The Field Family Story
The following is an excerpt from
the book "The Drift into Deception" by John
& Agnes Lawless, and is used with permission of the authors. John Lawless is the
grandson of T. Albert Field, Shiloh's first postmaster, and the "Bert" in the
story that follows.
He glanced at his young wife Carrie beside him in the wagon.
Soft brown curls peeked out from under her sun bonnet brim. Her cheeks flushed a delicate
pink, and her blue eyes sparkled with excitement when she smiled back at her husband.
"Happy, honey?" Bert asked.
"I can hardly wait to get there! At last, we've found the group
we've been looking for." She smiled at four-year-old Ithiel and two-year-old Ruth
sitting beside her.
The horses trotted along the dusty road, through verdant pine woods and
past small farms. The young family in the bouncing wagon watched farmers hoeing potatoes
and corn under the warm sun. As they rounded a bend, Bert and Carrie caught glimpses
through the trees of a golden dome sparkling on a hill.
"There it is!" Carrie cried. "That's Shiloh, children.
We're in for a wonderful adventure, aren't we, dear?"
I hope so," Bert said. "I like Frank Sandford's preaching,
and I'm mighty glad he's a good Baptist." Bert grinned at his excited wife as she
chatted on. Deep down, however, he wondered if he had been wise to sell his thriving
jewelry store in nearby Brunswick and pull up roots just when he was getting established.
Had his training at Tiffany's in New York City been for nothing? Was it sensible to sell
their comfortable home and furniture to turn their proceeds over to Frank Sandford and
Shiloh? It's a good thing he had given his folks some money to keep for them in case
things didn't work out.
But then, Bert thought, living with other Christians sounded wonderful.
They would share "all things in common." And Sandford promised to take care of
them the rest of their lives with a "social security" and retirement system
combined. Guess he would just have to trust God more fully.
Shaking himself, Bert came back to the present in time to hear Carrie
say, "And we'll both be able to take classes in the Bible school and get the training
we've always wanted. But the part I like best is that we can help take the gospel to the
ends of the earth." The team slowly pulled the loaded wagon up an incline and around
another bend. Then the family saw it - three turrets. A seven-storied tower capped with a
gold-leaf crown. Colorful flags whipping in the breeze. Two magnificent "gates of
praise" atop a long staircase. Wide verandas wrapped around a 600 foot building. It
was reminiscent of a medieval castle ruling a hill.
As the wagon lumbered up the long driveway and stopped, doors opened in
the building, and people rushed out to greet the new arrivals. A man held the reins while
Bert jumped down, then helped Carrie and the children off the wagon seat. Warm hands
grasped theirs. Smiles radiated like sunshine everywhere.
Suddenly, an imposing figure of a man cut a swath through the crowd.
Carrying himself confidently, the Reverend Frank Sandford strode forward, his dark
mustache topping a wide smile.
"Welcome! Welcome to the kingdom!" He shook their hands with
a strong grip. "So glad you've joined us." After the greetings were over and the
milling people retumed to their work, Sandford walked Bert and Carrie to a small building
off to one side.
On the way, Bert slipped a hand into his inner jacket pocket and drew
out an envelope. He handed it to Sandford. "Here's something to help with the work.
We sold our house and jewelry business and won't be needing the money now."
"Wonderful! Praise the Lord!" Sandford slapped Bert's
"You may as well take the team and wagon, too. We won't be needing
Sandford stopped and ran an appraising eye over the well-groomed
chestnut horses and sturdy wagon. Once again, the leader held out his hand to shake
Bert's. "God bless you for your generosity, brother. We'll put them to good
By this time, they were in front of the small building. "This is
going to be our post office," Sandford explained. "We need someone to serve our
growing community as postmaster. With your business background, we think this would be an
ideal job for you. Will you take it?"
"Sure. Guess I can learn to handle it."
As they stepped inside the dim interior, Sandford said, "Of
course, we'll get this fixed up with a counter, shelves, and whatever else you'll need.
You and your family can sleep upstairs." He waved toward a narrow ladder. Another
smile, and he was gone.
While Carrie and the children watched, Bert drove the wagon near the
door, then carried a load of bedding up the ladder. He promptly knocked his head on the
low rafters, for he couldn't stand upright.
After carrying up the rest of their belongings, Bert came down and held
the baby while the youngsters clambered up the ladder. His pregnant wife proceeded more
slowly. "Watch your head, Carrie," he called.
"Oh, boy! This'll be fun!" Young Ithiel yelled down to his
The little wife looked around her new home. She saw a double iron bed, two single cots,
and a washstand with enamel basin and pitcher.
"At least, you won't have to worry about cooking up there,"
Bert called from below. "We'll be eating in the dining hall with the rest of the
Carrie took a deep breath before managing, "Fine." This was a
bit different than she had imagined. Would she be able to cope? Could she manage that
ladder now that she was pregnant again? Well, she'd just have to take one day at a time.
She led the squealing toddlers back down the ladder to begin their new lives. Bert soon
established himself as an important member of Shiloh. As one of the few businessmen, he
not only served as postmaster, but also as water commissioner and the appraiser of
valuable items donated to the group. During fund drives open to the public, followers sang
rousing hymns while filing forward. They dropped money, wedding rings, brooches,
necklaces, watches, and silverware into a large collection plate in front of the pulpit.
All the while, Sandford kept a running total, which he shouted out to the beat of the
Bert sat at a table on the platform. His job was to estimate the dollar
value of donations. It was a heady time for the young Yankee jeweler. All this to the
glory of God, he thought, and the furthering of his kingdom.
For the first few years, Bert and Carrie were happy in the glow of
their "honeymoon" experience at Shiloh. They enjoyed meeting new people and
talking about the things of the Lord. The daily services and prayer meetings were
stimulating. Sandford and his lovely wife Helen, as well as their new friends, seemed
caring and loving.
As time passed, however, the young couple became uncomfortable at
Shiloh. Was it just their imagination, or were others feeling the same? Something was
wrong, but they weren't sure what. And they didn't dare say a word to anyone else.
The Fields did notice gradual changes, however. Bible classes had
turned into lengthy harangues on Sandford's often revolutionary doctrines. They also
observed that members considered his words as important as God's. Equally disturbing were
Sandford's abusive actions - his angry confrontations with those who disagreed or
questioned his authority. His blithely spending their money on everything from golden
harps to yachts instead of food for his hungry followers bothered their Yankee thrift and
sense of justice.
Deeply disillusioned, Bert and Carrie left in 1904 under a cloud of
rejection from their friends at Shiloh and warnings of judgment from Sandford. In fact,
these warnings were so dire that the Fields had a family portrait taken soon after they
left. With "tongue-in-cheek," Bert told family and friends, "We want you to
have something to remember us by--in case Sandford's judgments come true."
Since they were penniless, except for the money they had left with
Bert's parents, something drastic had to be done to raise capital. The senior Fields sold
their farm near Durham. Part of the money was used to build a three-story, frame house on
upper Pleasant Street, Brunswick. Bert and his lived upstairs and his parents on the main
floor. With the rest of the money, Bert reestablished his jewelry business on Maine
After going through the trauma of leaving Shiloh themselves, they
helped others who left. They hid them in their house, barn, or woods from Shilohites who
tried to hunt them down. They gave them money to return to their homes and wrote letters
of recommendation for those needing jobs. In May 1905, Field was a witness for the
prosecution in a custody case. A grandfather wanted to get his grandson out of Shiloh and
be given custody of him. The Lewiston Saturday Journal gives this report: "Albert
Field, formerly postmaster of Shiloh, testified that he . . . left the place because he
felt hat he needed a complete rest so he could think for himself. He was exhausted
mentally as a consequence of the doubts and questions constantly raised in his mind by
The Fields joined the Cumberland Street Freewill Baptist Church, then
transferred to the Berean Baptist Church shortly before the two churches merged. Bert was
Sunday-school superintendent from 1911 to 1942, nearly thirty-one years. He also served as
church treasurer for several years, besides being a deacon. Carrie served as cradle-roll
superintendent. They raised ten children.
When T. Albert Field led the Sunday school in singing, " 'Tis So
Sweet to Trust in Jesus," his eyes often filled with tears. He and Carrie had learned
by hard experience to trust in Jesus, not in a leader.
Mr. T. Albert Field
from a photograph in "The Almighty and Us"
from The Drift Into Deception by Agnes & John
Lawless, (1995 Kregel Resources, Grand Rapids, Mich. 49501)