History Harvest to commemorate Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill Meeting House’s 200th anniversary

Published 6:19 am Saturday, September 19, 2020

In October 1820, Shakers at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill completed their Meeting House, a place of worship, and 200 years later, the building still stands.

“They were wonderful record keepers, and so they have journal entries, and on Oct. 31, they note it being completed,” said Maggie McAdams, education and engagement manager for Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the building, Shaker Village is hosting a History Harvest during the month of October. Anyone who has a photo or document related to the Meeting House can bring them into the Meeting House to be scanned and digitized on collection days Sept. 18 and Sept. 19 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m on both days. Items can also be sent to Jacob Glover at jglover@shakervillageky.org or by calling him at 859-734-1544. Contributors from the community can keep their original items and also will receive a digitized copy through email. The Meeting House will display a photography exhibit of photos and other items Shaker Village has that are related to the Meeting House and also selected photos and documents from the community during the month of October.

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According to the Shaker Village website, Shaker Village has particular interest in photos and documents related to the building prior to 1961, the interior of the building, images of the building as Shakertown Baptist Church, exterior images that include Highway 68, images of non-Shaker features that do not exist today and information on activities that have occurred in the building. Part of the purpose of the project, McAdams said, is to show how the building has evolved over time.

The Shakers lost possession of the building by 1896 because they had to sell a large tract of land after they fell onto hard times, McAdams said. However, the Pleasant Hill Shaker community continued until 1910 when the covenant closed and no longer accepted new members, and the last Pleasant Hill Shaker died in 1923. The period between when the Shakers lost the building and 1961 — when Shaker Village was founded as a nonprofit organization — is referred to as an “interim period,” McAdams said. During the 1890s and early 1900s, the building was in private hands, but McAdams said newspaper accounts show that dances and other events were held there during that time, so the Meeting House has seen periods of transformation and alternate uses outside of worship.

“We love to see how it was used over time and how it’s changed over time,” McAdams said.

McAdams said due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill has been unable to host its normal annual events, like its Community Sing, usually held the first Saturday of September.

“And it’s a really powerful experience, so hopefully next year, we’ll be able to get back into that,” McAdams said.

There is usually a daily program called Shaker Music, where people can come together and learn about Shaker worship and participate in singing and activities. However, COVID-19 has put this program on pause. Currently, there are interpreters to interpret the story of the Shakers and educate people on the Shaker community at Shaker Village, but group events, like singing and dancing as a group, have come to a halt.

As for the community collecting going on for the Meeting House exhibit, McAdams said she’s looking forward to contributions from the community to build a better exhibit to commemorate the Shakers and how the building has changed.

“This is such a significant building for this community as (the Shakers’) place of worship,” she said. “This is where everyone in the community gathered to practice the faith, and of course they’re a religious society, and so to be able to celebrate the 200th anniversary of this building — we’re so excited about it, and we really want to involve the community as much as possible.”