A Visit with the Shakers at Hancock Shaker Village

Monday, October 20, 2014
One of the benefits in being an avid picture-taker (I don't use the word photographer because to me that connotates professional) is that in our quest for the perfect photo ops we often come across some pretty interesting locations that we might not have otherwise discovered.  In addition, chasing places and things to photograph has enabled us to meet some very nice folks as well as become more aware  of the interesting history behind the part of the country we call 'home'.  The subject of today's blog is probably not unfamiliar to most of you, but if you haven't actually taken time to visit, hopefully this will encourage you to.

Most of you are probably familiar with the very popular Shaker-style furniture and have probably  also heard the quote, "Hands to work and hearts to God".   Well, that came from the Shakers.  According to the website for Hancock Shaker Village:

"Hancock Shaker Village began in the late 1780s, when nearly 100 Believers consolidated a community on land donated by local farmers who had converted to the Shaker movement. By the 1830s, with a great many more conversions and further land acquisitions, the community had peaked in population with more than 300 Believers and more than 3,000 acres."
So now you know how the village came to be, but who and what are the Shakers, you ask.....

  "The Shakers trace their beginnings to Manchester, England, in 1747. They called themselves The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing and soon became known as Shakers because of the trembling, whirling, and shaking that affected them during their spiritually ecstatic worship services. As Millennialists, they believed that Christ’s second coming was realized in their leader, Ann Lee, whom they called Mother Ann. Misunderstood and persecuted in their native England", in 1774, Mother Ann Lee made the monumental decision to lead eight Shaker converts on a journey to America, seeking the freedom to live, work, and worship according to their main religious tenets: celibacy, communal life, and confession of sin. The Shakers also believed in racial and gender equality, simplicity, and pacifism. They dedicated their lives to creating a working Heaven on Earth amidst the boundless opportunities presented by settlement of the New World.  Hancock was the third of what would eventually number nineteen major Shaker communities established between 1783 and 1836 in New York, New England, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana."

Even before the Shakers settled in Hancock, MA, Anna Lee and her 8 followers first purchased land in Watervliet, NY.  Don't you find it intriguing what took place here long before this area became a sea of shopping malls and restaurants?  I do!   If you read the previous paragraph carefully, you probably noted that the Shakers practiced celibacy.  How then did they grow followers you ask?  They adopted orphans!  Once the orphan turned 18, they gave them the option to stay with the community or go out into the world.   Another interesting fact.....the Shakers were the first people to put flower seeds in printed paper packets for sale!  As interesting as the history and details are of the Shakers,  I don't want to bury you in facts and stories.  Those are available using the links at the end of this blog.   Instead I prefer you take a few moments to wander the village as we did and imagine life back in the 1780's and beyond with this group of Shakers - and their life, dedicated to work and prayer and simplicity!

Demonstrating the construction of the 'oval box'

As you wander through the photos, keep in mind that all the buildings you see are open for touring.  Several staff are dressed in period costume, often demonstrating handiwork such as basket-making, chair weaving, etc... and narrating stories of the times.   The barns on the farm house heritage-breed farm animals, and the gardens are planted with plants from that period used for textiles, medicine and such.  A visit here is definitely a step back in time.

 To the left is the "privy".   What a pretty setting for a privy, right?   This was a "6-seater" - the only privy we saw on the grounds.  Keep in mind that at one point the village was home for 300 Shakers!  And you thought your bathroom was busy!  Anybody have any idea what the corn cobs in the photo below were used for ???

By 1959 the Shaker community in Hancock had dwindled to about 50 Believers - mostly Sisters, children and a few Brethren.  Unable to maintain their City of Peace, some of the outlying land was sold off and some buildings razed and finally what remains was sold to some Shaker enthusiasts who were committed to preserving the Shaker heritage.  Thus, the Hancock Shaker Village Museum was founded in 1960 and remains a living-history museum today.  Shakers still exist and a small but active community practices the Shaker religion in Sabbathday Lake, Maine.   Ok.....so I lied, I couldn't resist telling you a little about this fascinating place and its people.  One of the most fascinating and picturesque things you'll find at Hancock Shaker Village is the Round Barn! Agree???

I think you'll agree - the view is beautiful, from inside and out!

Just a few of the animals you might meet when you visit..............

Aww....look at that - he posed for me!

Hancock Shaker Village  (20 buildings, 750 acres) is located in Hancock, MA, about an hour from the Albany area.  Admission is $18 for adults, ($17 for seniors).  Kids 13-17 are $8.00.    The village is open from 9-5 seven days a week, but closes for the season on November 2nd.  The village also features a small cafe where you can enjoy soup, salad and sandwiches, as well as a museum gift shop.  As of this moment, a reopening date for the spring has not been finalized, but will be sometime in mid-April.

More photos can be found on my Life As I See It Photography by Gail Welter facebook page.  Please use this link https://www.facebook.com/GAWelter  to view these and many more photos like these:

As always, thanks for reading my blog.  Please share it with your friends, and let me know what you enjoy about my blogs by leaving a comment.  To read more about the Shakers and Hancock Shaker Village, use the link below:

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