The Everett Letters / by Jason Turgeon

This little Fort Hill History blog is only one of several blogs that covers history in the area.  Another great resource for history buffs is South End History, a blog run by Hope Shannon of the South End Historical Society.  

Recently, the SEHS received a set of letters known as the Everett Letters from Richard Card, the founding president of the organization.  As they’re described at the SEH blog,

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….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.

Hope hasn’t posted all of them yet, but she does have the first three trancribed and on the blog.  These letters, from August 19, September 23, and October 14, 1851, offer tantalizing glimpses into our own neighborhood’s history.  Even where Roxbury isn’t officially called out, the ties between the cities are plain thanks to the frequent mentions of names like Weld, Clapp, Flagg, and Fisher.  

I won’t try to recap all of the letters here, but of particular interest is Thomas Everett, son of Otis Everett and brother of Otis Blake Everett, who was the recipient of these first three letters.  Thomas married in 1854 and moved to Roxbury with his new wife Sarah (Greene).  The 1866 Roxbury Directory lists him as boarding in a house at the corner of Highland and Cedar, an intersection I walk by daily:

Another fascinating tidbit is the mention in both the August and September letters that their neighbor Jacob Flagg, a grocer, had sold his store and bought out Horace King’s omnibus line.  I wrote about King’s transit line from Norfolk House back in December.  Unfortunately for all concerned, Flagg wasn’t much good at the omnibus business and King had to come out of retirement a few years later to take control, but by then the horse railway was established and the omnibus business was never really the same.  Still, it’s fascinating to read letters written by the neighbors of these businessmen, and it’s almost certain that Thomas Everett and his family rode the omnibus from their home on Highland to his parent’s house on Washington Street fairly regularly.

Also worth noting is the recount of the tornado sometime between the August and September letters.  The tornado damaged buildings in Cambridge and Medford, as well as ripping the roof off of Mr. Pierpont’s house in Roxbury.  Roxbury historians will remember the Pierpont name from “Pierpont Village,” the name of the old mill and surrounding buildings that once occupied the area where Roxbury Crossing is now, as well as “Pierpont Castle,” the magnificent mansion now replaced by the Basilica on Mission Hill.  It’s not clear which house had its roof ripped off, but judging by the dates I would guess that it was the Pierpont Castle.  Sadly, it appears that several people were killed in the disaster.

Yet another noteworthy item comes at the bottom of the September letter.  Otis Everett makes a casual note that he has

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. 

It’s pure conjecture on my part to wonder if this is a reference to some members of the Hale and Bradlee families that were so prominent in Roxbury about this time, but it does seem likely.