Enfield Shaker Brother Simeon Childs
Brother Simeon Childs
Carte de visite
C. E. Lewis, Photographer, Lebanon, NH, ca. 1880
Collection of Hancock Shaker Village, Pittsfield, MA.

Brother Simeon Childs

Simeon Childs, Shaker farmer, gardner, and woodsman, was born January 15, 1812, in Royalton, Vermont, the son of Simeon and Betsey (Perry) Child.

Simeon came to Enfield as a young man of 19. A member of the Enfield, New Hampshire Shaker community for 62 years, he embodied Mother Ann’s admonition, “Put you hands to work, and your hearts to God.” Throughout his long life, he was loved for his honesty, simplicity,  and gentleness.

Simeon never held high office in the Society, but was known as a skilled farmer, gardener, and woodsman who labored tirelessly on behalf of his Shaker family. Though he sought neither recognition nor praise, his abilities were noticed and admired. In an article describing a day of haying in 1853, Henry Cumings later wrote,

Brother Simeon Childs leads as usual. He is a man about 50 years of age, sturdy and robust of build, though rather spare with not an ounce of superfluous flesh on his bones. He seems rather slow or moderate in his gait and movements, but he sets the stroke for the whole company and sets it for all day, and none of the youngsters are presumptuous enough to question his right, or ability to do so.

And writing about the farm, Henry Cumings stated,

The farm help consisted of two horse teamsters, one of who was usually the head farmer or boss; three, and sometimes, four, ox teamsters, usually young men from 16 to 20 years of age. Besides these there were usually one or two supernumeraries. To this class Brother Simeon Child, of whom I have already spoken was one for many years. It was his steady, faithful labor that put in much of the under drain that made some of the swampy land the best part of the farm.

When detailing lumbering activity in the Shaker woods in 1857, Cumings noted,

Brother Simeon and perhaps one of the others would attack another tree, while the rest of us quickly trimmed off the few limbs, marked off the proper length for logs, usually sixteen feet, and the saws would begin to play. Once well started, Brother Simeon, who was a noted ax man, would fell the trees as fast as the rest of us could saw them into logs. The trees, being from 125 to 160 feet tall, made from seven to nine logs each.

If Brother Simeon committed his own thoughts or feelings to paper, they are yet to be discovered. One exception is a short letter he submitted to The Manifesto in March 1893. It appears in the “Kind Words” column of the periodical (p. 79).

“Industrious to the end,” Simeon Childs died on March 22nd, 1895 in Enfield, New Hampshire, and is buried in the Enfield Shaker Church Family Cemetery. In announcing his passing in the Granite State Free Press on March 29, 1895, his Shaker family wrote that “he consecrated all that he possessed, abilities of mind and soul, with personal property, to the work of Shakerism…. The large tree of faithfulness, planted by his well-spent life, affords a sweet balm and rest of spirit unknown to the indolent….” And in The Manifesto of May 1895, “It may well be said that those love him most who knew him best. He needs no monument of honor but the one already erected in the hearts of his home relations” (p.113).

Original author: Mary Ann Haagen