May 18, 1859: ‘Stormy Edmund Garnder’ leaves the Harvard Shakers

Alfred Collier was a true believer in the Shaker faith for many years after he was brought to the Shaker village in Harvard, Mass., when he was eight years old.

Collier became deacon of the church and head of the farm. In that role, he was required to keep a daily journal.

Harvard Shaker Village 1905

Harvard Shaker Village 1905

In 1857, he recorded his growing doubts about his faith:

…Since last April my mind has been subjected to some changes in my vein of religious matters but not as yet to effect a change in my manner of life.

He was troubled by the dwindling numbers of older members and by the departure of young people. “The loss of friends has effected me deeply & has at times wrung out the bitter tears of agony,” he wrote.

Jan. 20, 1860, was his 37th birthday.

…though age and hard work have had some effect upon me Physically I am still as blithe as ever my hair is not grey my sight is not in the least impaired but my beard is a little grey on the chin. My weight is 175 lbs, my health is very good and I was never so strong in my life. I can shoulder 200 lbs and walk off with it with comparative ease.

Four years later, Alfred Collier left the Shakers, just as a young troublemaker had left in 1859.

On May 18, 1859, Alfred Collier wrote in the journal:

Stormy Edmund Garnder age 12 years left here to live in Littleton. He had gone to the neighbors a got one of them to engage a place for him he has been here about 4 years and become discontented.

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