Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Everett Letters: September 23, 1851

Last week I posted the first in a long series of letters written by members of the Everett family.  See the written on August 19, 1851.

These 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.  Other family members also write occasionally.  In the 1850s Otis and Elizabeth Everett lived in a house in the South End near where the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Cathedral High School stand today.
A snapshot of a part of "Map of the City of Boston and immediate neighborhood," by Henry McIntyre, 1852.  From the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library:.  The image at left shows the area around Washington Street, Malden Street, and Waltham Street.  The image at right is a close up of the same map that shows Blake's Court off of Washington Street.  The Everetts lived in the house on the corner of Washington St. and Blake's Court.  If you look closely, you can see the house labeled as "O.H. Everett."  Other families who appear in later letters are also represented on this map, like the Weld family, whose house was located just to the west of Blake's Court.
This series of letters offers a rare glimpse in to the private life of a mid-nineteenth century South End family.  The founding Historical Society president, Richard Card, transcribed the letters and researched the Everett family.  He found the following:

"Otis Everett (father), born in 1803, was bookkeeper to William Amory at 65 State Street.  He was married to Elizabeth Lowell Blake (mother) and at this time [the time the letters were written] they were still living in what had been her father’s house, on the corner of Blake Court [about where Union Park Street and Washington Street. intersect, on the Cathedral side of the street], then numbered as 928 Washington Street.  They had three sons, of whom the eldest was Otis Blake Everett, born in 1829, who was employed by the merchant firm of Tuckerman & Co., in Calcutta.  The middle son was Thomas B. Everett, a clerk on India Wharf and later a partner with Frank Hodgkinson in a merchant firm.  In 1854 he married Sarah E. Greene (whose family lived at 77 Dover Street and whose brother George was in Calcutta) and they took a house in Roxbury.  The youngest son (born in 1833) was Percival L. Everett, who was employed at this time by Augustine Heard & Co, in Canton, China.  In later years he was president of the Third National Bank.

A wide array of uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbors, and dogs are mentioned in the letters, often by initials or nicknames.  Probably the various Darracott, Williams, and Curtis relatives spring from married sisters of one of the Everetts or Blakes.  JHE is Mr. Everett’s brother John H. Everett, while JHB is Mrs. Everett’s brother John H. Blake.  The Everett’s cook is Esther, with Catherine probably serving as maid.  And in India, Otis B. Everett is sharing a house with Goodwin Whitney and later also with his brother George Whitney..

One should keep in mind that mail steamers normally left only twice a month, and that Calcutta-Boston mail generally took close to two months in each direction.  In other words, it would take some four months to receive an answer to a question asked in any letter.  And England and France were at war with Russia in the Crimea, causing further disruptions."

With that, here is the second letter, dated September 23, 1851.  Bracketed sentences are comments of Richard Card's that he added during the transcription.


Everett Letters, Richard O. Card Collection,
courtesy of the South End Historical Society,
Letter: September 23, 1851
[From Otis' brother Thomas Everett.  The beginning of this letter from Thomas to Otis has been lost.]
 … Father and mother spent a fortnight at Manataug this summer, which they enjoyed extremely.  The company consisted of old Mr. Weld & Martha, Uncle John W’s family, Mrs. Green & Mary Darracott, Capt’n Faucon, Mary Blake & Charlie Parker.  During their absence Puss [brother Percy] & I kept old bachelors’ hall at home, except the Sundays they were there, which we passed with them.  They return’d looking brown as berries and perfectly delighted with their visit.  The ladies played all manner of jokes upon Capt’n F., and he in return did the same to them.  Mary Blake seemed to be almost crazy with delight.  She could hardly sleep at night, so much did she admire to look at the water, and be out breathing the invigorating atmosphere of that place.  Father was very lucky at fishing, and caught several very large tautog. … Altho’ I have many more things to say, want of time to relate them compels me to bring this to a close, and I therefore transfer the remainder of news to mother’s much more agreeable and ready pen to relate.
                                                            Remaining your affectionate brother,
                                                                                                Thomas B. Everett
September 23, 1851
Dear Otis,
I most gladly take up the pen where Thomas laid it down, for as I cannot talk to you, writing is next best.  We have not got accustomed to your absence yet, and after almost every interval of silence when we are all together comes the exclamation, “If only we could get a letter from Otis.”  But I hope we shall not have to wait much longer before we hear of your good health, safe arrival, and promising business prospects.  Thomas and Percy started yesterday for Brandon, and father and I are so lonely that we want you more than ever.

Aunt Catherine spent the Jubilee week with us and we had a grand time going about together.  [A railroad jubilee celebrating the linking of Boston railroad lines with Montreal culminated in a grand parade on Sept. 19, 1851, with a formal dinner on Boston Common attended by U.S. President Millard Fillmore.] We went to Mrs. Greene’s to see the great procession and Dover Street far outshone all other streets in its adornments, for no expense was spared, and the cheers of the passers-by were one continual “Hurra.”  In the evening we had Cheney’s open barouche and rode all over the city to see the illuminations and fireworks.  [John E. Cheney’s livery stable was on the corner of Washington and Dover Streets.  A barouche is a carriage with a driver’s seat in front, two double seats inside facing each other, and a folding top.]  We had some splendid ones on Blackstone Square, and altogether the week went off grandly to everyone’s satisfaction without accident or disgrace from any one.
Everett Letters, Richard O. Card Collection,
courtesy of the South End Historical Society,
Letter: September 23, 1851
Thomas has told you about our Marblehead excursion.  We enjoyed every moment of it and I never laughed so much in my life before, all put together.  And now let me think if Thomas has forgotten any thing in the news way that has lately happened.  O yes!  Flagg has sold out his store and bought out King’s line of omnibusses and moved to Roxbury.  Johnson, who kept near Northampton St. has taken Flagg’s house and store [across Washington Street from the Everett house], and it goes on the same as usual.  The Pierponts [William A. Pierpont & Co., brass founders at 407 Harrison Avenue, corner of Blake’s Court.] have failed but hope to be able to make arrangements to keep on their business.  Mr. Babbitt has bought a house in Roxbury and moved out there, and offers his old one for sale at 16 thousand dollars. …

We have had a terrible tornado in this vicinity, being most destructive in West Cambridge and Medford.  Many houses were entirely leveled and the largest trees twisted entirely up by the roots.  A heavily loaded baggage wagon was carried several feet.  Mr. Pierpont’s house [in Roxbury] was unroofed and the roof carried a great distance, and several persons were killed.  All around the outskirts of the tornado it was perfectly still.

Now for family folks!  All the wanderers have returned to their homes since cool weather commenced.  William Williams arrived a fortnight since in good health, notwithstanding his severe exposures.  He seems to have enjoyed his excursion and has gained a great deal of knowledge and experience.  He says he has frequently slept in the open air with no protection but a single blanket in the severest tropical rains, and in one place was so short of food that they cooked the monkeys, and that although they had an excellent cook yet it passed his skill to make them palatable, excepting in the form of soup, for either roasted or fried they were tougher than tough.

Carry Curtis is preparing for her wedding, which takes place the last of October.  She goes West with George to pass the winter.  I believe we wrote you that George purchased Fanny [a dog] to carry out West.  She arrived there safe and all were delighted with her, but to their great regret she has since been stolen.  Aunt Mary Curtis has been very sick , bleeding at the lungs, and we are still anxious for her lest she should have a return of the complaint, but she is now out of immediate danger and we hope will entirely recover.  Anna Adams has had a similar attack and for many days was given over by the physicians, but they now feel encouraged again, and if she does not go into a rapid consumption [an old name for tuberculosis] they think she may get well. … Snap and Nelly send their love to Gip [also a dog] and wish to know how he likes a sailor’s life.  They both enjoy good health and have lost none of the music of their voices when the boys go down the lane.

The South End Market progresses rapidly [The Williams Market, then being built on the corner of Washington and Dover Streets, had market stalls below and a meeting hall upstairs.  It was later the New Grand Theatre.]  The street has been paved from Dover to Brookline Streets, and Union Park (back of Mr. Clapp’s store) [Clapp’s was later Flagg’s] is having an iron fence erected round it, and preparations for a fountain, so we shall look in nice order when you return.  We have heard twice of the Equator’s being spoken, but got no letters, and we feared from your location at the time that you would make a long passage.  But, however, we hope to hear from you in the month of November, and I try to be as patient as possible.  Do write every opportunity, and write every little thing, if it be ever so trifling, that we should like to hear, for you were always the best news gatherer in the family, and pray keep up the accomplishment on paper.
                                                            With ever so much love from father and me,
                                                                                    Your affectionate Mother,
                                                                                                            E.L.E.

Dear Otis,
Your mother and Thomas having written you all the news. it only remains for me to say that I miss you very much and just now we are all alone, Thomas & Percy being on a journey.  Your mother goes to Dorchester this PM, so I shall dine all alone.  Do be particular & write us by every opportunity.  I have written you once to Bombay & once to Calcutta, which I hope you have rec’d.  Some of us may perhaps write again next month, which will be our last letter as after that a letter would not probably reach you.  I have not seen either Mr. Sharp or Bradlee since they stopped payment [in other words, their business failed]  I learn that Mr. Bradlee & Mr. Hale pay all their debts.  You know that I have always said that young people living so fast would sooner or later come to the end of their purse.  Mr. Jonah B. felt rather cross about it.  I have no more news & so can only wish you a pleasant voyage home.
                                                                                    Your aff. father,
                                                                                                Otis Everett

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