Deliverance Cooper

A Short Biography: Deliverance Cooper, Harvard Shaker  (1754-1840)

by Roben Campbell, Shaker researcher

 

Abigail and Samuel Cooper raised their last two children, Deliverance (Dilly) and Beulah, in the New Light Baptist faith as led by Shadrach Ireland. Ireland regarded them as holy children as they were born “under the sanction of a spiritual marriage after their parents found they could not bear a full cross against the flesh.”[1] After Ireland died Dilly did not join the disciples of Daniel Wood, who first brought the gospel of Mother Ann to Harvard and surrounding areas. She thought “they had too much of the earthquake, fire and whirlwind; and that she wanted the still, small voice….”[2]

In the following testimony Dilly provides her own account of her past, of her state of mind when Mother Ann arrived in 1781, and too, an evaluation of Mother Ann’s character.

I was born in Grafton Massachusetts, February 25th 1754. In the sixth year of my age my parents moved to Harvard. From my childhood I was at times, in great labor of mind concerning the salvation of my soul; but could never find any thing that satisfied me. Among all the professors, and all that was called religion in the world, I could not see any thing that I thought would save me, even were I in their situation; and still I felt the need of something far better than any thing I had found, to make me happy. In the midst of my labors & contemplations, it was often suggested to my mind that there would arise a people who would be the true followers of Christ; and for a number of years I looked forward with an earnest desire to see such a people.

The first time I heard of Mother & the Elders I well remember the impressions I felt. When I was told they were a strange people, and very much ridiculed & despised by the world around them for their religion, it instantly struck my mind, that perhaps these were the people I had long wished to see. As they were despised, I concluded “they were rid of the world;” for “the world would love its own.” Shortly after this they came to the Square house in Harvard, where my parents lived, and opened their testimony in plain simple language. They testified what they had found by living a life of self-denial & the cross – they had found salvation from sin, and obtained victory over all evil – and that the only way to obtain it was to confess all sin & forsake it forever – to bear a daily cross against all impurity – to cease to do evil, & learn to do well.

This testimony I heard with attention, and fully believed what they said to be just and true; and provided I could know that they had really found what they said they had, and lived up to what they preached, I should believe they were the people of God whom I had been looking for, and were in possession of what I needed. But I thought I would wait & see their daily deportment & manner of life before I made up my mind. And I had a very favorable opportunity to see and know to my own satisfaction for I lived about 9 months in the same house when they had their residence while they staid in Harvard. And I ever found them to be what they professed to be; and in piety & true godliness they far exceeded my expectations. Indeed I could not fault them in anything whatever. I could sensibly feel that they professed the spirit of Christ. They were meek & humble kind & charitable; always ready and willing as far as they were able to help every one in distress. They would impart any thing they had for the comfort of poor creatures who came to them for charity, whether victuals, clothes or something to supply their spiritual wants, or whatever they were in need of. Being fully convinced beyond the least doubt, that they had the gospel of salvation, of which I stood in great need, I was constrained by my own reason & conscience, to set out in the self-denying way. And I have ever found what they taught to be true & virtuous; and I can truly say, the further I travel in this blessed way of God, the more comfort and blessing I find, and the more thankful I feel for it. I know I have failed that which saves me from sin; and I have found it by obeying the gospel which I received from Mother Ann.

As to her moral character, I know for one, that she was a virtuous, godly woman – very exemplary in all things, and the most perfect pattern of true godliness I ever saw. If she had been a lewd woman as her calumniators have represented, she never could have obtained that divine protection and blessing which evidently attended her wherever she went, & which finally crowned her labors with such remarkable success. It was evidently seen and sensibly felt, even by some of the unbelieving world, as well as by her own followers, that she possessed great wisdom and power of God.

It has often appeared strange to me that so many false stories have been invented and credited by the world of mankind, respecting Mother Ann’s being an intemperate and base character, where there was not the least colour of truth to make them out of – I certainly had a good opportunity to know: for I was intimately acquainted with her; and I can testify in the sincerity of my soul, that these stories are false. She ever taught her followers, by example as well as by precept, to be temperate in all things; and is not a tree known by its fruit? Can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit? The same gospel that was preached by Mother and the Elders, is now practiced by the Believers of the present day – Their doctrines, both in work & practice, are still maintained among us; and all the religion and virtue we possess are the fruits of their labors, together with the blessing of God on our obedience to their precepts and example.[3]

 

Another sister remembered Dilly’s more personal account of Mother Ann in the following incident:

Deliverance used to work in the kitchen at the Square House when Mother lived there, and Mother would sometimes come & instruct her about cooking. At one time there had been a great deal of company there for a long time, and the cupboards & kitchen had become durty. After some of the company were gone She & Tabitha Green went to cleaning.

When they had cleansed kitchen & cupboards to their satisfaction, Mother came in & looked all around, opened the cupboards, and said “how clean you Smell.” She then embraced & kissed them both.[4]

 In 1791, Dilly signed the Harvard charter, [5]and offered eight and a half yards of all wool gray cloth towards the building of the Meeting House.[6] With her serene disposition and sharp intelligence she was appointed to the important position of first eldress for fifteen years.[7] After being relieved of her duties in 1806, Dilly visited Canterbury and Enfield, New Hampshire for several weeks with other former leaders for several weeks.[8]

Dilly was aptly described as “a worthy Sister.”[9]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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[1] RG 28R WRHS.VI.B.9

[2] Ibid 29L

[3] June 25th, 1826, Harvard, WRHS.VI.A.8

[4] EB, pp. 190-191, WRHS.VI.B.10

[5] AAS Harvard Record Book, p. 79.

[6] June 4, 1791, Harvard Shaker Record Book, FM 1.7,

[7] Dec. 29, 1791, and June 29, 1806, Harvard Shaker Record Book, OC

[8] July 21, 1806, in the Harvard Shaker Record Book, FM 1.7, p. 100,  Shaker Manuscript Collection at Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, MA.

[9] Ibid., RG, p. 30R

 

 

 

 

All rights reserved. © Roben Campbell, 2016.