Jean Bruyere Kell 1909-2004

James Davis House circa 1817
201 Ann Street
During the Great Depression, Jean Bruyere Kell and husband Copeland lived in an old cottage at 207 Orange Street and kept a cow at the Noe's barn yard near the corner of Orange and Broad Streets. At the time, Jean worked for Miss Nannie Geffroy at St. Paul's School and often sat on the front porch of 201 Ann Street, where Miss Nannie often kept her green parrot. The parrot called her "Ms. Kell."

Owens-Bedford House
The first home Jean Kell purchased in Beaufort was the Owens-Bedford House at 113 Live Oak Street. 

In 1965, Jean and Copeland Kell purchased the Belcher Fuller House from Laura Esther Thomas; the purchase price was $100. The Kells owned the house until 1985; they lived in the William Borden House next door while Jean operated an antique shop in the Belcher Fuller House. Jean later lived at 314 Moore Street, where she invited people to stop by and have books "autographed at her home - The Little White House with Blue Shutters."

Jean Marie Bruyere Kell's obituary, in Carteret County News, October 6, 2004, reveals much about her life, accomplishments and contributions to the town she loved.


Jean Bruyere Kell, 95, antiquarian, historical researcher, preservationist, author and mother to not only her own children, but to many others who found their way to her heart, died Monday at Britthaven of Newport. Her funeral will be at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Beaufort, with the Rev. Thomas D. Bowers officiating.

Born in 1909 in Glen Ridge, N.J., Mrs. Kell was the daughter of the late Walter Reeve
Bruyere and the late Edith Owen Bruyere. It was as the young wife of Copeland Kell that she began her long-lived love of Beaufort, St. Paul's Episcopal Church and Carteret County. She was one of the early leaders of the Beaufort Historical Association, serving for many years as the chairman of the Antiques Show, an important part of the annual Old Homes Tour. She was also instrumental in the formation of the Carteret County Historical Society, the Friends of Fort Macon and the Carteret County Antiques Club. She served seven years as director of the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce. She was a charter member of DAR, Morehead City.

An avid researcher, Mrs. Kell's books included Historic Beaufort, a Pictoral Profile, and
Love, Goodwill and Affection, which was made into a musical with lyrics and score by Laurence Stith. She was editor of Carteret County During the American Revolution and Carteret County During the Civil War. Well into her 90s, she had begun plans for Carteret County During World Wars I and II. Children's books included The Pocket Dolly (which was nationally published), When the Pirates Came to Beaufort and When the British Came to Beaufort.
Jean Kell's 1980 photo of
the Belcher Fuller House
when it was her antique shop

Fascinated by English history and antiques, Mrs. Kell and her husband made yearly trips to Britain, especially enjoying the city of Dartmouth in Devon and making many friends there. On her returns to Beaufort, she would serve tea in her antique shop and display her latest acquisitions. During recent years, Mrs. Kell focused her energy on creating dolls and pillows, eagerly collected by friends and visitors to the area. On pleasant evenings, she could often be found sitting on her favorite bench along the Beaufort waterfront, greeting those who strolled by. In 2002, she gloried in leading the Beaufort 4th of July Parade as Lady Liberty.

Mrs. Kell received many awards and commendations. She was appointed chairman of the
Carteret County Bicentennial Commission in 1992, was designated town historian for the Town of Beaufort and in 1980 was given an Award of Merit by the North Carolina Preservation Society. In 2001, she received the Willie Parker Peace History Award by the North Carolina Society of Historians. In 2003, Mrs. Kell was recognized as a distinguished citizen and received the Kathryn Cloud Award from the Beaufort Historical Commission. In an open forum, she spoke movingly of her love of Beaufort and of her hopes that the beauty of the town with its many historic structures would continue to be valued and protected.

She is survived by a daughter, Rosalie; a son, Dugald; 18 grandchildren, 31 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren. Mrs. Kell was preceded in death by her husband, Copeland, and five children.

Now-rare Books: 
Rare 1946 book
  • The Pocket Dolly Book (1946) 
  • Beaufort, North Carolina in Color 
  • Historic Beaufort, a Pictoral Profile
  • The Old Port Town Beaufort, North Carolina 1980  
  • Love, Goodwill and Affection - A novel based on facts found in deeds and court records of the 1730s. This is a story of Janie and other people that really lived in Beaufort.
  • North Carolina's Coastal Carteret County During the American Revolution 1975 - Edited by Jean Kell, who wrote 6 or the 11 chapters.
  • Carteret County During the Civil War (editor)
  • When the Pirates Came to Beaufort (1982) - The story of the 1747 pirate invasion.
  • When the British Came to Beaufort (1992) - The story of the British landing in 1782.
Who's Who:
  • Who's Who in Writers, Editors & Poets. United States & Canada. Third edition, 1989-1990. Edited by Curt Johnson. Highland Park, IL: December Press, 1989.
  • Who's Who in Writers, Editors & Poets. United States & Canada. Fourth edition, 1992-1993. Edited by Curt Johnson. Highland Park, IL: December Press, 1992.    

Below is text from the book cover of Carteret County during the Civil War, edited by Jean Bruyere Kell, published 1999. This short biography was written by Copeland Kell (1905-1995), a portion of his unpublished biography of wife Jean:

Jean Bruyere Kell, antiquarian and historical researcher, is the author of numerous books and articles. She holds cards for the research rooms, not only in Archives of Raleigh, but also the new Public Records office, Kew Gardens, London. She has worked in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England.

Her first historical effort was about an old bog iron foundry in Allaire, New Jersey. After the acquisition of her first home in Beaufort, 113 Live Oak Street, and weeks of research, she found the original deed in 1729 to Willie Owen, a tailor, and Thomas Bedford, a carpenter. Hence the Owens-Bedford House, 1730. It was this research of the wills, deeds and court records that provided the basic and story for her very successful musical play, "Love, goodwill and Affection," with lyrics and music by Laurence Stith.

While serving as Chairman of the Carteret County Bicentennial Commission, Mrs. Kell edited and did the layout for "Carteret County During the American Revolution." She also wrote six of the ten chapters. This book has been widely praised and is full of documented information. This includes the day by day reports, found in the governor's letters in the archives, telling of the British landing in Beaufort, NC in April 1782 after the battle of Yorktown. This piece of history has been lost with the passing of time.

Then came "Historic Beaufort," a street by street tour with architectural discussion. This book subsequently appeared in soft cover and is still in demand.

Also, Mrs. Kell wrote four children's books. The first was the "Pocket Dolly Book," which had national distribution and sold 35,000 copies.

Mrs. Kell is a member of both National and State Preservation Societies and has been actively supporting the Beaufort Historical Association for many years. Her efforts won for her the Award of Merit in 1980 by the North Carolina Preservation Society. She is a charter member of the local chapter of the D.A.R. and was director of the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce for seven years.

She has been written up in both the "Who's Who of American Women in 1979" and the World Who's Who of Women 1980."

The purpose of her other books on Carteret County and Beaufort has been to preserve the history and capture the unique beauty of the homes as they were at the time of publication. This book was conceived after many years of personal research as well as the research of other Carteret County historians in an attempt to further preserve the history of the place that she loves so well and has for so long. This is what she wants to share with everyone.   -Copeland Kell