The United Society of Believers, commonly called Shakers, was founded
in 1747, in Manchester, England. They were called in derision, "Shaking
Quakers," because of their ecstatic and violent bodily agitation in
worship. To this group of separatists came a remarkable young woman
named Ann Lee (1736-1784). In 1770, she was imprisoned for her religious
views. During this time she experienced a series of visions. From that
date on Ann Lee was acknowledged as their leader and known as Mother
In 1774, a decision was made to remove to America. Mother Ann and eight
of her followers boarded The Mariah in Liverpool. They landed
in New York City on August 6, and immediately set to work and found
employment. Several went up river to a place outside Albany then called
Niskayuna. They began to clear the land and erect buildings. In 1776,
the little band of Believers began Community life together.
Having arrived on the eve of the American Revolution, and being not
only British, but pacifists, the Shakers kept a low profile. However,
the events of May 19, 1780, the famous "Dark Day," brought their testimony
to the public. Soon, hundreds of people from New York and Massachusetts
were coming to see this peculiar people.
This new awareness brought not only converts, but persecution as well.
The Shakers were harassed, beaten, stoned, driven out of towns and imprisoned
all for religious reasons. This bitter persecution brought about the
early deaths of the three English leaders, Father William, Mother Ann
and Father James.
By 1787, the Church was headed by the American converts. Under the able
leadership of Father Joseph Meacham and Mother Lucy Wright, the Shakers
began to gather into "Gospel Order." The first Community was at New
Lebanon in New York. Eventually eighteen Communities were established
in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Kentucky,
Ohio, Indiana, Georgia and Florida. The Community reached its numerical
height of some five thousand souls, during the decade preceding the
The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community was founded in 1783, in what was
then called Thompson's Pond Plantation, by a group of Shaker missionaries.
In less than a year's time nearly two hundred people gathered together
in this place that previously had only been the home of some five farming
families. The new influx of people initially made do with the existing
homes and out-buildings.
On April 19, 1794, those residing here made an oral covenant with each
other to consecrate their all to God and formally organized as a Community.
To mark this event they began to build a house for public worship. The
raising of the Meeting House was their first united venture. The next
year saw the construction of the first communal Dwelling House and the
next decade saw the addition of worships, mills, barns and other related
buildings necessary for laying permanent foundations.
Always referred to as, "the least of Mother's children in the east,"
Sabbathday Lake was one of the numerically smallest and poorest of the
eastern Shaker Communities. For decades the Community struggled to pay
off debts contracted by dishonest business agents. This struggle also
brought forth a very strong spiritual gift that saw the Believers through
even the most difficult times.
Generally poorer and more isolated than the other Shaker Communities,
this spiritual gift has ever been maintained. Today Sabbathday Lake
is the only active Shaker Community. We still strive to live a life
of work and worship, fulfilling the motto of our founder, Mother Ann,
to "put our hands to work and hearts to God."
The Community presently consists of eighteen buildings located on 1,800
acres of land. We maintain a tree farm, apple orchard, vegetable gardens,
commercial herb garden, hay fields, pastures, a flock of sheep, and
a variety of livestock. Other occupations include manufacturing of fancy
goods, basket making, weaving, printing, and the manufacturing of some