Sunday, August 19, 2012

Shaker Village and Family Trees

            last fall we took a short trip down to an area just east of Harrodsburg Kentucky to a place called Shaker Village.

 Shaker Village is truly a step back in time! Once you enter the area you feel the strength of their convictions, of simplicity and peace. Oh and incredibly hard see the results of that everywhere.

I must admit I knew very little about this quaint and unusual group of deeply religious people.

You may or may not know that the Shakers invented the flat broom, the clothespin, and the circular saw, among many other items. This all seems amazing to me since their leader Mother Ann Lee never learned to read or write.
Shaker men and women lived separately. Some members came to the group as married couples but once they became a Shaker they lived the rest their lives in separate quarters. Order,simplicity,hard work and celibacy were strong convictions of this group. In spite of the celibacy though there were lots of children raised in the Shaker villages. Often they were orphans brought in when no one else would take them.
 This is one of the rooms once occupied by children. It doesn't look like a lot of fun for a kid.....we didn't see any toys or dolls or any thing child like that said children once lived here.

 They may have given the children a roof over their heads and three meals a day but fun and play I guess was not a priority.
We fell in love with the furniture and the architecture of the village. I knew from my Mother's love of ladder back chairs that they were invited by the Shakers,and trust me comfort was not part of that invention. I think they designed these chairs so they could hang them on the wall in the evening and sweep the floors clean.
I loved the kitchens and all of the old utensils, the beautiful large bowls and pots. It really made you realize that putting a meal on the table was not a quick and easy process........after all they didn't invent the microwave!

We were surprised to learn that they have a hotel there on the property. We discovered this when we stopped for lunch at their restaurant. The atmosphere in the restaurant was very tranquil and relaxing so I bet a stay at the hotel would be they same. I actually saw this hotel on a list of the top favorite stays of Martha Stewart. I just hope the rooms are a tad more modern than what we saw on our tour of the village.
I have to say the food was wonderful...... they had the best ice tea I've ever had. We hope to go back down someday soon. I bet it's beautiful during the Christmas season. What a great treat that would be to go down for the weekend and shop and simply get away.
This is the staircase that leads to their guest rooms. I wondered if there was an elevator but we didn't any sign of one, but that doesn't mean there isn't one of course. But to be on the safe side I'd pack light!
 I thought this was interesting and I don't think this photo really shows you that they had separate staircases. One for men and one for women,leading them to their separate quarters. That had to add even more work to build these in each house.....I mean one staircase couldn't ensure that you lived separate from each other. It just seemed interesting to me the thought process in this I guess.

 This trip was for two reasons,one to visit the Shaker Village, and two to search my mother's family tree the LeMay side. We share a family tree with General Curtis Lemay who was very important during WWll. We spent a lot of our time there in Lancaster Ky in the library researching. This research led us to meeting a few women from D.A.R. The Daughters of the American Revolution, a group I hope to join, and a women writing a book about local war veterans. What a surprise to learn she had a story about my mother's cousin who served in WW11. It gave me some much needed information about him I never would have known.
While we were walking around the cemetery where some of my family was laid to rest, I noticed a dog sitting in front of a grave. At first I was kind of scared because I didn't know if it was a friendly dog or not. It had been raining all day and that made it hard to see and even harder to take photos.
 But after a few seconds I realized the dog wasn't moving and was part of the grave. I just couldn't bring myself to walk any closer. The sheer sadness of this dog sitting in front of this headstone waiting on his master was so emotional.....and rather spooky too I have to admit. I just felt that walking down there would be somehow disrespectful and probably upsetting.
In spite of the rain and drizzle it was a great trip. All of the barns with these painted quilt signs on them were so pretty. The stone walls and of course the black and some remaining white horse fences were everywhere in this area. I especially love these dry stacked stone fences,which are probably a couple hundred years old. These have most likely been here since the state was settled. If they could talk....oh just imagine the stories they could tell us.
There was also some interesting cows behind a few of these fences too. I walked over to this one because it didn't look real, but it was....and huge!

Each time we passed an abandoned house I wondered....could this have once been owned by someone in my family. I have been told that the house my grandmother was raised in still partially stands, but where? So still more to research. My next stop is the University of Kentucky to look at old newspapers and even older recorders.You see this search is easy and hard because my great-great grandparents were first cousins! So my search for both sides is with the same last name. Often back in those days people could not read or write so they never knew if the census taker recorded them correctly. This has made me crazy at times!
After I find all I can on this part of my tree I plan to do more on my Dads side the Jones'es and my mom's father's side the Sawyers. An interesting discovery was made before my dad died. We never knew that my mom's maiden name was not Sawyer it was in fact we believe Sawyers......or so I  have seen on old records in Kentucky. This search has led me to discover that we descend from Daniel Boone's sister, Mary Polly Boone. Still lots to confirm and discover.......but one fact has I have learned for is more and more interesting and colorful characters turn up at each point of this process.

I just wish I had paid more attention to my parents and grandparents when they tried to tell me who and where I came from. I hope to leave a better record of things for my sons and their family!

As an interesting foot note, I discovered that as of 2010, this once thriving group has dwindled down to only 3 remaining Shakers. I don't know if this number is still true today.


  1. Sounds like a wonderful trip..I wanna go! What a blessing to learn the history of your family and find their resting places.

  2. I enjoyed visiting your blog from Where Women Create on Facebook. I'm happy to be your newest follower. Please feel free to pop over to Cottage and Creek and follow back. I love simple living and the Shakers got that right in so many ways.
    Lynn at Cottage and Creek

  3. Back from my own vacations, and catching up on reading. Love this post - the Shaker Village is beautiful - so simplistic and lovely. AND, I did some cemetery hopping in search of some long-lost family members this summer, also. Success on the second trip through last week - graves from 1867 and 1880 now found! Hope your week is wonderful, Becky - Tanya! XOXO

  4. loved reading about your trip and your foray into your family genealogy! have always been interested in the Shakers and the the chair racks...over the years have wished I had one...keep those chairs off the ground so it's easier to clean!!!! ;) I discovered that one of my ancestor families were very much into marrying cousins...same last name...frustrating! my son finally made the leap that completed the family on that side. census takers from years ago are so totally the family members often gave nicknames! it's a challenge for sure!

  5. I have been wanting to visit the Shaker museum. What a wonderful place of history to visit.