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Pleasant Hill Village
Pleasant Hill Village
Ultrachrome print, text panel
20.75 x 28.5 inches

Location: Mercer County, near Harrodsburg, Kentucky

Duration: 1805-1910

Affiliation: Shaker movement/United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing

Size: 600 Shakers (1850s) occupying 250 buildings and almost 2800 acres of land

"In the Church of Christ and Mother,
Carnal Feelings have no place;
Here the simple love each other,
Free from ev’ry thing that’s base." – Shaker song

The Second Great Awakening, or Kentucky Revival, began in the late 1700s and continued into the early 19th century. The powerful interest in religion sweeping the region inspired the Shakers to broaden their ministry into Kentucky. Lucy Wright, the head of the Shakers' parent Ministry at New Lebanon, New York, decided to send missionaries west. On January 1, 1805, with eleven Shaker communities already established in New England, three Shaker missionaries set out to find new converts.

By August, they had gathered a small group of new adherents to the doctrine of Mother Ann Lee, who believed in celibacy. Ann Lee was born February 29, 1736 in Manchester, England. While in England she was imprisoned for teaching the beliefs of the Shaking Quakers. During this time, she claimed to have a vision that she herself was the second coming of Christ. Upon her release in 1772, she founded a new religious sect, which came to be commonly known as the Shakers because of the adherents' dancing and motions. She taught that God was a dual personage, male and female, instead of the traditional belief in an all male trinity. She interpreted the passage in Genesis that stated "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female, created he them," to mean that both sexes were in God's image therefore God was both male and female. She acknowledged that Jesus was the first coming of the Messiah but believed the second coming had already occurred with herself, Ann Lee, based on her vision. Thus Shakers believed they were living in the last millennium. In that all people shared a brother/sister relationship, they should not marry, as there was no longer a need to procreate. Instead they believed people should live communally as a family of brothers and sisters.

Reason for Demise: The Civil War and Industrial Revolution took its toll on the community. The Shakers as a group were strongly opposed to slavery and continued their practices of purchasing and freeing slaves throughout the Civil War. Their Southern location left them vulnerable, and they were attacked by mobs on more than one occasion. As membership declined, Shaker villages were consolidated in the region, and the community dissolved by 1910.