Monday, December 3, 2007

Communing with Grandpa Francis

Marker for the grave of Charity Banta Montfort in the cemetery at Pleasant Hill, Shakertown, Mercer County, Kentucky
taken by her great great great great granddaughter, Barbara Whiteside 2007

On Sunday, the last day of the gathering, and following services at Old Mud Meeting House and the dedication of fifteen Rev War markers at the cemetery there, Diana and I left for Shakertown. A short drive out of Harrodsburg, we managed to get the room we wanted in the East Family House for two nights. We believe this may have been the room that our Grandpa Francis lived in his last twenty plus years as a Shaker and from where he was taken for burial in the Shaker Cemetery in Jan of 1867.
The food in the Trustees House is always good and plentiful......and the rooms are comfortable with reproduction Shaker furniture. We love the quiet of the Shaker village, it is such a tranquil place, more so when it is dark. Lit by street lamps and the lights in the buildings, it is so peaceful to walk down the old Hwy 68 as the old Shakers did in their heyday.

We visited with Mrs. Larrie Curry at the offices of Shakertown where she made a copy of the survery map of the old Shaker cemetery and gave permission to go inside the wooden gate. One section is the original section and where you will find most of the remaining stones of the Shakers buried there. The center section is nearly bare of stones which had been taken over the years to use as foundations for barns and houses. A few newer stones might be found in the section nearest to the new Hwy 68. Grandpa Francis is most certainly buried in the center section and no stone will ever be located for him.

The Shakers seem to have buried in chronological order and after death it didn't matter if females were buried next to males. Using the map and a book that has dates of deaths recorded, we were able to piece together those Shakers buried between 1811 to 1830 and hoped we might learn at least where the grave for Grandma Charity Banta Montfort might be located. Grandma Charity died in Dec 1828. I walked right to a marker with a very clear M on it and feeling the letter in front of it, found the shape of a C. But to be sure, I did a rubbing and it confirmed what we found....C. M. The Shakers only used initials on gravestones as they did not believe anything else was are dead, your soul is not there, only a shell. The most important part of the deceased has gone to Heaven to sit next to Mother Ann. Laying out a chart with dates of death by year, then by month and date of death it was easy to figure that the grave marked on the survey map and the marker we located is that of Charity Montfort. It appears in the right area if they buried in chronological order and the time frame for her death. AND she is also the only one in that time frame to have the initals C.M.
Charity was the dauaghter of Hendrick Banta 3rd and his first wife, Rachel Brower. Her given name was Geertje but was always known as Charity by the family. She was born shortly before her mother's death in December of 1749 in New Jersey. Sometime before 1768 she was married to Francis Montfort, son of Jan and Knierte Marston Monfoort of York County, PA. It seems likely they were married in York County, but no record of their marriage has been found to date.
They would have nine children, Rachel [Voris], Katherine [Voris], Marya [Terhune], Charity [Luyster], Henry [Catherine Montfort of Ohio], John Calvin [Nancy Agnes Mitchell and Ruth Gess], Francis Jr [Polly Banta], Jacob [Margaret/Peggy Banta and Nancy Lineback] and Sarah [never married.]
In February 1805, Charity and her husband Francis Montfort Sr, attended the first recognized meeting of the Shakers religious society in Kentucky at the farm of her half brother, John Banta. His farm adjoined the farm belonging to Francis and Charity in Henry County, Kentucky at Pleasureville. Charity would make the decision to join the society with her youngest daughter, Sarah and in August of 1805, they became among the first of the Shakers in Kentucky.
She left behind her husband of thirty seven years to live life as a celibate Shaker. Francis was not happy being left by his wife and when writing his will in 1825 pointedly left her out of it, though he named all nine of their children, including the four who joined her at Pleasant Hill, the Shaker community in Mercer County, KY. However he left those four children who had become Shakers, the land he owned in Indiana, perhaps to make it difficult if not impossible for them to deed it over to the Shaker Society.
Finding the marker for the grave of Charity was a real find for Diana and myself. It was not what we expected so it was so much more rewarding to us. The marker is shown above .
What a weekend; new Montfort cousins, finding the original two hundred acres of Francis Montfort Sr, seeing where Grandma Leah Demarest lost her life during the Indian attack at Long Run Massacre, finding the marker for Grandma Charity.
Barbara Whiteside

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