Emma J. Rising Brown

A Tale of Two Women

Ann K. Rothman

Emma J. Rising Brown
Emma J. Rising Brown

Born and raised in Rupert, Vermont Emma Rising was a school teacher who began a relationship with Mrs. S. L. Griffith (Katherine Tiel) as early as 1902. She was hired by Kate to tutor her housekeeper’s daughter and moved into the Griffith mansion in 1913. She was thirty-six years old and Kate was fifty-eight. They kept to themselves and lived together for the next twenty-six years until Kate’s death.

Oral history records such comments from town folk as, “Have you ever noticed how it’s Kate who does all the talking, and Emma never says a word?” and “She keeps her kind of like a slave up there, keeps her up at the house.” Kate had her suite (bedroom, bath, and dressing room) on the front south side of the second floor and Emma had a room in the servant’s quarters in the south rear which had only a sink with cold water and a bath at the end of the hall that she shared with the housekeeper.

A ripple of news traveled throughout the community: “I’ll give you all my money if you promise not to marry,” Kate had said to Emma, and Emma had agreed. To seal the deal, at the age of seventy-nine in 1934, Katherine Tiel Griffith legally adopted 57 year old Emma Rising as her daughter.

On their occasional travels, Anivol Colvin attired in a dark blue suit, chauffeured the two women in Kate’s black Franklin touring automobile. Occasionally they visited Emma’s family, sometimes Emma went alone. Whenever they went on long trips, Anivol always ate with them at the table. Once they went to the Chateau Frontenac; another time they went to a Centennial in Philadelphia where they stayed for four weeks with Anivol’s wife as their guest. If Anivol’s wife went with them she always received a nice sterling silver remembrance. The kids in town, many of whom were in Kate’s Sunday School class, were afraid of her and found Emma even more uppity than Kate. The youngsters kept a healthy distance away from them and when Halloween rolled around, no trick-or-treaters approached the House on the Hill!

Suffering from apoplexy since 1937, Kate died in 1939 at the age of 83. She is remembered throughout the community as a decent, quiet, kind, nice woman, excessively sober, prim, proper, and completely lacking a sense of humor. No one ever saw her laugh or cry. Her Estate amounted to $261,463.17 of which she left $90,273.17 to Emma Rising along with her jewelry, $15,000 in cash, a $55,000 trust, the house, its contents, and the residue of her estate.

After Kate’s death Emma married her old flame, Jay Earle Brown, a widower, whose daughter had married Howard E. Armstrong, Vermont’s Secretary of State from 1949-1965. Her marriage surprised her family, since “Emma never had much use for men.” As for Brown he was universally castigated by Emma’s family who considered him a “treasure hunting low-life rapscallion.” He too kept Emma much like a slave consigned to the house, discouraging visits from family. Emma died of cancer in March, 1953, leaving a gross estate of $237,986.52 of which her husband, Jay Earle Brown received approximately $136,000.