Letters from a Young Shaker

Letters from a Young Shaker: William S. Byrd at Pleasant Hill

Copyright Date: 1985
Edition: 1
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Letters from a Young Shaker
    Book Description:

    In the early nineteenth century, a young man belonging to the prominent Byrd family of Virginia, the grandson of William Byrd III, took up residence in the Shaker community at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. Over the next two years, 1826--1828, he wrote a series of letters to his father, a federal judge in Ohio, describing his experiences and his impressions of the United Society of Believers, as the Shakers were formally called. Eventually, William S. Byrd became a convert to the society and an advocate of its beliefs and practices. His letters -- cut short by his father's death -- offer today's reader an intimate view of communal life among the Shakers at a time of considerable turmoil in their village.

    In the correspondence of William S. Byrd, the Shaker experience is expressed in human terms and becomes a living faith. The letters also record the trials associated with conversion to a religion that was socially unacceptable to many Americans of the time. Some of their more poignant passages describe young Byrd's attempt to reconcile the tensions created by his membership in two families -- the one of blood and the one of faith.

    Letters from a Young Shakerprovides an unusually instructive commentary on life in a Shaker community, on the questions agitating the community, and on the appeal of Shakerism to Americans in the early nineteenth century. In addition to the letters, the book contains other documents bearing on William Byrd's relationship with the settlement at Pleasant Hill and an introduction placing him in the social and religious context of the period. This book will appeal to historian of American society and to anyone interested in the Shaker way of life.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4871-7
    Subjects: Religion, Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-48)

    In the summer of 1826 the Shaker ministry at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, reported the arrival of “a nice young Man” who came to their village “and opened his mind.” The elders took special notice of the new arrival because “for a long time” there had been “but little ingathering from the world.” Occasionally, they noted, “one will drop in, who have mard themselves in the world in some way or other, and once in a while, one will come in who are considered to be in honourable standing in the world; but not more of all, then to keep up...

    (pp. 49-98)

    Pleasant Hill, June 22d, 1826

    Dear Papa,

    I arrived here safe last friday afternoon. As I passed through Lexington I made some further enquery about our Bank stock. I saw Mr. Morton¹ and Mr. Legrand² together, and was informed by the latter that it would be impracticable for me to negotiate a sale of my stock on advantageous terms, but thought that he could sell it for at least six hundred dollars, and promised to let me know very soon the most it would sell for. In the mean time one of the Believers, Francis Voorheese [Voris], undertook to negotiate...

    (pp. 99-130)
  8. NOTES
    (pp. 131-154)
  9. Index
    (pp. 155-165)