In the Words of Henry Daily…

The journals kept by the Shakers have a lot of information in them, and most of it is very basic and straightforward. However, one of the delights of reading these volumes is when the personality of the record-keeper shines through. It doesn’t happen in every journal, and it is more prevalent in some than others, but when it does happen you can almost imagine that you are sitting in the room and having a conversation with a very real person.

This is especially true in the journals kept by Henry Daily. He had a big personality—one that comes across as interesting, sometimes funny, sometimes mean and almost never dull. I would describe him as a curmudgeon. When he keeps these journals, he is an older member who remembered the golden years of Shaker life. He is unhappy with the changes and developments that had taken place in the later 19th century—and he doesn’t hesitate to convey that in the journals. I can’t help but wonder if he ever said any of these things out loud.

Henry Daily is also really good for a soundbite. I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to him. I thought it would be fun to imagine if I actually did sit down across the table from him and interview him. How might he answer some of these questions? Probably in a similar way that he writes in his journals… so I used direct quotes from the journals in order to answer these questions. One thing you’ll notice: he often referred to himself in the third person, and this was pretty common in Shaker journals.

AG: Good evening, Henry. It’s a pleasure to speak with you. You really look tired… how has your day been?

HDH. Daily took a lot of our boarders to high Bridge to the 6 oclock & 10 minutes train then brought home a large load of freight. Then went back with a load of 48 boxes of Malt & brought home another large load of freight this was done A.M. he also took 480 lbs flour in the kitchen before the bell rang to rise this morning. After dinner H.D. filled up and hauled 1500 lbs to the office. John Smith let from 1500 to 2000 lbs flour spoil at the Office just from pure laziness because he did not keep it stirred. H. Daily took 150 lbs out of his flour houses. After this H.D. went to the threshing yard & filled up & hauled in 12 large sheets full of wheat chaff to pack malt in. Will this do for an old man’s day’s work or not. (7-18-1881)

 

AG: Wow, yes, it certainly will. On busy days like this, are you glad to have so many people around to help do the work?

HDWe are trying to harvest our wheat tho our machines do so poorly we get very little done. We have a few of the Brethren as hands tho it is mostly done by hirelings and we are getting in debt everyday worse and worse. Our business men do perhaps the best they know but the worst is they do not know. Our wheat is ripening quite fast will soon be ready to cut. We have a very strange elder in the C.F. He took our cart today and drove it through the middle of our wheat field & the grain is nearly ripe, namely Napoleon Brown we never saw the like before in our lives.  Napoleon Brown has had 4 pares of boots & 3 pares of shoes made for himself this year. Our shoe maker tells me this evening the boots were worth $41.00 the shoes were worth $16.00  This is $57.00 for Boots & shoes in one year the mending was worth $6.00  This is $63.00 for boots & shoes this year. If every member in the Center Family used up this amount they could not pay for their feet. There is 62 persons in the Center Family at this time. If all in the Family would consume as many boot & shoes as Napoleon Brown it would foot up $3906 the Family could not pay for their shoeing we think. This is awful extravagant indeed. (6-24-1881; 6-10-1881; 12-30-1887; 12-31-1887)

 

AG: I see… well, let me ask you about animals because everyone likes animals. I saw a dog running around… I didn’t realize that the Shakers kept pets. Do you have a pet?

HDThe Center Family has come to a desperate pass indeed.  They have Andrew Bloomberg a Swede for second Elder & he has a dog following him wherever he goes has him in the shop with him & has no use for him. This is not according to Shakerism but belong without… This dog will eat as much as a man or more. If we all had a dog we would all starve before spring since we have very little to live on & cannot afford a dog for each member in the Society. The dog is a perfect nuisance anyhow & them that keep them are no better certain. (9-20-1887)

 

AG: Ok. Well, I saw chickens on the farm, and they seem to be doing good right now… at least they are eating well, right?

HDFrederick Roth retook charge of C.F. chickens this morning has been doing other work a year. Susan Murry has been pretending to take care of them in his place. (2-8-1887)

 

AG: It sounds like you have disagreements or problems, just like all families do. Sometimes it’s good to get a little space… do you always stay here, or do you get to leave the village sometime?

HDAlexander Milligan & James Shain of the E.F. started to the Exposition in Cincinnati.  This is strange indeed when H. N. Daily had a free pass and could not get to go.  (10-6-1881)

 

AG: Henry, I have to be honest here. It doesn’t seem like you like anyone or anything. Is there anything you like to do?

HDH.N. Daily went out to the Fare which is now going on. Was there 5 hours. The President Adison Walden took him in to the side show which the Debenport Brothers are running by the slight of hand which beats anything we seen there it is marvelous indeed to see what man can do. The president then took HD in the judges stand and told him to go any where he chose. HD had the best day of his life as to pleasure. So much for this day. (8-3-1882)

 

AG: I know you’re very busy and probably still have a lot to do. Thank you for your time, Henry.

HDThis has been a very cold day. H.N. Daily cleaned out the ice house A.M. We may have ice this spell if so we are ready to get it. H.D. went this afternoon by himself and hauled a load of straw to the hen house to keep the chickens feet from freezing. He is now 73 years of age past who will do so at this age.  (12-29-1887)

 

In all seriousness, we are fortunate to have so many remarkable first-person accounts of Shaker life here at Pleasant Hill. It is a joy to get to know these Shakers through their own words—and their own handwriting—as stories of work and worship within the community come to life through their journals.


Aaron Genton is the collections manager…

Preservation@Work: The Belfry

 

As part of our current preservation project on the Centre Family Dwelling, the bell tower has been removed via crane! It was a sight to see for sure.

While the original bell was hung on Centre Family in 1839, it was cracked 10 years later and replaced with a new bell. As you can see from the photo above, the bell tower rests on the north side of the Centre Family Dwelling, sandwiched between two chimneys. Just a quick glance at this massive building and you may even miss it, but the bell could be heard throughout the Village.

According to Shaker journals, the bell served many purposes for the Shakers, usually for communication. Some instances include:

  • Beginning of Workday (4 a.m. in summer and 5 a.m. in winter)
  • End of Workday
  • Meal Times
  • Special Observances
  • Emergencies

According to our collections manager, the bell, like all of our 34 historic buildings, is considered a historic resource. During the last decade or so, the bell has been rung during educational workshops, field trips and before iconic daily programs such as music performances. We’ve also been known to start the (un)Pleasant Hill Trail Runs with the ringing of the bell. However, the bell hasn’t been in ringing condition for awhile now.

We’re looking forward to having this quirky and unique piece of our collection added back to the Centre Family Dwelling and hearing it ring throughout the Village! Look for Centre Family to re-open this fall. Until then, stop by and see all of the great things that are happening here!


Fun Fact: There is also a bell on the West Lot Dwelling.

Celebrating 50 Years

Shaker Village, the nonprofit organization, opened its doors to guests from around the world in April 1968. By the end of that year, some 50,000 guests were kindly welcomed to this site! In 2018, we celebrate those visionaries and trailblazers who came before us and continue to honor the legacy of the Kentucky Shakers who blazed their own trail more than 200 years ago. This Sunday, visit Shaker Village and enjoy FREE admission in honor of our 50th anniversary. Enjoy daily programming and tours, take a hike or visit with the animals.

A lot has evolved in the last 50 years to meet changing markets and customer preferences. But, one thing that hasn’t changed is what we’re accomplishing here at Shaker Village. This nonprofit organization was created to preserve and protect this property, and we continue to be good stewards of the legacy left to us not only by the Shakers, but by the visionaries who gathered in the early 1960s to save this village.

The Shakers are gone, their houses stand,
A beautiful memorial to a faithful band.
If stones could talk, I could hear them say,
Preserve me and keep me for another day.*


How can you keep this place going? You support Shaker Village every time you visit, stay, dine, shop or explore. Follow us on social media. Plan your next visit.

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is on a mission to inspire generations through discovery by sharing the legacies of the Kentucky Shakers. Donate Now.

Text to Donate. Text INSPIRE to 501501 to donate $25. A one-time donation will apply to your phone bill. Wireless carriers remit 100% to charity. Message and data rates may apply.

Learn more.

*Poem by Mary Webb Gibson Robb, who was involved in one of the earliest preservation efforts at Shaker Village in the late 1930s – early 1940s. Published on a Shaker Village postcard

If These Shoes Could Talk…

If you’ve been down to the Shaker Modern exhibit in the East Family buildings, you’ve seen a bunch of old shoes. Pleasant Hill was a home, both temporary and permanent, for more than 2,400 Shakers throughout the community’s history. Many traveled very long distances before, during and after their time here. These shoes have been found on the property over the years, and though we know little about them, they were most likely worn by the members here. Whose feet did they cover? What kind of traveling stories could they tell?

Really, those just scratch the surface of all the old shoes we have in the collection, and they are fairly generic. However, this shoe is in better condition and a lot more unique than those on display. It is made of black cloth on the outside, while the inside is a striped denim-type material. And, if you look really closely, you can see writing on the inside of the shoe: “Peggy Voris 1854.”

(Sidenote: One of the things we focus on in the Shaker Modern exhibit is comparing styles and pieces from our Shaker collection to what is popular now. Have you seen shoes like this out and about lately? Kinda cool, huh?)

I don’t know anything about how her name was written in the shoe, and it leaves me with a lot of questions—Did Peggy do this herself? Did someone else? Where’s the other shoe? What was so special about Peggy Voris in 1854 that it had to be commemorated in a shoe?

We don’t know much about Peggy Voris. She was born on February 14, 1801, in Shelby County, Ky., and in 1810, she came with her family to Pleasant Hill. However, she rarely shows up in the records. The most notable event revealed about her is when she dies in 1882—but even this has a way of leaving us with more questions than answers about her:

  • Disaster Peggy Voris fell on the Sleety walk on Wednesday 4th inst & crippled her hip & arms So that it is probable that She will remain helpless for life. It Seems that aged folks will not heed nor care (FHS 17, Ministerial Journal, January 7, 1882)
  • Demise Peggy Voris at the West Family in the 81st year of her age which would have been Completed the 14th Proximo Although in feeble health for Some Years past yet the injury She Sustained by that fall 7th inst. – which See – was the immediate Cause of her death at this time.  She is the last Survivor of a large & wealthy family that entered this Community in its infancy & has Stood through all the trials & conflicts of life to the day of her decease & is therefore worthy of much honor & credit by all who knew her & is entitled to a rich reward in heaven.  P.S. Strange to tell the above is a false report & She Still lives.  She died on the 11th inst which See. (FHS 17, Ministerial Journal, January 9, 1882)
  • Demise Peggy Voris deceased this evening at 9:25  See 9th inst (FHS 17, Ministerial Journal, January 11, 1882)

I hope that we learn more about this one day because it strikes me as a very strange event. And, it seems like it was equally perplexing to the Shakers as it was happening.

I’ll let Henry Daily have the last word on this because, as usual, he has a special way of communicating the things that happened at Pleasant Hill:

E.S. & H. D. left the Tanyard this morning and started for home. Came to the toll gate this side of Perryville where John Haggin keeps. He has been there 24 years past, we fed our horses there & had a fine dinner all for nothing. He would have nothing. Rained steady all day. H.D. & E. S. arrived home about 5 P.M. from Lebanon and the Tanyard. Note Peggy Voris departed this life at the West Family last night about 9 o’clock & was buried today. We know she is dead now.

So, here we are left with one shoe and very little information about Peggy. We’ll keep digging around for more of her story. Meanwhile, maybe you can imagine a pleasant life for her here at Pleasant Hill.


During your Shaker Village adventures, take a guided tour of our newest exhibit—Shaker Modern—as we explore the enduring appeal of Shaker lessons and legacies. Examine Shaker spirituality, community and ingenuity through the artifacts and documents that they left behind, and uncover their influences on today’s communities, lifestyles and design. Check the TODAY schedule once you arrive for times and locations.


Aaron Genton is the collections manager…

Grab Your Hard Hat!

When was the last time you visited Shaker Village? There’s A LOT happening around here. And we aren’t just talking about the new baby animals that have arrived at The Farm this spring (though they are pretty darn cute). Back in October, we told you about our exciting PRESERVATION@WORK project on Centre Family Dwelling and the Meeting House. We’ve been hard at work since then and things are really coming along.

Last year, Shaker Village undertook its largest preservation project since the 1960s. The preservation and rehabilitation of the Meeting House and Centre Family Dwelling will extend the lives of these two buildings, while preparing them for new interpretive experiences.

One of the most noticeable accomplishments has been the installation of the remaining window components after repairs. Many windows are still boarded up because of the additional exterior work that has to be done, but it’s nice to have windows going back in.

Before and After Window Repair

We continue working on the installation of siding on the Meeting House. The crew is focusing on the rear (south) wall and will be working on the west wall starting next week. Additionally, there is structural repair work being done to the attic floor level beam, but the crew anticipates completing the repair during the coming week.

Otherwise, plumbers, electricians and duct installers continue to place piping, electrical conduit and ductwork in both buildings. And as temperatures hopefully moderate in coming weeks, we will begin working on masonry.

Before and After Beam Repair

So, what’s next? We’re going to keep at it. We hope you’ll come by for a visit and see this history in the making. Look for the Meeting House to open this summer, with the Centre Family following later in the year.

Read more about the history of these buildings here.


We want you to be a part of this village@work project. Come see what’s happening! While you’re here, join us for a Hard Hat Tour. Explore the historical and architectural significance of the buildings, project priorities and how you can become a part of this important preservation effort. Tours available daily. Check the schedule for times and locations.

William Updike is the vice president for natural and cultural resource management…