The Communistic Societies of the United States, by Charles Nordhoff, , at sacred-texts.com
To describe particularly each of the eighteen Shaker societies would involve a great deal of unnecessary repetition. In their buildings, their customs, their worship, their religious faith, their extreme cleanliness, their costume, and in many other particulars, they are all nearly alike; and the Shaker of Kentucky does not to the cursory view differ from his brother of Maine. But I have thought it necessary, to a complete view of the order, to present some particulars of each society, as to its location, numbers, the quantity of land it owns, its industries, and present and past prosperity, as also peculiarities of thought or custom; and these details will be found below.
There are two Shaker societies in Maine—one at Alfred, the other at New Gloucester.
The society is near Alfred, in York County, about thirty miles southwesterly from Portland. Its estate of eleven hundred acres lies in a pretty situation, between hills, and includes a
large pond and an important water-power. The land is not very fertile or easily cultivated. They sold off last year an outlying tract of timber-land for $28,000, and were glad to be rid of it.
The society consists now of two families, having between sixty-five and seventy members, of whom two fifths are men and the remainder women. They are all Americans but two, of whom one is Irish and one Welsh.
The society was "gathered" in 1794; there were then three families; and in 1823 it had two hundred members. Twelve years ago one of the families, being small, was drawn in to the others, and the buildings it occupied have since been let out. The decrease began to be rapid about thirty years ago, when the founders, who had become very aged, died off, and new members did not come in in sufficient numbers to take their places. Two thirds of the present members were brought into the society as children, many being brought by their parents: others, orphans, adopted. Twenty per cent, of the present membership are over fifty years of age.
The two families now raise a few garden seeds, make brooms, hair sieves, dry measures, keep a tan-yard, and make besides most of their home supplies. They also farm their own land. They have leased to outside people a saw-mill and grist-mill which they own. The young women make small baskets, fans, and other fancy articles, which are sold during the summer at neighboring sea-side watering-places. They hire a few outside laborers.
About a quarter of the people eat no meat. They have improved their sanitary regulations in the last twenty years, and have almost extirpated fevers. Formerly cancer was a frequent disease among them, but since they ceased to eat pork this has disappeared.
They take nine or ten newspapers, and encourage reading; have a small library, and a good school, in which thirteen
children are taught. The people have been long-lived; only a few weeks before I visited Alfred, died at the Church Family Lucy Langdon Nowell, aged ninety-eight. She was born on the 4th of July, 1776, and had lived almost all her life in the society, her father having been one of its founders, and the owner of some of the land on which the society now live. Had she lived long enough, she was to have been taken to the proposed Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia.
In the last ten years this society has maintained its numbers, but has not gained. They do not receive many applications for membership; and of those who apply, not more than one in ten "makes a good Shaker."
The Alfred Society desired a year or two ago to remove to a milder climate; they offered their entire property for $100,000, but found no purchaser at the price, and determined to remain. Their buildings are in excellent order; and they are prosperous, having, besides the income from their different industries, a fund at interest. They have never had any defalcation or loss from unfaithful agents or trustees, and they have no debt.
I was told that the first circular saw ever made in the United States was invented by a Shaker at Alfred.
The New Gloucester Society lies in Cumberland County, about twenty-five miles northwest of Portland. It consists of two families, having together about seventy members, of whom one third are men. In 1823 it had three families, the third being gathered in 1820, and broken up in 1831. The society had in 1823 one hundred and fifty members.
It was "gathered" in 1794; its members are now all Americans except two, who are Scotch. Among them are persons who were farmers, merchants, printers, wool-weavers, and Some mechanics.
The Church Family lives in a valley, the Gathering Family on a high ridge, about a mile off, and overlooking an extensive tract of country. The society has two thousand acres of land, and owns a saw-mill, grist-mill, and a very complete machine shop. The people raise garden seeds, make brooms, dry measures, wire sieves, and the old-fashioned spinning-wheel, which, it seems, is still used in Maine and New Hampshire by country-women to make stocking yarn. But its most profitable industry is the manufacture of oak staves for molasses hogsheads, which are exported to the West Indies. One of the elders of this society, Hewitt Chandler, a man of uncommon mechanical ingenuity, and the inventor of a mowing-machine which was made here for some years, has contrived a way of bending staves without setting them up in the cask, which saves much time and labor, and makes this part of their business additionally profitable. They made last year also a thousand dollars' worth of pickles; and the women make fancy articles in their spare time.
They employ from fifteen to twenty laborers in their mills and other works, most of whom are boarded and lodged on the place.
The meeting-house at this place was built in 1794, and the dwelling of the Church Family in the following year. Both are of wood, are still in good order, and have never been re-shingled.
The second family at this place was "gathered" in 1808, at Gorham, in Maine, and removed to its present location in 1819. It had then twenty brethren and thirty-two sisters; and has now only twenty members in all.
Very few of the people here eat meat. Some drink tea, but coffee is not used. They have flower gardens, and would have an organ or melodeon if they could afford it. The young people promise well; and they have lately received several young men as members, sons of neighboring farmers, who had worked for them as hired people for a number of years.
This society is less prosperous than most of the others. It has met with several severe losses by unfaithful and imprudent agents and trustees, who in one case ran up large debts for several years, contrary to the wise rule of the Shakers to "owe no man any thing," and in another case brought loss by defalcation. The hill family have built a large stone house, but owing to losses have not been able to complete it. The buildings at New Gloucester show signs of neglect; but the people are very industrious, and have in the last three years paid off a large sum which they owed through the default of their agents; and they will work their way out in the next two years. To prevent their being entirely crippled, the other societies helped them with a subscription.
At New Gloucester, also, the people are long-lived, some having died at the age of eighty-six; and very many living beyond seventy.
The societies at Alfred and New Gloucester were founded after a "revival" among the Free-will Baptists; and of the present members who came in later, there were Universalists, Baptists, Methodists, and Adventists or Millerites.
There are two societies in New Hampshire, both prosperous: one at Canterbury, the other at Enfield.
The society at Canterbury lies on high ground, about twelve miles north by east from Concord. It consists of three families, of which, however, two only are independent; the third, which has but fifteen members, receiving its supplies from the Church Family, which contains one hundred members. The three families have in all one hundred and forty-five members. In 1823 they had over two hundred, and forty years ago they had about three hundred.
Forty of the whole number are under twenty-one; and one
third are males, two thirds females. The majority are young and middle-aged people; the oldest member is now eighty-three, and half a dozen are near seventy. The people have been generally long-lived, and one member lived to over one hundred years of age.
The greater part grew up in the society; but they have five young Scotch people, brought over by their parents. Of those who have joined in later years, the most were Adventists; others Free-will Baptists and Methodists. They have not gained in numbers in ten years, and few applicants nowadays remain with them.
This society is prosperous. It owns three thousand acres of rather poor farming land, some of which is in wood and timber. It has also a farm in Western New York, where it maintains eight hundred sheep. Its industries are varied: they make large washing-machines and mangles for hotels and public institutions, weave woolen cloths and flannels, make sarsaparilla syrup, checkerberry oil, and knit woolen socks. They also make brooms, and sell hay; have a saw-mill; make much of what they use; and they keep excellent stock, having one enormous and admirably arranged barn. The sisters also make fancy articles, for which they have a good market from the summer visitors to the mountains, with whom the Canterbury Shakers are justly favorites.
Their buildings are very complete and in excellent order. They have a steam laundry, with mangle, and an admirably arranged ironing-room; a fine and thoroughly fitted school-house, with a melodeon, and a special music-room; an infirmary for the feeble and sick, in which there is a fearful quantity of drugs; and they take twelve or fifteen newspapers, and have a library of four hundred volumes, including history, voyages, travels, scientific works, and stories for children, but no novels.
The Canterbury Society was "gathered" in 1792; the leading
men owned the farm on which the buildings now stand, and gave the land to the community. The old gambrel-roofed meeting-house was built in 1792, and still stands in good order. The founders and early members were Free-will Baptists, who became Shakers after a great "revival." They had some property originally; and soon began to manufacture spinning-wheels, whips, sieves, mortars, brooms, scythe-snaths, and dry measures; they established also a tannery. As times changed, they dropped some of these industries and took up others. One of their members invented the washing-machine which they now make, and they hold the patent-right for it.
They employ six mechanics, non-members, and occasionally others. The members mostly eat meat, drink tea but not coffee, and a few of the aged members are indulged in the use of chewing-tobacco. They take fewer children than formerly, and prefer to take young men and women from eighteen to twenty-four. They take great pains to amuse as well as instruct the children; for the girls, gymnastic exercises are provided as well as a flower garden; the boys play at ball and marbles, go fishing, and have a small farm of their own, where each has his own garden plot. Once a week there is a general "exercise" meeting of the children, and they are, of course, included in the usual meetings for worship, reading, and conversation.
The "shops" or work-rooms are all excellently fitted; in the girls' sewing-room I found a piano, and a young sister taking her music-lesson.
The children are trained to confess their sins to the elders, in the Shaker fashion, and this is thought to be a most important part of their discipline.
In the dwelling-house and near the kitchen I noticed a great number of buckets, hung up to the beams, one for each member, and these are used to carry hot water to the rooms for bathing. The dwellings are not heated with steam. The
dining-room was ornamented with evergreens and flowers in pots.
They have no physician, but in the infirmary the sisters in charge have sufficient skill for ordinary cases of disease.
The people are not great readers. The Bible, however, is much read. They are fond of music.
In summer they entertain visitors at a set price, and have rooms fitted for this purpose. In the visitors' dining-room I saw this printed notice:
"At the table we wish all to be as free as at home, but we dislike the wasteful habit of leaving food on the plate. No vice is with us the less ridiculous for being fashionable.
"Married persons tarrying with us overnight are respectfully notified that each sex occupy separate sleeping apartments while they remain."
They had at Canterbury formerly a printing-press, and printed a now scarce edition of hymns, and several books. This press has been sold.
The trustees here give once a year an inventory and statement of accounts to the elders of the Church Family. In the years 1848-9 they suffered severe losses from the defalcation of an agent or trustee, but they have long ago recovered this loss, and now owe no debts.
Agriculture they believe to be the true base of community life, and if their land were fertile they would be glad to leave off manufacturing entirely. But on such land as they have they cannot make a living.
The leading elder of the society remarked to me that, though in numbers they were less than formerly, the influence of the Canterbury Society upon the outside world was never so great as now: their Sunday meetings in summer are crowded by visitors, and they believe that often their doctrines sink deep into the hearts of these chance hearers.
Enfield, N. H.
The Society at Enfield lies in Grafton County, about twelve miles southeast from Dartmouth College, and two miles from Enfield Station, on the Northern New Hampshire Railroad. It is composed of three families, having altogether at this time one hundred and forty members, of whom thirty-seven are males and one hundred and three females. This preponderance arises chiefly, I was told, from the large number of young sisters. There are thirty-five youth under twenty-one years of age, of whom eight are boys and twenty-seven girls. In 1823 the Enfield Society had over two hundred members; thirty years ago it had three hundred and thirty members. They do not now receive many applications for membership, and of those who apply but few remain.
This society was "gathered" in 1793, and consisted then of but one family or community. It arose out of a general revival of religion in this region. A second family was formed in 1800, and the third, the "North Family," in 1812. They lost some members during the war of the Rebellion, young men who became soldiers, and some others who were drawn away by the general feeling of unrest which pervaded the country. They like to take children, but are more careful than formerly to ascertain the characters of their parents. "We want a good kind; but we can't do without some children around us," I was told.
The society has about three thousand acres of land, part of it being an outlying farm, ten or a dozen miles away. The buildings are remarkably substantial. The dwelling of the Church Family is of a beautiful granite, one hundred feet by sixty, and of four full and two attic stories; some of the shops are also of granite, others of brick, and in the other families stone and brick have also been used. There is an excellently arranged infirmary, a roomy and well-furnished school-room,
a large music-room in a separate building; and at the Church Family they have a laundry worked by water-power, and use a centrifugal dryer, instead of the common wringer.
Nearly the whole of their present real estate was brought into the society as a free gift by the founders, who were farmers living there; and many of the early members brought in considerable means, for those days. When they gathered into a community they began to add manufacturing to their farming work, and the Enfield Shakers were among the first to put up garden seeds. Besides this, they made spinning-wheels, rakes, pitchforks, scythe-snaths, and had many looms. Until within thirty years they wove linen and cotton as well as woolen goods, and in considerable quantities.
At present they put up garden seeds, make buckets and tubs, butter-tubs, brooms, dry measures, gather and dry roots and herbs for medicinal use, make maple-sugar in the spring and apple-sauce in the winter; sew shirts for Boston, and keep several knitting-machines busy, making flannel shirts and drawers and socks. They also make several patent medicines, among which the "Shaker anodyne" is especially prized by them; and extracts, such as fluid valerian; and in one of the families the women prepare bread, pies, and other provisions, which they sell in a neighboring manufacturing village. Finally, they own a woolen-mill and a grist-mill; but these they have leased. One of their members has invented and patented for the society a folding pocket-stereoscope.
Besides all these industries, uncommonly varied and numerous even for the Shakers, they have carpenter, blacksmith, tailor, and shoemaker shops, and produce or make up a great part of what they consume. Moreover, as in most of the Shaker societies, the women make up fancy articles for sale.
The members of the society are almost all Americans, and the greater part of them came in as little children. Of foreigners, there are one Englishman, two of Irish birth, one of Welsh,
and two French Canadians. As elsewhere, Baptists, Methodists, and Millerites or Second Adventists contributed the larger part of the membership.
They hire from twenty to thirty-five laborers, according to the season of the year.
Most of the members are under forty, and almost all are farmers. I heard of one lawyer; and one when he entered had been a law student. Almost all are meat eaters, and they use both tea and coffee. A few of the older men are allowed to chew tobacco. There are no fevers in the society, and their health is excellent, which arises partly I suppose from the fact that the ground upon which the buildings stand has thorough natural drainage. Some of their members have lived to the age of ninety—which is not an uncommon age, by the way, for Shakers—and on the register of deaths I found these ages: 89, 86, 86, 80, 80, 79, 76, 75, and so on.
They have a library of about two hundred volumes in each family, exclusive of strictly religious books; and almost all the younger people can read music, one of the members being a thorough teacher and good musical drill-master. They read the Bible a good deal, and sometimes pray aloud in their meetings. Once or twice a week they hold reading meetings, at which some one reads either from a book of history or biography, or extracts from newspapers.
There was some years ago a defalcation in one of the societies, which "came largely if not entirely through neglect of the rule not to owe money." The family which suffered in this case has not entirely recovered from the blow; it still owes a small debt.
An annual business report is now made by the trustees to the ministry who are set over this society and that at Canterbury.
There is but one Shaker Society in Connecticut, at
The Society is in Hartford County, about twelve miles from Springfield, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1792; and the meeting-house then built, of brick, is still standing, but is now used for other purposes. There were formerly five families, and in 1823 this society had two hundred members. At present there are but four families, one of which is small, and contains only a few aged people, too much attached to their old home to be removed. There are in the four families one hundred and fifteen persons, of whom the Church Family has sixty, and the Gathering Family twenty-five. One third are males and two thirds females; and there are forty-three children and youth under twenty-one, of whom eighteen are boys and twenty-four girls. So late as 1848 this society numbered two hundred persons.
They own about three thousand three hundred acres of land, and make their living almost entirely by farming. Before the rebellion they had built up a large trade in the Southern States in garden seeds; but the outbreak of the war not only lost them this trade, but in bad debts they lost nearly all they had saved in thirty years. They now breed fine stock, which they sell; and they sell some hay, but only to buy Indian corn in its stead. They are careful and excellent farmers. The women make some articles of fancy work. They employ fifteen hired men constantly.
This society is prosperous. One of the families has just erected a large and, for Shakers, uncommonly stylish dwelling; and all the buildings are in good repair and well painted. Nevertheless they have not had an easy task to make a living. "If we have got any thing here," said an elder to me, "it is because we saved it." They have, however, the advantage of an excellent farm. In the beginning they raised garden seeds, and were among the first in this country to establish
this business, and at one time they made lead pipe—but the invention of machinery drove them out of that business.
They eat meat, and use tea and coffee moderately; and a few of the old members take snuff. They are mostly Americans, with a few Scotch and English, and more than half of the adult members came in when they were full-grown. About forty years ago there was in Rhode Island a religious revival among a sect of Baptists who call themselves "Christians," and many of these entered the Enfield Society. They now adopt a good many children, and do not seem displeased at the result. They have a school, and are fond of music, having a cabinet-organ in their music-room, and holding a weekly singing-school for the young people. They take "a great many" newspapers and magazines, and have a variety of books, but no regular library. The elders have the selection of reading-matter, and, as in all the societies, exclude what they think injurious.
They have been, they told me, somewhat careless of sanitary regulations, and have had typhus fever in their houses; but they are now generally healthy.
They make very few articles for themselves, but buy a good deal.
They make no regular business statement, and owe no debts. They once had a defalcation, but only of a trifling amount.
There are four Shaker societies in Massachusetts: at Harvard, Shirley, Tyringham, and Hancock.
The Harvard Society lies in Worcester County, about thirty miles northwest from Boston. It was founded in 1793; and had in 1823 two hundred members. It has now four families, containing in all ninety persons, of whom sixteen are
children and youth under twenty-one—four boys and twelve girls. Of the seventy-four adult members, seventeen are men and fifty-seven women. The Church Family has fifty members, of whom forty-one are women and girls, and nine men and boys. It is usual among the Shakers to find more women than men in a society or family, but at Harvard the disproportion of the sexes is uncommonly great.
The members are mainly Americans, but they have some Scotch, Germans, and Welsh. A considerable proportion of the present membership came in as adults, and these were, before becoming Shakers, for the most part Adventists, some however coming from the Baptist and Methodist denominations. The elder of the Gathering Family was a Baptist, and the leading minister was an English Wesleyan. The people are mostly in middle life. The health of this society has always been good; the average age at death, I was assured, ranged for a great number of years between sixty to sixty-eight. One sister died at ninety-three, and other members died at from eighty to eighty-six.
Their home farm consists of about eighteen hundred acres; and they have besides a farm in Michigan, and another in Massachusetts. Their living is made almost entirely by farming; and they have drained very thoroughly a considerable piece of swamp, which yields them large crops of hay. They make brooms, have a nursery, and press and put up herbs; and employ sixteen or seventeen hired laborers.
They have a small library, but "do not let books interfere with work;" there is a school, but no musical instrument; most of the people eat meat, and drink tea and coffee; and a few are indulged in the practice of chewing tobacco. They are not very musical, but they take a great many newspapers.
"Do you like to take children?" I asked; and an eldress replied, "Yes, we like to take children—but we don't like to take monkeys;" and, in general, the Shakers have discovered
that "blood will tell," and that they can do much better with the children of religious parents than with those whose fathers or mothers were dissolute or irreligious.
This society has no debt, and is prosperous, though its buildings are not all in first-rate order according to the Shaker standard, which is very high. It has suffered from one defalcation.
The ministry among the Shakers usually occupy their spare time in some manual labor, as I have explained in a previous chapter. The leading minister over Harvard and Shirley makes brooms; his predecessor made shoes. The leading female minister is a dress-maker.
The Society of Shirley lies about two miles from Shirley Station, on the Fitchburg Railroad. It was gathered in 1793, the meeting-house having been built the year before. Mother Ann Lee passed nearly two years among the people in this vicinity, preaching to them; and this accounts for the early building of the meeting-house. In 1823 the Shirley Society had one hundred and fifty members. At present it has two families, numbering altogether forty-eight persons; of these twelve are children and youth under twenty-one—eight girls and four boys. Of the adults, six are men and thirty women. Until a year ago there were three families, but decreasing numbers led them to call in one; and they now let the buildings formerly used by that one. Thirty-five years ago this society numbered one hundred and fifty persons; twenty-four years ago, seventy-five; twenty years ago it had sixty. As the old people, the founders, died off, new members did not come in. They have not now many applications for membership; and of the children they adopt and bring up, not one in ten becomes a Shaker.
The society owns two thousand acres of land, which includes
several outlying farms. They employ nine or ten hired laborers; and their main business is to make apple-sauce, of which they sell from five to six tons every year. One family makes brooms; and they all preserve fruit, make jellies and pickles, dry sweet corn, and in the spring make maple-sugar. The women make fancy articles for sale. Farming is also a considerable business with them, and they have good orchards.
Most of the members grew up in the society, and the greater number of them are, I believe, past middle age. Like all the Shakers, they are long-lived—one sister, a colored woman, is eighty, and another eighty-eight—and their mortality rate is low. Most of the members are Americans, but they have a few Nova-Scotians. Most of them eat meat, and drink tea, but no coffee; and they are especially fond of oatmeal. One old member both smokes and snuffs, but none others use tobacco in any shape. They are fond of flowers, but do not cultivate any; have "plenty" of books and newspapers, but no regular library; like music, but have no musical instrument; and they are fond of the Bible. Among their meetings is one for singing.
Their buildings are not so large as those of a Shaker settlement usually are, but they are in excellent order, and include an infirmary, a house for aged and feeble members, a nice school-room, and a laundry. They have the reputation in the neighborhood of being wealthy; and had the enterprise once to build a large cotton factory, on the shore of a pond which they then owned. This building they have sold. It ran them into debt; and this they did not like. They were poor at first; have never had any defalcation; have no debt now; and make no regular business statement, trusting to the ministry to keep a proper oversight of their accounts.
In the school at Shirley physiology was taught, and with remarkable success as it seemed to me, with the help of charts; the children seemed uncommonly intelligent and bright. The
school is open three months in the summer and three in the winter—two hours in the forenoon and two in the afternoon; and the teacher, a young girl, was also the care-taker of the girls. Singing-school is held, for the children, in the evening.
The societies at Hancock and Tyringham lie near the New York State line, among the Berkshire hills. They are small, and have no noticeable features.
There are three Shaker societies in New York: at Mount Lebanon, Watervliet, and Groveland.
The Mount Lebanon Society lies in Columbia County, two miles from New Lebanon. It is the parent society among the Shakers, and its ministry has a general oversight over all the societies. It is also the most numerous.
The Mount Lebanon Society was founded in 1787. In 1823 it numbered between five hundred and six hundred persons; at this time it has three hundred and eighty-three, including forty-seven children and youth under fifteen. This society is divided into seven families; and its membership has one hundred and thirty-six males and two hundred and forty-seven females, including children and youth.
It owns about three thousand acres of land within the State of New York, besides some farms in other states; and several of its farms in its own neighborhood are in charge of tenants. The different families employ a considerable number of hired laborers. They raise and put up garden seeds, make brooms, dry medicinal herbs and make extracts, dry sweet corn, and make chairs and mops. The women in all the families also make mats, fans, dusters, and other fancy articles for sale; and one of the families keep some sheep.
In a previous chapter I have given so many details concerning the Mount Lebanon Society that I need here say nothing
further about it, except that it is in a highly prosperous condition.
The society at Watervliet lies seven miles northwest from Albany, and upon the ground where Ann Lee and her followers first settled when they came to America. Her body lies in the grave-yard at Watervliet. No monument is built over it.
The society there has now four families, containing two hundred and thirty-five persons, of whom sixty are children and youth under twenty-one. Of the adult members, seventy-five are men and one hundred women. In 1823 it had over two hundred members; between 1837 and 1850 it had three hundred and fifty.
It has in its home estate twenty-five hundred acres of land, and owns besides about two thousand acres in the same state, and thirty thousand acres in Kentucky. Its chief industry is farming, and the families keep a large number of sheep and cattle. They shear wool enough to supply all their own needs in cloth and flannel, but have these woven by an outside mill; they raise large crops of broom-corn and sweet corn: the first they make into brooms, and the other they put up dry in barrels for sale; they put up fruits and vegetables in tin cans, and also sell garden seeds. They have given up their tan-yard, which was once a source of income. Finally, they make in their own shops, for the use of the society, shoes, carpets, clothing, furniture, and almost all the articles of household use they require.
They hire about seventy-five laborers.
Most of the members are Americans, and three quarters of them grew up from childhood in the society. Among the membership are some Germans, English, Irish, Swedes, Scotch, and two or three French people. Some among them were originally clergymen, others lawyers, mechanics, and gardeners; but the greater number are farmers by occupation. Some of those
who came in as adults had been "Infidels," some Adventists, others Methodists. The society at this time contains more young than old people.
Most of the people eat meat, and drink tea and coffee. Some use tobacco, but this is discouraged.
They had formerly a good many colored members; and have still some, as well as several mulattoes and quadroons.
One colored sister is ninety years of age.
The members here have been long-lived; the register proves this: it shows deaths at ninety-seven, ninety-four, ninety-three, ninety, and so on. They are careful to have thorough drainage and ventilation, and pay attention to sanitary questions. They were formerly subject to bilious fevers; but since rejecting the use of pork, these fevers have disappeared.
They take a number of newspapers, and have a library of four hundred volumes, but the people are not great readers, and are fonder of religious books and works of popular science than of any other literature. There is a school; and the children are now to have instruction in music, as one of the families has bought an organ, and asked a musical brother from New Hampshire to come down and give lessons. Instrumental music, however, has been opposed by the older members, and here as in some of the other societies it has been introduced only after prolonged discussion.
This society has no debts, and has never suffered from the unfaithfulness of agents or trustees. It is in a very prosperous condition. Each family makes a detailed annual report to the presiding ministry, and a daily diary of events is kept.
They have baths in the dwellings, and well-arranged laundries.
The Watervliet and Mount Lebanon Societies have a number of members living in the outer world, but holding to Shaker principles, and maintaining by correspondence a connection with them. Some of these are inhabitants of cities, and "above
the average in wealth and culture," I was told. The Watervliet Society has also a branch at Philadelphia, consisting of twelve colored women, who live together in one house under the leadership of an old woman, who was moved about twenty years ago to leave this society and go to Philadelphia to preach among her people. The members find employment as day servants in different families, going home every night. They mainly support themselves, and have never asked for help from the society; but this occasionally makes them presents, and keeps a general oversight over them.
The Groveland Society lies near Sonyea, in Livingston County, thirty-seven miles from Rochester on the Dansville and Mount Morris branch of the Erie Railway. This society Was founded at Sodus Point in 1826, and removed from there to its present location in 1836. They had at that time one hundred and fifty members; and were most numerous about twenty-five years ago, when they had two hundred members. At present they have two families, with fifty-seven members in all, of whom nine are children under twenty-one; of these last, six are girls and three boys. Of the adults, thirty are females and eighteen males.
They own a home farm of two thousand acres, and an outlying farm of two hundred and eighty acres, mostly good land, and very well placed, a canal and two railroads running through their home farm. They have a saw-mill and grist-mill, which are sources of income to them; and they raise broom-corn, make brooms, and dry apples and sweet corn. The women make fancy articles for sale. They also keep fine cattle, and sell a good deal of high-priced stock. Farming and gardening are their chief employments, as they have a ready sale for all they produce. They employ eight hired laborers.
The members are mostly Americans, raised in the society;
but they have French Canadians, Dutch, German, Irish, and English among them. The French Canadians were Catholics, and some of their other members were Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Methodists. Most of those who came in as adults were farmers. They are long-lived—living to beyond seventy in a considerable number of cases.
They eat meat, drink tea and coffee, and some aged members who came in late in life, with confirmed habits, are allowed to use tobacco. One sister smokes.
They have a school, and a good miscellaneous library of about four hundred volumes, in a case in the dwelling-house of the Church Family. They sing finely, but are opposed to the introduction of musical instruments. In some of their evening meetings they read aloud, and the last book thus read was Mr. Seward's "Journey around the World."
They do not adopt as many children as formerly, and experience has taught them the necessity of knowing something of the parentage of children, in order to make judicious selections.
"Formerly we had one or two physicians among our members, and then there was much sickness; now that we have no doctor there is but little illness, and the health of the society is good."
One of the families is in debt, through an imprudent purchase of land made by a trustee, without the general knowledge of the society. Moreover they have suffered severely from fires and by a flood. Once seven of their buildings were burned down in a night. In this way a fund they had at interest was expended in repairs. But the society seems now to be prosperous; its buildings are in excellent order, and the brick dwelling of the Church Family, built in 1857, is well arranged and a fine structure. They have a steam laundry and a fine dairy. In their shops they carry on blacksmithing, carpentry, tailoring, and dress-making.
They make a regular annual business statement to the presiding ministry.
At intervals they send out one or two brethren to preach to the outer world upon Shakerism.
There are four Shaker societies in Ohio: Union Village, near Lebanon; North Union, near Cleveland; Watervliet, near Dayton; and Whitewater, near Harrison.
The society at Union Village lies four miles from Lebanon, in Warren County, Ohio. It is the oldest Shaker settlement in the West; the three "witnesses" sent out from Mount Lebanon in 1805 were here received by a prosperous farmer named Malchas Worley, who became a "Believer," and whose influence greatly helped to spread the Shaker doctrines among his neighbors. His small dwelling still stands near the large house of one of the families, and is kept in neat repair; it lies in the heart of the society's present estate.
The ministry of Union Village, while subordinate to that at Mount Lebanon, rules or has a general oversight of the western societies in Ohio and Kentucky; and in former times there has been a good deal of printing done there, a number of Shaker publications having been written and published at Union Village.
The society at Union Village consists of four families, containing at this time two hundred and fifteen persons, of whom ninety-five are males and one hundred and twenty females. Of the whole number, forty-eight are children and youth under twenty-one, and of these twenty are boys and twenty-eight girls. Between 1827 and 1830 it had six hundred members, and at that time there were six families. It had, however, about that time received sudden and considerable accessions from the dissolution of the Shaker Society in Indiana, which
left that state on account of the unhealthfulness of the country, and whose members were divided among the Ohio societies. In the last ten years I was told there had been neither gain nor loss of numbers, taking the average of the year; for here, as elsewhere, there is usually a swelling of the ranks in the fall, from what are called "winter Shakers."
The society at Union Village was "gathered" between 1805 and 1810. The oldest building dates from 1807, and others, of brick and still in excellent preservation, bear the dates of 1810 and 1811. All the buildings are in good order; and this society is among the most prosperous in the order. Its families own a magnificent estate of four thousand five hundred acres lying in the famous Miami bottom, a soil much of which is so fertile that after sixty years of cropping it will still yield from sixty to seventy bushels of corn to the acre, and without manuring. They have also some outlying farms. They have no debt, and one of the families has a fund at interest.
They let much of their land to tenants, having not less than forty thus settled and working the soil on shares. Besides this, the different families employ about thirty hired laborers. Their industries are broom-making, raising garden seeds and medicinal herbs, and preparing medicinal extracts. They also make a syrup of sarsaparilla, and one or two other patent medicines: they have a saw and a grist mill; the women make small fancy articles and baskets. But their most profitable business is the growth of fine stock—thoroughbred Durham cattle chiefly. They have, of course, shops in which they make and mend what they need for themselves—tailor's, shoemaker's, blacksmith's, wagon-maker's, etc. Formerly they manufactured more than at present—having made at one time, for the general market, steel, leather, hollow-ware, pipes, and woolen yarn. Prosperity has lessened their enterprise. Three of the families have very complete laundries.
They eat meat, but no pork; and only a very few of the aged members use tobacco. They have an excellent school, of which one of the ministry, an intelligent and kindly man, is the teacher. They have a small library—"not so many books as we would like;" and one of the sisters told me that she got books from a circulating library at Lebanon, and as a special indulgence was allowed to read novels sometimes, which, she remarked, she found useful to set her to sleep. They have two cabinet-organs, and believe in cultivating music.
The founders of this society were mostly Presbyterians. Their successors have been Methodists, Baptists, Quakers, and I found, to my surprise, several Catholics, one of whom was originally a Spanish priest. Almost all are Americans, but there are a few Germans and English.
They do not care to take children unless they are accompanied by their parents; and refuse to take any under nine years, unless they come as part of a family. Not more than ten per cent of the children they train up remain with them; but they said it was not uncommon to see them return after spending some years in the world, and in such cases they often made good Shakers. During the war a number of their young men went off to become soldiers. Several of those who survived returned, and are now among them.
They have no provision for baths.
In 1835 they suffered from the defalcation of a trustee, to the amount of between forty and fifty thousand dollars.
I looked over a list of deaths during the last thirty years, and was surprised to find how many members had lived to ninety and past, and how large a proportion died at over seventy.
"Are you all Spiritualists," I asked, and was answered, "Of course;" but presently one added, "We are all Spiritualists, in a general sense; but there are some real Spiritualists here;" and I judge that here as in some of the other societies Spiritualism is not much thought of. I saw the "Sacred Roll and Book"
on a table, but was told it was not much read nowadays, but that they read the Bible a good deal.
I found that for the last three years they have had here what they call a Lyceum: a kind of debating club which meets once a week, for the discussion of set questions, reading, and the criticism of essays written by the members. The last question discussed was, "Whether it is best for the Shaker societies to work on cash or credit."
This Lyceum has produced another meeting in the Church Family, in which, once a week, all the members—male and female, young and old—are gathered to overhaul the accounts of the week, and to discuss all the industrial occupations of the family, agricultural and mechanical, as well as housekeeping and every thing relating to their practical life. These weekly meetings are found to give the younger members a greater interest in the society, and they were established because it was thought necessary to make efforts to keep the youth whom they bring up. "We will never change the fundamental principles and practices of Shakerism," said one of the older and official members, an uncommonly intelligent Shaker, to me. "Celibacy and the confession of sins are vital; but in all else we ought to be changeable, and may modify our practices; and we feel that we must do something to make home more pleasant for our young people—they want more music and more books, and shall have them; they are greatly interested in these weekly business meetings; and I am in favor of giving them just as much and as broad an education as they desire."
The business meeting lasts an hour, and the "Elder Brother in the Ministry" presides. I saw some evidences that this meeting aroused thought. Any member may bring up a subject for discussion; and I heard some of the sisters say that one matter which had occupied their thoughts was the too great monotony of their own lives—they desired greater variety, and thought women might do some other things besides
cooking. One thought it would be an improvement to abolish the caps, and let the hair have its natural growth and appearance—but I am afraid she might be called a radical.
The founders of Union Village were evidently men who did their work thoroughly; the dwellings and houses they built early in the century, all of brick, have a satisfactory solidity, and are not without the homely charm which good work and plain outlines give to any building. Two of these old houses in the Church Family are now used as the boys' and the girls' houses, and are uncommonly good specimens of early Western architecture. The whole village is a pattern of neatness, with flagged walks and pleasant grassy court-yards and shade-trees; but I noticed here and there a slackness in repairs which seemed to show the want of a deacon's sharp eyes.
The North Union Shaker Society lies eight miles northeast from Cleveland. It was founded in 1822, in what was then a thickly timbered wilderness, and the people lived for some years in log cabins. The society was most numerous about 1840, when it contained two hundred members. It is now divided into three families, having one hundred and two persons, of whom seventeen are children and youth under twenty-one. Of these last, six are boys and eleven girls. Of the adult members, forty-four are women and forty-one men. Their numbers have of late increased, but there was a gradual diminution for fifteen years before that.
About a third of the present members were brought up in the society; of the remainder, the most were by religious connection Adventists, Methodists, and Baptists. They have among them persons who were weavers, whalemen, and sailors, but most of them were farmers. The greater number are Americans, but they have some Swiss, Germans, and English. They do not like to take in children unless their parents come
with them. The health of the society has been very good. Many of their people have lived to past eighty; one sister died at ninety-eight. In the last fifty years they have buried just one hundred persons.
They eat but little meat; use tea and coffee, but moderately, and "bear against tobacco," but permit its use in certain cases. But they allow no one to both smoke and chew the weed. They have a school, and like to sing, but do not allow musical instruments.
Less than a quarter of the young people whom they bring up remain with them.
They own 1355 acres of land in one body, and have no outlying farms. They have a saw-mill, and make brooms, broom-handles, and stocking yarn. But their chief sources of income arise from supplying milk and vegetables to Cleveland, as well as fire-wood, and some lumber, and they keep fine stock. They used to make wooden ware. Their dairy brought them in $2300 last year. They employ nine hired men.
The buildings of this society are not in as neat order as those of Groveland or others eastward. I missed the thorough covering of paint, and the neatness of shops. They have no steam laundry, and make no provision for baths. But they have the usual number of "shops," among them an infirmary, or in Shaker language a "nurse-shop." They have a small library, and take two daily newspapers, the New York World and Sun. They read the Bible "when they have a gift for it," but depend much upon their own revelations from the spirit-land.
They owe no debts, and have a fund at interest. They make a detailed annual report to the presiding ministry. They have never suffered serious loss from mismanagement and defaulting agents or trustees.
Watervliet and Whitewater.
The two societies of Watervliet and Whitewater, in Ohio, I
did not visit. They are small, and subordinate to that of Union Village.
The society at Watervliet has two families, containing fifty-five members, of whom nineteen are males and thirty-six females; and seven are under twenty-one. They own thirteen hundred acres of land, much of which they let to tenants. They have a wool-factory, which is their only manufactory.
This society was founded a year after that at Union Village; it had in 1825 one hundred members; and is now prosperous, pecuniarily, having no debt, and money at interest. One of its families once suffered a slight loss from a defalcation.
The society at Whitewater has three families, and one hundred members, of whom fifteen are under twenty-one. There are forty males and sixty females. It was founded in 1827, and many among its members came from the society which broke up in Indiana. It had at one time one hundred and fifty members.
It owns fifteen hundred acres of land, and has no debt, but a fund at interest in each family. The families put up garden seeds, make brooms, raise stock, and farm.
There are two societies in Kentucky, one at South Union, in Logan County, on the line of the Nashville Railroad, and one at Pleasant Hill, in Mercer County, seven miles from Harrodsburg. They are both prosperous.
The society at South Union was founded nearly on the scene of the wild "Kentucky revival" in the year 1807, the gathering taking place in 1809. Some of the log cabins then built by the early members are still standing, and the first meetinghouse, built in 1810, bears that date on its front. I judge that the early members were poor, from the fact that they lived for some time in cabins. Some who came into the society at an
early date were slaveholders; and as the Shakers have always consistently opposed slavery, these set their slaves free, but induced them to the number of forty to join them. For many years there was a colored family, with a colored elder, living upon the same terms as the whites. From time to time some of these fell away and left the society; but I was told that a number became and remained "good Shakers," and died in the faith; and when the colored family became too small, the remnant of members was taken in among the whites. There are at present several colored members.
There were originally three families, but now four, one of which, however, is small. The society numbers two hundred and thirty persons, of whom one hundred are males and One hundred and thirty females, and forty of these are under twenty-one—twenty-five girls and fifteen boys. In 1827 they were most numerous, having three hundred and forty-nine persons * in all the families; they had at one time but one hundred and seventy-five, and have risen from that in the last twenty years to their present number. For some years they have neither increased nor diminished, except by the coming and going of "winter Shakers," and "we sift pretty carefully," they told me. Most of the members are Americans, but they have some Germans and a few English, and they had at one time several French Catholics.
They own nearly six thousand acres of land, of which three thousand five hundred acres are in the home farm, the remainder about four miles off. The South Union Shakers were early famous for fine stock, which they sold in Missouri and in the Northwestern states and territories. They still raise fine breeds of cattle, hogs, sheep, and chickens, and this is a considerable source of income to them. Some of their land they let
to tenants, among whom I found several colored families; they have also extensive orchards; the remainder they cultivate, raising—besides the pasturage of their stock—corn, wheat, rye, and oats. They have also a good grist-mill, from which they ship flour; they own a large brick hotel at the railroad station, which, I was told, is a summer resort, there being a sulphur spring near it, also a store, both of which they rent to "world's people;" and they make brooms, put up garden seeds—which was formerly an important business with them—and prepare canned and preserved fruits, which they sell largely in the Southern States. I saw here on the table those very sweet "preserves" which a quarter of a century ago were to be found on every farmer's table in New England, if he had a thrifty wife, and which, after breeding a kind of epidemic of dyspepsia, have now, I think, entirely disappeared from our Northern tables. It seems they are still served on "company occasions" in the South.
They have for their home use a tannery, and shops for tailoring, shoemaking, carpentering, and blacksmithing; and they employ fifteen hired people, all Negroes.
Their buildings, which are both brick and frame, are all in excellent condition; and the large pines and Norway spruces growing near the dwellings (and "trimmed up"—or robbed of their lower branches, as the abominable fashion has too long been in this country), show that the founders provided for their descendants some grateful shade. Near the Church Family they showed me two fine old oaks, under which Henry Clay once partook of a public dinner, while at another time James Monroe and Andrew Jackson stopped for a day at the country tavern which once stood near by, when the stage road ran near here. "Monroe," said one of the older members to me, "was a stout, thickset man, plain, and with but little to say; Jackson, tall and thin, with a hickory visage." Naturally, this being Kentucky, Clay was held to be the greatest character of the three.
Here, too, as I am upon antiquities, I saw old men who in
their youth had taken part in the great "revival," and had seen the "jerks," which were so horrible a feature of that religious excitement, and of which I have previously quoted some descriptions from McNemar's "Kentucky Revival." To dance, I was here told, was the cure for the "jerks;" and men often danced until they dropped to the ground. "It was of no use to try to resist the jerks," the old men assured me. "Young men sometimes came determined to make fun of the proceedings, and were seized before they knew of it." Men were "flung from their horses;" "a young fellow, famous for drinking, cursing, and violence, was leaning against a tree looking on, when he was jerked to the ground, slam bang. He swore he would not dance, and he was jerked about until it was a wonder he was not killed. At last he had to dance." "Sometimes they would be jerked about like a cock with his head off, all about the ground." The dancing I judge to have been an involuntary convulsive movement, which was the close of the general spasm. Of course, the people believed the whole was a "manifestation of the power of God." There is no reason to doubt that McNemar's descriptions are accurate; from what I have heard at South Union, I imagine that his account is not complete.
The South Union Shakers have no debt, and mean to obey the rule in this regard; they have a very considerable fund at interest. They eat meat, but no pork; drink tea and coffee, and some of them use tobacco—even the younger members. They have as their minister here a somewhat remarkable man, who studied Latin while driving an ox team as a youngster, and later in life acquired some knowledge of German, French, and Swedish while laboring successively as seed-gardener, tailor, and shoemaker. His mild face and gentle manners pleased me very much; and I was not surprised to find him a man greatly beloved in other societies as well as at South Union. Nevertheless his example does not appear to have
been catching, for I was told that they have no library. They read a number of newspapers, but the average of culture is low.
They have no baths; have lately bought a piano, and had a brother from Canterbury to instruct some of the sisters in music. The singing was not so good as I have heard elsewhere among the Shakers. They have a school during five months of the year; and they like to take children—"would rather have bad ones than none." They have brought children from New Orleans and from Memphis after an epidemic which had left many orphans. The young people "do tolerably well."
The founders of this society were "New-Light Presbyterians;" since then they have been reinforced by "Infidels," Spiritualists, Methodists, and others.
It is certainly to their credit that, living in a slave state, and having up to the outbreak of the war a great part of their business with the states farther south, these Shakers were always anti-slavery and Union people. Formerly they hired Negro laborers from their masters, which, I suppose, kept the masters quiet; it did not surprise me to hear that they always had their choice of the slave population near them. A Negro knew that he would nowhere be treated so kindly as among the Shakers. During the war they suffered considerable losses. A saw-mill and grist-mill, with all their contents, were burned, causing a loss of seventy-five thousand dollars. They fed the troops of both sides, and told me that they served at least fifty thousand meals to Union and Confederate soldiers alike. There was guerrilla fighting on their own grounds, and a soldier was shot near the Church dwelling. "The war cost us over one hundred thousand dollars," said one of the elders; and besides this they lost money by bad debts in the Southern States. Since the war they lost seventy-five thousand dollars in bonds, which, deposited in a bank, were stolen by one of its officers; but the greater part of this they hope to recover.
Like all the Shakers, they are long-lived. A man was pointed out to me, now eighty-seven years of age, who plowed and mowed last summer; two revolutionary soldiers died in the society aged ninety-three and ninety-four; one member died at ninety-seven; and they have now people aged eighty-seven, eighty-five, eighty-two, eighty, and so on.
During "meeting" on Sunday I saw the children, many of them small, and all clean and neat, and looking happy in their prim way. They came in, as usual, the boys by one door, the girls by another, each side with its care-taker; and took part in the marching, kneeling, and other forms of the Shaker worship. After the war, the South Union elders sought out twenty orphans in Tennessee, whom they adopted. Last fall, when Memphis suffered so terribly from yellow fever, they tried to get fifty children from there, but were unsuccessful. Considering the small number who stay with them after they are grown up, this charity is surely admirable. And though the education which children receive among the Shaker people is limited, the training they get in cleanliness, orderly habits, and morals is undoubtedly valuable, and better than such orphans would receive in the majority of cases among the world's people. Nor must it be forgotten that the Shakers still, with great good sense, teach each boy and girl a trade, so as to fit them for earning a living.
The Pleasant Hill Society lies in Mercer County, seven miles from Harrodsburg, on the stage road to Nicholasville, and near the Kentucky River, which here presents some grand and magnificent scenery, deserving to be better known.
They have a fine estate of rich land, lying in the midst of the famous blue-grass region of Kentucky. It consists of four thousand two hundred acres, all in one body. They have five families; but the three Church families have their property in
common. In 1820 they had eight families, and between 1820 and 1825 they had about four hundred and ninety members. At present the society numbers two hundred and forty-five persons, of whom seventy-five are children or youth under twenty-one. About one third are males and two thirds females.
Pleasant Hill was founded in 1805, and "gathered into society order" in 1809; at which time community of goods was established.
The members are mostly Americans, but they have in one family a good many Swedes. These are the remnant of a large number whom the society brought out a number of years ago at its own expense, in the hope that they would become good Shakers. The experiment was not successful. They have also two colored members, and some English. They have among them people who were Baptists, Methodists, Adventists, and Presbyterians. A considerable number of the people, however, have grown up in the society, having come in as children of the founders; and one old lady told me she was born in the society, her parents having entered three months before she came into the world.
They eat meat, but no pork; use tea and coffee, and tobacco, but "not much;" have baths in all the families; have no library, except of their own publications, of which copies are put into every room, and a good supply is on hand, especially of the "Sacred Roll and Book," and the "Divine Book of Holy Wisdom," which appear to be more read here than elsewhere. They have no musical instruments, but mean to get an organ "to help the singing." They receive twenty newspapers of different kinds; and they are Spiritualists.
The buildings at Pleasant Hill are remarkably good. The dwellings have high ceilings, and large, airy rooms, well fitted and very comfortably furnished, as are most of the Shaker houses. Most of the buildings are of stone or brick, and the stone houses in particular are well built. In most of the dwellings
[paragraph continues] I found two doorways, for the different sexes, as well as two staircases within. The walks connecting the buildings are here, as at South Union, Union Village, and elsewhere, laid with flagging-stones—but so narrow that two persons cannot walk abreast.
Agriculture, the raising of fine stock, and preserving fruit in summer are the principal industries pursued at Pleasant Hill for income. They make some brooms also, and in one of the families they put up garden seeds. They have, however, very complete shops of all kinds for their own use, as well as a saw and grist mill, and even a woolen-mill where they make their own cloth. Formerly they had also a hatter's shop; and in the early days they labored in all their shops for the public, and kept besides a carding and fulling mill, a linseed-oil mill, as well as factories of coopers' ware, brooms, shoes, dry measures, etc. At present their numbers are inadequate to carry on manufactures, and their wealth makes it unnecessary. They let a good deal of their land, the renters paying half the crop; and they employ besides fifteen or twenty hired hands, who are mostly Negroes.
Hired laborers among the Shakers are usually, or always so far as I know, boarded at the "office," the house of the trustees; and this often makes a good deal of hard work for the sisters who do the cooking there. At Pleasant Hill they had two colored women and a little boy in the "office" kitchen, hired to help the sisters; and this is the only place where I saw this done.
They have a school for the children, which is kept during five months of the year. They do not like to take children without their parents; and very few of those they take remain in the society after they are grown up. They are troubled also with "winter Shakers," whom they take "for conscience' sake," if they show even very little of the Shaker spirit, hoping to do them good. They were Union people during the war, and a few of their young men entered the army, and some of these
returned after the war ended, and were reinstated in the society after examination and confession of their sins. During the war both armies foraged upon them, taking their horses and wagons; and they served thousands of meals to hungry soldiers of both sides. Their estate lies but a few miles from the field of the great battle of Perryville, and this region was for a while the scene of military operations, though not to so great an extent as the country about South Union. The Confederate general John Morgan, who was born near here, always protected them against his own troops, and they spoke feelingly of his care for them.
This society has no debt, and has never suffered from a defalcation or breach of trust. Some years ago they lost nearly ten thousand dollars from the carelessness of an aged trustee.
They are long-lived, many of their members having lived to past ninety. They have one now aged ninety-eight years.
207:* The "Millennial Church" gives their number at four hundred about 1825, but I follow the account given me at South Union.