The Shaker communities became a haven for people suffering hard times, especially widows with children and no family to fall back on. Many times entire families would convert and join. In 1813 the Dyer family joined the community in Enfield, NH. The family consisted of Joseph Dyer, his wife Mary Marshall Dyer, and their children, Caleb Marshall Dyer, Betsey Dyer, Jerrub Dyer, Joseph Dyer Jr., and Orville Dyer.
Two years later Mary Dyer left the community claiming that the Shakers had destroyed her family. In some respects, this was the truth. The Shakers kept family members apart in an attempt to diminish the bonds between them and strengthen the bond to the church, not unlike some cults today. Children were housed in separate quarters tended to by Sisters. Men and women had little interaction and what they had was supervised. If a couple became too friendly, they would be further separated.
Mary began a campaign to get her children back. She attacked the Shakers in writing, and in and out of court. She became an activist, assisting others with the same battle. Mary never won her case. Her husband and all but one of her children remained devout members of the Shakers. Mary’s oldest son, Caleb, became the head trustee of the church and was instrumental in the building of the Great Stone Building.
Questions and Comments
@Sheliamarie, we would have been neighbors! I worked at the Enfield Shaker Museum for a while.
@Sue thanks. I'm always hoping what I'm writing hasn't been too overdone.
Interesting story about the Shakers. I used to live near Enfield.