1884 numbers of the Bay state monthlyBe the first and subjects of first 10 volumes and List of por.

The Granite monthly, a New Hampshire magazine, devoted to literature, history, and state progress (Volume 53) online

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The first Fall of my being there caretaker who dried them and gave

an unusual excursion was planned. to us thru the winter, or he might

The youth and boys of the two socie- sell part of them and treat us to

ties of Canterbury and Enfield were candy. Our own half we would

to meet at Andover, midway be- ourselves dry, what we did not eat

tween the two societies, and enjoy at once, or give to the older people,

a visit together. We were inform- About this time we suffered a

ed of this proposition quite a little change of caretakers, a great event



FORTY YEARS A SHAKER



21



with us. Andrew was a very kind
man and the boys all liked him, but
he was lax in discipline and this
may have influenced the change.
Joseph, his successor, was quite the
reverse. He was very kind to all
boys who inclined to be good, but
rather severe to the unruly. He
spared not the rod and spared it
less than would have been allowed if
the Elders had known more about
it, but it was a time when corporal
punishment in the school and in the
home was considered a necessary
part of juvenile education. Joseph
was too much a disciplinarian to be
loved by all the boys. Some
thought he savored of favoritism.
To some extent this was undoubt-
edly true. As I was thought to be
one especially favored, I can ren-
der an unprejudiced opinion.

Unfortunately the charge of
favoritism would justly reach high-
er places than the caretakers. The
Elders, more especially the sister-
hood, were tinctured more or less
with this very natural human frail-
ty and some of them very much so.
One very able woman who officiated
as Eldress for many years was af-
flicted with this malady naturally
developed by a lengthened term of
office and power. Some of her
charge who when girls were es-
pecially favored and petted, became
when older, special objects of severi-
ty. She was a devoted mother to
those whom she loved, and to them
she was an object of adoration.
But they could not always remain
children, and as they matured into
somewhat of independence of
thought and upon occasion ventured
to express it however respectfully,
resentment immediately arose in
the Eldress which she omitted no
opportunity to disclose.

One must understand the peculiar
idea of Shakers with reference
to the relation of Elder and member
to realize the misfortune of such a
situation. The government was a



veritable theocracy. The Ministry
were "The Holy Anointed." They
were in a way aloof from the people.
They lived in a house by them-
selves alone. They ate in a room
by themselves and their food was
cooked by a sister in a kitchen pro-
vided for the Ministry only. . If a
member had a grievance against an
Elder and desired to appeal to the
Ministry permission to see the Mini-
stry must first be obtained from the
Elder. One may imagine some-
thing of the embarrassment entail-
ing such a situation. It makes for
discipline and governmental control,
but it is not conducive to content-
ment resulting from a purer fra-
ternity. There can be no doubt
whatever that some of those sisters
have from this cause been made un-
happy for many years. If there is
a variance between the Elder and
a member, there are numberless
w r ays by which the Elders can an-
noy and humilitate the victim of
her spite.

In common life, if a girl is at odds
with one who employs her she can
quit. She need not associate with
one who is disagreeable, but one in
a Shaker community is helpless un-
der these conditions. She fears to
leave her home first, because she be-
lieves as she has been taught so as-
siduously to believe, that it is the
way of God and the only true way.
She trembles at losing her privilege,
the opportunity that comes but once
to the soul. She tries to believe
that all her trials are but means to
her final purification and redemp-
tion. It comes pretty hard some-
times, just as she has controlled
and disciplined herself into a spirit
of resignation, to meet an unusual-
ly cruel rebuff, some undeserved
and unjust remark. It is then that
if she had any refuge to which she
could flee she would break away at
once and forever. Many of them
have from time to time done this,
and after having absented them-



22



THE GRANITE MONTHLY



selves sufficiently long to overcome
the natural homesickness that en-
sues, cannot be induced to return.

The exclusiveness of the Shakers,
especially in their earlier history,
was as complete as they could make
it. When they received children it
was with a view to making members
of them and so increase their num-
bers. In their education and in-
duction in various branches of in-
dustry every motive was to make
them most efficient and most ser-
viceable to the society. No thought
was given to fitting them for life
in a sphere outside their own.
Consequently one may have worked
at several trades and have acquired
sufficient skill to serve the purpose
of the Shakers in their peculiar cir-
cumstances and yet not be thorough
enough in any occupation to justify
him in accepting a position in any
of them, and if a man leaves the
society later in life, he finds him-
self handicapped seriously. Nor is
this the worst feature of it. In
those earlier days to which I refer,
those who withdrew from the so-
ciety received very unchristianlike
treatment, and there remains still a
trace of the old way. Their form-
er Shaker friends refused to speak
to them when they met, and would
not give them any testimonial of
character or ability. No aid would
be given to enable their once dear
brother to start in business. On
the contrary, an unmistakable sat-
isfaction was evinced on learning
of the failure of this once dear
brother to succeed. If religion
requires such narrowness the less
we have of it the better.

The Shaker School was nominal-
ly under the auspices of the town
authorities, but was attended by
Shaker children only. The Super-
intending Committee made their of-
ficial visits twice in each school
term, but in no way did they inter-
fere in the management. The boy's
school was three months in winter,



the girls, three months in summer.
Our school began the first week in
November, taught by Benjamin C.
Truman, our assistant caretaker.
He was a gifted young man, a good
scholar, but too young for his job,
and the discipline of the school was
poor. He gave very little atten-
tion to the younger pupils, and they
learned very little.

There was little waste of time
allowed the boys during the winter.
The older boys were kept busy
from time of rising in the morning
until retiring at night, sizing broom
corn, making brooms, shovelling
snow from the many stone walks
in the door yard and keeping the
various woodboxes of the sisters
supplied with wood from the wood
sheds. The smaller boys knit
stockings under care of the sisters
at the Second House. The excep-
tions to this round of work were one
play time at night each week from
the close of school until bed time,
and Saturday afternoon until 3
o'clock. Three evenings, including
Saturday, were given to a religious
service as before described. This
changing from work to school and
from school to work compelled five
changes of clothes per day. Every
night after school we found at the
shop a large wooden tray of brown
bread crust all warm from the oven
and rich old cheese to go with it.
We ate of it liberally, nor did it in
any degree impair our appetites for
the supper of delicious hash and
pie. At noon a basket of apples
greeted us, to which we did ample
justice.

Thanksgiving comes only once in
the year, and it comes only in one
way to the Shakers. As a festival
it did not appeal to them, and they
gave it only a nominal attention in
deference to the Government. A
brief service was held at nine
o'clock at which the Governor's pro-
clamation was read. The remain-
der of the day was devoted to clean-



FORTY YEARS A SHAKER



23



ing up and putting in order the out-
buildings and places that were un-
der the care of no particular person.
All were supposed to overhaul their
cupboards, drawers and other per-
sonal belongings. Little or no dif-
ference was made in the dinner.
We might perhaps have chicken,
but turkey never. The State Fast
Day was observed in precisely the
same manner.

As the end of the year drew nigh,
some Sunday before Christmas was
by the Ministry appointed as the
Shaker Fast Day, the supremely
important day of the whole year.
As the Ministry were ever present
on this occasion in both societies,
the observance of the day was on
consecutive Sundays, one following
the other. The people were noti-
fied a week in advance, and this in-
terval was supposed to be occupied
in a review of the past year to the
intent of correcting all errors and to
be ready to begin the New Year
with clean hands and pure heart.
All grudges and hard feelings must
be acknowledged and banished. If
a variance exist between two mem-
bers, they must seek reconciliation
and forgiveness from each other. If
unable to do this, then both must
meet before the Elders as mediators.
Such matters must not fail of ad-
justment. If one has a grievance
against an Elder, he can appeal to
the Ministry and he must not be
denied.

The service on the evening before
this day was rather a solemn affair,
given more or less to reference to
the coming day and its duties. The
people all arose next morning a
half hour earlier than usual and as-
sembled in the Meeting Room for
a brief service and silent prayer.
Beginning at once with the Trustees
every one in the Family except the
children, who were attended to by
their caretakers, enjoyed a visit to
the Elders, both of them sitting to-
gether. The Elders had their visit



to the Ministry a few days before.
The mid-day meal was bread and
water, but I remember that the
bread was new and warm, and we
had brown bread fresh and nice and
warm, and the young folks ate as
heartily as ever, and if any of us
ate any less by virtue of the occasion
we certainly made up for it in the
usual Sunday supper beans. Next
morning the people again assembled
early for another short service of
less solemn character, and the
Shakers New Year was ushered in.

Christmas was a joyous occasion,
inasmuch as all were supposed to
be in a good healthful spiritual con-
dition. It was observed as the
Sabbath until four oclock, the sup-
per time. A full religious service
was held at 9 a. m. At the close of
the service came a united gift to
the poor. A bundle of serviceable
clothing had been previously pre-
pared for every one and placed in
the waiting room, and now all left
the meeting room, every one took a
bundle, and returning deposited it
in one of the large baskets that had
meantime been brought in, the El-
der making a few remarks concern-
ing our duty to the poor, as lend-
ing to the Lord.

With the old Shakers it was a
cardinal principle to give to the
poor largely of their surplus earn-
ings. They abjured wealth and
lavish living. Economy and fru-
gality were insistently and contin-
uously urged upon the people.

The Trustees always remember-
ed us on Christmas in their own
way. Every one received a diary
for the New Year. Those for the
little folks were of course very
small, but sufficient to teach them
the importance of keeping a record
of their daily doings. Always, too,
we had candy and oranges, and the
older ones had nice raisins.

In the afternoon of Christmas we
always held "Union Meetings."
The children were privileged to at-



24



THE GRANITE MONTHLY



tend these and it was the only time
during the year. These union
meetings were parties of from two
or more, sometimes eight or ten, of
each sex, in many rooms in the
Dwelling House, at the Second
House, Infirmary and Office. The
Ministry, Elders, Deacons and
Trustees all held separate meetings.
Every brother and sister always
kept a large Union Meeting hand-
kerchief spread over their knees
and laps at these meetings and every
other occasion when brethren and
sisters sat together.

In olden times these sittings were
rather less conventional, were en-
joyed with pop corn and cider and
possibly with smoking, but in my
time they were become more res-
tricted and no doubt less enjoyable,
and finally they were given up en-
tirely. These meetings were al-
ways of one hour, convening at the
ringing of the little bell, and dis-
missed by the same signal. On
week days, free conversation was
held upon any topic suitable for a
mixed company anywhere, whether
of our work, news of the world or of
books, but on Sunday all secular
topics were prohibited. Conver-
sation was limited to the religious,
moral or intellectual, interspersed
with singing. Theoretically the
young people could talk with each
other if they so desired, but as a
matter of fact they did not talk
much, a few of the older ones
monopolizing most of the conver-
sation. The selection of the com-
pany was by the Elders shrewdly
managed to include those deemed
most advisable, looking to their
fitness in relation to each other.
In other words, they would not in-
clude in the same meeting a young
man and young woman who were
known or supposed to be partial
to each other.

Uneventfully the winter passed.
School closed the last week of Feb-
ruary and just now the monotony



was broken with a vengeance. An
event occurred that stirred our
peaceful community to its depths.
Three of our most promising young
men, oneof them our school teacher,
all of them of fine ability upon whom
the fondest hopes of the society were
centered : these three young men
were suddenly missing. They had
left our home and their home with-
out a word, with no hint of their in-
tention. It was bad enough for
them to leave us even in the most
open manner, but to "run away"
intensified the offence intolerably.
It was an ungrateful, cruel act.
Whom could they now trust? This
thing must receive prompt attention
and surely it did. Every man,
woman, and child was upon a day
appointed for the purpose^ called
separately before both Elders and
questioned as to what if anything
they knew about the affair, but if
they acquired any information I
never heard of it. It served how-
ever, to emphasize the awfulness of
the thing, which was probably the
chief intent of the Elders.

What we are most concerned
with in this narrative is what was
the underlying cause of the defec-
tion of these young men. All of
them had lived there from early
childhood. Their ability was ap-
preciated. They were loved and
trusted. They must have loved
many of the people there. They
knew little of the world and its
ways. Ah, yes, indeed. In this
very ignorance we find a tempta-
tion to them. They longed to see
it, and like the little birds in the
nest they longed to try their wings.
What really had they to look for-
ward to except a monotonous round
of drudgery from one year's end to
another, and to what purpose?
Evidently the religious element of
the people failed to attract them and
that was the only magnet to hold a
young person anyhow, very slender
inducement for the Shaker life. The



FORTY YEARS A SHAKER



25



desire for personal independence,
freedom to go and to come at their
own sweet will, to earn money and
to spend it without dictation is the
natural desire of the young man.
But the Shakers say no. You can
never own anything. Not even
your legs. All of these things be-
long to the Church and you can
have the use of them only. Not
only that. If after having spent
years, the best part of your life it
may be, if at sometime you with-
draw from the society you can claim
no compensation for long services
rendered.

And then again what assurance
have I that I will be always content ?
Will it not be wise policy, he quer-
ies, to try life outside for awhile?
If he finds he has made a mistake in
going, if conscience pricks, he can
return. His education has been
such that he is haunted by consid-
erable doubt whether he may not
misstep, but reason urges him to go,
and having gone that ends it so far
as any return is concerned.

There was a cogent reason for
leaving secretly, as did these young
men, and as many others have done.
If a person was valued, no effort
was spared to induce him to change
his mind. He would be escorted
to the office and there be visited
by those whom he was supposed to
love and thru his affection they
tried to win him back. No one
without experience can know what
an ordeal it was to pass through.
It may be that one or more of these
young men had received a taste of
it, and thought it was something to
avoid if possible.

The maple sugar season began
soon after school closed, and it was
an interesting time for the boys.
They always were in requisition to
assist in distributing the buckets to
the trees and driving the spiles in
the holes bored by the brethren. A
company of sisters went down at
the same time to scald the buckets



and start the sugar makers in a
cleanly way. To the boys it was a
pleasureable time ; the walk to the
camp two miles away ; and the wad-
ing thru the deep snow with- the
buckets, a thousand of them. It
was work, but it was fun. The din-
ner was extra good. The sisters
made griddle cakes and these were
served with | good thick maple
syrup from a jug kept over from
the previous season.

There was an annex to the main
building, a combination of bed
room, kitchen and parlor. At one
end of the room were double deck
berths, as it was often necessary
to boil the sap night as well as day.
There was a good cook stove, a large
dining table and plenty of chairs.
Once again only did the boys spend
the day at the camp, but this day
was purely a holiday and we spent
it in play and feasting on the sweets
of which all the varieties were at our
unlimited disposal.

First we attacked the syrup can,
then sugar, a large tray full of it.
Next came "stick chops" made by
boiling down to a very thick mass
poured on snow or a marble slab,
which when cold was brittle, but
when warmed in the mouth it at-
tained adhesive qualities that were
very masterful. The same mass re-
moved from the slab while yet
warm could be worked into very
white candy quite different in taste
from the stick chops.

The maples of this orchard were
very large pasture trees. I have
known two of them to yield a bar-
rel of sap each in one day. Most
of the trees were served with two,
and some with three buckets.

Few people know that freezing
sap produces the same effect as boil-
ing. Let a bucket full of sap be
frozen solid, a large spoonful of
thick and colorless syrup will be
found. We used to call it sap
honey. It is of delicious flavor
quite unlike ordinary syrup, and



26



THE GRANITE MONTHLY



sugar made from it very white.

The product of the sugar harvest
differs greatly in the various sea-
sons. The least 1 ever knew from
this orchard was 250 barrels. The
greatest yield was nearly 700 bar-
rels. The other Families had camps
of their own, totaling about the
same as the Church Family.

When the sap flowed rapidly, two
of the home brethren would go
down to tend the kettles all night,
taking turns at boiling and sleep-
ing. When our caretaker's turn
came he would take two of us boys
with him and I was sometimes one
of the two. To us it "was a lark.
We loved to sit up most of the
night, helping tend the fires and
the syruping off, and we would boil
down some of the syrup on our own
account. We enjoyed the peeping
of the frogs in the little pond by the
camp, and to hear the owls hoot.
We would mock them and they
would respond whoo, whoo, whoo.

In August when the pile of
twelve cords of wood cut in the
spring was dry, the boys would go
to the camp to pile it into the shed.
One of these times some of us at-
tempted to run the entire distance
of two miles up hill and down with-
out stopping, and I was one who
won out, working all day in a boil-
ing sun and walking home again,
still we were not tired.

During the long winter the
brethren worked chopping and haul-
ing the year's supply of wood. In-
to the door yard was drawn the
corded wood and the limbs of the
trees. These were sawed by steam
power and cast into huge heaps in
the back yard, and here the boys
worked for several weeks splitting
and piling the wood into the sheds.
Every morning and evening all the
brethren able to wield an axe work-
ed at the splitting until the job was
done, after which the entire Family,
sisters included, formed a bee to
clean up the door yard.



This spring our caretaker assum-
ed the care of the kitchen gardens
of two and one-half acres in one
place and two acres in another, and
this determined the boys' sphere of
action for the summer, in part, but
some of the boys were usually em-
ployed in the many duties in the
Family, always demanding atten-
tion.

Joseph was a very efficient gar-
dener, and it was a fine education
for us in learning the growing of
all kinds of garden produce. The
work was very pleasant to me and
seeing that I took an interest in it,
Joseph assigned to me many jobs
requiring nicety. This enabled me
to work alone, or with a younger
companion, and I felt happier in
being separated from the crowd.

A bed of poppies was being grown
for opium and I was given the care
of it. When the capsules were
grown, I scarified them every
morning, and in the afternoon scrap-
ed off the dried milk and gave it to
the nurses. That I thus escaped the
burning heat of the hay field gave
me no sorrow.

The extensive asparagus beds
were under my exclusive care, and
when the rest of the company sized
broom corn at the mill, I managed
to work upon these beds. I hated
that broom corn job on account of
it prickling dust that offended my
sensitive skin.

The Trustees received from the
U. S. Government a lot of seeds for
testing which Joseph planted in a
plot of about 30 x 50 feet, and to
my great pleasure gave the whole
into my care, and I carried the busi-
ness through successfully.

At the request of the nurses I was
given a little section to raise catnip
and motherwort. To find the plant
I had to scour the farm. Catnip
was plentiful enough but mother-
wort was scarce. I succeeded in
filling my two rows when to my
chagrin I found I had set out



FORTY YEARS A SHAKER



27



thistles, and did they not have a
fine laugh at me !

Let us now for a moment discuss
the effect of one year's experience in
Shaker life. If any boy among the
Shakers could be perfectly content-
ed and happy sure I ought to be that
boy, for my lot was cast in pleas-
ant places. I never received an un-
kind word from my caretakers nor
teacher, nor do I recall even a word
of reproof. I was favored beyond
most, and possibly any other boys,
and yet in spite of all favorable cir-
cumstances I was not thoroughly
contented. Why not? Was it due
to a defect in my organism or was it
imperfect environments? I think
a fair answer will be that I was in
an institution rather than a home.
It was a boarding school with this
essential difference : the boy in the
boarding school looks forward to his
vacation, when he can spend days
or weeks at his home. He knows
that a few years at the longest will
terminate school, and he will then
remain at home or make a home of
his own.

The Shaker boy sees no vacation
for him, no ending of his term.
Here is his life job.

It was a one sex association. The
boys and girls saw each other three
times every day at meal time, but
held no communication with each
other. My sister and I met occas-
ionally, but she was always chaper-
oned by her caretaker. I can re-
call but one instance of speaking to
a girl during the three years I was
in the Boy's Order. One of my
duties was to replenish the wood
box at the Infirmary. A girl of my
own age, whom I will call Helen
Olney, because that was not her
name, was dwelling at the Infirmary
on account of delicate health. She
came from Providence as I did, and
that seemed to establish a mutual
interest. She had living with us
three brothers, one older and two
younger than myself. We saw each



other there nearly every day. I do
not know which of us spoke first,
but 1 do remember that we ex-
changed a few words and became
somewhat acquainted. Possibly we
may have exchanged smiles when
we met after that but I do not re-
member.

My companions from morning
until night were boys. From one
week to another and from one
month to another boys, only boys.
They were not bad boys, they were
probably above the average, but



Online Library1884 numbers of the Bay state monthlyBe the first and subjects of first 10 volumes and List of porThe Granite monthly, a New Hampshire magazine, devoted to literature, history, and state progress (Volume 53) → online text (page 4 of 57)