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Boston Philhellenes Remembered on Greek Independence Day

Greek War of Independence
A wreath is placed on the grave of Senator Edward Everett, a president go Harvard University. Credit: Greek Consulate, Boston

On the occasion of the bicentenary of the Greek War of Independence, Boston’s Greek-American community commemorated on Saturday two eminent Bostonians, Samuel Gridley Howe and Edward Everett, who helped the Greek cause.

The event took place at Mt. Auburn cemetery; among the attendants were former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis and three descendants of Samuel Gridley Howe, the philhellene doctor who also fought for the abolition of slavery in the US. Metropolitan Methodios of Boston said prayers.

Stratos Efthymiou, Greece’s Consul-General in Boston, placed wreaths on the graves of Howe and Everett.

Howe and the Greek War of Independence

Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-76) went to Greece in 1824, shortly after finishing Harvard Medical School and earning his degree: he was following the stirring example of his idol, Lord Byron.

Greek War of Independence
Samuel Gridley Howe’s grave. Credit: Greek Consulate, Boston

In his three years in Greece, he served not only as a doctor, establishing the first military hospital, but also as a commander of troops.

In 1827, he returned to the US to raise funds for Greece; the $60,000 he collected (equivalent to $16 million today) he spent on provisions, clothing and in the establishment of two camps for refugee Greeks, one on the island of Aegina and the other near the isthmus of Corinth.

Howe also brought to the US several Greek refugee children to educate them. Some of them became prominent themselves, such as John Zachos, the abolitionist and women’s rights activist.

Another attendee at the service was W. David Power, CEO President of the Perkins School of the Blind, founded by Howe in 1832. After Howe’s death, the school, which counted Helen Keller among its pupils, was directed for 30 years by his son-in-law Michael Anagnos (Anagnostopoulos) from Papingo, in Epirus.

Howe Descendants
Professor Emmanuel Paraschos (L), former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis and Greece’s Consul General in Boston Stratos Efthymiou with and descendants of noted philhellenes Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe at the Mt. Auburn cemetery commemoration. Courtesy Consul General Stratos Efthymiou

Everett and the Greek War of Independence

Edward Everett (1794-1865) was, in his youth, a fervent supporter of the Greek War of Independence. At the young age of 21, he had been named Harvard’s first Charles Eliot Professor of Greek in 1815.

His travels in the Ottoman Empire, where he met such figures as the poet Lord Byron, had made him a committed supporter of the Greek cause.

Once war broke out, Everett acted as a spokesperson for the revolution in the U.S., championing Greek independence in an 1823 speech to the Boston Committee for the Relief of the Greeks, which he had founded and which was credited with rallying substantial domestic support.

The orator and statesman would later serve US Representative and governor of Massachusetts before becoming president of Harvard from 1846‒1848 — and a lifelong philhellene.

After his Harvard presidency, he also served, briefly, as the Secretary of State and a US Senator.

“He was a towering intellectual figure of the time,” said Efthymiou.

Toward the end of his life he was the featured orator at the dedication ceremony of the Gettysburg National Cemetery in 1863, where he spoke immediately before President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address.

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