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Union Village and the Shakers of Warren County, Ohio
A Shaker Doll for a Blind Girl
by Katherine Lollar Rowland
Katherine Lollar Rowland has agreed to serve as the webmaster for the Shaker pages on the Warren County Ohio GenWeb.
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This article is a part of a series titled "The Last Fifty Years of Union Village Shakers" which are original stories and articles by Katherine Lollar Rowland about the last Ohio Shakers, their life, the way it was in the declining years of Union Village, and also of their contacts with the greater community of Warren County when they were no longer able to be self-sufficient. Other articles in the series will be added as they are completed.
Contact Katherine Lollar Rowland if you would like to comment about this article or other Shaker items.

Although two entries in the Center Family journals of Shaker Union Village in 1909 and 1911 were intriguing they only hinted at the colorful story that would unfold with further research:

"June 9, 1909 - Miss Georgia Duckworth Trader and Miss Florence Bishop Trader of Cincinnati came. Miss Georgia is blind, her sister is not. They live at Clovernook, Cincinnati, home for the blind, formerly the home of poetesses Alice and Phebe Carey, stayed all night. Clovernook is in Mt. Healthy.

Oct. 16, 1911 - The Trader sisters, Miss Florence and Miss Georgia of Cincinnati
came here this forenoon. They will return this afternoon. Miss Georgia is blind."

Residents at Union Village often received friends or family as visitors, even ones who stayed overnight, so this was not particularly unusual. But it did pique my interest to learn more about the Trader sisters as I went through research material at various Warren County historical collections. What emerged was a story that began long before those entries in the later years of the Shakers at Union Village.

 

The first connecting link came in a fat file of Shaker papers in the vault in the basement of the Historical Society. A yellowing newspaper clipping headlined "Blind Girl's Doll 'Back Home' in Warren co." set forth an appealing, but somewhat mystifying, story. The basic story line was that a doll in the shape of the traditional Shaker women's dress had been made years ago by the Shaker women for a little blind girl named Georgia Duckworth Trader, and was now was being returned to Glendower Museum, in Lebanon.

The article was datelined "Lebanon, Dec. 18" but carried no year. An interior date in the article indicated that the article was written in 1944. The pre-Christmas narrative was heartwarming, but the writer, one Bob McNeill, seemed to have some of the dates askew. He seemed to indicate that the doll was given to little Georgia at the same time the Shakers also gave some looms to Georgia, and her sister Florence Trader, for the new home for the blind they were starting in Mt. Healthy in 1903. At that time, Georgia was no longer "a little girl" but, although blind, a poised young woman.

Georgia and Florence Trader had been inseparable ever since Georgia had become blind at the age of 11, and her sister, two years younger, took over her care. They walked without restriction everywhere arm and arm, with Florence's hand signals on Georgia's arm telling the blind girl exactly how to proceed.

It COULD have been that the Shakers made the beautiful doll for Georgia when she was small because the Traders were of a long-standing Lebanon family, the girls' grandfather, Robert Duckworth having started the first coal yard in Lebanon in the 1840s. Perhaps the Shakers got their coal from him. In any event, the family surely knew about the Shakers just west of town.

It is interesting to note that the Duckworth Coal Yard started a chain of businesses which now, almost 170 years later, is reputed to be the site of the oldest continously-operated business in Lebanon. Over the intervening years, it became Lewis Brothers feed and coal dealers, then Lewis and Drake, and is now operated as Brants, Inc., Hardware..

First of the Trader girls' ancestors was George Duckworth who married Sarah Corwin of the renowned Corwin family, first settlers of Warren County, including the illustrious Tom Corwin, early governor of Ohio, U. S. Senator and ambassador to Mexico. One of George and Sarah Corwin Duckworth's daughters, Elizabeth Jane, married James F. Trader and they went to Xenia to live, and then later moved to Cincinnati where they were active in the Methodist Church in Avondale as well as in wealthy social circles there.
As Georgia and Florence grew into womanhood they began to dream of starting a home for blind women. This culminated in their founding. in May of 1903, the Clovernook Center for the Blind, now grown into an extensive facility providing all kinds of services for persons with impaired sight. According to information on Clovernook's current website,

"(The Trader sisters) contacted their friend, William A. Procter, a prominent businessman in Cincinnati and head of Procter and Gamble, to inform him of their mission and ask his advice about purchasing the 26 acre former estate of Alice and Phoebe Cary in Mt. Healthy. He took an interest in their work and, to their surprise, purchased the beautiful land for them. "

It was at that time that Georgia and Florence contacted the Shakers at Union Village to secure looms on which the blind women would weave cloth as the first activity of Clevernook School. The Shakers gave to them not one loom, but two, of different sizes for different widths of fabric. Notes from a colorful sketchbook called "Shaker Days," drawn in 1966 by Miriam Logan tells of Florence Trader's having later told about the "Shaker aged men bringing the old loom to them in a horse drawn wagon and setting it up in the old Cary House." In that book there is a sketch of a Shaker woman, and the blind girl holding the doll dressed in Shaker costume.

So now the question arises, how did the Shaker doll, and, as it turns out, the looms as well, get back to Warren County? This introduces Hazel Spencer Phillips, another one of the remarkable women included in this story, the people with whom the Shakers began to interact in the later years when they were no longer able to be self-sufficient. A resident of Lebanon, Mrs. Phillips became very interested in the Shakers and their history and began to write about them and preserve their artifacts. She was also one of the founders of the Warren County Historical Society, which in those days, was headquartered at Glendower, a beautiful big house museum on Cincinnati Avenue. Miriam Logan, who did the sketchbook, worked closely with Mrs. Phillips.

Mrs. Phillips and Miss Logan kept in touch with the Trader Sisters. After Georgia Trader died on March 12, 1944, Florence Trader gave the Shaker doll to Glendower Museum and this then was the inspiration for the touching Christmas story in the newspaper clipping with which this narrative began. The doll still remains, carefully displayed in its own glass case, in the children's room of the second floor of Glendower. The costume is of the finest Shaker fabrics, the hooded Dorothy cloak is a creamy off-white, the dress a light pink.

The typical Shaker woman's bonnet is made of straw. Beginning in 1827 Shaker bonnets had been made from woven palm leaves and in 1837 Abner Beedle invented a palm leaf weaving loom. The palm leaves were imported from Cuba and were the same palm leaves that were used in fans so prevalent in churches and funeral parlors at the time. However, the palm leaf trade was interrupted by the Civil War and after that time straw was adapted to the Shaker bonnet manufacture.

In 1961-62 the Ohio Historical Society took possession of Glendower, including all its contents, and the Warren County Historical Society acquired Harmon Hall on Lower Main Street to use as its Museum. (In this year of 2005, negotiations are now going on between the Ohio Historical Society and the Warren County Museum with the possible outcome that ownership/management of Glendower may be returned to the local group.) The Historical Society's records show that on May 11, 1962, the big loom, "built for Miss Georgia Trader in 1902-1903," was returned to them and is now on display in the upstairs Shaker rooms, along with a large collection of specimen Shaker furniture .

It is not fitting to close this story without mentioning that there were two other sisters: Effie Corwin Trader and Louise King Trader, both of whom were of help in the Clovernook activities for the blind. Effie was, in addition, a well-known painter of the time. In fact, a check of today's internet shows that her work is even now being shown in Cincinnati Galleries and a very attractive oil of Taos Pueblo has recently been sold.

Also mention must be made of the first set of sisters: Alice and Phoebe Cary, whose family home was the nucleus of the site for Clovernook. The Cary sisters were poets of note during their time period (1820-1871). Their writings attracted the favorable attention of such writers as Edgar Allan Poe, Horace Greeley and John Greenleaf Whittier. After their joint works were published as Poems of Alice and Phoebe Carey and met with such success, even though their name was spelled wrong, they moved to New York City where their fashionable salon "became a popular meeting place for the leading literary lights of the city," - this a quote from the 1999 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica on the internet. These were the sisters to which the June 9, 1909, journal
made reference, thus bringing our story to full circle - the end.


Postscripts

1 February 2005
As a postcript to the story of the big loom, it has been reported that rugs from Clovernook were sold by Steven S. Kistler in his shop named "The Shaker Seed Box Company." Steve was an avid Shaker enthusiastic. His shop, which carried a wide range of Shaker furnishings and accessories, grew out of his own interest in collecting the distinctive Shaker seed boxes, 45 of which were displayed in the windows of downtown Cincinnati Saks Fifth Avenue during the summer of 1991. His shop was in the Mariemont Old Town Center, outside of Cincinnati, for many years prior to 1992. Steve was instrumental in the founding of the Western Shaker Study Group and was honored by memorial funds set up by the Hamilton County Park District and also the participants in the 1992 Berkshire Seminar which was held in Kentucky the year he died.

15 Oct 2005
In answer to a question about the origin of the name of the "Dorothy Cloak," a miniature copy of which the Shaker Sisters so lovingly made for the Shaker doll for the blind girl:

In writing about Canterbury Shaker Village, New Hampshire, Stephen J. Stein, states: "The sisters. . . made the famous Dorothy cloaks, named after their designer, Eldress Dorothy Durgin of Canterbury." ( from The Shaker Experience in America (published in 1992 by Yale University Press)

A biography of Dorothy Durgin written by Susan Maynard states: "Dorothy Ann Durgin was born in 1825 in Sanbornton, New Hampshire, and came to the Shakers in 1834 when she was nine years old, , , In 1852, when Sister Dorothy was 27 years old, she was appointed assistant Edlress and in 1857 became senior Eldress. She held this position until her death, at the age of 73 in 1898. . . . Many of the hymns the Shakes sang were composed by Eldress Dorothy. . . Eldress Dorothy also designed a cloak which the Shaker Sisters produced, wore, and sold to the outside world. Between 1890 and the mid-20th century, hundred of these cloaks were sewn by the Sisters." (from A Shaker Life, the Diaries of Brother Irving Greenwood 1894-1939) , published in 2005 by Xlibris Corporation.)

The diaries of Brother Greenwood are of especial interest to Western Shakers because he, with Brother Arthur Bruce, was appointed to oversee the sale of Union Village, Ohio, to the United Brethren Church.


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This page created 25 January 2005 and last updated 22 May, 2008
© 2005 Katherine Lollar Rowland & Arne H Trelvik  All rights reserved