Orphan Trains

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

Life in 19th century America was difficult. The very pathways of American life were changing from an agrarian past to an industrialized future. Such a drastic change was not without hardships, and they often fell hardest on the most vulnerable … in this case, the children we’re going to explore in this blog. The following paragraph is a bit long, but it’s a great explanation of what was happening, so please bear with me here.

In the early 1800s the United States began to change from a country in which most people lived with several generations of their family on farms, to an industrialized nation in which many people lived in cities where they knew no one. The invention of farm machinery meant that fewer workers were needed to work on farms. At the same time, thousands of workers were needed for the new factories being built in the cities. Too many people wanted the factory jobs, however, which kept the wages low. During the same period, hundreds of thousands of people came to the United States from other countries. These immigrants competed with farm workers for the factory jobs. There was not enough housing for everyone, and city landlords could charge high rents for places barely fit to live in. Many workers had large families and were jammed into tiny apartments that had to be shared with two or three other families. Some families even lived in cardboard boxes or in coal cellars. The people lucky enough to find factory jobs often worked in dangerous conditions. If they were hurt or killed, other workers were always ready to take their place. People often worked 10 to 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. Even so, many parents could barely feed and clothes themselves and their children. Children as young as 5 or 6 often labored long hours in factories to earn a few pennies a day. Others sold matches, shined shoes, peddled newspapers, picked coal, or ran errands—anything to make a little money. Children barely old enough to walk begged in the streets. Even when every member of a family worked, some families could not make enough money to survive. There was no welfare system. Some people starved to death. … Some parents were so upset at the birth of a child that they would abandon the newborn to a church or store, hoping someone would find and care for the baby. Others did not even make that effort, and every day the police would find the bodies of infants who had been left to die in rain barrels and trash cans. In other families the parents forced older children to leave to make space for a new baby, even if the children were only six or seven years old themselves. Homeless children slept on sidewalk heating grates, doorways, or empty buildings. They ate out of trash cans or stole food. Historians believe that in 1850, when New York City’s population was 500,000, as many as 30,000 homeless children roamed the streets. At that time the law treated children who were seven or older as adults, so the jails were often full of youngsters who had been caught stealing. Children of 12 or older could be put to death for that crime. Their punishment was carried out at public hangings that other street children would come to watch (Warren, Orphan Train Rider, pgs. 14-17).

Children living on the street in 19th century New York. Source: https://bit.ly/2YupayF

Into this hell on earth came Charles Loring Brace. To be clear, he’s certainly not the only person who worked to alleviate this misery, nor were his efforts without problems, but he is the instrument for the efforts discussed here. Born into a comfortable family in Hartford, CT in 1826, Brace graduated from Yale, then Yale Divinity School and the Union Theological Seminary. After graduation he went to work in the Five Points Mission in New York City. His experiences there led him to establish the New York Children’s Aid Society (CAS) in 1853. In the past, family or neighbors took in orphans, but here that was not possible. Orphanages were available (although often Dickensian), so Brace believed that the only way to help these children was to remove them from their situations entirely. And where to send them? Why, to farms, out west! Brace, like many of his contemporaries, greatly romanticized the agrarian past.

Charles Loring Brace, n.d. Source: https://bit.ly/3tkWrrv

Despite the demands of rural life, particularly on the expanding frontier, agricultural society on the whole presented to the nation “a poetic idea that defined the promise of American life.” The frontier farmer was idealized, and it was held to be true that life in the west fostered independence and self-reliance. Americans were told and wanted to believe that there was a place where “family name cuts but little figure. It’s the character of the man that wins recognition.” Agrarian society, romanticized as classless, was believed to allow an individual to seek his or her own fortunes based on personal abilities and talents—to rise as Alger’s fictional characters did, by their tenacity. It was the perfect setting for the urban poor to begin over and reach their potential. This romanticization of the pastoral life was an extension of America’s westward movement. Always there had been some who reached to the edges of the settlement and beyond. Under Jefferson, exploration of the vast continent has taken place, and with Jacksonian democracy the ownership of property was declared the right of free men. By mid-century the idealization of rural America reflected expansion as well as changes brought by industrialization. Growth and manufacturing may have been seen as the natural progression of things, but the financial benefits were offset by an increasing urban population, an influx of immigrants as laborers, and a litany of social ills created by industry and urbanization. Some wondered at the outcome and reflected on the more rural America of the past—the villages, the hamlets, the honest yeoman (Holt, pgs. 20-21).

A group outside of the Children's Aid Society's central office in New York City. The children hold satchels with their belongings as they prepare to travel west, c. 1895. Source: https://bit.ly/3zUbquO
A group outside of the Children’s Aid Society’s central office in New York City. The children hold satchels with their belongings as they prepare to travel west, c. 1895. Source: https://bit.ly/3zUbquO

Brace said, “The best of all asylums for the outcast child is the farmer’s home. The great duty is to get these children of unhappy fortune utterly out of their surroundings and to send them away to kind Christian homes in the country.” Fully buying into the mythos of the pioneer life, Brace believed “that the American pioneers who were settling the West could use help, and felt that an arrangement that would place children within these families would be mutually beneficial. He thought that the farmers in the West would welcome the children, take them in, and treat them as their own. Therefore, he arranged to send the orphaned children to pioneer families. The Orphan Trains and the practice of “placing children out” into homes that would accept them was the precursor to the modern foster care system in the United States.”

Advertisement for an orphan train coming to Cadiz, KY. Source: https://bit.ly/3zVQVxZ
Another orphan train announcement, n.d. Source: https://bit.ly/3jOIyP6

Here’s how this worked: a group of children were gathered and put aboard a train with one or two guardians. Depending upon their ages and circumstances, the children may not have fully understood what was happening. Some were genuine orphans, some were not. One little girl, when told she was going to Texas, remembered saying that she was not an orphan, that her mother was alive and in a hospital. No matter … she was going to Texas. Siblings sometimes stayed together, but far more often they did not. Before the train departed, CAS agents scouted for locations were children were likely to be welcomed. Publicity alerted the townsfolk of the impending arrival. Before arrival, the agent found/was supposed to find local people to solicit and vet potential adopters. When they arrived at their destination, the children were cleaned up and then taken to the meeting venue and placed in front of the crowd. They were encouraged to sing, recite a poem, or otherwise make themselves appealing. After the event was over, any “leftover” children rode to the next stop and went through the same process all over again. The whole process was appallingly casual. Paperwork was not required. Adoption was encouraged, but again, not required. Both parties (the children and the “families”) had the right to back out of the agreement; some children rejected the first person who “chose” them and this seems to have been permitted. CAS was to check in on the children regularly to see how things were going. Some children were fortunate enough to go to families that did adopt them, that loved them, formed a bond with them, and raised them as their own children. Others became little more than hired hands or indentured servants. Much faith was placed in the goodwill and character of the adopters, faith that was not always rewarded. The story of Stanley Cornell serves as a good illustration of both the perils and successes of the program. He had a younger brother and sister. Their father was exposed to mustard gas during World War I and struggled with health problems. Their mother died of tuberculosis when the children were young. Their father was unable to take care of his children; fortunately a family member adopted the daughter, but Stanley and his brother ended up on an orphan train. Miraculously the boys stayed together, but they went through 6 or 7 homes before ending up with a family in Texas. This Texas family turned out to be “the one,” and Stanley and his brother Vic had a great life, and as an adult, Stanley was able to reunite with his father and sister. Watch this short 2015 video, “An Orphan Train Rider Tells His Story”, to hear the full story.

CAS was not the only group that utilized orphan trains. The New York Foundling Asylum/Hospital, a Catholic charity, also placed children aboard trains, but in its case, sent mostly babies or children less than 5 years of age. For that reason, these were sometimes known as baby trains, or mercy trains. The first CAS train in 1854 was sent to Dowagiac, MI; by the time the program ended in 1929 some 250,000 children were orphan train riders. Some orphan trains came to Indiana, and while I don’t know that any came to Evansville, I do know that some Evansville orphans were housed in orphanages. One of the first was the Children’s Guardian Home at 507 Lincoln Avenue, built in the 1850s as a county facility. After it closed in the 1930s, children were transferred to another facility. This building served as the initial home for the Carver Center; it burned down in 1972 after sitting vacant for 2 years.

Guardian Home, c. 1916. Source: UASC, RH 033-151.

Below is what was originally the home of Dr. John Laval, built before 1849 at the west end of Indiana Street. It became an orphanage in 1872 and was initially integrated. In 1883, city and country government split and this became the orphanage for white children. This was razed in 1952 and replaced with what is today called Hillcrest Youth Services, at 2700 West Indiana Street.

White Orphan Asylum, post segregation, c. 1883. Source: UASC, RH 033-082.

Until 1883, orphans of all races lived together. When they were segregated, this facility, the Colored Orphan Asylum at 1215 North Barker Avenue, was built. It was also known as the Booker T. Washington Home. In 1952, this house was razed and what is today called Hillcrest Youth Services, at 2700 West Indiana Street. was built, with integrated housing once again. It is integrated now, although it probably was not in 1952.

Colored Orphan Asylum, c. 1883. Source: UASC, RH 033-084.

Today attitudes and laws have changed. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 prohibits children younger than 14 from working, although this provision is applied lightly when it comes to agriculture. Certainly no child of 12 would be hung for stealing. And adulthood, in legal terms, begins at 18, not age 7 or 8. Having children “sell” themselves to potential adopters smacks of slave auctions and would not be tolerated by current social mores. Any massive effort like the orphan trains, to place over a quarter million children in homes, would face such overwhelming paperwork and legal challenges that it would never get off the ground. That’s a good thing, but still, it’s unfair to judge 1800s behavior by today’s standards, at least not wholly. Brace’s orphan trains were a flawed attempt that grew out of a genuine desire to help children. We can learn about something without condoning it. That’s the beauty of history.

Orphan train stopped in Kansas, 1900. Source: https://bit.ly/3zQWkq7

References Consulted

Blakemore, Erin. ‘Orphan Trains’ Brought Homeless NYC Children to Work On Farms Out West. History Channel, April 9, 2019.

Brown, Angelique. Orphan Trains (1854 – 1929). VCU Libraries Social Welfare History Project, 2011.

Chiodo JJ, Meliza E. Orphan Trains: Teaching about an Early Twentieth-Century Social Experiment. Social Studies. 2014;105(3):145-157.

Grossman, Ron. “The orphan train: A noble idea that went off the rails.” Chicago Tribune, July 19, 2018.

Holt, Marilyn Irvin. The Orphan Trains: Placing Out in America. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1992. Rice Library, General Collection: HV 985.H65 1992

Kidder, Clark. “America’s Orphan Train.” History Magazine (Toronto) 16.6 (2015): 22. Web.

National Orphan Train Complex. Concordia, KS

O’Connor, Stephen. Orphan Trains: The Story of Charles Loring Brace and the Children He Saved and Failed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001. Rice Library, General Collection HV985.O36 2001

“The Orphan Train Movement”—9 video clips from the West by Orphan Train documentary. PBS LearningMedia

“The Orphan Trains.” The American Experience, PBS, aired November 27, 1995.

Warren, Andrea. Orphan Train Rider: One Boy’s True Story. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Rice Library, CMC: HV985.W37 1996

Warren, Andrea. “The Orphan Train.” Washington Post, 1998.

Posted in American history, history, Local history | Leave a comment

The Art of Consumption

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

If you’ve stopped to read this … surprise! I’m not talking about eating/drinking/using up something, but rather about tuberculosis, a disease once commonly called consumption. It has an amazing history with the fine arts, but first, let’s start with a definition of the disease itself.

Here’s what the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has to say: “Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. As a result, two TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection (LTBI) and TB disease. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.” It’s an ancient disease, well known to the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. It’s mentioned in the Old Testament, and some research indicates it may have prehistoric origins. But the bacteria that causes it wasn’t identified until 1882, by Dr. Robert Koch, and not until antibiotics were developed, more specifically streptomycin in 1943, was any sort of effective treatment was available. “Today, tuberculosis is relatively easy to diagnose; when the right combination of medications is made available and taken by the patient, the disease can be cured more than 95% of the time; and in certain targeted populations, the manifestations of the disease can be attenuated by vaccination and even prevented by chemotherapy.”

As mentioned, tuberculosis is intimately entangled with art, music, and literature. One obvious reason is the sheer prevalence of the disease. “Mortality from tuberculosis was colossal: one of every four deaths recorded in parish registries from England at the end of the eighteenth century was attributed to the disease; moreover, consumption was probably the most common killer of American colonial adults, and accounted for more than 25% of deaths in New York City between 1810 and 1815.”

Line graph of "Death Rate per 100,000" from 1700 to 2000.
Line graph of “Death Rate per 100,000” from 1700 to 2000.

Given this large number of cases, it’s not surprising that it was as widespread among authors, artists, and musicians as it was among the general populace.  Still, the number of well-known people in these fields who suffered and died from TB is striking. Here are just a few:

Alexander Pope, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sidney Lanier, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Vivien Leigh, Katherine Mansfield, Anton Chekhov, Franz Kafka, John Keats, Stephen Crane, all 6 of the Bronte siblings, Frederic Chopin, Thomas Wolfe, Amedeo Modigliani, and Henry David Thoreau.

Victor Hugo utilized the scourge of tuberculosis to highlight societal ills in two of his novels. In Les Misérables, the character of Fantine dies of consumption after her poverty pushed her into prostitution. Another manifestation of tuberculosis was a severe deformity of the spine, known as Pott’s disease. In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, some believe this is what Quasimodo suffered. In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy based the character of Nikolai Levin on his own brother, Dmitry, who died of tuberculosis some 20 years before the novel was published. Thomas Mann set The Magic Mountain in a Swiss sanitarium for tuberculosis patients. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Little Eva character in Uncle Tom’s Cabin is the very picture of one dying of tuberculosis: “Eva lay back on her pillows; her hair hanging loosely about her face, her crimson cheeks contrasting painfully with the intense whiteness of her complexion and the thin contour of her limbs and features, and her large, soul-like eyes fixed earnestly on every one.” (Uncle Tom’s Cabin, chapter 26 “Death”. Project Gutenberg). In the 2001 movie, Moulin Rouge!, the character played by Nicole Kidman dies of tuberculosis. Both the operas La Bohème and La Traviata feature a character who dies of consumption. “As she is slipping away, the victim of a disease that destroys the lungs and causes incapacitating weakness, [the heroine] bolts upright….and manages to belt out the final aria of the opera before she dies and the curtain falls. When it comes to death from pulmonary TB, drama and reality could not be more different.” (Dyer, pg. 79) Claude Monet painted his wife, Camille, as she lay dying of consumption. Edvard Munch, probably far better known for “The Scream,” painted his older sister Johane Sophie as she, too, laying dying of the dread disease.

Painting of "Camille on Her Deathbed", Claude Monet, 1879.
“Camille on Her Deathbed”, Claude Monet, 1879. Source: https://bit.ly/3zTTwZ8

With such a seemingly strong connection between consumption/tuberculosis/TB and the arts, it almost became a question of the chicken or the egg.  Did the artist’s/author’s/etc. sensitivity stem from his/her affliction, or did s/he come down with the disease because of a natural sensitivity, i.e., frailty? In the literary sense of the word, it was Romantic.

The story of John Keats perhaps best illustrates this. A young former medical student, Keats had ample experience with the disease (here called phthisis), both his mother and older brother had died from it. By age 23 Keats was showing signs, too. Two years later he awoke to find a single spot of blood on his sheets, and wrote, “It’s arterial blood…that blood is my death warrant, I must die.” And die he did, within only a few months, at age 26, with lungs completely destroyed. And yet, in that interim, he wrote some of his best poetry.

“The Sick Child”, Edvard Munch, 1885-1886. Source: https://bit.ly/2X4cVIT

“In succeeding decades, Keats’ illness came to exemplify spes phthisica, a condition believed peculiar to consumptives in which physical wasting led to euphoric flowering of the passionate and creative aspects of the soul. The prosaic human, it was said, became poetic as the body expired from consumption, genius bursting forth from the fevered combustion of ordinary talent, the body burning so that the creative soul could be released. Keats’ great poetic output during his last year was considered a direct consequence of consumption. Spes phthisica, which sought to make sense of the senseless and give purpose to purposeless suffering and death, came to be viewed as a prerequisite for creative genius. French author Alexandre Dumas fils wrote, “It was the fashion to suffer from the lungs; everybody was consumptive, poets especially; it was good form to spit blood after any emotion that was at all sensational, and to die before reaching the age of thirty.” Dumas’ colleague, the poet Théophile Gautier, wrote, “…I could not have accepted as a lyrical poet anyone weighing more than ninety-nine pounds.” A subsequent alleged decline in the arts was even blamed on decline in tuberculosis incidence.”

As outlandish as all this sounds, the Victorians even incorporated TB symptoms into their ideal of feminine beauty. “Many women who did not suffer from the usually fatal disease worked to mimic its characteristics, using makeup and starvation diets to appear fragile, wan, thin, pale, with flushed cheeks and ruby-red lips.” Why? Well, it was believed that TB heightened sexuality, was an aphrodisiac that made women more mysterious, seductive, and desirable. All while maintaining Victorian ideals of decorum and appropriate behavior, of course!

 Moving on from these fanciful ideas about tuberculosis, were you aware that Evansville once had a sanitarium for TB patients? In 1907-1908, the Anti-Tuberculosis Society established a privately funded tent colony (fresh air as treatment was the current rage) on a farm on Boehne Camp Road, between Hogue Road and Upper Mount Vernon Road Patients there enjoyed rest, fresh air, and sunshine. In 1924, the county assumed responsibility for the facility and it was renamed Boehne Hospital, in honor of former Evansville mayor and U.S. Congressman John W. Boehne, who donated the land.

Old Boehne Hospital, circa 2012, now razed. Source: UASC, RH 031-023.
Old Boehne Hospital, circa 2012, now razed. Source: UASC, RH 031-023.

Sometime in the mid-1960s the hospital closed. The buildings served a number of different purposes over the years until almost all were razed.

Old Boehne Hospital Administration Building, n.d. Source: UASC, RH 031-022.

The old administration building, built in 1936 and originally housed the kitchen, bakery, laundry, theatre, offices and employee housing for the hospital, was left standing, it has since been renovated into 4 luxury suite apartments, each with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and about 1500 sq. ft. of living space. Located at 816 Boehne Camp Road, this is now called The Restoration Boehne Camp.

Tuberculosis researcher Emily Melzer perhaps sums this up the best. “Suffering is commonly known to inspire artists, but the relationship between art and tuberculosis is stranger than the usual pairing of pain and creativity. So much so that it has intrigued medical and art historians, resulting in entire books dedicated to understanding how such a destructive disease has been so often portrayed as “romantic”, “gentle” and generally pleasant There is definitely nothing romantic about my lab experiments, but every now and then when I look at these little bugs under the microscope, I wonder if it could perhaps be considered art as well. Looking at them, you would hardly believe that such tiny organisms could cause so much trouble and have such an immense impact on society.”

Resources Consulted

“Arts: Tuberculosis and Victorian Literature.” Microbes Rule the World: Effects of Disease on History. Canvas Guides Network, 2017.

Basic TB Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016.

Daniel, Thomas M. “The history of tuberculosis.” Respiratory Medicine, v.100, issue 11, November 2006, p. 1862-1870

Dyer, Carol. Tuberculosis. ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2010. ProQuest Ebook Central

Lemlein, Rhoda F. “Influence of Tuberculosis on the Work of Visual Artists: Several Prominent Examples.” Leonardo, v. 14, no. 2 (Spring, 1981), pp. 114-117.

May, Thomas. Consuming Consumption: Tuberculosis on the Opera Stage. San Francisco Opera blog, n.d.

Melzer, Emily. Tuberculosis – A Romantic Disease? That’s Life [Science] blog, November 13, 2017.

Morens, David M. “At the deathbed of consumptive art.” Emerging infectious diseases, v. 8:no.11, November 2002, p. 1353-1358.

Murray, John F. “A Century of Tuberculosis.” American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, v.169: no. 11, 2004.Vilaplana, Cristina. “A literary approach to tuberculosis: lessons learned from Anton Chekhov, Franz Kafka, and Katherine Mansfield.” International Journal of Infectious Diseases, v. 56, March 2017, p.283-285.

Posted in Local history, medicine | Leave a comment

Shakers: Isn’t It Ironic?

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

One of the collections within UASC is Communal Studies, which focuses on intentional communities, both historic and contemporary. “According to the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC), an intentional community refers to any custom-made community. “Intentional community” is an umbrella term that includes “ecovillages, cohousing, residential land trusts, income-sharing communes, student co-ops, spiritual communities, and other projects where people live together on the basis of explicit common values.”” This collection is rich in content, with many aspects to explore.  Back in April 2020, a blog entitled “Saving the Planet”  looked at ecovillages.  Today we’re going to examine two Shaker villages whose demises led to ironic consequences.

First, a short primer on Shakers.  The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century led to new denominations outside the Catholic church, such as Lutherans, Methodists, etc.  Other smaller, less mainstream, denominations also arose, such as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, aka the Shakers.  Initially, the Shakers were part of the Quaker movement.

“The Quakers, or Society of Friends, were founded in England in 1652 by George Fox.  Early Quakers taught that direct knowledge of Christ was possible to the individual – without need from a Church, priest or book. No official creed exists. Their belief that God exists in all people caused many to be sensitive to injustice and practice pacifism. The name “Quaker” was derived from their process of worship, where their violent tremblings and quakings predominated. This form of worship changed in the 1740s, though it was retained by one group in Manchester, England. The “Shaking Quakers,” or Shakers, split from mainstream Quakerism in 1747. … The Shakers developed along their own lines, forming into a society with Jane and James Wardley as their leaders. Ann Lee, the founder and later leader of the American Shakers, and her parents were members of this society.”

It was Ann Lee, known as Mother Ann Lee, who brought Shaker ideals to this country in 1774.  At the height of the movement in the United States, there were at least 20 Shaker settlements with as many as 20,000 members.  We’re going to look Enfield Shaker Village in CT and Shirley Shaker Village in MA.  No longer existing today, they share an ironic fate, given the Shaker concerns for injustice, pacifism, and focus on creating a better society.  They became prisons!

The initial band of Shakers settled in New York.  “Efforts to recruit converts were mostly unsuccessful until about 1780, when Enfield, Connecticut native Joseph Meacham, a Baptist preacher living in New Lebanon, New York, heard about the Shaker movement. He soon converted, bringing many of his own followers with him. Though he would later rise to the top of the Shaker leadership and make New Lebanon the central Shaker community in 1787, his Enfield connections planted the seed of a Shaker community there only a year after his conversion.”  Early Enfield settlers faced violence and hostility from “The World’s People,” the Shaker name for non-believers, who feared what they saw as strange Shaker beliefs and customs.  Things eventually calmed down after a mob attack in 1782. “The Enfield settlement was divided into groups known as families. The Church Family was the first to be organized and had overall control of and responsibility for the Enfield settlement. The North Family was organized next, followed by the South, West, and East Families. At their peak, each family had 40 or more members and together occupied nearly 3,000 acres.”  The regimented Shaker life appealed to many who saw it as a source of comfort and security.  The celibate Shakers also took in and raised orphans and children whose parents were unable to care for them. They were renowned for their hospitality, and dining with the North Family was a treat.  The Enfield Shakers (and Shakers in general) produced goods and services that added to their prosperity.  But, times change.  “The Shaker movement lost momentum in the 1850s and began a slow decline as American society evolved. Industrialization–and the opportunities it created–opened new options that were more appealing than the celibate and strictly controlled Shaker lifestyle. People–young men in particular–ceased to join in any numbers. Most children raised by the Shakers left when they reached the age of choice. In Enfield, the West Family closed in 1854 and the East Family in 1874. Membership in the remaining families continued to dwindle, and those remaining had to rely increasingly on hired help to operate the farms. The North Family closed its doors in 1913, leaving only a handful of Shakers occupying some of the Church and South Family buildings. On November 24, 1914, the Shaker property was sold. … The sale agreement allowed the Shakers to remain on the property for the rest of their lives, but the last three left Enfield in 1917 for other communities.”

In 1931, the State of Connecticut purchased 1,400 of these acres for a prison farm. In 1994, the Hartford, CT newspaper published this information: “Without someone overseeing the dispersion of Shaker property in the 1930s, … artifacts not burned were often lost or misplaced. … In the ’30s, after the state bought the land for a prison farm, officials couldn’t give away hundreds of Shaker chairs with their trademark backs and roller balls on the back legs, or the oval maple-and-pine boxes whose tops, 100 years after their construction, fit so well that collectors jokingly call them Shaker Tupperware. In 1939 or 1941, the state burned what then amounted to $1 million of goods, according to Stephen Miller, an area collector of Shaker printed material.  “I don’t know if they didn’t know what to do with it,” said Richard Steinart, who was warden at Enfield from 1960 to 1986. “A lot of material was stored in barns in the North Family. By the time I got there in ’60, almost everything was gone. The buildings were there, and a lot of the buildings that had been used by the prison for 30 years were stripped.”   Fortunately, the land and property that were part of the South Family at Enfield was privately owned and thus not part of the sale to the prison. Many of these buildings remain intact, testifying to the presence of the Enfield Shakers.

(right to left), Church Family trustees’ office (behind utility pole), infirmary, laundry, wagon shed, and dry house (small structure) in front of wagon shed, 1915
Source: UASC CS 662-006hp-0001, Dan Janzen collection
North Family sisters’ building, 1915
Source: UASC CS 662-006hp-0026, Dan Janzen collection
Front view, South Family dwelling, July 20, 1992
Source: UASC CS 662-006sc-0053, Dan Janzen collection
Rear of the South Family dwelling (left), laundry (right) and small shed (center), July 20, 1993
Source: UASC CS 662-006sc-0073, Dan Janzen collection

Shirley Shaker Village, in Massachusetts, was founded in 1793.  It wasn’t as large as Enfield but was similar in all other aspects. “The Shirley Shakers were not known for their baskets, boxes, or chairs, but for their brooms, mops and applesauce.  Their community was also unique among the Shakers in that they built a large cotton manufactory on the banks of the Catacunemaug.”  It, like Enfield, was subject to mob violence. Crowds gathered to listen to Mother Lee’s 1783 speech in nearby Harvard were set upon by a mob. 

Trustees’ office and shop, the picnic table (background left) is on the location of the Meeting House, October 25, 1990
Source: CS 662-019sc-0031, Dan Janzen collection
Church Family dwelling (one of the cupolas was added by the Industrial School for Boys to make the roof line symmetrical), October 25, 1990
Source: CS 662-019sc-0032, Dan Janzen collection
Entrance to Massachusetts Correctional Institution (on site of Shirley community) from Harvard Road, October 25, 1990
Source: CS 662-019sc-0021, Dan Janzen collection

“Some of the mob were current and former members of the militia, and made up about 100 men. Ann Lee was skirted away into a dark closet concealed by the placement of a high chest of drawers in front of the door. A woman who begged to leave the area to attend to her still nursing infant was permitted to leave the scene and immediately contacted the proper authorities.  Still, by the next day, James Whittaker, who had returned to Harvard to attempt to make peace, as well as a sister attempting to protect her brother, had been badly whipped. True to their faith, the Shakers asked God to forgive their tormentors’ sins, and thereafter outsiders never again seriously oppressed the Shakers.”   Shirley Shaker Village closed in 1908 “and its remaining sisters moved to the nearby Harvard Shaker Village. The state of Massachusetts purchased the property and used it to house an Industrial School for Boys. In 1972 the reform school was closed. At present, the grounds of the Shirley Shaker Village are used for minimum, medium, and maximum security prison facilities. Eight of the Shaker buildings remain on their original foundations. Three others have been moved.”

The fate of these two villages was an ignominious end for what began as such a hopeful ideal.  This blog cannot be long enough to delve more deeply into the Shakers, but it can recommend a visit to the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in KY.  If you’ve not been there, it’s an easy drive to Harrodsburg, not far from Lexington, KY.  There are 34 original structures on the 3,000 acre property, a great way to see and experience the life of the Shakers. Check out its website.  It’s a place of great beauty year-round.

Center part of Peasant Hill Shaker Village community, 1979
Source: CS 662-016sc-0004, Don Janzen collection
Center Family workshop, December 31, 2000
Source: CS 662-016dc-0011

Another great source of information about Shakers is the Ken Burns documentary, Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God. Rice Library has this on DVD in the audiovisual materials on the first floor, call number BX9766 .S525 2004.  (Unlike a lot of Burns documentaries, this one is less than one hour in length — still a worthwhile source, but perhaps less intimidating in terms of a time commitment.)

Resources Consulted

Bixby, Brian L.,”Seeking Shakers: Two Centuries of Visitors to Shaker Villages” (2010). Open Access Dissertations.

History of the Shakers. National Park Service

Miller, Mike. Enfield’s Shaker Legacy.  ConnecticuttHistory.org, August 20, 2019.

Samfield, Dina. “Harvard, Shirley Share Shaker History.” Nashoba Valley Voice, July 11, 2019.

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.

Shakerism in America. National Park Service

Shirley Shaker Village. ShakerWorkshops.com.  

Shirley Shaker Village. Shirley Historical Society.

CS 662, the Don Janzen Collection (in UASC)

Posted in Communal Studies, history, Religion | Leave a comment

Guess Who Performed in Evansville: Part 10

*Post written by James Wethington, senior library assistant at the University Archives and Special Collections.

We have one more exciting edition to Guess Who Performed in Evansville and we saved the best for last! If you haven’t read the previous entries, go and check them out! Many recognizable singers and bands have performed in Evansville throughout the years. As we have done before, we have three fun facts for you to see if you can guess who they are. The three fun facts are:

  1. The band’s lead singer is known for his long tongue.
  2. Some of their songs are “I Was Made to Lovin’ You”, “Rock and Roll All Nite”, and “Forever”.
  3. The band used face paint early in their career when they would perform.

Kiss formed in late 1972 when Gene Simmons answered an ad in Rolling Stone placed by Peter Criss. Kiss were known for performing with face paint on, which became their signature look. The band was originally a trio consisting of Simmons, Criss, and Paul Stanley; however, Ace Frehley joined the band in early 1973. Kiss performed their first concert on January 30, 1973 in Queens, New York. By the end of 1973, Kiss signed their first record deal with Casablanca Records and released their debut album, “KISS” in February 1974.

Female fans waiting in line for the Kiss concert, 1978.
Female fans waiting in line for the Kiss concert, 1978. Source: UASC, Gregory T. Smith collection, MSS 034-2050.

Kiss started to gain national-wide exposure by the mid and late 1970’s: they performed on the Mike Douglas Show (April 1974), Midnight Special (April 1975), and on the Paul Lynde Halloween Special, Detroit Rock City, and Beth and King of the Night Time World (October 1976). Kiss headlined Madison Square Garden and then voted as the #1 band in America in 1977 and in 1979, their song, “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” became a top ten hit on the charts.

Kiss experiences numerous changes in the early 1980’s: Peter Criss left the band and Eric Carr replaced him in 1980 and Ace Frehley left and replaced by Vinnie Vincent in 1982. Kiss shocked the world on September 18, 1983 on MTV’s “Lick It Up”, Kiss performed for the first time without their signature face paint. Until 1989, Kiss didn’t hit the charts until they released the album, “Hot in the Shade”, with top ten ballad, “Forever”. As Kiss entered the 1990’s, they experienced numerous highs and lows.

One of the biggest lows for Kiss was the death of Eric Carr in 1991. Carr passed away after battling cancer and the band dedicated their album, “KISS Revenge”, to Carr in 1992. By 1995, Kiss hosted their first worldwide Kiss Convention in Australia, released a coffee table book, Kisstory, and Kiss reunited with Peter Criss for a Kiss Convention in Los Angeles to perform. In 1996, Kiss shocked the world when all original four band members made a surprise appearance at the Grammy’s in their signature fact paint for the first time since 1983. By 1999, Kiss was back together, front and center, when they performed at Super Bowl XXXIII and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. By 2000, Kiss announced they were holding a farewell tour; however, Kiss was far from over.

Two unidentified boys with faces painted like members of Kiss, 1978. Source: UASC, Gregory T. Smith collection, MSS 034-2040.

Peter Criss left Kiss again and replaced with Eric Singer in 2001. The following year, Kiss performed the closing ceremonies at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. In 2009, Kiss released their first album in 11 years and performed live on season finale of American Idol. By 2014, Kiss received their highest honor when all four original members were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.

Kiss performed their concert at Roberts Stadium on January 23, 1978. There were over 13,600 people in attendance to see Kiss; however, there was an accident that happened, injuring two. The concert had a spotlight tower near the edge of the stage, which crashed into the stage. It caused a 25-minute delay; but the show went on! The reporter at the concert thought the concert was horrible because of the words were incomprehensible (Hill, 1978). One concertgoer wrote to the Evansville Press newspaper. It was a great concert and not boring as the reporter stated (Letter to the Editor). Everyone has their own opinions and they will vary. One reporter said after the concert, the traffic was a nightmare and “… could easily be the worst traffic jam in stadium history” (Kunkel, 1978).

People standing in line for the Kiss Concert at Roberts Stadium, 1978.
People standing in line for the Kiss Concert at Roberts Stadium, 1978. Source: UASC, Gregory T. Smith collection, MSS 034-2042.

For more information, the Greg Smith collection at the University Archives and Special Collections at the David L. Rice Library at the University of Southern Indiana has over 1,500 photographs of Evansville history available online. Take a moment to explore his photographs of athletic events, local businesses, and many more.

References Consulted

Callis, N. (1978, January 31). Critical of the critic [Letter to the editor]. The Evansville Press. https://bit.ly/2VbPt8U

Hiatt, B. (2014, April 2). 18 things you learn hanging out with Kiss. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/18-things-you-learn-hanging-out-with-kiss-235348/

Hill, D. (1978, January 24). Kiss gives huge crowd little more than noise. The Evansville Press. https://bit.ly/2KlfNHu

Kiss chronology. (n.d.). Kiss world. Retrieved on April 20, 2020, from https://www.kissonline.com/history

Kunkel, T. (1978, January 29). Kiss: Rock extravaganza more than meets the eye. Sunday Courier and Press. https://bit.ly/2KmzfDr

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.(n.d.). Kiss. Retrieved on April 20, 2020, from https://www.rockhall.com/inductees/kiss

Posted in Evansville, Indiana, Guess Who Performed in Evansville, Local history, music | Leave a comment

Guess Who Performed in Evansville: Part 9

*Post written by James Wethington, senior library assistant at the University Archives and Special Collections.

This is the final stretch on Guess Who Performed in Evansville. Today, we are going back to the country music scene with this band. They are best known for their fiddle playing vocalist. As before, if you don’t know who this band is, here are three clues:

  1. The namesake of the band wrote the song, “It Hurts Me” and is sung by Elvis Presley.
  2. Along with several other bands and singers, they performed at the “Bridging Generations” pre-game show for Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005.
  3. They are best known for their 1979 #1 hit song, “Devil Went Down to Georgia”.
Can you guess who the musician is?

The band is the Charlie Daniels Band.

Charlie Daniels, the namesake of the band, was born on October 28, 1936 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Daniels played for two bands, the Misty Mountain Boys and the Jaguars. He went back and forth in different music genres, between R&B, bluegrass, country, and rock. His career moved forward when he moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1967. By 1970, he recorded his first solo album, “Charlie Daniels” and two years later, Daniels formed his band, the Charlie Daniels Band. He struck successful with his third album, “Honey in the Rock”, with Uneasy Rider reaching #9 on the Billboard Charts in 1973.

Charlie Daniels playing guitar during concert, 1977. Source: UASC, Gregory T. Smith collection, MSS 034-1404.

Daniels and his band continued releasing albums; but it wasn’t until 1979, they struck gold! Their song, “Devil Went Down to Georgia”, charted #1 on the Billboard Charts and won them a Grammy for Best Country Vocal. Less than a year later, the band appeared the film, “Urban Cowboy”. The band continued to succeed in the 1980’s and by 1990, Daniels was in the limelight for his song and album, “Simple Song”. The reason is because his thoughts of punishing drug dealers by different methods of dying, proving to be controversial. By 1994, Daniels went in a different musical decision. He released his first Christian music album (which helped him win the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Award for Best Country Album) and in 1997, Daniels released his first children’s album, “By the Light of the Moon: Campfire Songs and Cowboy Tunes”.

Charlie Daniels playing the fiddle at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum, 1977.
Charlie Daniels playing the fiddle at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum, 1977. Source: UASC, Gregory T. Smith Collection, MSS 034-1401.

The Charlie Daniels band continued roaring into the 2000’s in different ways to stay in American culture. The band performed at the pre-game show for Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005, played alongside Hank Williams, Jr. in Monday Night Football’s theme, and the National Anthem at the Outback Bowl in 2007. Finally, in 2008, the Charlie Daniels Band received their highest honor: they were inducted in the Grand Ole Opry and were inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

The Charlie Daniels Band, just like Boston, performed at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum. They performed on January 16, 1977. There was no high expectation for the band since they were unknown, but their concert was a success and the fans were impressed with their performance. Charlie Daniels and his band played songs from two of their albums: “Saddletramp” and “High Lonesome”. Daniels showed up his skills with his violin with the song, “The South’s Gonna Do It Again”. At the end of the concert, Charlie Daniels had a smile on his face, he enjoyed the Evansville audience (Young, 1977).

Charlie Daniels Band in concert at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum, 1977.
Charlie Daniels Band in concert at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum, 1977. Source: UASC, Gregory T. Smith collection, MSS 034-1409.

For more information, the Greg Smith collection at the University Archives and Special Collections at the David L. Rice Library at the University of Southern Indiana has over 1,500 photographs of Evansville history available online. Take a moment to explore his photographs of athletic events, local businesses, and many more. Stay tuned for our next addition of Guess Who Performed in Evansville.

References Consulted

Bernhardt, J. (n.d.). Charlie Daniels. https://countrymusichalloffame.org/artist/charlie-daniels/

Daniels, C. (2016). Bio. https://www.charliedaniels.com/bio

Daniels, C. (2016). Chronology. https://www.charliedaniels.com/chronology

Young, T. (1977, January 17). Daniels band is a hit. The Evansville Press. https://bit.ly/3abbN6D

Posted in Evansville, Indiana, Guess Who Performed in Evansville, Local history, music | Leave a comment