The first time we visited the Shaker village in Canterbury, NH was in 1985 at the annual Spring Herb and Garden Day. Eldress Bertha Lindsay, Eldress Gertrude, and Sister Ethel were still alive and available to talk with guests. At its height in the 1850s, 300 people lived and worked in over 100 buildings on more than 3,000 acres at Canterbury Shaker Village.
Canterbury Shaker Village was established in 1792 when followers of founder Mother Ann Lee formed their seventh community in the United States, which remained prominent for 200 years. The Village has operated exclusively as a museum since 1992 when Sister Ethel, the last Shaker in residence died. I drove out there yesterday and the museum is closed for the season.
|Meetinghouse built in 1792|
Canterbury Shaker Village is one of the oldest, most typical and most completely preserved of the Shaker Villages. The Village contains the only intact, first-generation Meetinghouse, built in 1792, and Dwelling House, built in 1793, in their original locations. The Shakers emigrated to the United States from England and eventually established nineteen self-contained communities from Maine to Kentucky. Overall, the Shakers were the most successful communitarian society in American history.
The Shakers' revolutionary Christianity shocked their contemporaries. They challenged almost every mainstream ideal of American society during their time. Shakers believed in community ownership, pacifism, dancing in worship, equality of the sexes, celibacy, and living simply. According to founder Mother Ann Lee, the Shakers devoted their "hands to work and hearts to God." The Shaker "brand" quickly became known for quality, integrity and reliability. Shakers cared for the poor and used resources and profit for social good.
Eldress Bertha, who passed away in 1990 at the age of 93, came to Canterbury in 1905 as an orphan. She lost her sight when she was 90 years old and put her remaining energies into making audio recordings about the history of the movement. ''I want people to know we did have fun and plenty of it,'' she said in an interview.