Massachusetts

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  live with the Shakers in Harvard, Mass., when he was eight years old.

Collier rose to deacon of the church and head of the farm. In that role, he had 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.

Leaving the Shakers

He found it troubling that the number of older members dwindled and the young people departed. “The loss of friends has effected me deeply & has at times wrung out the bitter tears of agony,” he wrote.

He celebrated his 37th birthday on Jan. 20, 1860.

…though age and hard work have had some effect upon me Physically I am still as lithe 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.

Harvard Shaker Village, South Family Building

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.

This story last updated in 2022.

Image of South Family Building By John Phelan – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10819854.

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