A Spiritual Stroll at Shaker Village

Jacob Glover, PhD. Program Manager

“Thousands of holy Angels attended this meeting, with whom was the Prophets Jeremiah, Joel, Ezekiel and others of the prophets and they freely poured out the rich treasures of heaven upon our needy souls…” – Pleasant Hill “Spiritual Journal,” September 9, 1847

“Are there ghosts here? Is Shaker Village Haunted? Come on, I know it’s haunted…”

The question of whether or not the buildings and grounds of Pleasant Hill are “haunted” is a consistent topic of debate bandied about among the out-of-towners, locals, employees and Shaker enthusiasts who frequent Shaker Village. Unsurprisingly, it is something that elicits a strong response from both skeptics and believers, each side convinced the other has on blinders that keep them from seeing the “truth.” So, is Shaker Village haunted? Well, that’s a tougher question to answer than you might initially think…

Guests carry lanterns while guided by Shaker Village staff on a Spirit Stroll.

Before we go any further, I should make something abundantly clear: the Spirit Stroll tour is NOT a “ghost tour” or a “haunted tour” of Shaker Village. It is, rather, a family-friendly program that involves a walk down the Turnpike by lantern light. That walk begins at the Trustees’ Office and concludes at the Shaker Cemetery, and along the way we delve into some of the darker and more macabre moments in Pleasant Hill’s history.

For despite its idyllic, rural setting in the 21st century, Pleasant Hill certainly experienced trying episodes during the time of the Shakers. There were accidents and maimings, premature deaths and catastrophic building loss, sickness and debilitation, and even suicides that racked the community. For a people who had set out to create “Heaven on Earth,” these setbacks presented a great deal of consternation and anxiety.

The Shaker Cemetery at Pleasant Hill was established in 1811.

One of the ways the Shakers confronted these difficult situations was through communication with the spiritual world. As the quote that opens this post reminds us, the Shakers were in regular “communication” with spiritual visitors as part of their worship, and these spirits often bestowed encouragement and reassurance to living Shakers to keep up the good fight and persevere through life’s struggles. For the Pleasant Hill Shakers, quite obviously, the spiritual realm was very active for decades and played an important role in their lives.

So, do spirits or “ghosts” still roam around Pleasant Hill? I guess you will have to come and find out for yourself!

Spirit Strolls at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill begin at 5:30 pm and 7:00 pm on Friday and Saturday nights in September and October, beginning September 6.

The Photo Within a Photo

Aaron Genton, Collections Manager

While recently going through some boxes in the library, I came across this really interesting item in a folder.

It is a photo of an elderly William Pennebaker (a Pleasant Hill Shaker) standing on the stone walk in front of the Old Stone Shop (you can see the Farm Deacon’s Shop looming in the background) alongside Letcher Mathews, who was a caretaker/housekeeper for Pennebaker in his later years.

It has also been hand-colored, a popular process employed to make black-and-white images more “realistic” by adding color using a variety of mediums like dyes, watercolors, oil paint, crayons, and pastels. I’ll let you decide how realistic this one looks – if you ask me though, they didn’t do William any favors. I can’t be certain on the date of the photo, but William Pennebaker died in 1922, so my guess is that it isn’t too far off from that year.

As I was looking at the image, I became interested in the item that Letcher Mathews is holding in her hands. A high-resolution scan was helpful in getting a close-up view of what appears to be a photograph. And as I looked at it, I realized that I had seen this photo before.

From what I can tell, this could be a studio photograph of William Pennebaker that is currently in the collection of the Winterthur Musuem (which has a pretty considerable Shaker collection). Here’s a side-by-side comparison of these images – what do you think?

The original photo indicates that it was taken in a studio in Washington, D.C., but there’s not really any other information about it. Nor is there much record of why he visited D.C., or how often, though I’ve found one reference to it in the surviving journals. So this is an area ripe for further research!

Beyond that, I’m trying to imagine what the conversation sounded like as they looked over this photo of William in his younger days. If anyone gets inspired, send us your best caption idea for the hand-colored photo!

agenton@shakervillageky.org

Double Your Impact

Shaker Village Board of Trustees Offer Matching Gift Challenge

Barry Stumbo, Chief Development Officer

The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill Board of Trustees recently issued a challenge to all Annual Fund donors in 2019 that will match dollar for dollar any increase from last year’s gift. For example, if a donor gave $250 in 2018 and increased their gift to $500 in 2019, the board will match the $250 increase and the total impact to the Annual Fund will be $750!

For all new Annual Fund donors your gift will be matched dollar for dollar which will Double the Impact to Shaker Village!

The Annual Fund is vital to the Village’s continual growth and long-term sustainability. This fund supports historic restoration and preservation, along with educational and programming needs for Shaker Village, Kentucky’s largest National Historic Landmark. As a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, all gifts are tax-deductible.

G. Watts Humphrey Jr., Chairman of the Board of Trustees said, “The board enthusiastically and unanimously agreed to provide this matching opportunity in order to build the level of financial support that sustains the great work happening at Shaker Village. Our goal is to inspire future generations through discovery by sharing the legacies of the Pleasant Hill Shakers. Please consider making a gift today.”

To make a gift online go to shakervillageky.org/donate or call the Development Office at 859.734.1545.

Windows – The “Eyes” of a Building

William Updike, Vice President of Natural & Cultural Resources

1817 East Family Dwelling as “Shakertown Inn.”
Early 20th Century.

Many writers over the years have commented that windows are the “eyes” of a building. Working on windows in historic buildings is a challenge. Not only are the windows fragile and difficult to replace, make one mistake in the repair and the look and feel of the building can be altered in a negative way. Imagine if we replaced all the windows with a thicker frame and a single large piece of glass! We would never do that, and hopefully you can envision why we wouldn’t.

Preservation efforts in progress. July 2019.

Shaker Village has hundreds of windows in our historic buildings. We are pleased to share some of our current work on the 1817 East Family Dwelling to make repairs and paint the building’s windows.

Time and weather have taken a toll on the East Family Dwelling’s wooden windows. We have peeling paint along with failing window frames and sashes in many of the openings. Well, no more, We are hard at work to make the necessary repairs to the wooden window components.

In many cases we find that the window frames tilt into the building, creating a situation where water can pool, and seep inside. We are working frame-by-frame making the necessary repairs to stop this and ensure that water drains away from the opening. Where necessary, this is in the form of small wooden patches or “dutchmen” to replace rotten wood. In certain cases we can accomplish this with epoxy, rebuilding the surface of the sill, and sealing out water.

You may notice that some window openings during this project have a piece of plywood covering them. Have no fear, these are temporary! We have removed the sashes (the movable parts that contain the glass) and are assessing these as to whether or not they are historic, original to the building, or are more recent replacements, and if we can repair the sash or replace it. In cases where we have to replace sashes, we have identified the correct profile for the mullions (the wooden framework for the glass) and will replicate these exactly so as not to alter the appearance of the building.

Once the woodwork is complete and the glass reinstalled, everything will get a fresh coat of paint. We will also make repairs to the cornice and doors as we go.

Work on this project will continue throughout the summer and fall, so check in during an upcoming visit to observe our progress!

Sam Berry, The One-Armed Outlaw

Julia Raimondi, University of Richmond

Samuel Oscar Berry was one of many orphans that Shaker merchants brought back to Pleasant Hill from their trading journeys across the south and mid-west. He arrived on Halloween 1845 from Clay County, Missouri, with one of his brothers when he was nine years old. A third, younger, brother would also arrive a few years later.

Berry’s stay at Pleasant Hill was a troublesome one. Like most orphans brought into the community, he didn’t immediately conform to their practices and had a habit of lashing out and rebelling. His brothers were similar, and repeatedly they ran away. His first runaway attempt was in June 1852. He was recaptured and brought back, only to run away again at some point during the next few years (the Shakers recorded his first runaway attempt and did not record it when he ran away again).

Not much is known about what happened in the years between that and the Civil War. At some point, Berry lost one of his arms in a farm machinery accident. Reports conflict slightly as to the location of the incident – one says Perryville and the other states Lexington. From then on, he was known as Sam ‘One-Armed’ Berry.

Sam ‘One-Armed’ Berry and
Jerome ‘Sue Mundy’ Clarke *

Despite missing an arm, Berry was able to successfully enlist in the Confederate army as a member of General Morgan’s 6th Cavalry. The rumored reason for his enlistment is that he witnessed a Union soldier bayonet his sister to death, but there are no official records of him having a sister.

Throughout the war, Morgan’s men were known for their rough and thuggish ways across Kentucky, and it was not unheard of for these men to devolve into bands of roaming guerrillas that terrorized the countryside.

Sam Berry, his friend and fellow outlaw Jerome ‘Sue Mundy’ Clarke, and several other criminals formed one such guerrilla group. This guerrilla group, ironically, was who held up the Shaker stagecoach outside Pleasant Hill.

In a journal entry from the day of the incident, a Shaker scribe reported that Berry and his gang members robbed the Shakers of roughly $150. They also stopped and robbed other travelers passing by, including a Union soldier, before letting the stagecoach go and continuing on to Harrodsburg, where they had a failed attempt in robbing the bank.

Berry and his gang continued to terrorize and pillage the Kentucky countryside for another year, including massacring a unit of African American Union soldiers. Eventually, they were all caught and court-martialed for their crimes. All of them were sentenced to death, but Berry was able to use his injury to get his sentence commuted to 10 years hard labor at a military prison in Albany, NY.

Despite multiple attempts to have the President pardon him, he died of tuberculosis three years later while still in prison. He is now one of three Confederate soldiers buried at Rural Albany Cemetery in upstate New York.

Julia Raimondi is a student at University of Richmond completing a research project on the Shaker community at Pleasant Hill. For questions or comments please contact at Julia.raimondi@richmond.edu.

* Photo courtesy of FindAGrave.com.