A Brief History of the City of Everett
By Keith Spencer
Long before the city existed, the area was known as the Mystic Side had already been settled by Pawtucket Indians. The area had been described as “wilderness” with “great trees” by the Spragues. Ralph his brothers Richard and William crossed the Mystic River in 1629, becoming the first Anglo explorers to search the area we know today as Everett.
Some allege that Chief John Sagamore of the Pawtucket Indians resided and controlled the area, and the few Indians occupying the land at that time. However, a series of illnesses spread as settlers likes the Spragues continued to spread into the area in the late 1600s.
On May 16, 1649, an act was passed after the men of the Mystic Side petitioned to create a distinct town to be named Mauldon. For more than two hundred years, what is now the City of Everett was known as South Malden.
The Penny Ferry started service in 1640 in order to usher people from Charlestown and Boston to the Mystic Side. Its operations continued until 1787 when a bridge was constructed. Today, the Alford Street Bridge, currently under renovations, allows residents north of Boston to cross into the city in the general area where the Ferry once carried its passengers.
During the American Revolution, the Ferry carried soldiers and their equipment and was also used to carry farm animals, horses, and produce from the surrounding communities.
As the town developed, the paths first carved by the Pawtuckets developed into the first roads that would lead from the Penny Ferry along what is today Bow Street along lower Broadway.
Chelsea Street was laid out in 1653. Ferry, Elm, and Nichols Streets were also several of the original streets of South Malden.
The small farming community continued to grow throughout the 1700s, and eventually organized their own militia that sprang into action during the historic events of April 19, 1775. During the Battle of Bunker Hill, the militia protected the Malden side of the Mystic from British troops.
As the days of the Revolution turned into the dawn of the nineteenth century, the Newburyport Turnpike and its connector in Malden was vitally important to the growth and development of the area. The road officially opened to traffic on February 11, 1805, and continues to be essential to the community today, Broadway.
Fifty houses dotted the landscape of the still largely farming community by 1835. As the City of Boston developed, so did South Malden. Its people, always looking to make a better life for themselves and their children, began petitioning to form its own unique community, responsible for creating and encouraging opportunities to further the people of South Malden in the future.
As they grew and prospered, acting as a gateway to the communities north of Boston via the Newburyport Turnpike, now Broadway and Route 1.
In 1870, the people of South Malden got their wish for independence, a the new Town of Everett was formed, with an initial government made up of a Board of Selectmen with five members, three Assessors, five Overseers of the Poor, a Town Clerk, a Treasurer, six School Committee members, and five Constables.
Eventually, the Town would add several other official positions, including Public Weigher, Measurer, Sealer of Leather, Fence Viewers, Surveyor of Lumber, Fire Wards, and more.
The new Town had many obstacles to overcome in its early days. With no meetinghouse, the residents of the Town banded together using the properties acquired from Malden in the recent division in order to assure that the new government would function properly.
A petition would eventually be made in 1892 to incorporate the City of Everett after the purchase of land for the Glenwood Cemetery and increased population figures made it evident that the town was eligible.
On June 11, 1892, following a vote of approval by the townspeople, Everett became a city.
Following the acceptance of the new charter, the city was divided into six wards and a bicameral legislature made up of a seven-member Board of Alderman and a 18-member Common Council. With a Mayor at the helm, the city’s government structure has remained largely the same to this day.
During the same year, football began at Everett High School under the leadership of Frederick E. Jennings, now known as “Everett’s Father of Football”. With no field or uniforms, the team progressed and went undefeated by 1897 after Jennings convinced his family to take up mortgages and to get a playing field for the team.
Many great football players grew through the ranks of the Everett Crimson Tide over the years, with many going on to play professionally. The 1914 team has been called the greatest high school team of all time by Sports Illustrated, and we agree after learning the team went undefeated and outscored their opponents 600-0.
The early years of the City would be quite productive as they city grew and began providing additional services to its residents. In the early days of the city, two public libraries were established, the Frederick Parlin Memorial Library and the Shute Library. In 1896, the Whidden Memorial Hospital would be gifted to Everett, with medical facilities and patient care that would be open to all, no matter what color or creed.
In the early part of the twentieth century, Everett had been called “a city of churches with nothing to destroy its peace and tranquility”.
With little regulation or oversight, the business and industrial climate of those early years made it accommodating and easy to take advantage of Everett’s close proximity to the City of Boston and its harbor.
By 1910, Everett was known for “the curling smoke from the factory chimneys” and a community with “men and women of all races and classes”.
Continuing its long-standing tradition of military service, residents of the City of Everett participated quite willingly in both World War efforts. From 1917 to the end of World War I, more than 1,200 Everett men went into the war service.
During World War II, 6,150 residents would travel to both fronts with 145 dying on foreign fields with hundreds more returning wounded and injured. Seventeen men were killed when the Korean conflict broke out in 1950, and at least eight residents were killed during the bloody conflict in Vietnam.
The city would go on to build more than twenty schools, two city halls, four firehouses, and two police stations over the next century. More than twenty parks and playgrounds dispersed through out each of the neighborhoods in the community have come and gone as development continued.
The population would fluctuate wildly as double and triple-deckers would begin to dot new streets, and industry and business developed, including major companies like New England Coke Works, Monsanto, General Electric, Edison, and Colonial Beacon Oil.
While many of these businesses have come and gone, the city is still known to this day for its industrial areas, some currently in use and others abandoned and awaiting further redevelopment.
Today, the city is still known for its continued encouragement of diversity, with new generations of immigrants from locales all over the world entering the ranks of residents and businesses in the community.
There’s a charming quality about Everett that has kept so many of its residents and families in the community over the years, but the ever-changing faces in the double and triple-deckers dotting the landscape is adding yet another chapter to the city’s long history of encouraging diversity.
Everett is not a city of strangers. It is a city of neighbors who retain, appreciate, and promote their pride in this melting pot.