Sister Susan B. Bartholomew
Susan B. Bartholomew, Shaker sister, was born August 29, 1823, in Hartford, Vermont, the daughter of Daniel and Judith (Carter) Bartholomew.
Susan Bartholomew is the only member of the Bartholomew family represented in this photo gallery. But she did not come to the Shakers alone. In 1826 her mother, Judith, her older sister, Diadema, and Susan all became part of the Enfield Shaker community and spent the rest of their lives as Enfield Shaker sisters.
The historical record of the Bartholomew women is slim, but Judith’s conversion narrative describes the missionary activity that brought mother and daughters to Enfield.
Judith Carter hailed from Fryeburg, Maine. After she married Daniel Bartholomew the young couple moved to Hartford, Vermont. Since childhood Judith had been a spiritual seeker, though she consistently found herself unable to sustain her best religious intentions. Her husband “was not a professor of religion” but allowed Judith to follow her own spiritual path. Daniel’s untimely death in 1823 left Judith a widow with four children. According to her testimony she “was obliged to place them in other homes” while she searched for a situation that might offer her physical support and spiritual sustenance.
Upon moving to Springfield, Vermont, Judith heard about the Shakers. She was interested, but also discouraged by a friend’s judgment that “once the Shakers possessed the life and power of God but had fallen into a lukewarm state.”
About this time Elder John Lyon of Enfield’s North Family was undertaking a vigorous missionary effort in the Springfield area. Judith attended his meetings, listened to his dynamic preaching, heard the Shaker singing, and was touched by his warm invitation to visit the community. She and two of her children (Diadema, age 11, and Susan, age 3) joined the Shakers in 1826. If her older children, Judith and Daniel, came with her. There is no record of their being admitted at Enfield.
The Bartholomew girls lived most of their lives at the Second Family. They too learned to love their Shaker community and they devoted themselves to the domestic needs of the order.
A simple note that Susan wrote to a Mount Lebanon sister in the 1860s speaks volumes about her commitment to her faith, her love of Shaker spirituals, and the warmth of her personality:
Remembered Sister Mary,
May this little sheet remind you that I have not forgotten you. I send it to keep alive the circulation of songs between you and me, for I highly prize songs that originate at Mount Lebanon. We find they wear well. Accept with them my warmest and best gospel love. I am laboring to form myself anew and am determined to walk so humbly here in time that I may finally get home to supper, as Mother Lucy said her children all should.
Excuse all bots and scratches – in haste from Susan Bartholomew to Sister Mary Dixon
Note: Will you be so kind as to give a bouncing ball of love to Sister Phebe Ann Jones if it is convenient and kiss her for me. Tell her we’ve sung the last songs she sent me more or less ever since.
Susan B. Bartholomew died on March 18, 1911, at the Shaker community in Enfield, New Hampshire. She is buried in the South Family Shaker Cemetery in Enfield.
Original author: Mary Ann Haagen