The Kentucky Shakers

The Kentucky Shakers

Copyright Date: 1982
Edition: 1
Pages: 112
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  • Book Info
    The Kentucky Shakers
    Book Description:

    In 1805, at the height of the period of early religious excitement in Kentucky, three members of the Shaker community in New Lebanon, New York, came to the Commonwealth of Kentucky to recruit converts. Soon there were little communities of Believers at Pleasant Hill in Mercer County and at South Union in Logan County. These settlements survived into the twentieth century as centers of worship and communal life; the buildings the Shakers erected here and many of their tools and artifacts remain to delight the eye today. But it is the life of the Shakers as well as the monuments they left that Julia Neal explores. Using the detailed journals and other records kept at both communities, she recounts the early struggles against poverty and persecution, the high hopes of the 1850s when the Shaker idea of communal life seemed to have borne fruit at last, and the hardship and violence of Civil War and Reconstruction days, from which the Kentucky Shakers were never to recover. This absorbing account of the Shakers at Pleasant Hill and South Union is, like so much else associated with the Shakers, simple, functional, and beautiful.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4867-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-11)

    It was March 1, 1805, when three Shakers from New Lebanon, New York—John Meacham, Benjamin Seth Youngs, and Issachar Bates—walked into Garrard County, Kentucky. The few early signs of spring showing along the creeks and valleys must have looked good to the men who had been walking for eight weeks through rigorous winter weather.

    Finding a “decent, modest” house, the travelers took lodging, washed their clothes, and spent the evening asking their hosts about the current religious excitement in the Paint Lick area. Doubtless they told their hosts how some twenty-five years earlier there had been a great...

    (pp. 12-42)

    About two years after the Shawnee Run and Gasper societies “gathered” on the land belonging to one or more early converts, an official ministry for each was recommended by the Union Village ministry and approved by the New Lebanon parent ministry.

    Beginning in January 1809, John Meacham, Samuel Turner, Lucy Smith, and Anna Cole composed the Shawnee Run ministry. In September 1811, Benjamin Seth Youngs, Joseph Allen, Molly Goodrich, and Mercy Pickett were established at Gasper.

    That the easterners, experienced in the Shaker life, were welcomed is seen in an 1810 letter sent to New Lebanon by Eldress Lucy, who...

    (pp. 43-57)

    The religious tenets of the American Shakers were based both on the teachings of Mother Ann Lee and on the New Testament teachings of Christ.

    Samuel Hurlburt of South Union once phrased the Shaker beliefs in the style of an advertisement:

    100,000 Shakers wanted. . . . none need apply who cannot learn to shake themselves free from all prejudices, all wrong, all sin, all evil of every name and nature.

    But all who apply bringing with them the following credentials will be welcomed as inquirers and given every facility to learn.

    The credentials or characteristics listed were a willingness...

    (pp. 58-77)

    Soon after Mother Ann’s Kentucky children began their Shaker experiment at Pleasant Hill and at South Union, they were to know trouble and to encounter problems. The incendiary burning of a barn filled with the autumn harvest, the destruction of a young orchard, denial of the right to speak in public, and harassment by mobs—these were some of the problems to be faced.

    There were also times in the early years when little or no money was available. In 1810 a Pleasant Hill trustee had to swap “15 buttons off his old blue coat for 3 papers of common...

  8. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 78-94)

    The last fifty years of Shakerism in Kentucky (1872–1922) were full of change.

    Gone were the years when the work was directed by eastern leaders. By 1841 the last of the veterans had either returned to one of the eastern societies or had been buried in Kentucky or Ohio.

    The Pleasant Hill journal entry for May 9, 1835, records one of several homegoings. “Eldress Hopewell Curtice set out for New Lebanon to return no more, having filled a lot in the ministry at Pleasant Hill ever since June 5, 1809. She went by way of Louisville where she was...

  10. Bibliographical Note
    (pp. 95-98)
  11. Index
    (pp. 99-102)