Sarah Salome Barrett

A Short Biography: Sarah Salome Barrett, Harvard Shaker  (1770-1832)

by Roben Campbell, Shaker researcher


Sarah Salome Barrett, from Lancaster, was still a child when she united with the Shakers. Ten years later she made an offering of one cow towards the building of the Meeting House. This cow sold for twenty-eight dollars.[1] In 1792 she went to the South House to live.

Further than these few tidbits little is known until the autumn of 1810 when she succeeded Sarah Jewett in the Medical department. At this time Sarah became known as Salome, perhaps because of the many sisters in the village with the name of Sarah. She had many duties: She made daily visits to the sick.[2] She prepared medicines with her assistant, Desire Chandler.[3] She gathered herbs in the Shaker village; and further into Harvard in the Oak Hill area[4] and south Harvard where she gathered elderberry flowers[5]. Beyond Harvard she went to Ashburnham[6], Dunstable[7], and Shirley[8], specifically for uva ursi, which is still used today for urinary tract infections.

Salome also sought cures outside the village. On June 17, 1822 she visited a person named “Snelling” in Pelham NH, who advertised himself as a cancer curer. She sought a cure for Sister Dolly Perham, who suffered a cancer of the face. Perhaps it worked, as Sister Dolly lived for another sixteen years.

Salome herself needed medical treatment on two occasions. On January 21, 1825, Br. Joseph Hammond, who had served in the village medical department until 1821, “operated on her for a cancer on the lower part of her sternum.”[9] The result of the procedure was not noted. Then, on August 18, 1825 Salome split her ankle bone on the stone walk by the first house. Br. Joseph Hammond watched her progress.[10]

Salome served the community as a nurse/physician for a total of eighteen years, and was much loved by all.[11] During this time she also made four overnight visits to the ocean for “health” and for the salt water, together with other Harvard Shakers.[12]

Salome died of consumption[13] on December 1, 1832. The journal entry for that day eulogizes her:

Snow Hail & rain. About 1/2 past 6 oclock Salome Barret deceased aged 62 years & one month, Our Beloved Mother Ann, has taken another of her faithful first born children, one that bore the burden & heat of the day. She was a friend & well wisher to all. It brings a very solemn feeling to have one after another drop away of the first believers. It will soon be said they are all gone. [14]








[1] May 30, 1792, Harvard Shaker Record Book, Shaker Manuscript Collection, Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, MA.

[2] September 29, 1822, January 5 and Februrary 21, 1823; December 12, 1824, Joseph Hammond Journals, 1820-1826, FM 1.10, in the Manuscript Collection at Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, MA.

[3] Ibid., February 23, 1826.

[4] Ibid., June 26, 1822.

[5] July 2, 1829, Church Family Day Book, FM 4.2, in the Manuscript Collection at Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, MA.

[6] Ibid., July 27, 1830.

[7] Ibid., book, June 9, 1831.

[8] Ibid., September 30, 1830.

[9] Ibid., Joseph Hammond Journals.

[10] Ibid. August 21, 1825.

[11] Correspondence, December 10, 1832, WRHS.IV:A-23.

[12] May 20, 1822,  June 15, 1830, and July 6, 1831 to Lynn; and  June 3, 1824 to Boston

[13] Ibid, Dec. 10. 1832, Correspondence.

[14] Ibid. December 1, 1832, FM 4.2.




All rights reserved. © Roben Campbell, 2016.