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 shoulder.
    "You may as well take the team and wagon, too. We won't be needing them either."
    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 use."
    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 father.
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 folks."
    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 music.
    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 Street.
    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 Sandford."
    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.

postmaster.jpg (53065 bytes)  



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)