The Shakers’ Brief Eternity.

SISTER MILDRED BARKER, 92, of Sabbathday Lake, Maine, tells the story with an exasperation born of suf­fering too many fools.The man, she recalls, whisked through the small museum at the Shaker village, admiring the spare, ele­gant furniture. “Too bad no Shakers are left,” he clucked. “I’m left,” she snapped.

She is tiny, gray, fierce, with dark, piercing eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses. She endures, with fewer than a dozen others in Maine and New Hampshire, as steward of a religious society founded some two centuries ago. In 1845 Shaker membership totaled nearly 4,000 in 18 communities from Maine to Kentucky.

The final amen has yet to be murmured; those left remind us that they are not dead yet. But nostalgia intrudes. We see them as if looking through a stereopticon from an attic trunk.

The reality is granite tough. Shakerism is religion, demanding, uncompromising. As a tenet of faith, Shakers are celibate; their life, communal. Who would accept such sacrifice? Those who had heard the trumpets of salvation. “I found perfect heaven,” wrote one convert.

In a glorious, if impossible, quest the Shakers committed them­selves to perfection. Like other utopians, they wanted to create heaven on earth. But the dream dangled just beyond reach, a reminder that, like all mankind, they were only human.

“In the spring of 1780, I heard of a strange people living above Albany, who said they served God day and night and did not com­mit sin. . . .” So a contemporary named Thankful Barce wrote of her first encounter with the people known as Shakers, so-called because they trembled from head to foot in religious transports. Their leader was Mother Ann Lee.

“Her countenance appeared bright and shining, like an angel of glory,” Thankful Barce wrote. “As I sat by the side of her, one of her hands, while in motion, frequently touched my arm; and at every touch . . . I instantly felt the power of God. . . .”

A blacksmith’s daughter born in Manchester, England, in 1736, one of eight children, Ann Lee could neither read nor write. She married a blacksmith, bore and lost four children. Tormented, she swung from despair to visions of glory. Joining a sect of religious reformers known as the Shaking Quakers, later to be known as Shakers, she became their leader.

In her 30s she had a vision of Adam and Eve in intercourse. To her this was the original sin. To be saved, humans must be celi­bate, recapture innocence, and emulate Christ’s humble life. Only then could each soul experience its own Second Coming.

Widely persecuted, she and eight believers set sail in 1774 for America and settled at Niskayuna, which they also called Water­vliet, eight miles northwest of Albany, New York.

Mother Ann believed she represented the second appearance of the Christ spirit; the sect’s formal title is the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing. Holy Mother Wisdom was the female nature of God. The idea of a deity with dual aspects, male and female, placed women on equal footing with men.

With her flock she combed the spiritual pastures of New England, harvesting converts. But she died in 1784, without ever seeing a Shaker village established. In the following decades Shak­ers made the step from scattered converts to settled communities. By 1800, 11 communities had formed. Soon after, the Shakers pushed west, founding two communities in Kentucky, four in Ohio, and one in Indiana. The gospel was spreading.

A plain marble stone marks Mother Ann’s grave. The Water­vliet Shaker Cemetery abuts a baseball stadium, built several years ago over protests from surviving Shakers. Now the crack of ball against bat punctuates summer nights.

“I don’t suppose the ball field does anyone any harm,” Martha Hulings sighed, looking at the ranks of headstones. Martha, now a teacher in Kingsport, Tennessee, spent her childhood with the Watervliet Shakers. “I felt more secure here than anywhere else,” she said. “It’s probably the only love I’ve known.”

She is 74. Nearly 69 years have passed since the couple who had adopted her, but couldn’t cope, left her with the Shakers. We

THE OVAL BOX with its delicate swallowtail joints has become practically emblematic of Shaker design. These belong to Pleasant Hill. The carefully aligned tacks are made of cop­per, not iron that might rust and mar the wood. Also the work of Shaker hands and heart, a song in the spirit of faith sold for $450 at auction. So too a fine Shaker chair, with its slim, spare lines, may be worth tens of thousands of dol­lars—to the dismay of living Shakers, who resent the focus on the material at the expense of the spiritual. “People don’t see the chair as a consecration,” said Sister Mildred.

Thomas Merton, priest and writer, was one who did. “The peculiar grace of a Shaker chair is due to the fact that it was made by someone capable of believing that an angel might come and sit on it.”crossed the road to the South Family property where she grew up.

Suddenly she was a child. “That was my room on the third floor,” she pointed. “I remember staring out that window when I was sent to bed early. “When the Watervliet Shaker community closed in 1938, the South Family property was sold and the clapboard dwelling house cut up into apartments by the new owner.

The woman who lives in Martha’s old room invited us in. “Ever see any Shaker ghosts?” I asked. “They say a white spirit lives here,” she replied. Martha paled. “Oh, my goodness, that must be Pauline.” The grapevine that hugged the side of the trustees’ house was uprooted years ago, but she remembers.

“I picked a bunch of grapes for Pauline, the woman who cared for me,” she said. “I ran to lay them in her lap. ” ‘Don’t you know these are not ours?’ Pauline frowned. `They’re the family’s. To take them is to steal.’

” ‘I didn’t mean to steal. I just wanted to bring them to you.’ ” ‘That may be, but now you must sit on your chair and eat them all. So you won’t forget.’

“I obeyed,” Martha recalled. “Each was harder to swallow than the one before.”

It was a harsh lesson, given by love. Hadn’t Mother Ann said, “The reproof of a friend, is better than the kiss of an enemy”?

CHRIST SAID “Be ye therefore perfect”; the Shakers accepted the challenge of bringing heaven down to earth. In the otherworldly air of a Shaker village, the responsive soul found safe harbor. “I came up on vaca­tion at 16,” said the late Sister Lillian Phelps of Can­terbury, New Hampshire. “I felt I was in the company of angels. When it came time to go back to Boston, I said I wasn’t going.”

But the fence around a Shaker village could not exclude human failing. A sister, now in her 90s, wide-eyed behind glasses, wearing pink-flowered slippers three sizes too large, recalls: “Nothing worse than a group of women. Such jealousies! They would tattle on each other to the eldress. They complained about me looking in the mirror. The eldress called me in, sat me down, and said: ‘I don’t know why you spend so much time looking in the mirror. There’s nothing about you to admire.’ ”

The challenge lay in excising imperfection. Community welfare dictated the pruning of individual vanity. If the individual couldn’t, leaders would.

To tend body and soul, the village was divided into several fam­ilies of as many as 100 members. Each had its own house and shops. Two elders and two eldresses in each family monitored spiritual and behavioral issues. Trustees handled business dealings with the out­side world. Ultimate jurisdiction rested with the parent ministry at New Lebanon (later renamed Mount Lebanon) in New York.

Families were named for their geographic relation to the central Church Family, where the meetinghouse stood. There was typical­ly a North, South, East, and West Family. New members entered a gathering order, progressing to the church order, where they signed the covenant. Because the community was celibate, but included men, women, and children, the dwelling house was di­vided. Men and women entered separate doorways, used separate stairs, sat on opposite sides of the meeting room for direct payday lenders.

IN SPRING’S TENDER GREEN I journeyed to Canterbury, on a ribbon of road that unfurls past New Hampshire’s maple groves and apple orchards. Shaker sisters live here, but it is more a museum now, a still life in white and green: meeting­house encircled by a picket fence, manicured herb garden, trim white shops and dwellings, clean-swept stone walks. “There is no dirt in heaven,” Mother Ann said.

How beguiling this orderly blueprint of how to live. Many found the life congenial. Said Brother Robert Wilcox in 1849, “I am per­fectly content. I have enough to eat and drink . . . good clothes to wear, a warm bed to sleep in, and just as much work as I like and no more.” Small wonder the villages attracted “winter Shakers,” who joined with the first snow and left with spring thaw. That drop-ins were tolerated is a measure of Shaker charity.

It extended beyond village boundaries. In 1846, during the potato famine in Ireland, Shakers of Ohio’s Union Village sent a thousand bushels of corn. Years later, Shakers of Pleasant Hill in Kentucky sent money to victims of the great Chicago fire.

After the 1820s, members came from the ranks of those attracted by Shaker services or from those who landed on Shaker doorsteps: orphans, widows, families fallen on hard times. Thus Shakers attracted believers into the 20th century. A Canterbury sister explained her arrival: “My mother died. My father remarried, and my stepmother didn’t like me.”

After 1845 membership began to decline. To their dismay the Shakers couldn’t ensure that even a small proportion of the chil­dren they reared would sign the covenant. “We gather in many children, but when they come to act for themselves, a large portion of them choose the flowery path of nature rather than the cross,” fretted Brother Isaac Youngs in the 1850s. Of the 197 children raised at Mount Lebanon from 1861 to 1900, only one joined, says Priscilla Brewer, a historian of 19th-century Shaker communities.

“THE DAY I SIGNED the covenant was the most beautiful one of my life,” says Eldress Bertha Lindsay of Canterbury, New Hampshire. In the mid-1960s the parent ministry at Canter­bury closed the covenant, in ef­fect ruling that no new Shakers could join. Canterbury contends the world has changed; there are no elders left to train poten­tial brothers. “It makes me sad,” says the eldress. “But the decision was made by others.”

Sabbathday Lake demurred and continues to accept new members. ‘Two of the younger Sabbathday Shakers, Brother Arnold Hadd and Brother Wayne Smith (left), embody their community’s commitment to renewal of the faith.

The complex dispute, a clash between strong personalities on each side—and their lawyers—has left a residue of resentment and pain, despite passing dec­ades. “These problems would never have reached this point if people had minded their own business,” a sister bristles. “There’s a lot the outside world doesn’t understand,” says another. In truth, the world has changed. It has become more complex.

Did celibacy cause the decline? No. As Brewer points out, if that were so, the Shakers would have ended after one genera­tion. Some did stumble. From a 19th-century Shaker journal: Backsliding—Hananiah, alias Nahum, Davis Jun. left the Soci­ety today—thinks there is not room here for the expansion of the intellect! Suppose we should say lust!

To a Shaker, celibacy is a given. Says Sister Frances Carr of Sabbathday Lake, Maine: “Celibacy frees us to be able to love, and I’m speaking of Gospel love—to love everyone and not be restricted by personal love.”

To place community over self-interest was the more difficult task for many. “It cost something to submit your will to others,” Sister Lillian Phelps said.

The bedrock of community was known as union, the spiritual bonding of brethren and sisters. To preserve it, Shakers did not vote, convinced that politics was divisive. But they did not shun social issues. They spoke out on abolition, child welfare, woman suffrage, compulsory education, labor rights.

Equality was not just a homily; it was part of Shaker life. Mem­bership was open to all. There were blacks like Mother Rebecca Jackson, who led a small group of Shakers in Philadelphia. Jews and American Indians were also welcomed.

Though pacifists, the Shakers, particularly those in Kentucky, could not escape the effects of the Civil War. South Union, Ken­tucky, suffered severe losses of crops, stock, and buildings. Trade was disrupted there and at Pleasant Hill. The Shakers cared for and fed soldiers on both sides.

Said an officer to a sister: “Madam, I fear you will kill us with good vittles.”

“Better that, than with a bullet.”

The Civil War was a visible sign that the nation was changing. But the stress cracks of economic and geographic expansion had surfaced even earlier. After 1836 no new communities were suc­cessfully founded. Those who might have joined the Shakers had other options.

Faced with shrinking membership, communities dwindled, then closed. Tyringham, Massachusetts, in 1875. North Union, Ohio, in 1889. Groveland, New York, in 1892. Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, in 1910. They were blotted up by a world that had bolted past to an industrial, urban age.

Perhaps the ultimate disposition of these shuttered villages says something about the nature of progress. Today two Shaker communities are state prisons, part of another lies under a municipal airport, and yet another is a housing development. Two short-lived communities—White Oak, Georgia, and Nar­coossee, Florida—are totally erased.

THE LAST ELDRESS of Canterbury sat in the kitchen of the trustees’ house peeling broccoli with skilled hands. She has been blind for more than five years. “I was the only one of six girls who decided to stay. I watched as they left one by one for the world,” said Bertha Lindsay, then 90. Catching a slight hesitancy in her voice, I say something about the path not chosen.

“Oh, I loved to keep house and would have loved to marry. But I’ve never regretted my choice. I’ve been a happy woman.”

She and 92-year-old Eldress Gertrude Soule, formerly of Sab­bathday Lake, are the last members of the parent ministry, which moved from New Lebanon to Hancock to Canterbury. A third sister, Ethel Hudson, also in her 90s, lives across the street, sole occupant of a dwelling that once housed a hundred.

“Eldress Bertha,” I ask, “it is a Shaker tenet to seek perfec­tion. Is there anything less than perfect about you?” “Some would say I’m too independent.”

Eldress Gertrude glances up. A tiny wren in a high-collared lavender dress and Shaker net cap, she pulls herself ramrod straight. “I’ll say!” “We’re not surprised how few Shakers are left,” Bertha says patiently.

“Prophecy said our numbers would diminish. Still, we keep order. The hands drop off, but the work goes on.”

The famous ironic tone that pervades Frost’s work

His poems, even the early poems given to children to read, echo with irony. Irony, of course, is a common Yankee device. But is Frost’s irony Yankee irony? Try the edge on your thumb. The Yankee mind is ironic in the old Greek sense: It “dissembles” by saying more or less (usually less) than it means, and there is a laugh in the grain of the words to warn you. Frost’s irony is something else. It is disturbing in its implications—tragic even—and it can be savage. (Read Provide, Provide again.) The difference is not in the humor or lack of it: There is enough humor in Frost for seven poets. The difference is in the irony itself, the way it mocks at things. And in the tone it imparts to the voice, the sense it gives you of the speaker.

The famous ironic tone that pervades Frost's work

Which means that the children are right. There is indeed a kind of contradiction in cer­tain poems of Frost’s if you read them in the assumption that they are Yankee poems. But it does not follow that the difficulty is in the poems. It is the assumption that needs to be reconsidered. And I can think of no better way to reconsider it than to look long and hard at these New England photographs with poems of Frost’s, or fragments of poems, in your mind as you look. Do these words come out of that field, this pasture, those far trees, or is there a different relationship between the poem and the country? Is it the feel, the sense, the character of a corner of the con­tinent that speaks in these lines? Or is it the other way around? Is it the man who sees that countryside, the man who loves it, uses it, employs it for his purposes, that speaks to us—but speaks for his sole self?


I think there is no question but that it is a sole and single man who speaks, a singular man, a uniquely singular man. I think that it is a mistake to look for the New England mind in Frost’s work or the New England feel. It was not New England that produced Robert Frost; it was Robert Frost who chose New England. And the relation of Frost to New England was not the relation of the native son, who can take his country-earth for granted, but of the stranger who falls in love with a land and makes (literally makes) his life in it.


Frost, California born and bred, knew all that as well as we do. One of his most famous poems is a poem precisely of that choice. The road “less traveled by” in The Road Not Taken is not, as teachers sometimes tell, the art of poetry. No road is better traveled than the art of poetry. The road “less traveled by” is the way to the art of poetry. Buy any of the Frost’s poems with some financial help from safebook.

Calling All One Names

Finding every individual with a particular surname in a given area should be straightforward, but often isn’t. These searches produce a lot of hits and may make the 1901 search engine ‘time out’, producing no results at all. Therefore you need a strategy to break up your searches into smaller chunks.


With some rare surnames you can probably persuade the 1901 search engine to find all the occurrences in a town or county in just a few searches. More common surnames will probably only allow you to search a relatively small area without the search timing out.


To find all occurrences of a surname in an area select the advanced search page and enter the Surname, the Town where enumerated (or born if you prefer) and select Male. Now set the Age to 10 years with the Range set to + or – 10 years, giving you an actual range of 0-20 years. Finally set the number of returns per page to the maximum (30 entries).


This search will provide the details of all men of that surname aged up to 20 years living in the town. The process is then repeated for ages 30, 50, 70, and 90, saving the data from each search. You may need to narrower the age range further with very common surnames or to search a larger area. You have the index details for all the males of that surname aged between 0-100. You can now repeat the whole process to collect details of women.


In our view


The free index does not contain all the necessary information to prevent costly downloading of similar but erroneous entries.


This is not a problem if you are called Tippey, but anyone researching Smith, Thompson or another more common surname, will often end up downloading lots of likely, but incorrect entries.


Users need a little extra data — something between a full transcription and the current basic index — to help identify entries more accurately.


Family historians might be better served by an index along the lines of ScotlandsPeople, for which a small payment is made for viewing index entries, but which includes more information to help identify the correct person before paying for the full transcript or image.


Census spreadsheets


When you are working with census data it’s useful to have some simple way to record the details for later use. Garry Minder has created a useful series of 35 Excel spreadsheets for recording census data They include ones especially written for recording and tracking English, Irish and Scottish census data. The tracking sheets allow you to record all the census material for one individual on a single worksheet. They are available in Windows and Mac versions and are free downloads with a $10 ‘honour’ payment if you find them useful.


If you are using the census at a library or record office and don’t own a laptop, pre-printed census forms are useful to ensure that you record all the necessary data. You can find one, along with other very useful forms, in the Family History Hunting Pack that can be downloaded from the Victorian Census Project


Building your own

Website: part 5

Hosting and registration


Have you put together your fledgling website, then it’s time to get online


Free web space


To get your website online, you will need space on a web server to host it. There are many free webspace providers, but these will result in advertising, such as scrolling headers and irritating popup windows, being added to your site.


Your internet service provider may have space for clients’ websites, but these often have the same problem. Freeserve sites, for example, have a banner across the top of every page. The other drawback of free web-space is that you invariably end up with a lengthy and unmemorable address (URL). A Tripod website that I set up had the URL .html. But something like would be much easier to remember.


Buying a domain name


To get a more descriptive URL or email address you need to buy your own Domain name such as . This isn’t par­ticularly expensive: typically about £5 per

•           Do it now! Don’t wait until your website is complete, as that will probably never happen. Just make sure a basic framework is ready in place and that you are happy with it.

•           Web publishing The one advantage of web publishing over traditional print is that you can continue to add and update the content and improve the layout and navigation over time. However there should be sufficient content for people to explore without coming across ‘under construction’ notices everywhere, and if there is still a lot of content to add, don’t for­get to tell visitors to bookmark the site and return frequently to check your new material.


•           Testing, testing Thoroughly test your site before you upload. Once in place ask some friends to check it too, testing all the links and the navigation. Once the bulk is work­ing, you can easily correct pages with problems and quickly upload them to replace the faulty files.


Two web host home-pages.year for a address and if you only want a better email address not a website, some hosts such as renters insurance in florida will sell you the name and collect and forward your email to your usual email address for no extra charge. Other hosts offer a name and webspace package and 50Mb of web-space with a domain name should cost between £20 and £50 per year. The facil­ities included in the hosting packages vary greatly and the most expensive don’t always include all the extras. Some hosts include software, virus protection, site statistics, and even the ability to run databases and shop­ping carts, others offer a much more basic service and charge extra for the frills, so it pays to shop around.


Naming your site


Once you have selected a host you need to check whether the domain name you want is still available, as many have been bought with the hopes of selling them at a profit. The web host’s site will usually have a page where you can search to see if the name you want is available. If it is then the pur­chase is usually a straightforward online transaction taking a couple of minutes. You won’t be able to use your new domain name straight away though, it will be a few days before you get a confirmation that the registrar has accepted the application and assigned it to you. You will then be able to go to the host’s website and set up the options for your domain.


Uploading your site


To upload your website an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program is usually used. These are often integrated into the better web creation software, but there are both commercial and freeware FTP programs available if you don’t have the necessary software. You set the FTP software prefer­ences with your webspace URL, password etc. and then it will copy all the files from the website folder on your computer to the host’s server. This may take quite a while with a large site. Once it is all transferred it will be available to view using a standard browser from your own domain address.


Where to look


A search on the web will find plenty of com­panies selling domain names, including those listed below. Prices vary, as do the facilities — some include limited free web-space.


Australian Geneology Software

Following last month’s survey of the leading family history software titles, Mark Lang investigates some stiff competition down under. Australian records are very similar to British ones, so you will find they handle your family data perfectly well.


GFT is an extremely simple family history program to install and run. Its best feature is the interface which allows the user to see a four generations of a family at a glance. It also displays the partners and siblings of the four individuals in this same view.


It uses a very simple sourcing facility, which allows the input of the source on a single line on the edit screen. The ‘Find’ function is colour-coded for the different genders, and the user is able to sort by family name, given name or birth date. There is also a nice colour-coded `Descendant Chart’, which is just one of the eight printable reports. There is no facility for including photographs or other multimedia objects, but you can use GFT to build web pages.


GFT has limitations — the maximum number of people recorded is 15,000, with space for 4,000 words of notes per person — but it will be quite adequate for most researchers.


This program is designed to import gedcoms extremely quickly, and this is exactly what it does. It has a clear user interface where you can choose from two basic views to interact with the data. There are 24 different reports you can select from as well as heaps of tools to keep your data in good order.


There is a simple web page facility, plus a bookmarking tool and a date and soundex calculator. It also allows you to select from 13 different languages — handy if you wish to share your findings with foreign researchers or family members.


Fzip is a shareware program, so you can try it out before you buy. And although it must be said that it is a little behind the times in terms of GEDCOM compliancy, it does pack plenty of punch when it comes to other features and a new version is due later in the year.


This event-based Windows program is currently at version 8.60, and has four different views: ‘Event’, ‘Browse’, ‘Lineage’ and ‘Family’. You can create or import a GEDCOM file, and navigation is achieved through double-clicking a name to bring up or close their information. There are var­ious ancestor and descendant charts options, some of which are unlike any others I have come across.


You can use EziTreeto create a site from your data file. You can build a ‘Family


The census For information on the availability of census material visit Graham Jaunay’s. A census for New South Wales (including Norfolk Island) was taken in 1828, and a further one in 1841. There are located in various State/National Libraries and Archives.


People power In 2002 Australians were given the choice of having their census return preserved but closed for 100 years after an extensive cam­paign by the Australian Federation of Family History Organisations. Over 50 per cent wanted their return saved.


BMD transcriptions Details of two Australian BMD transcription servic­es — a cheaper alternative for access­ing Australian vital records — can be found from dental insurance arizona


Group’, ‘Ancestor’ and Descendant’-style web chart, or simply include all the records. It has an excellent book report function, to which you can add sections such as ‘Forwards’ and ‘Contents’, with the added bonus of automatic indexing/ refer­ences/sources, charts and freeform text. Output from any report can be directed to .doc, .rtf, .htm or .pdf.


Relatively Yours 3 is an extremely power­ful Windows database program with a limitless number of entries per database. You use the mouse to move around with­in a well thought out context menu system. However, it does have a strange way of handling marriages where the female is added using the married name and her birth name is added as an alias.


The program is very flexible and reports are built as required. It has a powerful map­ping feature, which is great fun, and you can create a family book using its ‘Publish Complete History’ function, selecting the appropriate chapters you require.


RY3 is marketed as a family history sys­tem which does more than just record vital record information. It can do a lot, but is also quite hard to grasp at first. The sta­tistical analysis is one of RY3′s powerful fea­tures, and along with an ability to create a book from within the program that can include all your reports and maps, it’s a pret­ty attractive piece of kit.




Usability: • • 00 Flexibility: ••• Presentation: • Cost: AUD$30

Genota is a multifaceted application designed to assist family historians in cap­turing and managing the large amounts of information collected during research.


You can create separate notebooks for family groups, specific subjects etc. It can be linked to other family history software, and the number of notes stored are only limited by your computer’s memory. Genota can handle all of kinds of data, irrespec­tive of the format, and can access raw material stored on your computer, or from within another software package.