Sister Fannie Fallon
Frances Charlotte Fallon, highly respected Shaker teacher, was born July 12, 1854, in West Newton, Massachusetts, the daughter of John C. and Mary E. (Kauffer) Fallon.
Fannie Fallon loved children. Hers was not an abstract love, but one practiced year after year in the Shaker schoolhouse – Enfield, New Hampshire’s Public School District 13.
Fannie was not only a highly respected teacher, but she lived with the Shaker girls as their caretaker. In addition to overseeing their academic progress, she was responsible for their emotional well-being and their spiritual development. One of her favorite ways of combining those responsibilities was by directing them in morality plays, melodramas, dialogues, and silly skits – “theatricals” that the girls regularly performed for the Shaker family, and occasionally for the general public.
In 1914, Fannie’s 31-year teaching career came to an end. The Enfield Shaker community had no school-age children to educate. Fannie continued to renew her teaching certificate in the vain hope that she would once again be needed to teach Shaker children.
Fannie remained very much engaged with the community’s young people. In particular, she devoted herself to the care and protection of a Shaker girl who needed her constant support. Three-year-old Ruth Currier had been brought to the Shakers in 1900. Over time it became clear that she had such serious health and emotional problems that the community was advised to return her to her relatives. This the Enfield Shakers chose not to do, and Fannie became her designated “Shaker Mother.”
No longer in the classroom thirty weeks of the year, Fannie also became the devoted companion of Eldress Rosetta Cummings. (Sister Ella Briggs, who died in 1913, had for many years been Eldress Rosetta’s associate and close friend.) Although not given an official position in either the Elders or Trustees order, Fannie was an important support to Eldress Rosetta as the community began the arduous, years-long work of selling out, and relocating to Canterbury Shaker Village.
Fannie, Eldress Rosetta, and Ruth Currier were some of the last sisters to move to Canterbury in 1923. As had been feared, Ruth did not adjust to her new Shaker home and Fannie made repeated efforts to find a safe living arrangement for her. In the meantime, Eldress Rosetta’s health deteriorated rapidly. She died on November 12, 1925. Fannie was grief-stricken by the loss of her Eldress and friend.
Fannie tried to make Canterbury her home, but Ruth remained a constant concern. On June 2, 1926, Canterbury sister Josephine Wilson wrote: “Fannie C. Fallon leaves the Community today to care for Ruth Currier.” It was understood that if Fannie left again, even for this purpose, she would not be welcomed back. Fannie never returned to Canterbury. She instead found lodging and employment as a housekeeper in Enfield Center, New Hampshire.
Frances Charlotte Fallon died of pneumonia in Enfield, New Hampshire, at the home of Mrs. Mabel Moody, where she had been living, on February 6, 1928. No Shakers came from Canterbury for Fannie’s funeral and none were present when her body was interred later that spring in the Church Family Shaker Cemetery in Enfield – the last Enfield Shaker to be buried there.
On hearing of her death a townsperson wrote: “In the passing of Sister Fannie Fallon, one of the rare, faithful souls among our Shaker friends has gone-surely-to a rich reward, commensurate with a life well spent in faithful service…. Always earnest, sincere, faithful, let us rejoice that her ‘call’ came ere she had become long dependent upon the services of others. She made many friends. They will miss her.”
Original author: Mary Ann Haagen