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Rachel Dell Bonnel

Rachel Dell Bonnel was one of the younger generation of the large community of Quakers affiliated with the Junius Monthly Meeting of Friends in Waterloo. Like many of them, she was related to other signers, including her mother's brother William Dell and his son Thomas Dell, both of whom lived on the farm next door to Deanna's own family.

Rachel Dell Bonnel was born July 30, 1827, the oldest of Charles Bonnel and Deanna Dell Bonnel's five children. Embedded in a network of extended family, Charles and Deanna named their first child after her maternal grandmother, Rachel Dell. Their second child and first son was Henry, named after his paternal grandfather.

Charles Bonnel had come to the old Township of Junius from Randolph County, New Jersey, in 1804, when Charles was only three years old. His parents were poor, but they raised their many children carefully in the Quaker tradition. In 1815, the family moved to Wayne County. Charles Bonnel left his parent's home at age twenty, working first as a farm laborer and then as a farmer in Michigan. In 1826, Charles Bonnel returned to marry Deanna Dell, daughter of Richard and Rachel Dell, also Quakers, from Waterloo.

Although the young couple settled originally near his parents in Wayne County, they moved to Waterloo in 1831, to live across the road from both Deanna's parents and from her sister, Mary Dell, who had married Charles' brother, Henry. Next door lived Deanna's brother, Thomas Dell.

Charles and Deanna prospered in their new home. In 1831, Charles bought 175 acres on lots 66 and 79. By 1850, they owned property worth $9600. By 1876, "by strict attention to business, coupled with untiring industry and perseverance," as the History of Seneca County, Charles Bonnel had acquired more than seven hundred acres of land, making him one of the largest landowners in Waterloo Township. His brother, Henry, was equally diligent, acquiring six hundred acres of land. Henry would borrow money to buy land, work hard to make it productive, pay off the debt, and immediately use the money to buy more land. Charles obviously had a similar capacity for hard work and a similar ability to take risks successfully.

Both Deanna and Charles took their Quaker commitments seriously. For thirteen years, from May 1832 until April 1845, Deanna was clerk of the women's meeting of the Junius Monthly Meeting of Friends. Charles also was an active Quaker. Opposed to all war, he refused to pay war taxes. As a result, he was fined, imprisoned, and had his property impounded.

On November 8, 1848, only four months after she signed the Declaration of Sentiments at Seneca Falls, nineteen-year-old Rachel Dell Bonnel married Edmund W. Mitchell, five years older than she was.

Edmund Mitchell died on February 22, 1886, and was buried in the Quaker cemetery on Nine Foot Road in Waterloo under a large obelisk. Rachel D. Bonnel's maiden name is also listed on the obelisk, with only her birth date engraved. Nearby stands one small stone labeled simply "Father." A large cedar tree shades the graves.


Sources:

  • 1850 Census
  • History of Seneca County, New York (Philadelphia: Everts, Ensign, and Everts, 1876), opposite 82.
  • Bonnel family ms., Waterloo Library.
  • Junius Monthly Meeting, "Record, 1815-1863," Swarthmore.
  • "Henry Bonnell and the Waterloo Meeting of the Friends of Human Progress," Free Thought Magazine 13 *1895), 39-53.


-Christopher Densmore, Archivist
Friends' Historical Library, Swarthmore College

-Judith Wellman, Historian
Historical New York

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