Erastus W. Everson (1837-1897)
Erastus W. Everson was the eldest child of William F. Everson and his wife, Salome B. Crocker. He was born about 1837 probably in Hanson, MA. Three years later, his brother Frederic O. Everson was born, followed by his sister Sylvania Everson. They grew up on Pleasant Street in Hanson.
In 1850, at the age of 13, Erastus was living in Hanson with his family, and a 17 year old servant (or boarder) named Fidelia Hunt. He and his siblings were attending one of the small schoolhouses in South Hanson. Next door to them, extended Everson and Crocker relatives had a small shoemaking shop, and Erastus’s father most likely worked here during the day. To the north of them them was the Baptist parsonage, where Asa Bunson, the Baptist clergyman lived. Across from the Everson family was Levi Thomas’s family (Levi Thomas’ son, Levi Zelida Thomas, was a 23 year old school teacher at the time, and would eventually have a Hanson school named in his honor).
In 1860, Erastus, now in his early twenties, had moved up to Dedham, where he was staying at a hotel in Dedham village while he worked as a copyist. The hotel hosted a wide variety of individuals and families. There Erastus probably interacted with the hotel keeper and his family, W.H. Crossman, along with his wife and three young children. Perhaps he briefly befriended Frederic Eley, a 21 year old law student, as well as a 35 year old wood carver and his family, a 30 year old physician and his family, and many more who moved in and out of the small hotel.
But war was coming. Erastus enlisted for the Civil War as a Sergeant on 16 April 1861 at the age of 24 from Dedham, MA. He enlisted in Company A, 3rd Infantry Regiment Massachusetts (The Halifax Light Infantry) on 23 April 1861, and was mustered out on 22 July 1861. His brother, Frederick O. Everson, had also enlisted as a Corporal on 16 April 1861 at the age of 21, and several days later, on 23 April 1861, Fred enlisted in the same company as his brother Erastus. Fred was mustered out on 22 July 1861. Frederick did not enlist again, but Erastus was attracted to the army, and decided to provide more service.
Erastus soon enlisted in Company H, 18th Infantry Regiment Massachusetts on 24 August 1861 and was then promoted to Full Sergeant 1st Class on the same day. A year later, he was promoted to Full Lieutenant 2nd Class on 01 August 1862. At the end of the month, he was wounded on 30 August 1862 at the second Bull Run, VA. He was then again wounded on 13 December 1862 at Fredericksburg, VA. Several months later, he was promoted to Full Lieutenant 1st Class on 25 February 1863. He was honorably discharged from Company H, 18th Infantry Regiment Massachusetts on 10 December 1863, and the following day joined Company D, 20 Veteran Res. Corps, as a 1st Lieutenant.
In 1866, Erastus was assigned as the inspector general of the South Carolina troops for a period of eighteen months, and was stationed in Charleston, SC. He then served as an aid for the Freedman’s Bureau for three years, during which time he traveled all over South Carolina and made many acquaintances. One of his main tasks was to find and arrest “bushwhackers”, who were men that engaged in guerilla warfare attacks during the Civil War and Reconstruction. From 1869-1870, Erastus was stationed in Anderson, SC as an assistant assessor, and then he moved to Columbia, SC in 1870. In October of 1870, Erastus was present for the Laurens County, SC riot, in which he overheard and tried to prevent presumed Ku Klux Klan activity. He narrowly escaped with the assistance of several men in the area, who he soon was horrified to discover were probably Ku Klux members, and therefore responsible for the riot. My next posting will deal more with this fascinating event in Erastus’s life.
Erastus was a skilled verbal negotiator and eloquent writer (and from his writings and interviews, he had a sense of humor!). After serving as a soldier during the Civil War and sustaining a total of 7 bullets, he served as an aid that was not involved in direct battles. He was commissioned by General Howard to the Freedman’s Bureau, and spent the early part of the Reconstruction negotiating and inspecting issues regarding things such as black labor and dealing with abandoned plantation property. The Freedman’s Bureau became very political towards the end of its time, encouraging blacks to vote for the Republican party, and was disbanded in 1869, although Erastus preferred not to be “mixed up” with politics. He was a self-proclaimed conservative Republican and greatly admired Abraham Lincoln and the reconstruction efforts. After his time with the Freedman’s Bureau, Erastus became an editor for the Union, SC newspaper, which was a Republican newspaper. “It is considered a conservative newspaper up North. They are sending me letters all the time, thinking that I am going astray!.. I am not a radical at all. I am not a radical republican, and never have been; but I believe in fair play”. Erastus spent the rest of his life as a newspaper man, both in the role of editor and writer. The 1880 Massachusetts census lists him as the “editor of a newspaper”, and in 1894 he is listed as a “journalist” from Marshfield, MA.
While a wealth of fascinating documents exist regarding Erastus’s time with the army, it is more difficult to ascertain the state of Erastus’s marriage from the documentary evidence. On October 28, 1869, Erastus married Harriet Rebecca Fales in Dedham, MA. Harriet’s father had died when she was two, and she had lived with her widowed mother in Dedham. It is unknown how long their courtship had been, due to the fact that for the majority of the 1860s, Erastus was not in Massachusetts. They married in the midst of his commission as an assistant assessor for the army in Anderson, South Carolina. They are listed as living together in Anderson, SC in the 1870 census, so Harriet moved down to South Carolina to be with him.
By 1880, the Eversons had returned to Massachusetts. The 1880 Massachusetts census presents a bit of a mystery, that either indicates a mistake made on behalf of the census takers, or that the Eversons were separated. Erastus is listed as living in Hanson, MA with his 65 year old parents and his 14 year old niece, Ella Gurney, the daughter of his sister Sylvania (who died in 1866). He is marked under the column for single, not widowed or divorced. Harriet is listed as Harriet Everson, living with her mother Rebecca Fales in Dedham, MA. She is noted as “married”. The Dedham census was taken on June 14 1880, and the Hanson census was taken on June 16, 1880. Perhaps Erastus was simply visiting his parents during this time, and the census takers in each town recorded incorrect information – the census taker is supposed to record who is living in the household, even if they are away on business, at school, etc. Certainly the census contains mistakes.
Harriet died September 28, 1887 in Dedham, MA at the age of 45, and is listed as the wife of Erastus Everson. They had no children together. Perhaps this was in part due to Erastus’ war wounds, or estrangement. In his pension application, Erastus is listed as an invalid, but certainly he could walk, ride, and travel long distances, which he did for the Freedman’s Bureau, and when he was charged with arresting bushwhackers, although he claimed to be easily tired due to his wounds.
Erastus next appears in the 1894 Marshfield, MA Directory, seven years after his wife’s death. His residence is listed as “North, on Green’s Harbor” and his occupation as a journalist. Family legend says that Erastus was granted the land north of Green Harbor, and the small island on the river as a reward for his Civil War service. I would like to research more about this. When was he granted the land? Did he have a permanent residence here? Certainly by the 1890s he did. Here is a photograph of Erastus in front of his hunting shack with two hunting dogs, supposedly on the Marshfield island which our family now owns:
Erastus died in 1897 in Marshfield, MA at the age of 60, having lived a very colorful life. Family legend says the Marshfield island was passed to Sherman McClellan, but at the time of Erastus’ death, Sherman was only 11. Sherman, Roddy, and Lillian’s mother was Imogene Everson. Both Imogene Everson and Erastus Everson were great-grandchildren of Levi Everson and Eunice Briggs. Erastus, having no children, passed the land via his cousin Imogene, and the land was eventually handed to Sherman McClellan. Further deed research is needed to verify the succession of ownership. That is a project for another time!