[Lebanon—Friday & Saturday, 19 & 20 June 1868]

Friday. Perfect day. Took train to Farmington watching from the car windows the winding of our Pemigewasset until it disappeared utterly—once more we had a peep at the Franconia range, floating mysteriously upon the horizon then they too quickly sank behind the waving foliage by the road-side. Reached S[tation]. in a short time and drove 4 miles, through a green rolling country to Franklin, the town where Daniel Webster was born. Here after waiting an hour or two we again took train for Enfield. By this time the day grew warm. We had a warm and dirty but short railway trip to Enfield where we decided to stop because a gentleman whom we met told us the Shakers were not displeased to see a few strangers and he thought we should make a mistake not to stop. He said so much that we yielded to our desire and getting out at Enfield asked a man at the Station to drive us over to the Shakers. “D’ye know anyone there” he said, “No” we replied, “but were told we had better go there if we could spare the time” “Then they don’t expect ye” “No” “Wal, ye’re ken but try, perhaps they’ll take yer in, they don’t take everybody though.” With this slight encouragement we started, but were scarcely in the wagon when we discovered a basket containing our necessary articles had been left behind. At this J.T.F. was somewhat disconcerted but he soon made so much fun of the matter that our driver had to hold his sides with laughter. It was so amusing to Lucy and myself to watch the contortions of the man and Mr Fields delight in putting him into hysterics that we were in a most un-Shaker-like condition when we drove into the upright village of Enfield. By this time the driver had discovered our names and who we were. He said he had no doubt they would take us in; he would jump off, give our names and make it “all right” with “Aunt Mary.” To be sure “presto” the good Aunt Mary said we might come in. She did not express any particular pleasure in seeing us, why should she? but she showed us into a spotless room where she said we might sit, and into an entrance room where was a pump with clean towels and a basin and having spoken a few words she left us to ourselves. It was occupation and pleasure enough for a time to look about the room so scrupulously neat, and to shake off the dust and enjoy the cool breezes while we rocked in the queer straight-backed little chairs. Presently “Aunt Mary” returned “Have you had your dinner,” she asked (it was nearly 3 o’clock) “No” we responded. “Well, you shall have some” Again she went away and presently returning said we should have dinner in three quarters of an hour and we might walk out in the mean while if we wished. But we told her it was very pleasant to sit in her cool room and we rather hoped she would stay and talk with us but she retired to her own room adjoining and shut the door saying “If ye wish for anything ye may knock on either of these doors.” I took out my knitting and chatted with Lucy for a time. Mr Fields having gone to the door to observe somewhat more closely the outside and outsiders. There was not a sound to be heard, except the chirp of a bird or occasionally the little click of a gate as one of the Shaker men came or left upon his business. Presently however we heard a murmur of voices. It was one of the head Shakers, the head I believe now of the Church Family at Enfield talking with Mr Fields in the doorway. We sat inside and listened quietly. He said his name was Abraham Perkins. I could see his face now and then through the open door. It was an intelligent good face. He spoke of the foolish reports in circulation with regard to the Society,—of the size of Enfield (which has only about 200 members in all) and is evidently decreasing although they are of course unwilling to allow this, of the superior size of Lebanon which has about 600 members, of the character of F.W. Evans, elder at Lebanon, a man of marked ability, and especially of the number of persons who trouble them by coming out of mere curiosity and who go in or out of offices and rooms without invitation, he had, in a courteous manner much to say. One day last summer he said a pic-nic party of 400 persons came and quartered themselves upon the Society for the day. Of course there was nothing to be done but to give themselves entirely up to them, for before they were aware the visitors were overrunning every spot nothing was sacred to them. Therefore they apportioned a certain ‘visitors’ duty to each as soon as the members could be brought together that the thing should be done decently and in order.

The place seemed to us much like a Catholic Nunnery—the bell-ringing at certain seasons and the simple attire, only there were monks here as well. It was a warm night and the stillness which fell upon these beautiful fields became breathless and profound. Nothing stirred or passed in the road after the last bell ringing to disturb this, until our hilarious driver came along waving the basket we had lost triumphantly. Mr Fields went into the road to thank him for it and wished to pay him for his trouble. “Nothin' to pay” said he “I shall be happy to have you call the next time ye come to Enfield” “Thank you” said J.T.F. Thank you said the jolly driver and drove off down the road. Again night and silence settled down; the sunset was clouded with soft blossoming colors at length, like late flowers on the sky. When the rainbow in the South had faded and the light wore dim we went into the house. The door of Aunt Mary’s room was open and she asked us to walk in there being also on the lower floor, her door and the public door opening at an angle. The floor was so nice we feared to tread upon it with our thick shoes. She said “it was the fashion (speaking perhaps with the lightest shade of contempt) to wear iron in the shoes and when there was iron it made holes in her floor. So we stept lightly to avoid such a catastrophe. Beautiful mats braided or woven of rags were laid down over the painted floors.

I admired the carpets in the sitting-room and Aunt Mary said they had been down 30 years. They looked as if they had seen the light then for the first time. Aunt Mary asked if we liked late hours but we told her no and tonight especially we were weary. “Thy feeling will suit me well enough tonight, we have had a sight of company today and would like to go to bed” So we took our bags and preceded by Aunt Mary and followed by sister Julia a young woman appointed as her assistant we prepared to go to our rooms. I think until we ascended that narrow staircase we did not appreciate the strangeness of our imposition, nor the broad line which separated the Communists from those who are set apart in families according to God’s law. It gave me a pity and a fellowship with them, that one night which I might otherwise never have had. At the top of the stairs we women were shown into a room by ourselves with two separate beds. Water etc: was in the public hall! Shortly after Mr Fields knocked at our door. They had given him no water and he wished me to intercede for him. I did so gently with the young sister telling her he liked to bathe in his room. “Does he,” said she “Oh yes, would he like his water in a pail?” “Yes, he would like a pail-full of water certainly.” Again I retired to our room and again shortly I heard a knock and going out looked into Mr. Fields room where stood a pail of water in the middle of the room without napkins, bowl, or comfort of any kind. At once I found him from our luggage a large sponge and towels and once more left him to his fate although we could not resist laughing while the desire to escape being heard aggravated our laughing mood. Fortunately the night air was fresh and cool and we could have a[s] much as we chose in our room but the beds were of the softest down. However the utter stillness lulled us to rest after our travels, in spite of the novelty of the situation and the round face of the moon which was high in sky and threatened to flood our curtainless room with her splendor. I love to see the solemn moon rays strike across my chamber, a presence in wakeful hours, a watcher while I sleep, but most persons grow nervous and cannot sleep at all so I was not surprised when Lucy busied herself with endeavoring to shut it out. I arose at four o’clock. The community bell had not yet rung but the heat probably aroused me. The dawn was filling the heavens with beauty and profound silence still reigned. Presently the bell-towers gave out a warning sound and I soon saw the sober coated man moving quietly toward the barn or fields. They made no noise save when the garden gate would click behind them as they passed.

By rising this early I was enabled to take a private bath in the public hall and after dressing to descend and bring more water for Lucy. I heard Aunt Mary moving gently about in her room but saw no one until ½ past 5 when Julia went through the hall and I asked her for a book describing their society I had seen in the library. “Oh yes” she responded simply with her sweet smile and fetched it [for] me. So I sat in the open door way reading while one by one the inmates of the house removed the specks and spots from floor and rugs. Presently Aunt Mary made her appearance. She was somewhat surprised to see me sitting there. “Thee need not have got up so early” she said. Nevertheless I fancied she was pleased to see we entertained a sufficient reverence for their institution to endeavour to do as they did.

When Mr Fields made his appearance I said, “Aunt Mary we will go out for a walk now at what time shall we be expected back.” “Ye will eat at half past six” was the response “Ye can walk till then”. We climbed the hill by a narrow foot path nearly opposite the house and in a few moments had attained a pleasant height where we could have a good view of the lake and the three families upon the near shore, also of the more bustling village of world’s people on the other side. The care bestowed upon the Shaker farms caused the whole view to look more like an English picture than like a bit of New Hampshire scenery and the soft light of a June morning made everything appear beautiful. We saw no one in the fields but the nodding clover and comfortable cattle proved they were not left often alone over time.

Breakfast was ready soon after our return and a sumptuous meal it was. The Shakers themselves take their meals together in a large dining hall built to accommodate a great number. Here no strangers are admitted. Meals are prepared for visitors in the house by a corps of sisters especially detailed for that service who serve during a certain period until the time for rotation of office comes, when others succeed that all may have instruction in each branch.

Although extremely simple we never sat down to a more delicious breakfast than that morning. Indian cake of the finest quality baked in a neat round pan, white bread, Graham bread both excellent toast, the best of butter and cheese, salt fish stewed in cream until perfectly tender, cold beef, potatoes, eggs, preserved tomatoes, coffee and tea, all served in the most appetizing and cleanly way.

After breakfast we were allowed to visit the public kitchen. Everything was as clean as if it were made yesterday and had not yet been used, only the ovens were warm and hot water was bubbling in the boiler. In an adjoining apartment a number of young girls were making berry pies. I thought they did not handle the crust quite expertly enough to make it very light but Sister Julia told us they were all allowed to learn first from books and then by practice although some were better adapted than others of course by nature to each labor.

We saw the dairy and the mill and strolled around the grounds. Unfortunately it was Saturday & there was no school. We should have liked well to see that—there were 40 children—but Saturday is a busy day Aunt Mary said and they were all at work.

We went back to the house then made sundry purchases of Shaker work and took our leave with many expressions of kindness, at last and a half promise from Aunt Mary to return our visit in Boston. It was this good woman to whom Abraham Perkins appealed when in his talk with Mr Fields the latter told him his name and said he was of the firm of Ticknor & Fields “which you may know of”—“Nay, nay” said Abraham.

“Mary, did thee ever hear of Ticknor & Fields? “Nay” responded Mary and continued her occupation.

We left Lucy to continue her journey a few hours later in the opposite direction and drove down to White River Junction over a good road, through lovely scenery with two swift horses. Much land is owned by the Shakers and kept in good order by them and much belonging to other farmers is kept in much better order than it would otherwise be because of the Shaker example. I told one of the sisters of this and she said “It would be a pity if good example did not extend an influence over a few miles at least”

June 20th We have been to see the Shakers who modestly and justly disclaim the high position awarded them by Hepworth Dixon. When we see how few are there [sic] members and how really uninfluential their existence upon the life of the country, especially when we drive away leaving their little village quietly sleeping among these hills, we cannot help smiling at some of his magnificent remarks with regard to them.


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