Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Everett Letters: August 19, 1851

Years ago, Richard Card, the founding SEHS president, was told of the existence of a bunch of old letters stored in a shoebox in an attic of a South End house that was being renovated.  He purchased the letters, which he transcribed.  Richard found that the letters were written between 1851 and 1859 and contain the correspondence between Otis and Elizabeth Blake Everett in Boston and their son Otis Blake Everett who was working in India.  Otis and Elizabeth Everett lived in a house near where the Cathedral of the Holy Cross stands today.   

Last week, Richard released the letters from his private collection and officially donated them to the Historical Society. After one hundred and fifty plus years they are in remarkably good condition. They contain an immense amount of detail about family connections, weather events, weddings, births, deaths, recreational activities, business concerns, trade items, and so much more.

Over the next several weeks, I will be posting images of the letters and the accompanying transcriptions.  Bracketed items are Richard's notes where he felt additional information might be helpful.  I hope you enjoy the story of the Everetts and this rare glimpse into the personal lives of a nineteenth century family. 

Everett Letters, Richard O. Card Collection,
courtesy of the South End Historical Society,
Letter: August 19, 1851.
Boston, Aug.19, 1851

My dear Son,
I wrote you in June last, calculating for the overland mail from London on 6th July so as to meet you on arrival at Bombay with letters.  Thomas & Percy [Otis’s two younger brothers] wrote afterwards.  On the 19 July [the] Brig Ohio arrived at Salem & reported having spoken the Equator [the ship on which Otis had sailed] on 18 June Lat. 2 N., so you had made rather a long passage thus far.  We were somewhat disappointed at not having a letter, but presume you did not board the Ohio.  This letter I intend to send to meet the English mail of 6th September.  I hope it will meet you immediately on your arrival at Calcutta.  Something over 100 days have passed away since you sailed.  We feel quite impatient to hear from you, but suppose [we] must wait patiently some sixty days or more. 

The summer is now nearly ended, but has been quite a pleasant one, tho’ not much warm weather.  For the last three weeks it has been very dry & dusty.  The street in front of our house [Washington Street] has been obstructed nearly three months.  They have just finished laying a large drain thro’ the street & most of the owners of estates have been cutting into it.  Have now a capital drain to the cellar, so that if we have another high tide it may run off sooner than before (the water I mean).  They have now commenced paving commencing at Dover [now East Berkeley] St. & going to Malden St., and we have had dust enough.  Ramsey, the successor to John Rider comes every morning to water the street. [Water wagons then were used to wet down gravel streets to alleviate dust].

Your mother & myself propose going to Manataug [a summer resort] on Thursday to pass some 10 days or so.  The Smiths have come up & we are to have their rooms.  Your uncle JDW & his family, OCE & his, Mr. Weld [Daniel Weld, a wealthy elderly merchant, who lived with his daughter next door to the Everetts] & Martha are now there.  They have passed the summer there & had some splendid fishing.  Tautog [an edible fish, also called blackfish] have been quite plenty.  This afternoon we are going to Newton to ask Mary Clapp to go with us.  She has never been at the sea coast.

The dogs are quite lively (Snap & Nelly).  I sold Fanny to Geo. Fisher to take to the West for $15.  Nelly has grown quite handsome & is a little beauty.  Snap is as wide awake as ever, tho’ for several days after you went away he was quite dull.  He seems to like to have me talk to him about you and it really seems as if he understood what I say.

Business is dull.  The factories are making up with heavy losses.  Money is tremendous tight.  Calcutta goods have advanced in price.  I hope that you will make a good voyage.  I intend to send this by Europe on Wednesday 20 inst. so as to be in season.  Tho’ if you have a long passage round from Bombay it will be rather old news, but the boys will write later.  I must leave room for your mother.
                                                                                    Your aff. father,
                                                                                                Otis Everett

Everett Letters, Richard O. Card Collection,
courtesy of the South End Historical Society,
Exterior of letter: August 19, 1851.
Dear Otis,
It seems so pleasant to be once more addressing you; I only wish I could do it by voice.  We have not yet become accustomed to your absence and something occurs every hour to recall you to memory, but we have not wanted for visitors this summer, although all the relatives and relations are out of town.  There have been two deaths in Mr. Brigham’s house since his family went to Grafton. [William Brigham was the Everetts’ next door neighbor on the north side.]  They were a man and his child belonging to the family Mr. B. took there to look after the house in their absence; probably they have lived upon the green fruit in the yard.  Flagg [Jacob B. Flagg was a grocer who lived and worked directly across Washington Street from the Everetts] has moved to Roxbury and sold out his stock in the store to Mr. Johnson, who formerly kept with Mr. Clapp.  Mr. Savage’s family have moved to Jamaica Plain.  Father and I called to see them a few days since.  They seem quite contented with their country home.  Not many other changes have occurred in the neighborhood … All Aunt Rebecca’s family are in the country now excepting Uncle Henry.  He was robbed a few nights ago by some one who entered the house whilst he was asleep and took his watch from over his bed and his wallet from his pants, which laid in a chair close by.  He has not yet heard anything from them, and probably never will.  The wallet contained 80 dollars.  They entered by removing a square of glass in the kitchen.

 … Frank Darracott has bought a house in Ashburton Place, for which he gave 22,000 dollars, and James D. has gone into partnership with his father and moved to Woburn.  The Fenno’s have all had the varioloid [a mild form of smallpox], but I must stop, for I keep thinking of so many things to write that such a medley will I fear confuse you, and not aid you at all in getting your thoughts into proper trim for business. … I am counting the days and hours for a letter from you, and be sure you write minutely and by every opportunity, then you shall have the like done for you when your oldest son goes away from you.
                                                                        Your ever affectionate mother,


  1. Great to see these letters being made available. The 1855 Boston Directory lists an Otis Everett, bookkeeper, at 928 Washington st, which is at Marginal rd now.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed the letter. The Everett family appears in all sorts of city records.

    The numbering of Washington Street has changed more than once. Today 928 Washington is near Marginal Rd. But in the 1850s the Everett family's house was located near the intersection of the present day Union Park Street (not yet laid out in the 1850s) and Washington Street. Blake's Court, named so presumably for Elizabeth Blake Everett's father who built the house she and her husband Otis lived in, ran along side the house. Today Union Park Street runs almost exactly where Blake Court ran between Washington St. and Harrison Ave.

    The Everett family moved to Shawmut Avenue in the late '50s or early 1860s.