Enfield Shaker Elder George K. H. Baxter
Elder George K. H. Baxter
Carte de visite
C. E. Lewis, Photographer, Lebanon, NH, ca. 1880
Private collection

Elder George K. H. Baxter

George Kennard Hooper Baxter, Shaker elder, was born October 30, 1861, in Medford, Massachusetts, the son of Augustus G. and Helen E. (Johnson) Baxter.

Maybe things would have turned out differently if George Baxter had joined the Enfield Shakers when there was a strong cohort of Shaker men in the family. But when George arrived here the ranks on the brothers’ side were alarmingly thin.

George had “tried the life” at the Shaker Village in Canterbury, New Hampshire, in 1884, but was “dismissed” after two years. Presenting himself for admission at Enfield, New Hampshire, in 1888, Elder Abraham Perkins and Brother John Bradford agreed to accept him on probation.

Things went well at first. George was a healthy, handsome young man, willing to work, and eager to testify publicly to his faith. So there was hope.

Never at a loss for words, George regularly put pen to paper. In October 1892 he began submitting North Family “Home Notes” to the Shaker publication, The Manifesto. His monthly submissions continued through October 1899. Most of the time they were long on preachy, pseudo-poetic musings, and short on news of community life. His writing reflected neither a simple nor a humble spirit. Still, the community counted on George to prove himself a worthy Shaker brother.

In 1899 George was elevated to a leadership role. For some time the Enfield community had recognized the need to revitalize its Gathering Order or North Family. George Baxter would serve as the family’s Elder and business agent with a young brother, Herbert Montena, as his companion. Six vibrant, capable sisters and three little girls would also move from the Church to the North Family creating a viable gathering order. Over the next seven months, George used his positions of trust to accumulate several hundred dollars of family monies. In the first week of January 1900, he “mysteriously” slipped away.  Recognizing Baxter’s betrayal, Church Trustees John Bradford and John Cumings posted the following in local and state newspapers:

Special Notices: George H. Baxter, who formerly represented us as a business agent, is no longer connected with us, and has no authority whatever to collect moneys due us, or in any way whatever to collect moneys due us, or in any way to receipt or discharge the same. You will therefore, make no payments to him whatever on account of anything due the Enfield New Hampshire Shaker Community. John Bradford, J.T. Cumings, Trustees.

The local paper made its own summary of the situation: “He is reported to have secured several hundred dollars to take away with him. The money will be missed more than the man-perhaps.”

Anxious to put distance between himself and Enfield, George set his sights on the Shaker community at Union Village, Ohio, where he once again talked his way in.

George Kennard Hooper Baxter died on December 11, 1924, at Lake Pleasant (a prominent American Spiritualist campground) in Montague, Massachusetts. His obituary was published in the Boston Herald on December 13, 1924 (p. 22). He is buried in Lakeside Cemetery in Wakefield, Massachusetts, in an unmarked grave near the Baxter family lot.

Original author: Mary Ann Haagen