My Strength, Time and Talents, My Body and Soul:
The Lives and Leadership of Elder William Dumont & Eldress Lizzie
William Dumont was born in Rockland, Maine on August 15, 1851; one of
seven children of Irish immigrant John Dumont and Hannah Curtiss, a resident
of Maine. At the age of three, William was orphaned and sent to live with
his uncle in Ossipee, New Hampshire. One year later, William was placed
aboard a sailing ship out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire to serve as a cabin
boy. He spent a good part of his youth at sea while his siblings were
scattered about Maine. During this time, one of his sisters married a
man and settled on his farm in New Gloucester, Maine. In fact, it was
through this connection that William first met the Sabbathday Lake Shakers.
An excerpt from the Shaker book The Alethia tells the story best:
"There was a young man living in the family of our next neighbor. His
name was William Dumont, nineteen years of age. Though of a lively disposition,
he was of a thoughtful turn of mind. Our aged Elder Joseph Brackett said
one day, 'William Dumont would make a good Shaker, and I will get him
if I can.' [Brother] Granville [Merrill] made answer: 'I have thought
the same thing and will do all I can to help draw him out from the sea...'
He was very persistent, and the work soon began to have an effect. After
a while, our young Brother [William] acknowledged hearing the call to
a higher life. Then the struggle commenced, for he had been promised a
vessel and was to be captain. He had many misgivings ... When Granville
found where he stood, he gave him a searching look and said, 'They that
are not for us are against us, and they that gather not with us scatter
abroad.' Thus our young brother found every weapon taken from his hands,
and made up his mind to a full consecration."
On November 20, 1870, William Dumont at the age of 19 years was gathered
into the Shaker Society at Sabbathday Lake. At that time, the able-bodied
Brethren shared many of the responsibilities associated with the farm,
orchards, mill and livestock. Through these experiences, Brother William
was exposed to a wide variety of tasks and skills which formed the basis
for his life-time's work among the Shakers.
Elder William Dumont
Early Years Among the Shakers
Brother William, having a deep-rooted affection for horses, became the
leading teamster at the Shaker Village. He proved himself trustworthy
to handle shipments and transactions, and more importantly, capable of
serving as a delegate to welcome important visiting Shakers and Ministry
leaders who were arriving by train. He was given his first official appointment
in 1872 to "take charge of the Horses and Stable, the care of the horses,
harnesses and apparatuses connected with the Stable." At that time, a
great epidemic was sweeping through the stable but within a month, the
horses had been restored to a state of good health. Elder Otis Sawyer
remarked "much credit is due Brother William Dumont for his unwearied
care and attention of those noble animals."
The year 1873 brought about new experiences for Brother William. On January
13, he formally pledged his consecration to his Shaker home by signing
the Church Family Covenant. Months later, Brother William was chosen as
the singing teacher for the Brethren and Sisters; conducting several lessons
each week. In May of 1873, a 13 year old boy named Isaac Cummings was
placed in Brother William's care which began Brother William's life-long
occupation as a role-model and ingatherer for the Shaker Society. Brother
William also demonstrated an interesting side of his personality when,
in October of 1873, he and two other brethren "conclude to eat by themselves
at a table where they abolish the eating of all flesh meats, butter, cheese
and all kinds of grease, tea, coffee and all stimulating drink..." As
a young man, Brother William made a strong impression on his Shaker Family.
On November 2, 1874, "Brother William Dumont is requested by the Ministry
and Elders to take the charge of the farm..." He assumed the responsibilities
for the planting, care and harvesting of the large crops of corn, squash,
potatoes and grains as well as supplying the needs the Shaker Community
of 46 members. He demonstrated good care of all tools and implements associated
with the gardens, farm and haying. Brother William also became associated
with the care of the apples, pears, grapes and other small fruits. He
studied the most recommended methods of fruit culture and sought the direction
of the Maine State Pomological Society. Brother William had emerged as
a vital factor in the Shakers' agricultural activity.
With every new duty, Brother William demonstrated a highly motivated work
ethic. He played a key role in the success of the Sisters' fancy goods
business by supplying their poplar shavings and the bases for their poplarware
boxes and obtaining fancy white turkey feathers for their fan business.
During the summer months Brother William sold the Sisters' fancy work
at the major vacation and resort areas in Maine. In fact, he had charge
of the most profitable and successful sales route to Bar Harbor, Maine
for nearly ten years.
Brother William supervised and assisted with the care of the town roads;
serving as the Highway Surveyor in a nearby district of the Town of Poland,
Maine. He and his crew worked to "break up the roads" in wintertime with
a large snow roller that provided a good bed for sleighing. In the warmer
months of the year, Brother William managed road repair and bridge maintenance
as well. His labor and expenses for this work were billed against the
Town of Poland to defray the costs of the Shakers' annual taxes.
Life was not all hard work for Brother William. When the local and state
fair season commenced each Fall, he would load up their largest wagon
with Brothers, Sisters and children so that they might all enjoy the festivities
and agricultural displays. Brother William enjoyed fairs so much that
for years, he and some of the Sisters volunteered to judge the entries
at the exhibition halls and award the premiums to the best garden produce,
canned goods and handiwork.
"The hands fall off, the work goes on."
As years passed, Brother William witnessed the aging and decline of many
of his role-models and colleagues. Brother William provided them with
tremendous care; often ministering to them as they passed from this life
into the next. Brother William, having already exhibited tremendous leadership
qualities, was chosen to succeed these leaders. On September 7, 1880 William
Dumont was appointed First Elder of the Church Family at the age of 29,
having already served as associate Elder for two years. Young Elder William
was responsible for the spiritual and temporal welfare of his Community
of 49 Shakers, as well as maintaining his other duties to the farm, orchard,
mill and related industries. He conducted his affairs with the Maine Ministry
leaders in a professional and exacting fashion. In all these capacities
as Family leader, Elder William excelled.
Those among the brotherhood attempted to relieve Elder William of his
many temporal duties but to no avail, Elder William ended up with the
work time and again. He managed the farm, gardens and orchards, supervised
all branches of the Brothers' business and continued his involvement with
the Sisters' fancy goods industry. By 1882, Elder William was also serving
as first Trustee of the Shaker Village, supervising all financial matters
concerning the Church. Elder William thrived under the increased responsibilities;
using his positions to expand the apple orchard and revitalize the applesauce
and cider trade with the assistance of Eldress Lizzie Noyes. He managed
the Tamar Laxative business to help defray the costs of constructing the
brick Dwelling House and also increased work at the Mill by carefully
supervising the lumber and measure business as well as striking a contract
with Poland Spring Water to supply water crates for their bottled water.
After the passing of Elder Otis Swayer in 1884, Elder William also supervised
and assisted with the completion of the Shakers' 48 room brick Dwelling
Indicating the degree to which he was convicted to his duties, the following
entry was recorded on July 19, 1887: "Elder William got up at 2 o'clock
this morning. Goes to the Stable, feeds the horses, builds fires at the
Wash House. Starts the mowing machines at 3:30, mowed 'til 6 o'clock then
starts off to the Depot with Elder John. A hard morning's work to do before
breakfast. At the station Elder William finds Lizzie Jackson and Augusta
Kate and brings them home with him." Although there were 14 males among
the brotherhood, ranging from 10 to 78 years of age, Elder William led
with such a influential example that in 1891, "the Spring work on the
farm was done by the Brethren and boys without the aid of hired men."
Elder William had a progressive, forward thinking business sense. In September
of 1892, "Elder William went to McFalls to get the people interested in
the extension of the Buckfield Road Railroad. Would like to have it come
down by here and connect with M.C [Maine Central Railroad] at Cumberland."
Elder William knew the railroad would strengthen all branches of the Shakers'
business if they could get it to come nearby. However, his attempts failed
and the station was built several miles north of Shaker Village. In June
of 1906, Elder William was a proponent for another extension of the railroad,
and in fact, signed a contract for the line to go over Shaker land. This
line also failed to materialize according to the Shakers' hopes and passed
several miles east of the Village.
"There I can reach You, There I can help You"
Elder William excelled in his capacity as an ingatherer for the Shaker
Society. He showed a tremendous amount of interest in caring for the children
in the Community; supporting their achievements in school, ever-encouraging
their proper conduct and quick to make right those going astray. Despite
his firmness, Elder William loved nothing more than to provide the boys
and girls with sleigh rides, picnics, trips to the fairs and other outings
Elder William and his counterpart, Eldress Lizzie instilled good values
among the young people. The following was recorded by a Shaker Sister:
"December 30, 1894 - "Sunday. Singing Meeting and Sunday School this forenoon...A
good Believer spirit exists among the young people, thanks to the Elders
whose labors with them have been untiring. Twelve of the younger people
spoke in Meeting this afternoon." According to reports from other Shaker
Communities, this is about the best degree of participation realized among
the young people by any Shaker Community at the time.
Elder William demonstrated the same degree of patience, kindness and interest
with adult converts to the Shaker faith. He nurtured them along in their
spiritual labors and supported their physical contributions to the upkeep
of the Shaker Society. Elder William labored with a "simple" young man
named Gustavus York who came and left the Community nine times - each
time extending another privilege of membership for Gus' betterment. Not
all the young Brethren required as much work and attention. The competence,
motivation and work ethic of Delmer Wilson, Chellis Wing and John Dorrington
proved great reliefs to Elder William. In fact, on May 13, 1894, "Elder
William in our afternoon meeting gave our two new brothers [Delmer Wilson
and Chellis Wing] the right hand of fellowship, making them welcome to
live this high and pure life." During his tenure as caretaker and ingatherer
for the Shaker Society, Elder William brought 87 males into the Society;
29 were adults and 58 were boys. Nine of these people died in the Shaker
"Peace, Joy and Comfort Gladly Bestow"
On March 12, 1896 news reached Sabbathday Lake that Ministry leader Elder
John Vance was dying at Alfred. Elder William left immediately to be at
his side. Later that month, Elder William, on top of his other capacities,
was appointed to succeed Elder John as first Ministry Elder. At this point,
Elder WilliamÕs responsibilities not only included the spiritual and temporal
welfare of Sabbathday Lake, but also the Shaker Community in Alfred, Maine
as well. In this new position, Elder William was well loved, well respected
Elder William passed the care of the farm to two young brethren in 1897.
Brothers Delmer and Chellis carried on with their duties faithfully, relieving
Elder William of a great deal of burden.
In August of 1901, tragedy struck the Alfred Shakers. A chimney fire raged
out of control, destroying the Shakers' Dwelling House, Meeting House
and Ministry's Shop. Fortunately, no lives were lost, but the damage was
devastating. Elder William worked with his band of Believers at Alfred;
salvaging what little they could and relocating the members into new accommodations.
By the beginning of September, Elder William had made plans with the Alfred
Shakers to construct a new Dwelling House.
The devastation at Alfred alarmed Elder William so much, that he immediately
took measures to safeguard his home at Sabbathday Lake. He "bought six
Underwriter Fire Extinguishers at $12.00 each [and] puts them around in
the family where fires are likely to catch." He and his Shaker Family
then made preparations to build a water tower on top of the hill, just
west of the Village. On August 22, 1903, the Water Tower was complete
and "Elder William tested the water works, throwing water over the buildings
from three hydrants." Four days later, "Elder William tries the water
works again. Threw water over the ball on the cupola on the Brick House
and we are well satisfied that we have a defense from fire."
"Lord I Give My All, Freely Unto Thee"
Into the 1900s and 1910s, Elder William managed very well in all aspects
of his occupations. During this time, he became increasingly involved
with activities on the farm and at the Shakers' Mill when he was not occupied
with his Ministerial duties. The brotherhood was low in number and unable
to supply the manpower needed to carry on multiple branches of business.
Elder William hired out many of the jobs on the farm. He trusted his crew
of hired men with the near full-time care and maintenance of the crops,
haying and livestock. As time permitted, Elder William and the other Shaker
Brothers assisted with this work as well. Elder William hired five men
to run the saw mill, and another crew of loggers to work in the woods.
He carefully supervised all work related to the lumber business to make
sure that all affairs were up to his standards. He walked through the
woods to decide where the men should cut, he surveyed the wood as it was
stacked at the mill and he measured out most of the lumber before it was
sent out for large orders.
Elder William remained active and steadfast in his leadership duties to
the Maine Shakers; seeing to a smooth transition in 1918 when the Second
Family consolidated with the Church Family at Alfred and a new chain of
leadership with that Community. However, the fast paced schedule and years
of hard work Elder William had managed were beginning to catch up with
him as he approached his 70s. Elder William's health was causing a great
deal of concern. In 1918, Elder William relinquished the care of the Family
garden to Brother Delmer.
The death of Eldress Lizzie Noyes in 1926 brought about many changes to
the leadership of the Maine Societies. By 1927, the Maine Ministry was
disbanded; stripping Elder William of his leadership role at Alfred, Maine.
Also Elder Arthur Bruce, who was representing the Central Ministry, requested
Elder William to step down from his position as Trustee. It was time for
a younger generation to assume responsibility. Elder William was reluctant,
but agreed to the appointment of Brother Delmer Wilson as Trustee.
From that point onward, Elder William involved himself in chores and tasks
that required less physical exertion He began to once again prepare supplies
for the Sisters' sale work, make apple crates, repair broken windows,
and visit his Shaker friends at Alfred.
"When I Shall Pass from Scenes of Time, O! May My Name Remain"
In 1929, Elder William suffered a heart-attack, and there afterward, was
afflicted with chronic dizzy spells that confined him to his room for
extended periods of time. Elder William returned to work on small projects
in his shop as soon as he felt able. In fact, some of his last projects
were chairs, toy tables and doll furniture for the little girls. Given
his deep love and loyalty to the young people it seems befitting that
these items were the last products of his hands.
The following excerpt was written by Brother Arnold Hadd for the Shaker
Quarterly, Winter 1989: "On April 6th, Elder William took a decided turn
for the worse. To relieve the nurse on duty, Sister Elsie was sent to
keep watch on Elder William. While she was watching, a spirit came out
through the built-ins and stood at the foot of Elder William's bed, then
went through the other wall...[Sister Elsie] went into Eldress Prudence's
room and before Elsie could finish her story, Eldress Prudence said that
it was Elder Otis ...he had come to take Elder William home. Indeed, true
to Eldress Prudence's words, Elder William passed on into eternity full
of grace and strong in the faith the next morning..." Elder William Dumont
died on April 7, 1930 at the age of 78; having served his Shaker home
for 60 years and leading with a true example of love and faith. About
his mentor and father in the Gospel, Brother Delmer recorded, "Elder William
was a man loved by all, and an interested worker in his home. He was very
fond of boys and always had a class under his care. Without doubt, there
will be a day some will rise up and call him blessed."
In everything he did, Elder William demonstrated his ability to rise to
the full call of his duties. One of the hired men who worked for the Shakers
during the 1920s remembered stories about Elder William that reveal aspects
of his inner character. This man grew up at the Shakers' Boarding House
in a large, poor family. They often went without anything, but the bare
essentials. Elder William always helped this family out when he could.
In fact, the man remembered that "every year, Elder William bought all
of us [children] a Christmas present." Often times, it was the only present
those children received. Some of this man's other memories are shared
"Elder William ... there was never a better man ever stepped into Shaker
Village. He never found no fault with us, never accused us of anything,
and tried to bring us up just as if we were his own kids ... and I wasn't
a Shaker either. I lived with my parents, but we could go anywhere we
wanted all over the farm. And when we got big enough to work, we worked
on the farm under Elder William. And he always said, 'You're doing a good
jobs boys, now don't hurry.'
I told William once I wanted a pig [and] said 'What will you take for
one of them pigs?' He said 'I'll give you your choice but don't tell anybody
what you paid for it ... 50¢ ...but I'm asking $2.50 for a pig, and if
anybody asks what you paid, tell them $2.50.' Well, I reached down and
picked. I didn't want to be too brave - I picked a small pig. He throwed
it back, said 'You don't want that little pig,' and he picked out the
best pig he had in there." Displaying his true spirit, Elder William never
charged the man for the pig...
Eldress Lizzie Noyes
Elizabeth Mary Noyes was born on August 13, 1845 in the town of Oxford,
Maine; the only child of Josiah and Lydia (Haskell) Noyes' three children
to survive beyond infancy. Elizabeth's mother Lydia died prematurely.
In 1861, Elizabeth's father Josiah, a successful manufacturer of cotton
cloth in Buxton and Waterville, Maine, made the decision to join the Shaker
Church at Sabbathday Lake. Josiah's natural brother Thomas E. Noyes, former
publisher of Lloyd Garrison's "The Liberator" also joined the Shaker Society
at Sabbathday Lake at that same time.
While her father and uncle continued their Shaker vocations, young Lizzie
furthered her education. In 1868, she graduated from Hebron Academy in
Hebron, Maine. Afterward, she and her companion, Fanny Goodrich, began
promising careers as school teachers in Montgomery City, Missouri.
In 1872, Lizzie and Fanny embarked on a trip eastward to the Shaker Community
at Sabbathday Lake. During their two month visit with the Shakers, Lizzie
and Fanny both concluded that they would join the Church once they had
settled their affairs in Missouri. Their first attempt to return to Missouri
failed. Along the way Lizzie contracted "an attack of brain fever which
came near proving fatal." Months later, Lizzie and Fanny returned to Sabbathday
Lake. In August of 1873, Lizzie and Fanny finally reached Missouri to
finalize their lives in the "world." However, by that point, Fanny Goodrich
had reconsidered her decision to be a Shaker and chose to stay in Missouri.
Remarkably, this did not sway Lizzie's determination to press onward with
her calling. Alone, Lizzie returned to Sabbathday Lake on November 21,
1873 to begin her vocation as a Shaker Sister. Just nine days later, Elder
Otis Sawyer recorded "Lizzie Noyes put on the Shaker dress and came to
Prayer Meeting this evening."
Early Years Among the Shakers
Within weeks of her arrival, Sister Lizzie became the horse teamster for
the Sisterhood and Ministry (running errands with them throughout the
nearby towns). Sister Lizzie also accompanied the Sisters to the dentist
on dozens of occasions each year. Like her colleague of the time, Brother
William Dumont, the Shakers had recognized a great deal of trust and responsibility
in Sister Lizzie to make her a teamster so early in her vocation. In fact,
Sister Lizzie was the first and only Sister at Sabbathday Lake to have
the occupation as horse teamster.
Sister Lizzie joined a highly competent and industrious Shaker Sisterhood.
There were nearly three times the number of Sisters than Brothers at Sabbathday
Lake and the Sisters duties were well organized and specialized among
a strong core of young women. Small groups of the Sisters rotated through
terms of chores such as cooking, laundry and cleaning. Sister Lizzie's
duties as a teamster often called her away to drive the wagon or sleigh,
so she often floated in and out of a variety of ongoing activities. She
was commonly found among those Sisters who produced fancy goods for sale,
picked blueberries, canned fall produce for winter use and traveled with
Brother William Dumont to pluck turkeys for their prized white feathers
used in making fans. On her own, or sometimes assisted by another Sister,
Lizzie lent her talents to maintaining her Shaker home by painting woodwork,
oiling floors and renovating the carriages and sleighs. She was also in
charge of making the soap for laundering. Sometimes she produced as much
as 600 gallons of soft soap in just a few days!
Selling the fancy goods was a job reserved for "tried and true" individuals
who proved capable of handling large sums of money while representing
their Shaker Community. Having demonstrated her good business sense and
skills, Sister Lizzie accompanied Eldress Mary Ann Gillespie to the New
England Fair in Manchester, New Hampshire during the Fall of 1875 where
they assisted Elder Otis Sawyer in selling the Sisters' fancy work. Thus,
Sister Lizzie began what would be her lifelong role in marketing the Sisters'
fancy goods industry. From that point onward, she began to lead several
sales trips each summer; including the Maine trips to Scarboro and Cape
Elizabeth, Portland and the islands in Portland Harbor as well as Massachusetts
trips to Swampscott, Boston and Cape Cod.
When company from other Shaker Communities visited Sabbathday Lake, they
were usually taken to some of Maine's popular attractions, such as Old
Orchard Beach or the beautifully landscaped Poland Spring Resort. These
visits provided opportunities for fellowships, friendship and lasting
impressions. Sister Lizzie was regularly among those chosen to socialize
with Ministry leaders from other Communities as well as the leaders from
the Central Ministry at Mount Lebanon, New York. Undoubtedly, her education,
personality and conviction were useful during these important occasions
and times of sharing.
"A Pledge I Have Made to Be True"
On January 11, 1876, Elder Otis recorded, "Lizzie M. Noyes, Mary H. Grant,
Sirena Douglas, Sarah L. Fletcher and Amanda Stickney all freely and voluntarily
signed their names to the sacred covenant, or constitution, of the United
Later in December of 1876, Sister Lizzie Noyes made a smashing debut on
the occasion of the Shakers' Christmas celebration. The story is best
conveyed by the Church Family Journal: "December 25, 1876. Bright and
beautiful Christmas day. We celebrate with a feast of love, improving
upon our former conventional methods of observing the day... The suggestion
to have a Christmas tree ... as our part of the Christmas Festival received
the ready approbation of the Ministry and Elders. A Committee of Arrangements
was at once formed composed of the following six Sisters namely: Elizabeth
M. Noyes, Mary Grant, Sirena Douglas, Amanda Stickney and Mary Ella Douglas...
These six Sisters worked very industriously up to the time of opening
the doors of the exhibition...It was generally remarked that it was the
best Christmas Meeting the Church ever enjoyed... Sister Lizzie M. Noyes,
who was the chairman of the Committee, gave proper notice that the next
thing in order was the distribution of presents. With needful assistance,
the articles were taken from the tree and tables... Sister Lizzie M. Noyes
... made all welcome to what she had done, that what had been accomplished
could not have been made a success without the union of the Leaders and
assistance of others; that presents had been made without partiality and
in a spirit, pure and undefiled..."
"He has Blessed me with Power, He has made Me Strong"
To better support the burgeoning fancy goods trade, the Sisters' Shop
was virtually gutted in 1878 and new work rooms, better suited to the
fancy goods industry, were fashioned Sister Lizzie was among a small group
of young Sisters who were regularly demonstrating their dependability,
responsibility and consistency in building the industry. In fact, that
same winter, Elder Otis noted that Sisters Lizzie and Sarah Fletcher were
the only two carrying on with the production of poplarware, fans and dusters.
After this point, Sister Lizzie began to emerge as a leader of the fancy
Since she did not fear hard work or long hours, she did a great deal to
bolster the branches of business with which she was involved. However,
Sister Lizzie nearly paid a dear price for her determination. At the young
age of 34, "Sister Lizzie Noyes was found lying on the lower floor in
the Laundry in an unconscious state. She was stricken down with heart
disease, fortunately she was discovered in season to barely save her life
by the way of speedy application of powerful restorations. Dr. Sturgis
was immediately summoned, who made a skillful examination and decided
it a case of severe heart troubles and physical prostration." Within weeks,
Sister Lizzie had made a full recovery and was carrying on with her sales
trips and house work. This episode was the first of four episodes she
experienced over the course of her life.
Despite her rigorous schedule, Sister Lizzie did enjoy a relaxing pleasure
trip every once in a while. On one trip, she was among "a merry company
of three brethren and fifteen Sisters ... [who] take the train to Old
Orchard Beach where they enjoy themselves in bathing, swimming, riding
wooden horses, swinging, and visiting with Indians. They all return home
safe about 8 o'clock in the evening, highly pleased with their day's enjoyment."
On September 7, 1880, Sister Lizzie Noyes was appointed into the Eldership
along with Brother William Dumont. At the time, Eldress Lizzie was 35
years old and her counterpart, Elder William, was only 29 years of age.
Together, they launched the Shaker Community into a new age of prosperity.
Although they mostly worked separately from one another, their individual
efforts served to build the "whole." Eldress Lizzie took lead in the fancy
goods business and ran an efficient household. Elder William improved
the farm, orchards and mill with greater success than his predecessors.
Within the Family, Eldress Lizzie and Elder William labored for a good
spirit among their Shaker Family. Their work was not in vain, as they
were realizing better results than most of their counterparts at other
During 1880, the Second House was renovated and reorganized as the Trustees'
Office. As this massive project came to a close, Eldress Lizzie and some
of the Sisters began to install linoleum carpets throughout the Trustees
Office and paint the newly installed woodwork. This project would be but
a forerunner to her many other challenges to maintain and renovate the
Aside from her physical accomplishments, Eldress Lizzie was balancing
her leadership with a strong spiritual conviction. During a time when
the older generation of Believers were recording comments about a lackluster
younger generation, Eldress Lizzie and others began to revitalize their
zeal. On August 26, 1883, the following entry was recorded in the Church
Family Journal by Elder Otis Sawyer: "Sabbath Day. A New Thing Has Happened
Under the Sun. Eldress Lizzie Noyes and Sister Ada Cummings declared their
faith before the world. And, our hearts were made glad, for we the Ministry
feel that we have not labored altogether in vain."
Eldress Lizzie's business mind was probably her single greatest contribution
to her office next to her untiring work ethic. She began to apply her
good judgment and financial sensibility to support campaigns to complete
the construction of the Dwelling House. In 1881, Eldress Lizzie and Elder
William were among a core of Brothers and Sisters who worked the Tamar
Laxative business and used the proceeds to defray the expenses of the
new house. For nearly 30 years, the Tamar Laxative provided a source of
income that was used to finance various renovations to the Village.
Eldress Lizzie took her work seriously; as indicated by this entry from
the Church Journal in 1884, "Another cold and windy day. Unfit for Sisters
to be out picking apples, but Eldress Lizzie, feeling anxious about them
(the apples), took the girls and went out." At this time, Eldress Lizzie
was involved in the apple business, following Elder William's expansion
of the orchards. Each Fall, she and a team of Sisters would help pick,
grade and sort the apples. She also led the apple bees in the evening
at which the apples were cut and dried for winter storage. Eldress Lizzie
and Elder William worked diligently on the commercial production of applesauce
and cider; two industries which they had single-handedly revived. To make
the business pay, they often collaborated their efforts and time. The
following Church Journal entry was highly typical of their work together:
"Elder William runs the evaporator until supper time when Eldress Lizzie
took it to give him a rest. The last cider is finished at 10 o'clock tonight
- 48 casks of cider reduced to 9 from 600 bushels of apples." After the
apples and cider were prepared the applesauce was made. Eldress Lizzie
prepared about 50 gallons of applesauce at a time, made from the dried
apples and boiled cider. On one typical day in January of 1890, it was
recorded that "Eldress Lizzie put up 96 buckets of applesauce, also 32
glass jars and 2 1/2 dozen bottles of boiled cider to take to Lewiston."
The applesauce and cider business thrived under Elder William's and Eldress
Lizzie's direction for nearly 30 years.
Eldress Lizzie dabbled in the cultivation of small fruits. She had a small
orchard of about 100 plum, peach and cherry trees set out on the knoll
near the Sisters' Shop which provided her with the fruit she used to can
for the Community's use. She also maintained a plot of garden behind the
Meetinghouse where she planted about 1500 strawberry plants and also kept
an asparagus bed. Eldress Lizzie proved herself industrious on all fronts
Since it was Elder Otis Sawyer, Maine Ministry leader, who appointed Elder
William and Eldress Lizzie to the Eldership, it is not surprising that
the three shared a strong bond and similar visions for the future of their
Shaker home. In 1884, Elder Otis was taken desperately sick with pneumonia
while visiting the Alfred Shaker Society. As his condition rapidly declined,
the doctor confined him to his room with restricted visitation. The Sabbathday
Lake Shakers grew tremendously distraught, unable to render comfort to
their sick leader. Eldress Lizzie attempted to keep the Family strong
and hopeful, despite the diagnosis. After days of anxiety, Eldress Lizzie
finally let down her guard and "wept like a child" while reading an update
of Elder OtisÕ grim condition to the Family. On March 17, 1884, Elder
Otis Sawyer, mentor and friend to the Maine Shakers, died at Alfred. Although
the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Family was devastated, they soon emerged from
their grief to continue on with Elder Otis' work in the Gospel. Their
first priority was to complete Elder Otis' last campaign - the construction
of the 1883 Brick Dwelling House.
Although the Dwelling House was dedicated and occupied by the end of 1884,
it took a good many years to complete the finishing touches. Painting,
varnishing and oiling were tasks which Eldress Lizzie single-handedly
undertook as part of her official duties as Eldress. During the winter
time, Elder William and Eldress Lizzie held vigils to prevent the water
pipes from freezing in the house. On many occasions, this work required
around the clock supervision. The house was regarded as a sacred monument
to the Shakers who had gone before and also to those yet to come. Eldress
Lizzie and Elder William never compromised in their care and attention
to that building, in particular.
Eldress Lizzie and Elder William inherited a growing crisis at the North
Family on Poland Hill. Upon Elder Otis' death, the future seemed bleak
for Poland Hill. When their last Elder, Nehemiah Trull, died in 1886,
Elder William and Eldress Lizzie were faced with the task of consolidating
the Poland Hill Shakers at the Church. Elder William and Eldress Lizzie
prepared a smooth transition for the 10 Shakers who moved from their home
in 1887; thus leaving Sabbathday Lake with one Family, the Church.
Eldress Lizzie was in charge of the welfare of the entire Sisterhood.
She faced decisions about membership and recruited new girls for the Children's
Order. Eldress Lizzie had a particular fondness for the young people in
the Village, always giving them the same time and consideration that she
reserved for the adults. Generally speaking, the children who behaved
and appreciated their Shaker home, came to know Eldress Lizzie as a kind,
generous mother. In fact, one little girl named Mamie Curtis, stole Eldress
Lizzie's heart. Mamie was a favorite and received a great deal of attention
from all the Sisters. In fact, the Community's first organ was received
as a gift to little Mamie so that she might pursue musical talents. Eldress
Lizzie was in full support of this move, and for years, she took time
out of her schedule to drive Mamie to her music lessons every Tuesday.
Through Eldress Lizzie's encouragement, the Children's Order developed
and sustained their own industries, apart from their contributions to
the fancy goods business. The girls and their caretaker, Sister Ada Cummings,
embarked in a cut flower business during the 1890s. In 1895, Eldress Lizzie
financed two-fifths of the greenhouse built by Brother Delmer so that
the girls and their caretakers would have an ample supply of hot house
flowers to sell at the Poland Spring Resort. For years, the flower business
In 1896, Elder John Vance of the Maine Ministry died, leaving Elder William
as his successor. At the time of that appointment, Eldress Lizzie was
appointed Trustee along with Elder William and Sister Aurelia Mace. Just
two years later, Eldress Lizzie also became the Postmistress for the Shaker
Society. With these increased duties, Eldress Lizzie simply broadened
her shoulders, prioritized her time and rose to the needs of her Community.
In 1903, Eldress Lizzie joined Elder William in the Ministry as first
Eldress. With this new position, Eldress Lizzie simultaneously occupied
every single position within the Shakers' hierarchy. Within weeks of her
appointment, Eldress Lizzie performed her first of many ministerial duties
Eldress Lizzie's contributions to the fancy goods business was ongoing
throughout her life. As the production of poplarware steadily increased
each year, the Sisters introduced new products to further the financial
success of the trade. In the late 1890s, the Sisters added Shaker cloaks
and oval sewing carriers to their selection of sales work. Although the
production of these new items were mostly in the capable hands of others,
Eldress Lizzie contributed her talents to cut out pieces for the cloaks.
She also varnished the thousands of oval carriers produced by Brother
Delmer Wilson. Eldress Lizzie also employed innovative marketing strategies
to broaden the reputation and distribution of the fancy goods. In 1903,
she introduced a trademark for the poplarware, carriers and cloaks as
a guarantee of quality and genuineness to the customers. A few years later,
she also devised a mail order catalog for the fancy goods, the first fancy
goods catalog used by the Shakers anywhere.
Undoubtedly, Eldress Lizzie did spend the vast majority of her time hard
at work, but she did have hobbies and interest which she pursued as time
allowed. For example, she was an avid supporter of musical talents. In
1899, she purchased the Community's first piano and offered to finance
music lessons for any interested Sisters. Some of the Sisters chose to
pursue singing lessons and by 1909, they had formed a "Quartette." The
Quartette performed for the Shakers as well as neighbors and esteemed
guests of the Poland Spring Resort. Interestingly, there is no indication
that Eldress Lizzie had any musical talents herself!
Being a teamster, it was natural that Eldress Lizzie also had a strong
affection for horses. Her cousin from Boston gave her a horse named "Babe"
which Eldress Lizzie loved very much.
Eldress Lizzie enjoyed applying her progressive nature to acquire modern
conveniences for her Shaker home. In 1900, telephones connected the Shaker
Village to the outside world. In 1909, Eldress Lizzie purchased the Community's
first automobile, a Seldon, for $2,100.00. Later, in 1926 as her last
major campaign as leader, Eldress Lizzie had electricity installed in
the Dwelling House and Trustees' Office; making the Shakers' home among
the most modern in the area. While Eldress Lizzie kept the house in perfect
order, Elder William brought the farm, orchards and mill into full operation.
Together, they were a perfect complement to each another.
Above: The Shakers' first automobile, purchased used in 1909. The Shakers
were the first in New Gloucester to own an automobile. The 1883 Brick
Dwelling House is located in the left side of the background, behind the
"When Life's Journey's Ended, By Angels I'll be Wafted"
As her age advanced, Eldress Lizzie's leadership duties in Maine weighed
heavily upon her health. The decline and deaths of many of her long-time,
ardent colleagues deeply affected her well-being. Several times each year,
she made retreats at the Shaker Village in Canterbury, New Hampshire.
Since she had no duties there, she could simply enjoy their fellowship
and comfort. She would travel alone.
While traveling to Portland on business with Elder William and Brother
Delmer, Eldress Lizzie took a bad fall. By the time they returned to the
Village, Eldress Lizzie could not walk. She was carried to her room and
the doctor came immediately, however, the prognosis was grim. Three days
later, on November 15, 1926, Eldress Lizzie Noyes died at the age of 81
years; "with her wonderful brain clear until almost the last." The Church
Family Journal recorded: "Our beloved Eldress Lizzie M. Noyes ... One
of the most remarkable women among Shakers. A graduate of Hebron Academy
in 1868 and school teacher in the west, she gave up a promising career
and joined the Community at Sabbathday Lake, Maine at 27 years of age.
She became Eldress of the Society in 1880, holding this position for 46
years. She was also Ministry, Trustee and Postmaster, holding all these
positions at once. She had a most wonderful brain, great executive ability
and was rich in wisdom and experience. Her greatest virtue was Charity,
being noted for this everywhere. She was like unto a mighty oak in the
forest!" At her funeral ,"Some of her business associates remarked that
they were better for having been in her presence." In the Record of Deaths,
Brother Delmer characterized her as "a Sister of strong personality and
intelligence, extraordinary in her business judgments, active and persevering.
Strictly devoted to the interests of her home. Her good works, her monument.
The souls she helped save, the jewels in her crown."
In Summary: The Leadership of Elder William and Eldress Lizzie
"Blended Together As One We Stand"
During a period when the defection rate was high and adult converts were
rare among the Shakers, William Dumont and Lizzie Noyes, independently
of one another, chose to forsake promising careers to follow their call
of faith. Both William and Lizzie were drawn to Sabbathday Lake through
family connections. Upon joining the Community, Brother William in 1870
and Sister Lizzie in 1873, they became part of a family of 68 Believers.
They carried on a full range of traditional occupations. In all that they
did, they excelled.
In 1880, a crisis in leadership occurred. An entire generation of leaders
was fast aging and slowing in their duties. It was the united feeling
of the Ministry (including Elder Otis Sawyer) and the Shakers at Sabbathday
Lake that Brother William and Sister Lizzie should be appointed to the
Eldership. They were young - Elder William at 29 and Eldress Lizzie, 35
- but already they had proven their devotion to God and home. Elder William
and Eldress Lizzie were a perfect complement to each other. Each depended
on the other to keep the various branches of business and spiritual life
alive among the brotherhood and sisterhood. Although Elder William and
Eldress Lizzie drove themselves harder than they drove anyone else, their
example inspired others in the Community to strive to excel. Their highly
competent leadership brought the Sabbathday Lake Shakers into the most
prosperous time in their history.
As they were appointed to more responsibilities, they did not generally
delegate their other duties, but rather broadened their shoulders to bear
the load - ever working harder. Individually, Elder William and Eldress
Lizzie occupied every position that existed within the Shakers' body of
Elder William and Eldress Lizzie also spent their efforts to up-build
their home. Their crowning achievement was the completion of the 1883
Dwelling House after the death of Elder Otis Sawyer. They never stopped
trying to update, to improve and to modernize Shaker life. In the process
of this work, they never compromised on Gospel principles. When nearly
all other Shaker Communities were in decline and or crisis, Sabbathday
Lake was "a sea of stability."
The Twentieth century brought many new challenges to the Shakers. The
Elders proved up to the challenge. Sabbathday Lake continued to thrive
under their lead.
Elder William and Eldress Lizzie truly gave "their strength, time and
talents, their bodies and souls" to the cause of their Shaker home. Since
they put their stock in people, rather than objects, they left behind
the greatest legacy, a generation to follow them... and a righteous name.
Prepared for the Ministry's Shop Exhibit
1999 Summer Season