The Last Shaker Village--and there are just 4 members left
In many ways, life has changed little in this pastoral patch of southern Maine, where the Shaker community has toiled for more than two centuries. That's why Brother Arnold winces when he is told they are vanishing."Everyone says, 'poor Shakers,'" he says."People come here, and say we are gone."
You could, of course, be forgiven the assumption. This is the last populated Shaker village in the country. The other 17 have disappeared or become museums. And here on Sabbathday Lake, on 1,800 idyllic acres of forest, apple orchard, and pasture, only four Shakers remain, pledging celibacy, and, in their founder Mother Ann's words, to put their"hands to work and hearts to God."
Brother Arnold, Brother Wayne, Sister June, and Sister Frances are the last possessors of the Shaker tradition, a responsibility they are reminded of each day as they share meals across long, wooden tables, or when they say goodnight and head to their separate rooms. Yet it is not with a sense of doom, but determination, that they uphold the tenets of their centuries-old faith - and adapt to the realities of the future.
Sometimes that means looking outward in ways both pragmatic and novel. Recently they signed a $3.7 million preservation plan with a consortium of conservation groups in Maine to ease their tax bills and protect their property from being turned into subdivisions."Friends are increasingly important to this community," says Brother Arnold, patting their golden retriever, Chase.
The United Society of Believers, dubbed Shakers because they shook and trembled during 18th-century worship, was never a group of vast numbers. Ann Lee founded the Protestant sect in 1747 in England, but, because of persecution, they immigrated to the US in 1774. Here they formed communities stretching from Maine to Florida. At their height before the Civil War, they numbered 5,000, many of them orphans.
comments powered by Disqus
- A grandmother’s trove of Civil War photos goes to Library of Congress
- Tribes See Name on Oregon Maps as Being Out of Bounds
- Holy Haystacks! Researchers Have Officially Discovered A New Monet
- Joan Baez, Sly Stone, Steve Martin, Ben E. King -- all honored by the Library of Congress
- StoryCorps to Launch Global Expansion With $1M TED Prize
- OAH denounces anti-gay legislation signed by Indiana governor
- Emory’s Leslie Harris says we should remember the racist roots of American colleges as we think about what went wrong at OU and other schools
- Stanford historian looks to the U.S. Postal Service to map the boom and bust of 19th-century American West
- U.S. historian denounces Japanese scholars' statement over wartime sexual slavery
- Timothy V Johnson Named Head of Tamiment Library