Eleazer Rand

A Short Biography: Eleazer Rand, Harvard Shaker  (1763-1808)

by Roben Campbell, Shaker researcher

 

Father Eleazer Rand and Mother Hannah Kendall, the founding parents of the village, became young disciples of Mother Ann and the Elders when they arrived in Harvard, traveled with her until her death. Eleazer helped digging her grave in Watervliet.[1] Father Eleazer and Mother Hananh moved back to Harvard when the village was formally organized in 1791. In addition to a biography many Shakers had recollections of him during his shorty life. He traveled with Mother Ann, Father Eleazer’s biography provides detailof his early life and a good character assessment:

He was born in Charlestown Mass, Sept 18th 1763, his parents altho not rich, were respectable…. His Father was a seafaring man, and died in Antego, one of the west Indie Islands a little before he was born; his Mother [supported] herself and him, until he was eight years old; She then put him out to a bording house, to earn his own livery, until he was fourteen. There he lived four years, and by his mild and agreeable disposition, togather with his ingenuity in learning, and punctuality in doing, his duty as a servant, he soon gained the confidence of his Master and Mistress, and the good will of the family in general, he was also much noticed by the boarders many of whom were foreigners. Young as he was he manifested an unusual fortitude and always took a decided part on the side of the oppressed, even the meanest boy that walked the street when he was imposed upon. Many of the British Officers borded where he lived, who took much notice of him altho he was decidedly against their encrochments on the rights of his country; yet by his close attention to his duty he gained their good will, and occasionally some of their money; so that at the fight of Bunker Hill he had accumulated to the amount of ten or twelve dollars: of which he was careful

On the day of the battle when the prisoners were brought into town he went to see them, and was much moved with pity for his wounded and bleeding countrymen; but he did not stop here – finding what they most needed he immediately repared to his little bank, and took five or six dollars and laid out for the mitigation of their sufferings: and thus ministered to their necessities

Thus he began to show his benevolent disposition when a Child of but twelve years of age.”[2]

At age eighteen under the employment of Zaccheus Stevens, Eleazer Rand moved to Harvard, and soon after, in the year 1781, joined the Shakers with the Stevens family, [3] and quickly became one of Mother Ann’s chosen disciples. Jemima Blanchard remembered seeing Eleazer Rand at her first meeting with the Shakers in 1781. He “appeared very solemn and heavenly” and “it struck her feeling  very much,” as he was “under the operations of the power of God.”[4] Sarah Kendall, Mother Hannah’s natural sister, movingly recounted the following scene which communicates the experiential nature of Shaker revelation, and which occurred at a meeting in the Kendall home. Father James was one of the Elders.

While Father James was at my father’s house in company with Father Eleazer (said Sarah) who was then a youth) a stream of living water was seen to issue from Father James’ side, which when perceived by Eleazer he stooped down & drank it. This seemed to be an outward sign of the living fountain within, from which Father James was able to supply so many thir[s]ty souls with the water of life.[5]

Perhaps because of the secrecy of Shadrach Ireland, leader of the predecessors of the location in Harvard, the Harvard townspeople felt threatened by the unorthodox nature of Mother Ann’s gospel. Harvard and Shirley were the scenes of many incidents of violence and persecution. Zaccheus Steven lived close to what is now the Harvard/Bolton border on Still River Road. Mother Ann’s reply to the mob about the future of Eleazer Rand shows an unusual prescience concerning his future.

One evening, when Mother Ann was at Zaccheus Steven’s, in Harvard, there came a mob of ungodly people, a number of whom entered the house and disturbed the Believers. Mother Ann, being in another room, sent Eleazer Rand to speak with them, but the men, being some of his acquaintances, viewed him as a contemptible stripling, and began to revile him with their ungodly speeches. On hearing this, Mother came to the door and spoke with great power of God, saying, “You wicked generation of adulterers, take care what you say to a child of God! Touch not the anointed of God! He will have the keys to the kingdom for the people of this place. He will be able to bind and to loose. – He will be able to shut you out, yet.”[6]

 

When a mob ran the Shakers out of town, a march of ten miles, Eleazer Rand with Abijah Worster were targets of much of the violence that occurred en route.[7]

Eleazer Rand had the gift of speaking eloquently. Mother Ann chose him as a spokesperson when the Marquis de Lafayette and other notables visited the Shakers in Watervliet. [8] As a ministry parent a Harvard sister recounted these words:

While speaking to the Brethren & Sister he said “If you felt as you ought to, your spirit would mourn like doves that you might increase in virtue, for you are called by the gospel & you will have to be fathers & mothers in Israel.”

At another time, “I say (says Father) there is but one table, one bread, & but one God & one union, & you ought to be one people.”[9]           

The first decade of the Harvard village had many challenges, one of which was the defection of Believers. A scribe of the time recorded:  “I am fully persuaded that Father Eleazer died a martyr to grief; for when he saw the destruction that [360] Satan had caused among his flock his soul refused to be comforted.”[10] A revival occurred  months less than a year before he died in 1808, buoying his spirits.

The revival remained in its height about six weeks; having meetings at almost any time, and in different places. At one particular time, Father Eleazer led the way up to the square house, and they had meeting till between eleven & twelve O clock. This was of a Monday night, Singing, lively dance, sitting on the floor, & various ways & gifts improved. They sung Mother’s and the Elders songs, together with others.

In that meeting, Father Eleazer spake how it used to be in the first of the gospel, when great numbers of people were collected there. Sometimes many would be knelt down around the house, praying for repentance and forgiveness of their sins; and others, under the trees opening their minds. And said Father, all these precious gifts and power that we have received, came from our blessed mother, Blessed Father William & Father James.

In the revival they would sometimes calculate on a regular meeting; but before long they would be set down on the floor; speaking in tongues, walking the floor, leaping & turning were more or less the exercises, with lively dancing sometimes. Kneeling in the hall might frequently be seen. Then perhaps gather into the meeting room before breakfast, or after as might be, pitch up a song & soon they would gather, and it was easy to feel a flow of the spirit….[11]

 

At his last meeting he spoke these words:

7.3 eleazer rand photoAAS p. 77 FE: p.77 Father Eleazer: “Love one another as Christ loved us, For what greater love hath any man than to lay down his life for his friends.” Said at the last meeting he attended before he died.[12]

Shirley Shaker John Robinson fondly remembered Father Eleazer’s rock in the east woods. Here he would retire, and once said,

 if it had been the will of God, he should have been willing to breath his last there. Father used sometimes to go to that rock in the night; when he could not sleep for tribulation, and weep on that rock.[13]

Years later ascending this rock, Harvard hymnist Eunice Wyeth wrote, “our beloved Father Eleazer used to resort to pour out his soul in prayer to God for his little flock.


On Father’s rock we’ll mourn

and weep on Father’s rock

we’ll cry to him for strength

to persevere. O may we feel

his presence nigh.[14]

 

 

 

 

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[1] P. 49 L, RG, WRHS.VI.B.9. Abiathar Babbit accompanied Eleazer.

[2] 1824, A Short Account of the Birth. Character, and Ministration of Father Eleazer and Hannah’s union with the succeeding Ministry by, John Warner Harvard Mass.; Shaker Manuscript Collection, WRHS. VI.A.5.

[3] Ibid.

[4] p. 38, EB testimonies, WRHS.VI.10. Jemima Blanchard probably was acquainted with Eleazer Rand  because Rand’s maternal grandmother, Abigail Logee, was Shadrach Ireland’s spiritual companion (AAS, p. 11)

[5] Ibid., p. 21

[6] 1816/1888 Testimonies, provided by Jonathan Slosson, p. 224

[7] Please see Appendix: Violence in Harvard.

[8] P. 21 L, RG Testimonies, WRHS.VI.9.

[9] Recounted by Mary Chandler, p. 226, WRHS.VI.B.8.

[10] Father Eleazer Rand, a book about Father Eleazer, written by an unknown scribe, WRHS.VII.B.26.

[11] Summary of 1808, Harvard Record Book, Shaker Manuscript Collection, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass.

[12] Ibid. p. 77.

[13] June 1841, p. 97, the Thomas Hammond Book, WRHS.VII.B.22.

[14] Eleazer Rand Book, last page, copied June 1841; WRHS.VII.B.26. The possibility is very strong that John Robinson wrote the Eleazer Rand Book.

 

 

 

 

 

All rights reserved. © Roben Campbell, 2016.