Percival Lowell Everett, 1833-1908

Percival (Percy) Lowell Everett was the third son and youngest child of Otis and Elizabeth Everett. He was born on 28 June 1833 and is the most well known Everett. His distinguished career was long and diverse.

Percy was educated at the Chauncy Hall School (now known as the Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School), a boarding school in Waltham, Massachusetts. After graduation, Percy entered the counting house of Tuckerman, Townsend & Co., on Central Wharf, a merchant company involved in trade with East India and the Mediterranean. In 1853, Percy joined the merchant house of Augustine Heard & Co. and traveled to Canton, China. Otis Blake notes in his November 1853 letter aboard the Arabella bound for Calcutta, that his parents must be lonely with two of their sons gone. Indeed, they were. Percy stayed abroad for eight years where he purchased and dispatched vessels with assorted cargo to the United States. He returned permanently to Boston in 1860 and became a special agent for the company.

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3 November 1853 letter from Otis Blake to his parents: “It must have seemed rather lonely to you, having no one at home but Tom, at First, but I suppose you have got more accustomed to it by this time. You will have to watch the East India news pretty closely now, having one son located in Canton and another in Calcutta.” Image courtesy of the South End Historical Society.

Augustine Heard & Co. was one of the four major American firms of commission agents in Canton, China and became a primary trader of opium between Bombay and Canton, as well as sending goods like silk and tea to the port of San Francisco. Although there is no concrete proof that Percy was involved in the opium trade side of the business, it can be assumed he was because of his location in Canton. This is not to say that Percy Everett was a drug smuggler in the modern sense either. Opium traders were not different from other merchants in the mid-nineteenth century. They acted according to the established protocol for traders and most often came from privileged families with good reputations in their personal lives and business. Like Percy, opium traders tended to get their business training in the most respected mercantile houses before taking appointments in locales like Canton and upon their return to the United States, opium traders tended to be philanthropic, model citizens.

Boston’s prominence in China trade began to decline in the 1850s when Boston’s merchant elite changed their investments from the foreign trade that gave them elite status to domestic industry, mainly the railroad.  Although the Everett family made a comfortable living as merchants and employees of the counting-houses of merchants, this could be the reason that the family remained in the middle-class. Only Percy jumped on the domestic industry investments after he returned from Canton in 1860. Like John Murray Forbes, another opium trader in Canton, Percy came back from the foreign sojourns and began his railroad investments. Younger China traders, like Percy and Forbes, were accustomed to managing enterprises from afar and could easily oversee the railroads expansion westward and southward.

After returning to the US, Percy married his first wife Elizabeth Davis Williams Weld on 30 June 1863. They had three children: Louisa Otis, born 4 February 1866; Otis, born 16 September 1868; and Elizabeth Lowell, born 30 July 1870. The family lived at 8 Newbury Street before Elizabeth Weld Everett died on 22 February 1875. Percy and his children then moved to 103 Beacon Street in the Back Bay where he moved to several residences on Beacon Street throughout the years.  Percy remarried on 8 November 1882 to Elizabeth Russell Fisher, a young woman twenty years his junior. They had one child, Maud, born on 5 March 1884.

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Percy’s marriage record to his second wife, Elizabeth Fischer, in 1882. Image courtesy of Ancestry.com

 

After Augustine Heard & Co. dissolved, Percy also founded the Third National Bank of Boston and was its president for twenty-three years. Like many men who were involved in the merchant trade during it height, Percy invested in several local railroads and banks once the trade with east became too crowded with international competition. He was the director for the Hartford and Erie R.R. Co., and the Union Freight R.R. Co., and also a trustee for the Provident Institution for Savings for twenty years.

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Percy’s Freemason membership card shows he joined in 1858 and became Grand Master in 1875. Image courtesy of Ancestry.com

These prestigious appointments led Percy to the Freemasons, becoming a member of the Winslow Lewis Lodge in 1861. He eventually became the Grand Master of the Masons in Massachusetts from 1875-1877. Men like Percy joined fraternal organizations for a sense of brotherhood, a sense of respectability, and the social benefits it offered in an expanding industrialized society.

Percival Lowell Everett died on 20 February 1908 in Lynn, Massachusetts from throat cancer.

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Percy’s death record. Image courtesy of Ancestry.com

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