Enfield Shaker Brother Franklin G. Young
Brother Franklin G. Young
Cabinet card
C.E. Lewis, Photographer, Lebanon, NH, ca. 1880
Collection of Enfield Shaker Museum, Enfield, NH
Bed Used by Enfield Shaker Brother Franklin Young
Bed Used by Enfield Shaker Brother Franklin Young
Collection of Enfield Shaker Museum

Brother Franklin Young

Franklin Gordon Young, Shaker broom maker and oval box maker, was born October 22, 1845, in Brandon, Vermont, the son of Franklin and Melinda (unknown) Young.

Franklin Young was living in Enfield, New Hampshire, with his parents and his sister Edna at the time of the 1850 Federal Census. His sister Mary and brothers William, Lovinas, and Jason were living in the Shaker community. He was admitted into the Second Family when he was a boy of seven. We have no specific knowledge of his experiences growing to maturity at the Shakers, but he clearly learned many practical skills from his mentors, including tailoring and woodworking. The 1860 Census lists him as a shoemaker’s apprentice.

In 1872, at the age of 27 Franklin was appointed an associate elder in the Second Family under William Wilson. Five years later he was relieved of that position and moved to the Church Family. A sober note written by Elder Abraham Perkins to Elder Giles Avery at Mt. Lebanon suggests that Franklin’s commitment to a Shaker life was, at that point, tenuous: “We have taken into the Church from Sec. Family, Franklin Young and a youth of sixteen, Frank Banks, hoping to save them. The Lord only can preserve them. May our strength and patience hold out a little longer, or until a better thing can be done for Enfield.”

Franklin did indeed hold on, achieving the distinction of being the last Shaker brother to live at Enfield. When this community closed in 1923, he moved with his Shaker sisters to the Shaker community in Canterbury, New Hampshire.

George U. Leavitt, a resident of nearby Lebanon, New Hampshire, and a friend of the Enfield Shakers, came to know Franklin as a man of about 50 and later described him:

He was a well built man, standing nearly 6 feet high and weighing about 180 pounds. His hair and whiskers were very dark, but his complexion was light and clear. He had a very pleasant way of greeting anyone, always with a kindly smile and a hearty “handshake”…. He was a great reader, and when not in his “Shop” at work, he was reading some newspaper or book. By occupation he was the mechanic and carpenter of the “Family” for many years. He made all of the boxes, crates, and other articles that were used in shipping the herbs, dried fruits and knitted wares that were put up and manufactured by the Church Family of Shakers, and he also made all of the coffins that were used. His shop was in the same building that he slept in, but on another floor. He was a great lover of nature and all of her products, and we have spent many hours together, tramping over the hills in search of minerals, plants and trees, for he knew where a great many different natural objects could be found. He had a very comfortable room in which were many pieces of furniture that he had made for himself and among other things a bedstead made of ash and trimmed with black walnut, all of which grew on the Shaker properties.

Leavitt reported that Franklin was a particularly popular Shaker with Enfield’s townspeople and summer tourists:

Among the younger members of the Church Family, Brother Franklin Young might be mentioned as one of the outstanding. He was the genuine Official Greeter, always happy to take visiting tourists sightseeing, driving a pair of perfectly matched bays. The course taken was around the lake and mountain roads which was often said to be among the most beautiful drives in New England (Leavitt Papers, Enfield Shaker Museum Archive).

In addition to hosting visitors, Franklin regularly interacted with local neighbors, doing work for them and accepting social invitations without the knowledge or approval of the Shakers.

Franklin lived apart from the rest of the family rather than in the Great Stone Dwelling. In the 1880 Census he is listed as a broom maker, in 1900 simply as a “member” of the Society, and in 1910 as “Carpenter-All Around.” He was credited by acquaintances with many talents and clearly contributed his skills to the community’s well-being. But although male Shakers were in short supply at the Church he never assumed a leadership role, nor was he a “burden-bearer.” During the decade (1889-1899) that Enfield regularly submitted “Home Notes” to the Shaker periodical, The Manifesto, Franklin is never mentioned in connection with any family activity.

At Canterbury, Franklin had “fine” living quarters and a workshop that accommodated the tools and workbench that he brought with him from Enfield. Here he set to work making oval boxes. But as he wrote to a friend, “The roads are much worse than any in Enfield and the location is about like Goose Pond. In short it’s a darned lonely place and no chance for a pleasant walk. That I miss. The dear friends in Enfield and Lebanon are all writing and that helps.”

Franklin Young died September 21, 1935, in the Shaker community at Canterbury, New Hampshire, and is buried in the Shaker Cemetery in Canterbury, New Hampshire.

Original author: Mary Ann Haagen