brackett) Carpenter died in 1933. Three half-sisters also survived her. On March 14, 1936, two years following his wife’s death, Edward Carpenter died in San Diego County, Calif.

Shown with this story, the rare photograph of a young and lovely Mrs. George Brackett has been provided courtesy of the Edmonds Historical Museum. It is very likely dated circa 1884. Below Etta Brackett’s photo, it shows that the photographer was Peiser located at Second Avenue near Marion, Seattle, W.T.  Thomas Peiser arrived in Seattle in 1884 and set up his studio in a small wood-framed building at that address. The sign in front of his building read: Thomas E. Peiser Art Studio. He was considered to be the first professional photographer in Seattle, and between 1884 and 1907 he became well known for his photographs of scenes of Seattle and surrounding areas, as well as people and events. Sadly, much of Thomas Peiser’s work and the negatives were lost in the Seattle fire of 1889. Thus, we are privileged to still have this beautiful portrait of Etta Brackett.  Many of Peiser’s photographs can be seen online, and the collection is archived in the University of Washington’s Special Collection.

Unlike George Brackett, who stayed in contact with his large family, nothing was found that indicated Etta Brackett Carpenter remained close to her mother or her Wixon relatives. Even so, I have included Wixon family information with this story.

Wixon family happenings

The 1880 federal census showed that Etta’s 16-year-old brother Edwin A. Jones was still living with his mother Melvina and stepfather William Wixon while helping on their farm in Kingston. However, this was the last record found for him.

In Kingston, in 1881, another daughter was born to Melvina and William Wixon — they named her Birda “Birdie” Wixon.

In the 1890s, Etta Brackett’s mother and stepfather were living in Eastern Washington (Cheney), and William Wixon’s health had deteriorated. By 1895, even though he was just 54 years old, he was paralyzed on his left side and also suffered with deafness (a common handicap for Civil War veterans). No longer capable of working to support himself and his wife, Mr. Wixon was admitted to the Washington Soldier’s Home and Colony in Orting, Pierce County, Wash., where at times his wife also resided with him.

For the next few years, Mr. Wixon was in and out of the Orting Soldier’s Home. He died there April 18, 1908, at the age of 66.  Civil War veteran William McKenderie Wixon is buried at the Washington Soldier’s Home Cemetery in Orting, where an upright government-issue gravestone marks his burial spot.

Etta Brackett’s mother, Melvina (Kennedy) Jones Wixon, spent her last days living with her daughter Susan (Wixon) Bruenn in Eastern Washington and Anacortes. Based on her husband’s Civil War service, Melvina Wixon, beginning on June 1, 1908, received a widow’s pension from the United States government. She continued receiving the pension until her death in Anacortes on Sept. 5, 1929 at the age of 86.

Etta (Jones) Brackett Carpenter’s three half-sisters

Susan Melvina Wixon married Charles Henry Bruenn. She died in Seattle on Jan. 31, 1956, at the age of 84, and is buried at Grand View Cemetery in Anacortes.

Almeda Eleanor Wixon married Charles Henry Melrose. She died at Everett on May 3, 1951 at the age of 74.

Birda (Birdie) Wixon married Joseph Edgar Barkwell. She died in Klamath Falls, Ore. on Sept, 25, 1945 at the age of 64—she is buried at Linkville Pioneer Cemetery at Klamath Falls.

— By Betty Lou Gaeng

Betty Gaeng is a former long-time resident of Lynnwood and Edmonds, coming to the area in 1933. Although now living in Anchorage, she occasionally writes about the history and the people of both early-day Lynnwood and Edmonds.


    1. Yes they do. Steve Hardesty and his family live in Edmonds. Our mother was Peg Hardesty ( Brackett). Her grandmother was Etta Brackett. So Etta and George were our great grandparents. I also have a sister and brother that live in Everett. My family lives in Bellingham. I have another brother in Boise and a sister in Colorado. We have a first cousin , George Brackett, who lives on the east coast.

      Ken Hardesty

  1. The Looking Back stories Betty Gaeng shares with us are always interesting. She has a wonderful descriptive way of writing. As I read stories of Edmonds and the local area , I try to picture the way things were back then. As you pass the ECC, you see a small, white house across the street. It is the house where George Brackett’s granddaughter, Eleanor was born. It is also the house that she and her husband, Luke of 64 years lived until her passing. Eleanor was 100 years old when she passed away December 12, 2007. She graduated from Edmonds High School and attended Wilson Business College in Seattle. She worked at Durbin’s Apparel on 5th Ave S for 22 years. She was a docent at the Edmonds South County Historical Society for many years.

  2. Jean — I think you are talking about the house on the northwest corner of 4th and Daley. Because of my fathers’ health we had to move off the farm in old Alderwood Manor and in 1937, we rented that house and lived there for about a year, until we could find something permanent. My youngest brother Don was born in the house in September of 1937. Dr. Kretzler made the house call for his birth in the middle of the night. In 2002, my brother Don and I picked Eleanor up to join us at an all-class reunion at the old EHS building across the street. I took a picture of Eleanor and my brother Don standing in front of the house–Eleanor born there in 1907 and my brother in 1937.–30 years separated them. When we moved there, I was ten years old and Peggy Brackett (George’s granddaughter) and I became friends. Peggy lived with her father George Jr. on Glen Street on the other side of the high school.

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