In honor of former Hanson resident Barnabas Everson’s 189th birthday this month, January’s object of the month is a very heavy artifact from our collection which he possessed. Near the entrance to the Hanson Historical Society sits the very large and sturdy safe which belonged to Barnabas Everson in the late 19th century. The front of the safe is personalized with his name, along with a painted pastoral scene, and the following text:
Mosler Safe & Lock Co.
Mosler, Gowen & Co., 192 Devonshire St., Boston
The Mosler Safe Company manufactured security equipment, including safes, beginning in 1867. They quickly became internationally known for their high-quality production and strength. The company declared bankruptcy in 2001. Barnabas purchased the safe from a Boston dealer who sold Mosler safes, sometime between the start of their production in 1867, but before Barnabas’s death in 1896. But why did he need such a substantial safe?
In 1888, Barnabas Everson was valued as the 7th wealthiest man in the town of Hanson, and one of Twenty Thousand Rich New Englanders. His assessed value was about $7,700, which would be a value of almost $200,000 today. The sixth wealthiest men in Hanson at the time, in order of wealth, were Joseph White, Elijah C. Thomas, Foster Mills, Nathaniel W. Cushing, Andrew Bowker, and Caleb Barker.
How did Barnabas gain his wealth?
He was born at Hanson on 4 January 1825, the son of Richard Everson (1791-1868), a shoemaker and veteran of the War of 1812, and Mercy Munroe (1794-1880), who lived in a house on the north shore of Maquan Pond. In 1848, he married the widowed Deborah (Bates) Howland (1819-1892). After their marriage, they bought a large farm on Indian Head Street, and they rented out her house on the western shore of Maquan Pond along Indian Head Street. This sparked an interest in real estate, and Barnabas soon began purchasing and selling numerous properties in South Hanson throughout the 19th century. He was also a man of many talents and business interests. According to Representative Men and Old Families of Southeastern Massachusetts, “Barnabas Everson attended the district schools of Hanson until he was sixteen years of age. He then learned the mason’s trade, which he followed for a number of years, later learning shoemaking and following it for a few years. Buying a large farm of about three hundred acres, he did an extensive business in market gardening, sending his products to Abington and Brockton. While conducting his farm he built a large sawmill, which was supplied by lumber from his own land. He cut box boards and manufactured shingles, etc. for a number of years, finally selling the mill to the late John Foster. He continued to conduct the farm up to the time of his death, and was always active, and well known throughout Plymouth county. He was a selectman of Hanson for a number of years, and also served as a road surveyor. In politics he was a Republican. Mr. Everson attended the Baptist Church for many years, but the last few years of his life he embraced Spiritualism”. Everson’s sawmill was located across the road from the South Hanson railroad depot. For additional details about Spiritualism in Hanson, see Mary Blauss Edwards’ article “Hanson’s Clairvoyant Physician: Abbie O. Whitmarsh (1829-1921) in Fall 2013’s Tunk.
Although the original donation record for the safe cannot be located, it was probably donated by Hanson teacher and widow Grace Elizabeth (Hanson) McClellan (1886-1969), who was an original founder of the Hanson Historical Society and the wife of Roderic Cameron McClellan (1882-1962), who was the grandson of Barnabas Everson.
[Posted by Mary Blauss Edwards, Hanson Historical Society Curator]