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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quence of this more frequent ming-
ling with the sisters I met with
Helen, who assisted them in various
duties, particularly at the kitchen,
which was especially favored, or
rather afflicted, by the rodents. We
began to be a little more social, al-
though our opportunities were of a
very brief character, but even the
knowledge that my presence was
agreeable to her was very pleasant
to me.

Returning to the religious observ-
ances, every evening of the week
had its special meeting at eight
o'clock. That of Monday was a reg-
ular Family meeting, but very short,
yet we must be in our rooms and re-
tire the half hour, and then some-
times the meeting would be called
off. Wednesday evening service
was a little longer, and Thursday
evening still more complete. Tues-
day and Friday evenings were Union



meetings as was also that of Sunday.

Sunday morning was the most
varied programme of the week.
On the last Sundav of each month
the brethren and sisters met in
separate rooms to learn new songs
for use in the worship. All were
Shaker songs, some of home pro-
duction and others received from
other societies with whom there
was frequent communication. On
the ensuing Sunday all the singers
met in the meeting room to sing
and teach them to each other. As
few of them could read music it was
tedious, the repeating the songs so
many times for them to learn. The
Shaker music was all written with
letters b, c, d, e, f, g. Flats and
sharps were abrogated.

This was in accordance with a
studied endeavor from the founda-
tions of the society to as far as
possible dispense with the produc-
tions of the world outside, and they
succeeded in doing this to rather
a wonderful extent. Their in-
ventive genius was developed, and
they claim the invention of the
corn broom and the circular saw.

Occasionally on this Sunday
morning the entire Family met in
the meeting room to drill in the
various exercise^ of the worship,
especially the square order, so dif-
ficult to perform gracefully. At
other times we would convene to
listen to the reading of the Church
Covenant, that every one of twenty-
one must sign, and again the Or-
der Book, a compilation of Society
by-laws, of which there were per-
haps one or two hundred. The
following will give an idea of their
character.

Brethren and sisters must not
shake hands together ; must not
touch each other unnecessarily,
must not pass each other on the
stairs, nor be alone in a room to-
gether except for a short and neces-
sary errand ; nor in a room with
the door closed ; nor ride out alone



58



THE GRANITE MONTHLY



together. If a member shakes
hands with one of the other sex
outside, it must be reported to the
Elder at first opportunity.

We must not redrill a hole in
a rock that has been charged ; nor
graft the pear upon any stock ex-
cept the quince ; nor carry open
lighted lamps in barns or any out of
the way places. We may not step
on the threshold of doors ; nor
touch the woodwork of doors when
opening and shutting them ; nor put
our feet on their chair rounds ; nor
lean back in the chair against the
wall ; nor talk after "kneeling at
night before going to bed.

Brethren must rise in the morn-
ing at the ringing of the bell, and
vacate their rooms within twenty
minutes thereafter, so the sisters
can make the beds. Every Friday
the beds remain unmade all day
with windows open for a thorough
airing of room and bedding.

Varying the form of meetings,
sometimes the entire Family would
be seated upon the wooden benches
affixed to the wall of the room, and
beginning with the Elders each one
would from memory repeat an or-
der or injunction, of which there
were plenty to go around and many
to spare. Seemingly every mo-
ment throughout the day, week and
year was covered by some rule.

It was good discipline, and how-
ever irksome it seemed it did us
no harm ; on the contrary it served
to establish a habit of carefulness
and precision liable to extend
through life ; and many who in dis-
content left the society in younger
days have testified to the helpful-
ness of this training to gain success
in business in after life.

In the earlier days of the society
the sexes were about equal in num-
ber. There were sufficient men to
care for every branch of industry,
and the idea of having a hired man
would have been most revolting.
Not only was almost every con-



ceivable article used in the society
made therein by these men, but
they were fully in ttfie van of
catering to the trade. They sup-
plied the markets with flannel,
hosiery, pails, tubs, rakes, brooms,
mortars, candlesticks, herbs, gar-
den seeds, trusses, several medi-
cinal preparations, power washing
machines, deer skin gloves, check-
erberry oil and apple sauce. They
manufactured and sold lumber and
converted the neighbors' grain into
flour and meal. They made their
own leather and from it all their
foot gear, and at their own rude
foundry cast their stoves and all
metal articles needed.

Every man learned a trade of
some kind and followed it unto the
end, whether farmer, gardener,
blacksmith, stone cutter, carpenter,
clothier or tailor, and all were ef-
ficient. It was verily a world with-
in itself.

They formed eight mill ponds
and reservoirs on a little run that
was dry in summer or nearly so,
and at these ponds built eight mills
for various purposes. Running
water was supplied to the Family
through wooden pipes or logs from
springs higher up the hill. They
were as industrious as bees. It was
a part of their religion to fill every
moment to the utmost limit.

1 well remember old Calvin Good-
ell. He was the clothier. His mill
was under the hill, perhaps sixty or
eighty rods from the dwelling
house. He would leave his mill
at the stroke of the ten minute bell
with a little basket on his arm con-
taining needles with broken eyes.
He would halt a moment, adjust his
pliers to the needle making the end
of it a ring, making a pin of it,
meantime walking a few steps on-
ward, then stop to affix pliers to
another needie and so on to the end
of the route and in the waiting
room until called to the dining
hall. He was the most complete



FORTY YEARS A SHAKER



59



exemplification of industry I ever
knew. Of course all were not quite
like Calvin, but industry was a com-
pelling virtue, and hands to work
and hearts to God, their motto.

But what; a change came over
the spirit of their dreams. With
the inevitable passing of the older
men and the secession of more and
more of both young and middle
aged ones, the numbers began to
decrease, making necessary new
workmen for these places, and this,
together with increasing difficulty
in finding suitable material for of-
ficial positions, demanded frequent
changes of employment, as is
pretty well illustrated in my own
case.

From the age of nineteen to
fifty-three I served three years as
school teacher, three years as as-
sistant Elder, eleven years as First
Elder and eleven vears as Trustee
in official life. In the industrial
department I was first a broom
maker, then apprenticed at the busi-
ness of clothier and dyer and the
cutting of men's clothes. When
teaching school in the winter I con-
ducted the vegetable and fruit gar-
dens in summer, the maple sugar
business in the spring, and made
the Corbett's Shaker Syrup of
Sarsaparilla. from 600 to 1200 gal-
lons of it. in spring and fall.

My school life closed when I
was fifteen. I was greatly disap-
pointed at not being permitted one
more term as the boys usually were,
but they seemed to think my educa-
tion was sufficient for a Shaker.
As a little condescension I was al-
lowed to study morning and even-
ing through the winter, instead of
making leather mittens as other-
wise I should have done. Even at
this late date in the Society's his-
tory erudition was not strongly
favored. Not many years back
"God hates grammar" was a com-
mon expression, and their reading
was pretty much limited to the.



Bible and Almanacs and the So-
ciety publications, which were quite-
voluminous. The only newspaper
taken to serve this body of 160
people was the Boston Weekly
Journal, and very few enjoyed the
separate personal reading of this.
If I recall it correctly, this arrived
Friday noon. Until supper time it
was retained by the Elders, and
then given to a brother who read
it to the brethren in the evening as-
sembled in one of the shops. Next
morning it was given to the Eldress
who read it in the afternoon to the
sisters convened in the dining hall.

About this time Elder Henry C.
Blinn and Eldress Dorothy A. Dur-
gin became the Elders of the Fami-
ly. Both of them had been teach-
ers of the school, were highly in-
telligent and progressive in their
ideas, and they stimulated reading
and study, and we now began to
have The Scientific American.
Phrenological Journal and Life Il-
lustrated. A small library had
been formed a little while before,
of all books belonging to the mem-
bers, and this library was enlarg-
ed gradually until we had, as near-
ly as I can remember, about 3000
volumes. There was little or no
fiction. I do not recall a single
book of this kind; it was and al-
ways had been banished absolutely
from the Society. Yet naughtily
we boys and young men now and
then allowed ourselves to read the
stories in the magazines to which
we occasionally had access.

Elder Henry came to the Society
from Providence at the age of
sixteen. He was then serving an
apprenticeship as a printer, and this
partially acquired trade was almost
at once put to good use in the
printing of herb labels and garden
seed literature, and he also printed
and bound The Sacred Roll, a
Shaker publication edited, or in-
spired at Mt. Lebanon.

Elder Henry was of a fine per-



60



THK GRANITE MONTHLY



sonal presence, dignified and court-
eous in manner and indeed a model
gentleman. He was quite a me-
chanic, and a finished workman in
whatever he engaged. He was a
beautiful penman and general good
teacher, and would have attained
high proficiency in a theological
school, as that seemed to be his
literary preference. He did hold
Bible School at the Village, and
he delved in Mosheim and other
ecclesiastical scholars. A familiar-
ity with the classics and best fiction
would have rounded out his char-
acter and made him more able as
a .leader.

He was possessed of a fine voice,
but as a public speaker was neither
forcible nor convincing. He was
kind and fatherly to children, but
failed to bind them to him with a
warmth of affection extending to
later years. He was not a good
judge of human nature, hence a
brilliant and flashy character ap-
pealed to him more strongly than
one of less shining talent even if
(J infinitely greater sterling worth.

lie was endowed with consider-
able constructive ability, but this
was offset by unusual timidity. He
seldom projected an enterprise,
nor did he extend sympathy and
the assistance that his position en-
abled him to do to his brethren who
endeavored by enterprise to ad-
vance the interest of the people.
He shrank from the responsibility
of making a decision in a business
matter, and was sensitive to the
last degree to any possible criticism
that might attach to him for any
mistake in such decision.

In emergences he was dazed and
quite helpless. He had little per-
sonal magnetism to bind the people
to himself, and without D'ortathy
Durgin the society at Canterbury
would not have been, as it was, the
foremost one in the land.

But Elder Henry, if not a strong
man, was possessed of lovely traits



of character. He was a charming
companion as I well know from an
intimate association with him in the
Eldership. He was very liberal in
his views, so much so indeed that
had all in the societies been like
minded there would long ago have
been no Shakers at all, for he con-
tended, and at times so affirmed to
his fellow officers, that the Com-
munity of Interest was a mistake ;
but he never attempted to explain
how otherwise the sect could be
maintained.

He was one of the cleanest, pur-
est minded men it has ever been
my good fortune to know, and al-
though we differed radically in
some things importantly affecting
the Society, yet I remember him
with the greatest respect and love.
It is well that the lapse of time en-
ables us to forget differences to
which human nature is liable, and
to dwell only upon the good and
loveable.

I am regretfully compelled to be-
lieve from reliable information, that
his last days were not happy ones,
and that he died a disappointed
man. All his effort as an editor of
the Shaker periodical and all his
public speaking had not gained one
convert to the faith, and doubtless
it seemed to him as love's labor
lost. He lived to see the Society
reduced to a mere fragment of what
it once was, and could but realize
the inevitable result of a few more
years.

Eldress Dorothy was the count-
erpart of Elder Henry, and in her
liability in the intensity of her
nature to go to extremes- he acted
as a healthy check, resulting in a
safer action. She was the back-
bone of the Family, the success and
continuance of which was due to
her more than to any other mem-
ber, if not indeed to all the others
combined. She was of tireless
energy and superb executive capa-
citv. Of boundless ambition, she



FORTY YEARS A SHAKER



61



used it exclusively for her people.
The strength of her religious faith
seemed at times to verge upon the
fanatical. Being a little Jesuitical
she inclined to be a little unscrupu-
lous in her methods, but she was
sincere, self sacrificing and unre-
mitting in devotion to the cause
to which she had given her life.

Very different from Elder Henry,
she imposed no restriction upon
herself in reading. She managed
to get most of the leading novels of
the times. She had quite a library
of fiction, and sometimes loaned the
books to those with whom in her
opinion it was safe. While she
would not admit the fact even to
her compeers, I know that her
ideas in regard to Shakerism under-
went a radical change many years
before she died, and her belief in
the perpetuity of the society was a
thing of the past. She had gradu-
ated to quite an extent from the
narrow-mindedness in regard to se-
ceding members that obtained in
earlier times, but she was not con-
sistent in that while she corres-
ponded freely with some who had
left the Society, she discouraged
and prevented others from doing
so.

Under her supervision the most
complete system prevailed in every
department of the sisterhood.
Nothing escaped her eve. Through
her lieutenants she was almost om-
nipresent. Every one had her as-
signed duties and the Eldress knew
unfailingly whether or no they were
performed. She was often in the
kitchen to see that every dish w r as
well cooked, and in the dining room
examining it as it came upon the
table ; and many a time she would
herself wait upon the table to make
sure we received all needful atten-
tion. Every girl was scrutinized
as to her clothing and manners to
the confusion of the careless of-
fender.

In a few months' visit at the So-



ciety of South Union, Ky., I had
opportunity to observe the contrast
in the management of an Institu-
tion. In one of the Families there,
the kitchen and its appurtenances,
its flour and meal bins were less
neat and tidy than the feed room of
our hen house at home, demonstra-
ting the fact that the virtues and
defects were attributable rather to
the directors and personnel in each
case, than to the Institution itself.

Canterbury was fortunate in hav-
ing able leaders from the very
first of its existence, and fortunate
in having so able a woman until
near its ending. Dorothy possess-
ed great ideality, which the pe-
culiar ideas and the exalted spiritual
belief of the Shakers gave full
scope ; and being placed there when
a young child, and coming to
womanhood in the greatest spirit-
ualistic history of the Society, she
became one of their most powerful
mediums, having visions and songs
and spiritual gifts almost innum-
erable and dwelling in the Heavens
most of the time; but in later years
she came down to the earth and
found that to be the more solid
foundation.

Although the Shakers have al-
ways recognized the most perfect
equality of the sexes, yet in certain
conditions, as for instances in wor-
ship, both cannot lead, and in this
and similar cases the initiative w-as
always conceded to the brethren.
So also, as there was no divided
financial interest, the brethren only
were Trustees, the title of the Of-
fice sisters being Office Deaconess-
es. The brethren kept all the
books of account, and in their
names were made all deeds and
titles to real estate.

In the earlier part of her official
career Dorothy was very deferen-
tial to her brethren, and insistently
urged this upon her sisters, and
the mutual relations of the sexes
was verv harmonious. But later



62



THE GRANITE MONTHLY



in life, when the ranks of the
brethren became depleted and the
general character of their ability
weakened ; and while on the other
hand the sisterhood retained, and
in some respect exceeded its form-
er vigor, it was quite natural that
Dorothy should realize and be
tempted to exercise her superiority-
It was also only natural that the
brethren should resent the usurpa-
tion of their old time prerogatives
and upon occasion make it ap-
parent.

The sisters finally demanded a
separate interest in business. They
sold the product of their industry,
kept separate books of account and
managed their own finances inde-
pendently. Little by little they ac-
quired the larger portion of the au-
thority and deciding voice. It
proved to be a mistaken policy. It
caused dissension and was a fruit-
ful cause of the loss of some of
their best men, a misfortune which
they most deeply deplored.

Eldress Dorothy was a woman of
unusual magnetic power, and could
sway her sisters pretty much at her
own sweet will. She had a big
motherly heart, but there were op-
posing sides to her character. She
could and would be wonderfully
kind and motherly, or she could
and would inflict a verbal laceration
or icily freeze the very soul of the
victim of her displeasure. She
would for extended periods inflict
humiliation upon some poor girl,
seeking to crush her spirit, or pride,
as she called it ; would isolate her
for days from association with her
companions. She could mortify
them in the presence of other sis-
ters until the worm would some-
times turn and. decide to leave the
society.

When she found she had gone too
far no one could exceed her in at-
tempting a reparation. She would
pet and caress them and elevate
them to the seventh Heaven of her



love. Nothing was now too good for
them. She would procure rides for
them, possibly give them some de-
sired article of clothing, or a visit
with a brother of whom the girl was
especially fond, and the Eldress was
well informed upon this point.

But with many of her young sis-
ters, the high spirited ones and
some whom she most greatly desir-
ed to keep, there came a last time
for endurance. They broke under
the strain and sallied forth to seek
and to make another home. Even
then, after they had actually gone
out, the Eldress endeavored, time
after time to recall them, but very,
very seldom did one return after
tasting the joy of independence and
finding that they were not troubled
by conscience or remorse, as the
supposed penalty for their secession.

In the evening of her life the
Eldress made a radical change in
dealing with her young people, and
sought to make of them good moral
women rather than mere religious
devotees. I am informed by those
who attended her in her last illness
that she, like Elder Henry, died
unhappily. Very much of her time
for weeks previous to her death was
spent in weeping. What the bur-
den of her sorrow was remained
unrevealed, as she shared with no
one her confidence. She prayed for
an extended lease of life, but
whether to finish some uncomplet-
ed Avork or to atone for some re-
gretted act must remain a mystery.

At the age of sixteen I was placed
with Benjamin Smith, who was the
clothier and tailor. The sisters ran
the looms at the mill, and my duties
brought me into close association
with them. When we washed the
wool other sisters always rendered
assistance. At these times our din-
ner was brought to us and we ate
it together in a nice social way.
From now on I was associated with
sisters in my work more or less, and
more so than any other of the boys



FORTY YEARS A SHAKER



63



or young men ; but all the time the
Eldresses were looking after our
protection, and when for any pur-
pose sisters spent a day or less in
company with one or more of the
other sex whether at work or in a
ride, their first duty after such
event was a report to the Elders all
that transpired, giving all possible
account of the conversation.

After leaving the Boys Order I
enjoyed many opportunities of
meeting Helen Olney. She soon
became a member of one of the
crews that took their turns in cook-
ing, and as my trap setting took me
into the kitchen quite frequently,
we would see and speak to each
other when her turn came around.
When not in the kitchen she waited
upon our table, month after month
for years. At such times meal af-
ter meal we could exchange smiles
of recognition. Then there came
a time when we attended the same
Union meeting, and we then could
talk together as we pleased. When
in my care of the garden the peas,
beans, strawberries and currants
were ready for harvesting and for
the table, that was the sisters' job,
and Helen was sometimes one of
the company, and often I would
spend a few moments picking them
with her into her basket or pail.
A currant bush afforded a nice cozy
place for a tryst, a very little bit all
to ourselves. No words were ever
spoken that might not with pro-
priety been uttered most publicly,
nor did our hands ever touch ; but
the little exclusiveness of it was
most delicious.

I was ever careful meanwhile to
give sufficient attention to the
others to avoid comment and jeal-
ous}-. Eventually conscience began
to make a little havoc with what I
feared was a violation of strict
Shaker propriety. I was conscious
of loving Helen better than the
other girls, and that I was indulg-
ing in a little partiality when we



were taught to love all equally.
Like a good Shaker I confessed this
to my Elder. I do not recall what
he said to me but he did not re-
prove me. In fact I am inclined to
think it was a novelty to have a
young man voluntarily state such
a fact.

From some remarks made to me
by the Eldress some time after-
wards I knew he must have told
her. Naturally I felt chagrined
at first at what seemed a betrayal
of my confidence, but I found it
really increased her esteem for me,
and she pursued a very tactful and
judicious course in regard to it. If
in similar cases where two young
people evinced a fondness for each
other, she had been equally discreet
she might have experienced better
results.

Still in most other cases there
may have been clandestine inter-
views in out of the way places, with
possible embraces and kisses, and
the passing of notes. I do not
know, but if so, and if discovery
was made .to the Elders through no
honest}" of the young folks them-
selves, in that case they forfeited, to
a certain extent, their right to com-
plete confidence.

In our case, instead of trying to
prevent our intercourse she really
provided opportunities for it. Oc-
casonally I would be sent to Con-
cord or some other place on busi-
ness, and if consistent, would offer
to take two or three sisters for a
ride. In such cases Helen would
sometimes form one of the part},
and I knew that her inclusion was
for the purpose of pleasing me.

In this connection I think it Avill
not be amiss to note a few instances
of this kind to show that human
nature crops out in Shaker Village
as elsewhere, and again to accredit
the Shakers with using every pos-
sible effort to maintain a clean
chaste life in full accordance with
what they profess. For obvious



64



THE GRANITE MONTHLY



reasons I withhold the true names
of the persons participating in these
incidents, although nearly all of
them have long since gone to that
undiscovered country from whose
bourn no traveller returns.

Elbridge Jones and Susan Has-
kell formed a mutual attachment
and planned to elope. The girl re-



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 8 of 57)