Lessons from the Past, Visions for the Future

Melissa Donahoo, Development Coordinator

As we have shared in previous posts, Shaker Village recently completed a large-scale preservation project in the “spiritual center” of the Village, focusing on the 1820 Meeting House and the 1824 Centre Family Dwelling. While the historic buildings of Pleasant Hill make an immediate impact on visitors, the artifacts, images, documents and interpretative materials that can be placed inside the buildings really bring the Village and the Shaker story to life.

Guests participate in an experiential Shaker music program in the 1820 Meeting House.

A great example of how preservation efforts and interpretive programming go hand-in-hand to share the legacy of the Shakers is the Music Program that occurs twice daily in the 1820 Meeting House. The Meeting House was used by the Shakers as a place for the entire community to gather for Sunday worship. Music and dance were integral parts of their worship activities, and the Meeting House was specifically designed with this in mind. Just as the Shakers once sang and moved through this space, our music interpreters do so today. These programs not only tell the spiritual story of the Shakers, they illustrate the stunning engineering of the building in a way that leaves every visitor awestruck.

It is our goal to provide a guest experience across the historic site that inspires our guests through stories, activities and exhibits that connect to Shaker heritage and American history. With 3,000 acres and 34 historic structures, providing a cohesive and comprehensive guest experience takes a lot of thought and care to develop. Over the past few years, we have taken multiple steps to conduct and prepare a long-range interpretative plan for permanent and temporary exhibits, as well as outdoor interpretative signage and interactives. This program planning process was underway and ran parallel to the preservation of the Centre Family Dwelling and Meeting House, another example of how preservation and programming work together at Shaker Village.

The 1824-34 Centre Family Dwelling, during preservation in 2017.

The preservation of the “spiritual center” of Pleasant Hill was funded by a generous gift from the Lilly Endowment and through a Community Development Block Grant from the State of Kentucky. Shaker Village relies on charitable giving for the implementation of most large-scale preservation projects that take place on the property. The same is true for many programming projects, such as the site-wide interpretative plan and corresponding exhibits.

The 1815 Carpenter’s Shop, as the new Welcome Center, is the first stop for guests visiting Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.

One of the first steps in this interpretive plan was to consolidate daily admissions, overnight check-in, a craft shop and additional historic interpretation into one, easy to use Welcome Center for village guests. Through a generous gift from the James Graham Brown Foundation, the 1815 Carpenter’s Shop underwent exterior preservation work and an interior remodel to become the “jumping off point” for guests to discover the legacy of the Kentucky Shakers at Pleasant Hill.

Plans for exhibits in the Centre Family Dwelling and Meeting House include the display of over 450 Shaker artifacts.

Over the last two years, Shaker Village has also received funding for the creation of the interpretative plan through private donations from generous individuals. The resulting plan, titled The Enduring Legacy of Shakers in America, is a comprehensive exhibition staged with sub-themes and topics that can be implemented across the site as buildings and spaces are readied, and funding is available.

A key theme of the exhibit plan is to introduce the stories and personalities of individuals who lived as Shakers at Pleasant Hill.

At this time Shaker Village is raising money for the implementation of the permanent exhibits that will go in the 1820 Meeting House and the 1824 Centre Family Dwelling. These exhibitions are vital to our mission because they will provide both guided and self-guided visitors a new, and at times unexpected, interpretation of the Shakers and their community at Pleasant Hill. They will also engage our visitors in examining political climates, cultural shifts and economic trends through the 19th and early 20th Century, and deriving lessons from this history that are relevant and impactful to modern audiences.

Exhibit designs have been geared to have many sensory and tactile elements to create engaging experiences within each space.

You can help make these exhibits possible with a tax-deductible donation of any size to the Exhibits Fund. By making a gift as a new donor or by increasing your renewal gift, you can double your impact this fall. Your donation will be matched dollar for dollar by the Shaker Village Board of Trustees!

As a guest of Shaker Village, you support this nonprofit organization and its mission every time you shop, dine, stay, explore or donate. We rely on, and appreciate, your generosity. It really does take a village to preserve and share the legacies of the Kentucky Shakers!

For more information on our programs, services and other philanthropic opportunities, please call the Development Office at 859.734.1545.

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

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.

Happy Hammering!

Preservation Projects for the Summer of 2019

William Updike, Vice President of Natural and Cultural Resources

This is an exciting time, and we wanted to post an update on several on-going and upcoming projects you may see during visits to the Village over the summer and into the fall!

For starters, we re-opened the 1834 Centre Family Dwelling this spring after a year-and-a-half of work! (There are several prior blog posts about this project, if you’d like to learn more!)

Work is already underway on several of our other historic buildings. So far this year we have re-roofed the 1811 Old Stone Shop, and made repairs to the Old Ministries Shop and Cooper’s Shops.

Roofing underway on the 1811 Old Stone Shop.
Roofing completed on the 1811 Old Stone Shop.
Threshold on 1813 Old Ministry’s Shop before repair.
Threshold on 1813 Old Ministry’s Shop after repair.

Last summer we began work on the 1833 Water House. The first phase of this project completed a major structural repair to the front (south) wall of the building. This summer we will complete the preservation work on this building including repairs to the roof framing, siding, windows, a new shake roof and a fresh coat of paint. We are re-roofing and painting the nearby Brethren’s Bath House which will complete work on structures adjacent to the Centre Family Dwelling.

1833 Water House during recent preservation efforts.
1860 Brethren’s Bathhouse roof repair in progress.

In other work, we will also be installing a new roof on the 1821 Ministry’s Shop. This project will begin the preservation work on this building, and we intend to also make repairs to the exterior of the building and to repaint it prior to winter. We will begin to repair and repaint all of the windows, exterior doors, and exterior trim of the East Family Dwelling. This is a large project and plan to complete late in the fall, or possibly next spring if the weather cooperates.

Our work at Shaker Village is never truly finished. Use, time and the elements take a toll on our buildings and it is our duty to maintain them for future generations. You can help by making donations, and/or joining us on an upcoming volunteer day!

Click here to learn more about how to support our efforts!