The Early American Industries Association is pleased to announce that our 2016 Annual Meeting will be held May 18th thru May 21st at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill near Harrodsburg, Kentucky. Pleasant Hill is the site of a Shaker community that was active from 1805 to 1910. A preservation effort was begun in 1961 and Pleasant Hill with 34 original 19th century buildings on 3000 acres of land contains the largest collection of restored Shaker buildings anywhere in the United States.
Shaker Village has an outstanding collection of Shaker furniture, diaries, clothing, and artifacts. You can learn more at www.shakervillageky.org. The peaceful small village setting on top of a gentle hill is a delight to the senses. During the meeting we’ll be staying in these restored buildings with beautiful Shaker reproduction furniture. We’ll learn about Shaker culture, architecture, and crafts.
You’ll have an opportunity to try your hand at making an Shaker oval box, a Shaker whisk broom and other Shaker crafts. We’ll hear from experts on Shaker history, culture, and architecture. Pleasant Hill is about 25 miles from Lexington, Kentucky in the midst of an area known for it’s rich history, horse farms, civil war sites, bourbon production and multiple nearby museums and historic sites. Take a look at the pictures and mark your calendars for the 2016 EAIA Annual Meeting at Pleasant Hill Shaker Village. As the schedule of events for this meeting continues to develop, we’ll post more information.
Beautiful Shaker Artifacts and Architecture Abound At Pleasant Hill Shaker Village
A Brief Glimpse at the History of the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill
The Second Great Awakening, often called the “Kentucky Revival” began in the late 18th century and extended into the early 19th century. The Shakers based in New Lebanon, New York, sent missionaries west in 1805. By August of 1805, the missionaries had gathered a small group of adherents to the Shaker doctrines of Mother Ann Lee. In December of 1806, 44 converts to the Shaker faith signed a covenant agreeing to mutual support and the common ownership of property. They began living together on the 140 acre Elisha Thomas farm which became the nucleus of Pleasant Hill. By 1812, the village had grown to 4,369 acres and three communal families, East, Center, and West had been formed and a fourth, North was established for prospective converts.
Though poor when they started out, the Pleasant Hill Shakers were excellent farmers who made good use of their land and prospered. Their location adjacent to the Kentucky River allowed them to market their produce and products to multiple towns and villages. By 1816 they were traveling widely (even to New Orleans) to market their products. The Pleasant Hill Shakers made brooms, sold fruit, both dried and as preserves, raised and sold garden seeds and were widely known for their fine cattle, hogs, and sheep. By 1825, Pleasant Hill was a thriving community with stone and brick dwellings with glass windows (not all that common in 1825!) and stone sidewalks. By this time they also had a municipal water system, indoor pumps in their kitchens and horse driven laundry machinery.
Because Pleasant Hill was in Kentucky, the village experienced a lot of controversy and traffic from both Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War. Shakers were opposed to slavery and were committed to pacifism. The Shakers at Pleasant Hill had started buying and then freeing them as early as 1825. They were sympathetic to the Union, which made them targets of anger, vandalism and some property destruction by many of their neighbors who were Southern sympathizers. They fed thousands of soldiers from both sides, and cared for the wounded particularly after the Battle of Perryville.
After the Civil War, political and economic changes as well as internal strife depleted the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill. Membership declined steadily. From its peak membership of almost 500, Pleasant Hill had only half that number by 1875. By 1900 the membership was down to 34. The Shaker community at Pleasant Hill was dissolved in 1910. The property changed hands several times and was used for a variety of purposes. The few remaining Shakers lived on the property until the last remaining Pleasant Hill Shaker, Mary Settles died in 1923. Following World War II, area residents showed renewed interest in the village. In 1962 a group of area residents led by Joseph Graves and Earl Wallace launched an effort to restore the property. By 1964 a non-profit corporation was formed and James Lowry Cogar who was the first curator of Colonial Williamsburg was chosen to oversee the restoration of Pleasant Hill.
An excellent book on the history of the Shakers is, The Shaker Experience in America, by Steven J. Stein, Yale University Press, 1992.