Enfield Shaker Brother Gardner Nourse
Brother Gardner Nourse
Carte de visite
Photographer unknown, ca. 1880
Private collection

Brother Gardner Nourse

Urial Gardner Nourse, Enfield Shaker business agent, was born May 3, 1830, in Springfield, Vermont, the son of Hiram L. and Zilpha (Spaulding) Nourse.

Gardner Nourse came late to an interest in a Shaker life. Although he was born in nearby Springfield, Vermont, at the time of the 1850 U.S. Census he was driving an express wagon in Rock Island, Illinois. He married Sarah Felicia Gardner, daughter of John V. and Sarah (Spear) Gardner, on March 14, 1855, in Portage, Ohio. After their marriage, he and his wife moved to Washington Turnpike in Story County, Iowa, where they owned a farm of 106 acres and their first four children were born. In 1865, he returned with his family to Springfield, Vermont, where they purchased the Deacon Arba Holman farm, had three additional children, and became a prosperous farm family. His wife Sarah died in Springfield on November 13, 1899; his youngest child was then 21 years old.

In 1899 at the age of 69, Gardner left his property in the capable hands of his son John and joined the Shakers at Enfield, New Hampshire. Had the community enjoyed a more robust male membership, Gardner would have been accepted at the North Family gathering order as a “young believer.” Instead, he was admitted to the Church Family where he would have the company of a few mature brothers. Gardner never signed the Church covenant, though it is assumed that he agreed in writing to the terms of the Articles of Agreement required of newcomers to the faith. He is listed as a member of the Church in the U.S. Census taken in June 1900.

In October 1902, Gardner spent a week visiting his Springfield family. The next year he was given the privilege of a two-day visit to Canterbury. In July 1903 Gardner went to Claremont, New Hampshire, “on business.” He was gone for sixteen days. Shaker records do not indicate whether his business affairs were personal or Shaker-related.

In 1904 John Bradford, who had served for many years as First Trustee at the Church Family, was incapacitated by illness. Brother John Cummings and Brother Gardner Nourse were appointed business agents, “to take up the business of the family with the sisters.” His precise tenure in that position is uncertain, but by 1907 he was no longer a member of the Society. An entry in the local paper, The Enfield Advocate, notes that on February 1, 1907, “Gardner C. Nourse who formerly lived with the Shaker society here, now of Springfield, Vt., has been visiting in town.”

Urial Gardner Nouse died on October 20, 1914, in Springfield, Vermont. At the time of his death in 1914 Urial Gardner Nourse was living with his son John on the family farm in Springfield. His obituary, which appeared in the Rutland Daily Herald in Rutland, Vermont on October 22, 1914 (p. 9), makes no mention of his association with the Shakers. He is buried in the Nourse family lot in Summer Hill Cemetery, Springfield, Vermont.

Original author: Mary Ann Haagen