Herd at Work

J Dylan Kennedy, Farm Manager

The latest news on the farm is pretty big for us. Our resident cattle herd has finally made the jump out of the limited pasture available to them for years, and into the areas on the north side of the Village where infrastructure work to accommodate them has been taking place since summer. It’s time to share some more details about why they’re moving and what they’ll be doing.

The cattle are now fully engaged as part of our Village@Work, just as you’ve seen with pigs and ducks in our garden for the last few years. The cows are now a regenerative landscape crew, whose job is to improve fertility and biodiversity on our property in the long term. They do that just by doing what they like to do, and it’s our job to put them in situations where what they like to do is beneficial to our land. That might not make that total sense yet, but hopefully some pictures of the herd and their new surroundings will help highlight the changes they are initiating here.

For the time being the cattle are mostly occupying a tree line that separates two different areas of grass, one a hay field turned pasture, and the other of native grasses. In late February Ben Leffew, our Preserve Manager, will be burning much of the grasses to promote their growth. We can also use cattle to do so. In the pictures you’ll notice our cows love to lay down in the thick dry grasses that were recently standing, it’s just like fresh straw to them. Other than laying the grasses down, they also deposit manure and step dry material into the soil with their hooves. The end result is similar to that of a burn, in that it makes space for the next season’s grasses to flourish, but is also different.

By bringing the grass stubble in contact with the soil, and adding nutrients and microbial stimulants through manure, the leftover grasses from 2018 will break down biologically, further feeding the topsoil and contributing to the overall health of the land. As the seasons progress and conditions change, so will the situations we put the cattle in, but each time, we will be putting them in a position to make a positive impact on the health of our farm.

Stay tuned for more farm updates, there’s always something happening around here!

“Marking” Time

Aaron Genton, Collections Manager

The Pleasant Hill Shakers were known for their production of silk products. We have another set of unique items in the collection at Shaker Village that utilize silk to a degree, but not exclusively. These are a group of perforated paper needlework bookmarks, in my opinion some of the most visually appealing items that we have. The silk is used as a backing to the stitched paper patterns.

These bookmarks were popular in the nineteenth century, especially during the Victorian era. This appears to be another way that the Shakers adopted practices that were also popular in the outside world. They were ways to produce mottos, sentiments, messages and feelings, and were often given as gifts. This appears to be the function they served at Pleasant Hill as well.

Below are images of the bookmarks from our collection. Seven of them share common features, one does not. They all come from a common source – In 1963, there was an auction of items that all had a history related to the West Family Dwelling and the last Shakers that lived there. These were part of that auction.

The “William” in the first row of bookmarks is probably William Pennebaker (WFP definitely is). He would have been in his later teenage years at the time these were created. The circumstances around the creation of these are shrouded in mystery, and I’ve never seen anything in the written record that sheds any light on it. I’ve always wondered if this was something that the kids in the community created for each other, namely the girls making for the boys. If so, what kind of messages were being sent and how did they determine who they gave these to?

Admittedly, this is a very incomplete picture of what was probably a widespread practice. It would be easy to draw a lot of conclusions from this, but until we gather more info, we will have to be stumped and be careful about making reckless speculations. But it’s definitely tempting, isn’t it?

A Visitor’s Account, 1879

Aaron Genton, Collections Manager

I’m sharing this visitor’s account because I really like the description of the natural landscape given by the author.  While his main purpose is to describe the Shakers, he feels compelled to situate the people in the context of the land in which they live, and he does so in one of the most articulate ways that I’ve ever read (there are some great soundbites here).  More and more I’ve noticed that when visitors attempted to describe Pleasant Hill, their descriptions almost always fall into three main categories: land, buildings, people.  Of course, you could subdivide those a bit more, but these are often the main ways in which Pleasant Hill is represented in these accounts.  Interestingly, we still do much of the same thing today.

One thing I like about this description is how he sees the Shakers in a complementary relationship with the natural landscape, as if they are influencing each other, almost in a symbiotic way.  Now, in some cases, his assessments aren’t entirely accurate (ie: the Shakers being in perfect harmony among themselves), and he may just be doing this for artistic and dramatic effect, but, his overall vision and perspective is very interesting.  I hope you enjoy it.

If there is any place in this country which has been appropriately named it is the locality from which I write.  In a region famous, and justly so for its natural beauty, where hill and dale, woodland and lowland, mountain torrent and placid river are all to be found in one beautiful, diversified and picturesque scene, it is yet sufficiently striking in its attractiveness to warrant extra attention and justify the encomiums it draws from all who visit it.  Here nature seems to have poured out her treasures in the way of attractive scenery, pure air and a temperate atmosphere with a lavish hand.  And here, too, what change the hand of man has wrought has aided – not, as is generally the case, undone – the beautifying handiwork of nature.  But it is not so much of Pleasant Hill and its beauties, though they be ever so deserving of description, that I am about to write, but of the people who have made it their abiding place, and who, from certain peculiarities in their mode of life, are objects of interest to all who pay any attention to that most interesting of all studies – human nature.

Here, in this spot so favored by nature, and possessing the double advantage of being not far distant from the busy haunts of men, and yet in a semi-solitude, a community of that peculiar religious denomination known as Shakers has been located for the past seventy years, and have thriven and grown in numbers and prosperity.  Chance, and a curiosity to ascertain for myself something of their peculiar manner of living, having impelled me to pay them a visit, I have been rusticating here for a couple of days, and have found the visit both pleasant and profitable.

[The community] is located on what is known as Pleasant Hill, which here spreads out in a beautiful plateau as far as the eye can reach, and lies about a mile and a half distant from the Kentucky River, whose rapid current washes the northern base of the hill, which rises in a bold-faced perpendicular cliff, fully five hundred feet above its surface.  A deep, wooded ravine, known as Cedar Run, divides Pleasant Hill from the mountains on the east, and up its western side a well-constructed turnpike road winds in a gentle ascent to the summit, where the village lies, secluded and quiet as if elevated above and shut out from the rest of the world as

“A spot that is sacred to thought and God.” 

An air of quietness and peace broods over the scene, and steals with a softening, hallowing influence to the heart of the beholder, until he feels, with the poet,

               “If peace can be found in this world of ours,

               A heart that is humble might hope for it here.”

And the longer one stays in this vicinity the stronger this feeling takes hold on his mind.  Here every thing is at peace.  A community of interests and property causes strife and bickering to be unknown.  Like a family united in heart, interests and religion, and all the members of which live in harmony, there is no discordant jarring or clashing to disturb the peace of the community; and the charm of a strict regularity hovers over all and enhances the pleasure one feels in contemplating the mode of life of this peculiar people.  Here is the same daily routine of life.  Here at the same hour each morning the same bell which rang out the morning before wakes the brethren from their calm slumbers, calling them to their morning meal and the not-too-severe labors of the day.  Each division of the day is marked by its pleasing sound, and in the evening it summons the community to join in praise of their Creator, and gives the signal for retiring.  All is order and regularity, and industry, frugality and temperance are virtues practiced by all.

(1879.03.14, Shakers and Shakerism, The Cincinnati Enquirer)

From a Shaker Village Supporter…

Barbara Huelette with Shaker Village VP William Updike, in front of the 1811 Old Stone Shop.

“We make you kindly welcome” is an understatement. Upon entering the grounds of the beautifully manicured and peaceful atmosphere at Shaker Village, I am profoundly grateful for the enrichment and education afforded through its programs and events.

Over the past four decades I have developed a deep love and appreciation for the history surrounding the Shakers, the excellence of the architecture and construction of the buildings and the constant work it takes to sustain the Village. I am in awe of the most recent restoration efforts involving the Centre Family Dwelling and the Meeting House. The same excellence and high standards of the Shakers have been followed in restoring these buildings, and they are now preserved for generations to come.

The forward-thinking of the Board of Trustees and the Administration overseeing these iconic buildings offer proof of Shaker Village’s utility and security for the future. With so many activities and events for families and enjoyable experiences in dining how could anyone not feel kindly welcomed!

Thank you Shaker Village for your devotion and dedication to history and the presentation of such history, for which I am so grateful. I’m proud to privately support the preservation efforts of Shaker Village and I encourage everyone to do the same.

Barbara Huelette is a longtime visitor and supporter of Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.

Harrowing History at Pleasant Hill

Early 20th century photography creates a spooky effect in this Village scene.

It’s that time of year when everyone is in a spooky mood. If you want to take part in the spirit of the season, there are so many ways to do it. Maybe something more low-key is your thing, like trick-or-treating or going to a Halloween party. But for others, this time of year is more about horror – haunted houses, scary movies, blood, guts, dismemberments, death and just general terror. This week, I’m feeling more inspired by the latter.

Death was a constant part of the landscape at Pleasant Hill. The Shakers, based on their interactions with the spiritual world, were quite in tune with this – when the spirits of departed Shakers visited, they couldn’t help but think about it. Also, many things happened in the physical world that were out of their control – scary situations that often (almost) resulted in death for both humans and animals. Many of these situations came about in ways that I would never think of, mainly because they resulted from situations that very few of us find ourselves in today. Like scenes from a scary movie, below you’ll find a sampling of journal excerpts documenting these very kinds of events. Have a terrifying week!

William Runyon went to the steam mill in Jessamine Co. and on his return home in attempting to drive into the boat it gave way, not being fastened, and let the horses into the river, one of which was killed by falling on the iron pin of the steering oar.

(October 31, 1846 – Filson Historical Society vol.4, East Family Deaconness Journal)

Louisiana Dunn who had been ailing some 5 or 6 months past, and had for a few days become delerious went from the Nourses room to the west Garett (Cen) and Jumped out of the window. She went feet foremost, as is most probable and strange to tell! appeared to be but little the worse of it so far. (September 3, 1847)

It is thot that Louisiana Dunn was much worse hurt by her leep than we were led to believe. It is now the general belief that she will not long survive it (September 4, 1847)

Louisiana Dunn who had been confined for several months to her bed and in addition to that had leaped from the Garret window of the Center House on the 3rd of Sept last, died at 1 oclock AM. She stayed at the old Center house 3rd story, NE Room.

(December 12, 1847 – Zachariah Burnett Journal, Harrodsburg Historical Society)

Charles Crutcher a colored servant that we hired to help tend the Grist Mill was caught up by the band of the corn sheller while attempting to put it on, and whirled around the shaft with the velocity of mill gearing and horribly mangled and bruised, tho not killed, before the mill could be stopped. His left arm was broken in three places and the elbow dislocated, his leg broken, and feet badly bruised, etc.

(April 5, 1853 – Filson Historical Society vol.4, East Family Deaconness Journal)

Isaac Shields was run over by an ox wagon loaded with husked corn, and dangerously wounded, tho strange to tell, not killed.

(November 5, 1853 – Filson Historical Society vol.4, East Family Deaconness Journal)

Francis Shain was badly hurt.  He was blasting stone in the cistern at the Centre Family at the time.  He was in the act of throwing fire down on the load of powder when the place where he was standing fell in and he fell 19 feet down.  He might as well have fallen into a lion den for he had the load of powder to encounter.  It went off but fortunately did not hurt him.  However, he was badly hurt by the fall his leg being fractured and his ankle put out of place.

(June 6, 1855)

Charles Asher, a neighbor, while at work on our premises, was killed by the falling of a limb which partially lodged when he fell a tree; he survived the sad disaster about four hours, when he breathed his last.

(January 13, 1859 – East Family Journal, 1856-1871)

Ruffianly & Beastly conduct. Whilst Elder B. B. Dunlavy was laboring with Edward Cooper, & kindly advising him to reform his ways, or peaceably withdraw from the Society became enraged, & fell upon Elder B. beating him on the head & face, making some severe wounds, but not dangerous, the weapons used was a crutch & other Bludgeon – Brn Abm Kulp & James Shelton, being below & hearing the fuss, ran upstairs, (in the little stone shop) & took the would be assassin off & thereby saved Eld Benjamin’s life, who received the blows without offering resistence – The Brn sent the scamp down into the yard in some haste – who then made his way up to the Shoe Shop at the East family, & being requested by Elhanan Scott to withdraw he made a pass at him & inflicted a slight injury, when some young Brethren interfered & sent him out into the highway – & he left the premises

(November 29, 1870 – East Family Journal, 1856-1871)

Tragedy!  The most lamentable tragedy occurred to day at the West Family. A foolish feud that has been cherished for years between the Pennebaker & Spencer families culminated in a fracas in which Wm. Pennebaker inflicted a severe & dangerous wound on the left side of Henry Spencer’s neck, with a saddler’s tool called a half moon laying it open horizontally through the back of the ear, near 6 inches in length, & an inch & 1/2 or more in depth, which gaped open about the width of three fingers.  Fortunately, however, neither the leader nor the jugular vein was severed, so that he did narrowly escape with his life. Tho William claimed that it was accidentally done in self defense.

(January 7, 1871 – East Family Journal, 1856-1871)

DisasterMary Hardin (alias Stocton) & her husband Tabitha Harden & Lucinda Reynolds started in Stocton’s buggy down the River Road about Sunset to view the Towers and Scenery, and when they got down to the watering trough on the Cliff, Mary was driving and the man was walking behind and the man was walking behind, the horse shied and backed off the road.  Mary & the two Sisters Tabitha & Lucinda leaped out and the horse & buggy tumbled off backwards, crashing the buggy to pieces, but not injuring the horse or mare seriously.  The Sisters escaped with but little damage, while Mary is thought to be considerably injured internally.  The mare was thrown several rods down the precipice where she lodged & they tied her there till morning when she was brought up not much hurt.  A sad catasrophe!  But a happy escape considering the perilous situation.  Mary Stocton is an Ex-Shaker & came here on the 13th inst on a visit & was taken sick next day & has been unable to returne home till now.  This will detain her longer.

(August 21, 1875 – Filson Historical Society v.16, Ministerial Journal)

Disaster  Two Sisters Lucinda Reynolds, & Susan Murray with Charlie Kirk went to South toll gate to see the Gate Keeper Jo Trainer who was sick & coming home the horse ran down the hill, this side of the gate and turning out of the Road the Buggy turned over and bodly crippled Susan Murray, breaking her Collarbone with hip and side contusion, head cut & bruised up generally.  Lucinda & the boy were some bruised but not dangerously.

The buggy which belonged to the Office was left a perfect wreck.  The horse of A Kulp’s Diamond did not seem to be frightened buy stopped after breaking loose from the carriage & calmly surveyed the wreck.

(April 1, 1878 – Filson Historical Society v.16, Ministerial Journal)

Stock Five sheep were killed by a hay stack falling on them at the Upper Farm.  Loss $20.00.

(November 12 1879 – Filson Historical Society v.16, Ministerial Journal)

The CF had a fine thorough bred bull killed by lightning today.  He was Durham.  They called him Captain.  He was in his lot just North of the Center Barn.  This took place between 9 & 10 o’clock A.M. He is 7 years old worth $500 it is said.

(May 11, 1882 – Filson Historical Society v.20, Henry Daily Journal)

Patsy Gregory fell down the garret stairs at the Centre Family Wash House from top to bottom yesterday and received a ghastly wound or cut on her forehead and dislocated her right wrist and received many contusions and bruises all over. Lamentable misfortune for one so aged – 76 years old.

(October 8, 1883)

Sister Lyddie Coony caught fire to her apron while near the stove and was badly burned. She is now in the nurses room under treatment.

(April 9, 1889)

Abram Kulp, a highly respected member of the Society of Shakers, Pleasant Hill, died Sunday, aged sixty eight years. For more than sixty years he lived at the village and was for many years a farm deacon, understanding his business and attending to it with industry and energy. A week ago he got upon his faithful horse, Pilot and as if stricken with vertigo fell off on the other side and lay unconscious. He was soon taken to a comfortable room but never, again, became conscious. A month previous to this accident, he was found on the Pleasant Hill and Danville road, lying under his prostrate horse. So soon as Messrs. Caldwell and Brown had dragged him out. The horse, of his own volition got up. Brother Kulp’s left collar bone was broken but otherwise he seemed to be uninjured. The funeral was conducted, yesterday, in the solemn and simple manner of the Society and his remains were consigned to their last resting place by his father and other relatives who had been faithful Shakers. He was not only popular with his people but a favorite with all who knew him, many of our citizens attending the obsequies.

(March 31, 1897 – The Harrodsburg Sayings)

Sometimes, as you can see here, real history is just as harrowing as any made up story. Happy Halloween from Shaker Village!

Aaron Genton is the collections manager…