Ohio History Journal

THE SOCIETY OF <span style="color:#cc0000;font-weight:bold">SHAKERS</span>








The communistic societies of the United States continue

to elicit more or less attention, and receive profound considera-

tion from those engaged in sociological philosophy. Whatever

religious or sociological problem these communities seek to solve,

their progress or failure is carefully noted even by those who

have not come in immediate contact with the advocates, or

their special environments. The careful observer ever remains

candid, looking for results, although not necessarily swayed

by the opinions put forth and the practices adopted. With an

intelligent conception of history he fully realizes that one fail-

ure, nor even a dozen abortive attempts, does not prove or dis-

prove the solution of a problem. Circumstances embracing

leadership have more or less influence in the ultimate success

or failure.

When communistic societies that have endured for a pe-

riod of a hundred or more years, and still retain their position,

practically unchanged, their success, manners, principles and

prospects become worthy of special notice. In the investiga-

tion the promulgators should have the fullest latitude to an-

swer for themselves. The tendency of this age is to accord that


If a branch of one of these communities should exist for

a period of years, gain wealth, practice their precepts, and then

dissolve or become extinct, the position they maintained should

not be forgotten, and their records should be preserved.

For a period of two-thirds of a century there existed eight

miles east by south of the Public Square, in Cleveland, Ohio, a

community known as SHAKERS, but calling themselves The Mil-


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lenium Church of United Believers. Their location they called

North Union, and by that name it was so designated by their

co-religionists.  Although the name Shaker was originally ap-

plied as an epithet, yet it has been taken up by the members of

the United Believers, who now deem it an honor to be so char-

acterized. It is no longer used as a term of reproach.

The North Union community has passed into history. Its

former existence is entirely unknown to the vast majority of

the inhabitants of Cleveland, and the greater part of those

aware of such a community know it only as a tradition. How-

ever, the land owned by them is now called Shaker Heights,

and as such is likely to be perpetuated. No one in Cleveland,

so far as I was able to determine, could tell when the society

was dissolved, and in what year the land was sold. They could

tell about the time, but not the date. It was after much perse-

verance I was enabled to fix the time. These people, who se-

cluded themselves from society, should be remembered for many

reasons, and especially because they may justly be denominated

as pioneers of the Western Reserve. It is also but just, in

what pertained to themselves, they should be permitted to ex-

plain their position and submit their narration of events. Ad-

vantage of this will be taken through the labors of one of the

elders, who has left a MS., now in the Western Reserve Histor-

ical Society.

It must be admitted that for a community or sect so small

as that of the Shakers, the literature has been more extensive

than the results. The believers deserve great credit in the

enterprise exhibited in the publishing and spreading of their

views. In point of numbers of believers, in this respect, in all

probability, they are unexcelled.

It is not the purpose, in this account, to give a history of

this sect, nor to discuss their doctrines. These questions are

not hidden from the world. Their doctrines have been changed

to a greater or less extent, and one important feature added,

before the close of the first half century of their existence.

However, in its proper place, the dogmas entertained by the



Vol. IX-3.

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34        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


Shakers of North Union, will be given. A brief outline of

the sect's history, in that particular, must here suffice.

The Shakers owe their origin to Ann Lee, who was born in

Manchester, England, February 29, 1736, emigrated to America

in 1774, and died September 8, 1784. The first church build-

ing was erected in the autumn of 1785, and the first formal

organization of the society was in September, 1787, at Mount

Lebanon, New York, which still ranks as the leading one.

The Shakers thus become the oldest of all existing communistic

societies of the United States, besides being the most thor-

oughly organized, and in many respects the most successful.

However, it cannot be said, at this time, they are in a flourish-

ing condition, unless their possessions be accounted.

While the promulgation of the Shaker doctrines was taking

root in certain localities in the states eastward, one of the

greatest religious excitements that ever was enacted broke out

in Kentucky in the year 1800. It began in Logan and Christian

counties, on the waters of Gasper and Red rivers, and in the

spring of the following year extended into Marion county.

Richard McNemar, who was an eye-witness, published a de-

scriptive account of the wild carnival. There is no reason for

questioning his narrative. It was even claimed that a babe

of six months was spiritually affected. It is outside our prov-

ince to rehearse what has been written concerning this revival.

Suffice it to say that engaged in it were Barton  W. Stone, who

soon after founded the sect called Christians, but generally

termed New    Lights. There were other strong men who

changed their views, among whom may be mentioned Richard

McNemar, John Dunlavy and Matthew Houston, who became

leaders of Shakerism in Kentucky and Ohio. When the "Three

Witnesses," from Mount Lebanon, were sent into the west, they

found the soil partly prepared. Union Village, in Warren

county, Ohio, the first in the west, largely owes its location to

Malcomb Worley. He was early converted and used his in-

fluence over his neighbors. His house still stands near the

center of the society's estate. Union Village may date its origin

to the year 1805. The elders of this community have the gen-

eral oversight of all the societies in the west.

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The history of the North Union Society is the history of the

elders. If the chief leader possessed judgment and was full

of enterprise the society flourished. This is particularly true

during the first twenty years of its existence. Then came the

stationary period, followed by a rapid decline that ended in ex-

tinction. The origin, rise, decline and extinction must be ex-

tracted from the biographies of the elders.

The origin and location of the North Union Society must

be accorded to Ralph Russell, who owned a farm on section 22,

Warrensville township, Cuyahoga county, Ohio. During the

month of October, 1821, he visited the Society of Shakers at

Union Village, Ohio, and united with them with a view of

removing his family there in the following spring. Although

it is not stated, yet he probably knew of this community before

visiting them, and the object of his sojourn was to become

better acquainted with their manners and doctrines. He was

advised to return home and wait until spring, which counsel,

received from the elders of Union Village, was acted upon.

He was filled with the same zeal that actuated those by whom

he had just been instructed. On his return he immediately

began to teach the doctrines he had just espoused, and em-

ployed the remainder of the winter in proselyting. When spring

opened, the same elders advised him to remain where he was,

and prepare to start a community in his own family and on

his own farm. This was an undertaking he does not appear

to have contemplated. The elders had not acted inconsiderately,

for they not only had the means to favor the enterprise, but

were willing to render such assistance as was necessary. To

this end they sent two of their ablest advocates, in the persons

of Richard W. Pelham and James Hodge, who arrived about

March 25, 1822. Soon after their arrival a meeting was called,

when Elder Pelham "first opened the testimony of the Gospel"

at North Union. Under the eloquence of the preacher, sup-

plemented by the influence and private labors of Ralph Russell

among his kindred and neighbors, there was a visible result

manifested. Ralph and his wife received the elders with kind-

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36        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


ness and he felt very strong and was positive that a society

would be established on his and neighboring farms. As a

reason for the faith that was in him he gave an account of a

vision he had received since his return home from Union Vil-

lage, which consisted in a strong, clear ray of light, that pro-

ceeded from Union Village, in a perfectly straight, horizontal

line until it reached a spot near his dwelling, about where the

center house now stands, and there it arose in a strong, erect

column, and became a beautiful tree.

The first meeting for public services was held in the log

cabin of Elijah Russell, on the Sunday following the arrival

of the elders. Instead of delivering a discourse the time was

occupied in stating the principal doctrines, articles of faith,

practical life, ending with an invitation to any one to talk over

the questions in a friendly manner. Advantage was taken of

this opportunity, and for nearly two hours the discussion con-

tinued. The arguments continued in a lively manner, both

pro and con, for the time specified. At the first lull, a small,

keen-looking man, who had remained silent, though deeply in-

terested, spoke out and said: "Christians, you may ground

your arms, you are beat if you knew it." Elder Pelham's voice

in the meantime had become hoarse, recognizing which the little

man again spoke: "Neighbors, you ought to consider that a

man's lungs are not made of brass. This man has spoke long

enough and said sufficient to satisfy any reasonable people;

but, if you are not satisfied, you ought to quit now and take

another opportunity." Instead of this sound advice being

quietly received it only served to irritate and caused some to

become factious.  A man now arose who authoritatively said:

"Come, neighbors, you have gone far enough, and it will be-

come my duty to use my authority and command the peace,

unless you desist." Peace having thus been restored the meet-

ing was dismissed.

The discomfited people, stung by having been overcome

by one whom, from his appearance thought to be a boy, in order

to excuse themselves circulated the report that "the lad" had

been brought up by the Shakers. who had always kept him in

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school, and he had done nothing else, in order that he might

out argue everybody.

For full six weeks the elders remained, and held several

other meetings. Ralph Russell's three brothers, Elijah, Elisha

and Rodney, united with him. The two former owned farms

adjoining that of Ralph, while the farm of Rodney was some

distance, but in the same township. Rodney, being single,

lived with his mother on Ralph's premises. To these believers

there were added Riley Honey and Chester Risley, the former

single and the latter married, each of whom owned land ad-

joining that of the Russells. All of these men, with their

wives and older children, adopted the forms, costumes, customs

and doctrines of the Shakers. Of the six men all remained

faithful with the exception of Ralph.

Immediately the believers commenced to organize, enlarged

their accommodations, erected log cabins, cleared lands and in

a short time there was an interesting group of houses, and the

smoke of their chimneys, in the winter season, assumed the

appearance, to a distant observer, of a rich cluster of wigwams.

The general oversight of the infant community was vested in

the ministry at Union Village. The local leader was Ralph

Russell, who proved himself very efficient.

A religion at variance with that to which people are gen-

erally accustomed, and especially one advocating radical meas-

ures, must, in the necessity of things, meet with opposition.

This was true in the case of the United Believers at North

Union, but not so violent as that encountered by the society

at Union Village. The first organization at North Union occa-

sioned much excitement, and their doctrines and method of

worship were subjected to ridicule, as well as opposition. In

due time this feeling entirely subsided by giving way to respect

for the people, who soon became regarded as honest in their

peculiar religious views and upright in their transactions with

the community at large.

The United Believers at Union Village were not remiss

in their obligations to those at North Union. Soon after the

departure of Richard W. Pelham and James Hodge to their

home at Union Village, the ministry there delegated Richard

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38        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


McNemar, Richard W. Pelham, James Hodge, Anna Boyd and

Betsey Dunlavy to proceed to the new settlement and organize

the believers into a common family, to be known in reference

to the parent as "The North Union." It was soon after this

organization that public worship, after the manner of that sect,

was held in a log cabin near the residence of Ralph Russell,

and these meetings were so continued with satisfactory results

until near the close of the year. When the elders returned to

Union Village they were accompanied by some of the brethren

from  North Union, who desired to study the doctrines and

observances more fully as exemplified in the usages of the older

community. Their report gave every assurance that The True

Millenium Church had been fully established, of which they

had now become an integral part. In the spring of 1823, sec-

tion 23 of Warrensville township was purchased by the trus-

tees of Union Village and formally consecrated. Other lands

were purchased and some received by donations.

After the society had been in successful operation for a

period of four years, and was increasing in strength and good

works, through the frequent visitations of the elders and

eldresses from the parent community, without a permanent or-

ganization, early in the spring of 1826, Ashbel Kitchell was

appointed presiding elder, and came, accompanied by James

McNemar, Lois Spinning and Thankful Stewart. The society

now began to assume the appearance of an organized body

well officered. The established order of the eldership was now

introduced for the first time. The equality of the sexes was

brought into exercise in the government of the community,

which consisted of two of each sex, each governing its own

side of the house. The one-man power, or one-woman power,

was thoroughly eliminated, and the practice was introduced of

all working together and in harmony, as the head of the body.

It was then and is still claimed that this mode of government

is founded upon the Gospel of Christ's second appearing.

In the year 1828 the time appeared ripe for the signing of

the Covenant. To this instrument no one was allowed to sub-

scribe his or her name save those of lawful age and such as

had been "duly prepared by spiritual travel and Gospel experi-

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ence," that no undue advantage should be taken of those who

had not counted the cost sufficiently before making an entire

consecration. This practical test of Shakerism was signed Sep-

tember 8 by the following persons: Elijah Russell, James S.

Prescott, Samuel Russell, Chester Risley, Return Russell,

Elisha Russell, John P. Root, Wm. Andrews, Edward Russell,

Wm. Johnson, Daniel N. Baird, Ambrose Bragg, Benjamin

Hughey, Barney Cosset, Riley Honey, Ebenezer Russell, Mary

E. Russell, Prudence Sawyer, Emma H. Russell, Lydia Russell

1st, Lydia Russell 2d, Jerusha Russell 1st. Jerusha Russell 2d,

Clarissa Risley, Clarinda Baird, Melinda Russell, Hannah Ad-

dison, Caroline Bears, Candace P. Russell, Mercy Sawyer,

Esther Russell, Abigail Russel, Phebe Russell, Phebe Andrews,

Almeda Cosset, Adaline Russell and Diana Carpenter. Later

in the fall of 1828 sixteen more brethern and twenty-seven sis-

ters signed the same document, making in all eighty members.

The church was fully organized by the election of James S.

Prescott, Chester Risley, Prudence Sawyer and Eunice Russell

as elders and eldresses; Return Russell, Elisha Russel, John

P. Root, Lydia Russell 1st and Huldah Russell as deacons and

deaconesses. The duties of the above officers are mainly spir-

itual, the temporalities being controlled by a board of trustees,

operating under the ministry.

The signing of the Covenant was not only consecrating

their own energies to the cause they had espoused, but also the

absolute surrender of all their possessions to the church. The

act of September 8, 1828, placed under the absolute control of

the society a large tract of land, which, together with some

acquired afterwards, made the sum total of 1,366 acres, which

continued in its possession until the final dissolution, all of

which, save 126 acres, is located in the northwest corner of the

township of Warrensville, in sections II, 12, 13, 21, 22, 23, 24.

32, 33, 34. Of the remaining part 15 acres is located in section

414 and 102 acres of section 422 of East Cleveland township,

and a fraction over 9 acres in section 422 of Newburgh town-

ship. A plat of this land is given in the accompanying illus-


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40        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.

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The land on which the society first started was owned by

Ralph, Elijah and Elisha Russell, Chester Risley and Riley

Honey, all of whom owned adjoining farms. Return Russell

and the trustees of Union Village purchased farms adjoining

these, already cleared. Other farms, at a distance, were ex-

changed for lands contiguous to the community, by John P.

Root, Oliver Wheeler and Rodney Russell, all of which were

under some degree of improvement.

This land is slightly rolling, through the center of which

runs Doan's Brook, having a narrow valley, but of sufficient

depth to afford admirable drainage. It is located upon the

high tablebland overlooking the City of Cleveland. When first

bought it was very heavily timbered with beech, maple, white-

wood, oak, elm, birch, walnut, basswood and hemlock. On

the border of the creek, between the site of the Mill Family

and the ruins of the old grist-mill-notice of which will again

be made-is a grove of native hemlock, which, in point of

beauty, is not surpassed by any in the county. The Shakers

left it just as nature made it,-unadorned and unimproved.

The first settlers on this soil judged that land capable of pro-

ducing such a growth and variety of trees, some of which were

from four to seven feet in diameter, especially of the white-

wood and chestnut, must be of the first quality for agricul-

tural purposes. In this they greatly erred and were sadly dis-

appointed. The deception may be accounted for from the fact

that, owing to the great lapse of time since vegetation began

to grow on it, the annual decay of the grass and the foliage of

the trees gradually deposited the top soil, which varies in depth

from five to ten inches. Below this is hard clay, resting upon

sandstone. This top soil made the timber, the roots of much

of which did not penetrate into the clay, notably the sugar-

maple, which is easily blown over as soon as the forest is cleared

and the winds have a full sweep, in consequence of which the

roots run close to the surface of the ground. On account of

the great abundance of the last-named tree it was not unusual

during the early days of the society to make 3,000 weight of

maple sugar annually.

42 Ohio Arch

42        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


The lesson was soon learned that the soil was better adapted

for dairy and grazing purposes than for raising grain, although

good crops were produced for several years after the first

clearing of the land; after that it was figured that there was

a loss of ten per cent. for every year it was ploughed, unless

highly fertilized. Long experience taught the Shakers that the

best way to manage this soil was to stock it down, put on

fertilizers, top-dress it, sow on the grass seed, under-drain it,

keep the water from standing on it and keep the cattle off.

Then it will produce two tons per acre on the average. Noth-

ing is more ruinous to this land than to let the cattle and horses

tread it up when the ground is soft or full of water; for every

footprint leaves a hole where the water settles, and not only

kills the grass, but also the life of the soil. Hence the people

learned that the ground should be seldom ploughed, and never

when it was wet.

The leadership of Elder Ashbel Kitchell proved to be of

great service to the community. He had an iron will and his

word was law, and fortunately for the people they acquiesced

in his plans. He was presiding elder for a period of five years,

during which time the society made a great access in buildings

and improvements, among which was the first frame house,

called the Center House, 30 by 40 feet, two stories high, built

by James McNemar, standing on the very spot of land where

Ralph Russell saw the vision heretofore mentioned. There was

also constructed the first grist-mill, built of wood, 30 by 50 feet,

with two run of stone and all the apparatus for bolting wheat.

There was erected a frame house, 30 by 45 feet, which was sub-

sequently occupied for a church, or, as the Shakers call it, the

Meeting House; also an ox barn, 24 by 50 feet; a cow barn,

80 by 40 feet; a grain barn, 40 by 70; a tan house, 30 by 35

feet, and an office, 24 by 36 feet, besides clearing off about ten

acres of heavy timbered land at the grist-mill, and making

various other important improvements. Nearly all these build-

ings were at the Middle Family, which was always the principal


Ashbel Kitchell was succeeded by Matthew Houston, and

after two years he in turn was succeeded by David Spinning,

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who became presiding elder October 24, 1832, and held the

office for a period of eight years, during which time the com-

munity continued to increase in numbers and grow and pros-

per in all things, both temporal and spiritual.

In June, 1834, a new ministry was formed, consisting of

Elder David Spinning, Richard W. Pelham, Eldresses Lucy Faith

and Vincy McNemar,-all save the first named recently sent

from Union Village. A better selection could not have been

made, for all were consecrated to the work, able in their ex-

position of the Gospel, of upright example, and could not be

swerved from their duties. With such a coterie the impetus

received under Elder Kitchell would necessarily continue.

But Elder David did not wait for this valuable accession to

the ranks. In September, 1832, he caused to be erected a build-

ing called the red shop, 30 by 120 feet, two stories high, designed

mostly for workshops, which was completed in 1833. It was

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44         Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


subsequently divided into three parts, one removed and formed

for a boys' house, one shoved south of the family house and

used for a work-house, and the remaining one for a broom-

shop. In 1836 a building was erected for a sheep barn, 24 by

50 feet, placed on the north hill. In the spring of 1837 a new

saw-mill was built at the Mill Family, 21 by 43 feet, two stories

high, the upper part of which was occupied for a coopershop,

and there was made tubs, pails, churns, etc., of pine lumber,

shipped from Michigan, from land owned by the society. Just

above this mill an expensive mill-dam was constructed across

the creek, forming a pond of water covering about twenty-five

acres. The same year a barn was built for the Mill Family, 36

by 50 feet, located by the roadside south of the creek. In 1838

a dwelling house was erected for the same family, 34 by 50

feet, two stories high, with an underground room for a kitchen,

making it three stories on the south side. It was during the

eldership of David that spirit manfestations were recognized,

a detailed account of which will be given under the considera-

tion of religious dogmas.

On September 15, 1840, the leadership of the society was

conferred on Elder Samuel Russell, who presided over its desti-

nies for a period of eighteen years, during which time it pro-

gressed in things temporal and spiritual, in buildings and im-

provements. Under this administrtion the community reached

its culminating point, both as to numbers and material develop-

ment and growth. The advance had been steady, with but

comparatively few drawbacks. The membership increased to

nearly two hundred, living at one time in the three families.

A marked decline set in at the close of this period which steadily

increased until the final abandonment of the community. Thirty-

six years saw the community growing in wealth, developing

spiritually, increasing in numbers;-thirty-one years marked the

period of decay, slow at first, but rapid towards the final con-


Among the first improvements was an addition to the resi-

dence at the Middle Family of a kitchen 20 by 60 feet, two

stories high, with a bell weighing three hundred and twenty-

six pounds, purchased in Cincinnati for $130. It cost an ad-

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dition of $15 for transportation. The kitchen was very con-

venient, and later all necessary improvements were added, such

as stoves, ranges, bakers, etc. It consisted of a dining-room,

with two long tables; twenty-five persons could be seated at

each, the sisters on the south and the brethren on the north

side. Over the dining-room was a chapel, used three evenings

in the week for family worship; also on Sunday. West of the

cook-room was the bake-room, and over these were two dwell-

ing rooms and two shops for the sisters.

These additions were made necessary, for the society had

increased until in 1840 there were one hundred members at the

Middle Family, about equal in numbers of each sex, including

children, and in each of the other two families there were fifty

members, making in all two hundred in this community.

In 1843 a new stone grist-mill was built on the north side.

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of the creek, near the extreme western part of this land and

not far from the hemlock grove. On the south end it was four

stories high. Its massive walls of the basement story was

built of sandstone, four feet thick, quarried on the spot, or

near by. The gearing was mostly of cast-iron. The penstock

was hewn out of solid sandstone, to a depth of 50 feet. The

front was laid with heavy blocks of stone, mitered in, laid with

hydraulic cement. There were three run of stone, cast-iron

shafts, 50 feet long, running from the stones above down to the

cast-iron arm-wheels below. Besides all this there were two

new bolts and screen, smut-mill, and a place for grinding coarse

feed. When it was built good judges pronounced it to be one

of the best flouring-mills in Ohio. It was a monument of solid

masonry and workmanship.

In 1848 a new church was erected, 100 feet long and 50

48 Ohio Arch

48        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


feet wide, large, commodious and built of wood. It was dedi-

cated November 29, 1849. It is divided into three parts. At

the south end are rising seats for the public, fenced off by a

railing, occupying 20 feet of the floor room, used by the gen-

eral public. At the north end 24 feet of the space is cut off for

the use of the ministry. On first floor are two apartments.

These parts are separated by a hallway 10 feet in width. This

hallway is entered through a double doorway. The men's

apartments have a doorway to the hall, the audience-room and

an exit. The same is also true of the apartment of the women.

Over these apartments are others for the elders and eldresses,

or ministry, leading to which is a stairway through the hall.

Each of the upstairs apartments is divided into two rooms

and a closet. At both ends are double doorways, and the same

on the west side, the latter seldom ever used. The arrangement

gave the worshippers a space of about 50 feet square, surrounded

by benches fastened to the wall. Wooden pins abound in the

building, used for the purpose of suspending hats and coats.

There is also a stairway leading to the attic and one to the cellar.

The attic exhibits the massive timber used in its construction.

The building was painted white.

The building of the church was followed by the erection of

a shool house a few rods south of the former, constructed of

brick, 21 by 36 feet, well furnished with stationary seats and

desks, and teacher's platform on the north side near the mid-

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dle. It was well ventilated and furnished with the best ap-

proved books, globes, maps, blackboards and all other appa-

ratus in use in district schools.

The times also demanded a kitchen for the office, and one

was built 15 by 36 feet, two stories high. About the same

time a small two-story building was put up near the northeast

corner of the church, used by the ministry for a workshop,

the lower story by the men and the upper for the women.

In 1854 the woolen factory was erected, 24 by 50 feet,

three stories high on the south and four stories on the north

side, including the basement, built of brick. The upper story

was occupied by a spinning jack of 160 spindles, two power

looms for weaving cloth and a twister. The next story below

was used for the carding machines,-the most of their wool

being manufactured into stocking yarn. In the story immedi-

Vol. IX-4.

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50        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


ately under this last named was an iron lathe for turning broom

handles, and in the basement was a large grindstone and a buzz-

saw for sawing wood for fuel, which kept between forty and

fifty fires supplied through the winter. The entire machinery

was carried by water power supplied by an overshot wheel, with

water drawn from the upper pond through an artificial race.

This is a narration of some of the improvements made

under the immediate supervision of Elder Samuel Russell, who

went further in this direction than any one ruling that com-

munity. His attention was also called to the better stock of

cattle and horses. Of the former he secured the Durham and

Devonshire breeds, of the most thoroughbred that could be

obtained in either England or the United States. The horses

adopted were those evenly matched in color, size and speed-

it proving nothing whether they were Morgan, French, Cana-

dian or Arabian.

The withdrawal of Elder Samuel Russell from the society

in 1858 left his office vacant, which was immediately filled by

the appointment of John P. Root in the ministry. In 1862 the

ministry was dissolved.

About the year 1858, on account of some financial troubles,

vaguely hinted at and their origin, Elder Richard W. Pelham

was sent from Union Village to straighten it out. He remained

two years engaged in this work. This mission did not interfere

with the work of Elder Root.

There is no record of any special improvement after 1858.

In 1870 the condition had become such that a rumor was cur-

rent that an abandonment was contemplated. This met with

an indignant denial. At this time the three families were kept

up, having a membership of one hundred and twenty-five.

In 1874 the Novitiate Elder and Eldress were James S.

Prescott and Prudence Sawyer.

In 1875 there were still three families, numbering one hun-

dred and two persons, of whom seventeen were children and

youths under twenty-one years of age. Of these last six were

boys and eleven girls. Of the adult members, forty-four were

women and forty-one men. Their number had recently in-

creased, although during the previous fifteen years there had

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Rise, Progress and Extinction of the Shakers.    51

been a gradual diminution. Of the members then remaining

about one-third were brought up in the society. Of the re-

mainder most of them had been by religious connections Bap-

tists, Methodists and Adventists. The majority had been farm-

ers, but there were also sailors, whalemen and weavers. Some

were Englishmen, others Germans, still others Swiss, but the

greater portion were Americans. The buildings now began to

exhibit neglect, showing a want of thorough painting and the

neatness of shops. They had no steam laundry, nor provision

for baths. They possessed a small library and took the daily

New York World and Sun. They had no debts, but possessed

a fund at interest. Their chief source of income was supply-

ing milk and vegetables to Cleveland, as well as fire wood and

lumber. Their dairy brought them the previous year $2,300.*

The Shaker for November, 1876, contains the following

notice of North Union:

"Anticipated development of stone quarry at this place

looks like a steady source of income to society.  Grist-mill,

built in 1843, has failed for years to be more than a conven-

ience, and sometimes only an expense, is now running by steam

and likely to be appreciated as one of the best in the country.

Nearly 1,000 bushels of oats threshed. Early potatoes were a

good crop; late ones not so good-bugs, etc. Roots and garden

products coming in well. A dairy herd at the center family-

forty cows-are unequalled in the state."

In 1879 the East Family had twenty-five members, of which

John P. Root and Charles Taylor were the elders, and Rachel

Russell and Harriet Snyder the eldresses. The Middle Family

had thirty members, of which Samuel Miner and George W.

ingalls were elders and Lusetta Walker and Clymena Miner the

eldresses. The Mill Family had twelve members, of which

Curtis Cramer and Watson Andrews were elders and Lydia

Cramer and Temperance Devan eldresses. The board of trus-

tees consisted of James S. Prescott, George W. Ingalls and

Samuel S. Miner, and the deaconesses of Candace Russell, Abi-

gal Russell and Margaret Sawyer.

*Nordhoff's Communistic Societies of the United States, p. 204.

52 Ohio Arch

52        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


As the society had ever been dependent on Union Village

for its ministry, and as there was no ministry resident, those

who filled that position were, at this time, William Reynolds,

Amos Parkhurst, Louisa Farnham and Adaline Wells.

The members of the community, for the greater part, had

reached an age when they could not toil as of yore. Hence it

became necessary to employ laborers and the fruits were not of

the increase. John P. Root ceased to be presiding elder in 1876

and was succeeded by James S. Prescott, who in turn was suc-

ceeded by Samuel Miner in 1878.

In 1889, owing to the age of the members and the num-

bers decreased to twenty-seven, and the East Family buildings

having been abandoned, further struggle was deemed unwise.

Matthew Carter, of Union Village, was made property trustee,

who afterward turned the office over to Joseph R. Slingerland

and Oliver C. Hampton, also of Union Village. On October

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Rise, Progress and Extinction of the Shakers.    53


24, 1889, the society was dissolved, eight of the members going

to Union Village and the remainder to Watervelt, near Dayton,

Ohio. At the time of the dissolution of the society the elders

were Samuel S. Miner and Clymena Miner at the Middle Family

and Watson A. Andrews and Temperance Devan at the Mill

Family. Then came the auction for the disposal of such chat-

tels as the members did not desire to take with them. Two of

the brethren remained to look after the buildings and collect the

rent. Some three years later the land, by the trustees, Joseph

Slingerland and Oliver C. Hampton, was sold to T. A. and

Lawrence Lamb for the sum of $316,000. A few years still

later the same land sold for $1,365,000. The park system of

Cleveland, with its boulevards now (1900) takes in all of Doan

Creek that once belonged to the Shakers of North Union.



I have never seen any description of the three families

that constituted North Union. The description that here fol-

lows depends almost entirely on my own trips to the locality.

made March 8, 27 and April 1, 1900. My first walk was for

the sole purpose of locating the village and obtaining a general

view. The second trip was for the purpose of obtaining defi-

nite information concerning such things as I was unable to de-

termine during my first visit. Fortunately I learned of Mr.

John Ubersax, who was in the employ of the society from 1861

to 1869, and he accompanied me and readily gave me such

information as I required. He was the peddler for both the

brethren and sisters, carved thirty-four of the head-stones in

the cemetery, and laid the stone walks at the Middle Family.

Approaching the lands from the west the first object that

attracts the eye is the ruins of the old grist-mill. It is one

corner of solid masonry, rising to the height of 45 feet. When

the mill ceased to be of value it was sold. The new proprietor

blew it up with dynamite, in order to extend his stone quarry

underneath it. The dam is at a very narrow part of the stream

hard by, composed of heavy beams. The mill race was covered

from the dam to its junction with the mill. A part still remains.

A few feet north of the mill may be seen the foundation of the

54 Ohio Arch

54         Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


miller's home. The first miller was Jeremiah Ingalls, a mem-

ber of the Mill Family.

Proceeding eastward, leaving the Hemlock Grove, we next

came to the site of the Mill Family, not a single building of

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Rise, Progress and Extinction of the Shakers.   55


which remains; nor are the foundations in a good state of pres-

ervation, save that of the saw-mill, close by the great dam of

earth and stone. All this destruction has taken place since its

desertion by its last inhabitants. These buildings were all of

wood, with sandstone foundations. The mill building proper

was removed, while the remaining buildings were destroyed by

fire. While Doan Creek is narrow at this point, yet there is

a marked declivity of the land towards the banks of the stream.

The residence was on the bank, so built, in all probability, for

the purpose of having a basement kitchen. The wall for the

cheese house commenced at the bed of the stream. The never-

failing spring ran through the wash house. The barns (marked

3, 3, in the accompanying diagram) were on the south side on

high land overlooking that on which the other buildings were

placed. These barns were connected with the residence by a

roadway, now abandoned. The bridge remains in a ruined

condition. This was the bridge crossed by the patrons of the

saw-mill from the south. The buildings were arranged for the

two-fold purpose of health and convenience. The dam, al-

though well built, at times was a source of some danger during

freshets. But such breaks as occurred were repaired without

delay, unless unavoidable. As an additional protection willows

were planted, which also extended along the embankments. At

the present time there is a broad space enlarging the dam,

built as an extension of Cleveland's boulevard system. Another

arm of the same system extends a bridge and roadway between

the site of the mill and that of the residence.

The family sometimes called the North, also the Second,

but generally known as the Mill Family, for its existence de-

pended largely on the grist-mill to the west and the saw-mill

at the dam. When in the highest degree of their prosperity

they were great sources of income. The saw-mill turned out

lumber, and vessels of various kinds that met with a ready and

profitable sale. The water from the spring was carried to the

residence through pipes, and being soft, was used for such pur-

poses as cooking, washing and bathing. In everything the sis-

ters were favored as well as the brethren, not only in the matter

of convenience, but in the power to produce and sell.

56 Ohio Arch

56        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.

Of the Center or Middle Family the greater number of

buildings still stand, a faithful witness of good workmanship

and heavy and solid timbers. These have stood for a period of

Click on image to view full size

more than forty years. All of them show the hand markings

of neglect. Decay of the buildings commenced with the decay

of the community. With the exception of the broom shop,

painted red, there is scarcely a trace of paint on any of the build-

ings. Even the white church has the appearance of unpainted

boards long exposed to rains. The buildings have every ap-

pearance of a long deserted village. Most of the buildings are

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Rise, Progress and Extinction of the Shakers.    57

not used and those in use are neglected. Amidst the ruins,

even the unpracticed eye can read the testimony of former pros-


My first approach to the village was from the northwest.

The family residence and office appeared familiar when I caught

the first distant view. I had seen them before. There can be

no mistake. The impression was too vivid. That was my first

appearance in that vicinity. Perhaps years ago I saw them

in a dream, which dream was laid up in a substratum of my

brain. I do not know. I only know I had seen them before.

In this village were two brick buildings, the woolen mill

and the school house. The former was blown up to make room

for the boulevard, and not a trace remains, although the mill

race is practically intact. When the children were too few

in number to have a teacher the school building was sold and

the brick removed. The buildings are connected with sand-

stone slabs regularly laid, so that in the muddiest season there

was no effort in passing to the school house, church, office,

nursery or hospital, girls' house, wash house, etc. With a few

exceptions these stones are still in place. The buildings that

have been removed, besides those already mentioned, were dry

house (13), horse barn (14), big square barn (20), carpenter

shop (21), tannery (22), and woodshed (28). Some of the build-

ings could be put in repair at comparatively small expense, no-

tably the church, the office and the residence; but as there is no

necessity for this, they will vanish in a few more years, even

as those who erected them have passed away. A German fam-

ily now lives in the office and a Hungarian family in the resi-


Besides agriculture the Middle Family depended on the

sale of brooms, stocking yarn, leather and broom handles. The

principal resource was broom making, which was carried on

quite extensively, the brush having been bought in Illinois. The

sisters manufactured bonnets, stockings, mittens, socks, gloves,

etc., besides canning and drying fruit, making apple butter, etc.

The buildings of the East Family practically remain intact,

although decay is written over all of them. The family resi-

dence is of about the same size and construction as that at the

58 Ohio Arch

58        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


Center. When the buildings were erected and when the family

retired to the Center I have no record. It was abandoned since

1879, and probably not long anterior to the dissolution of the


This family was originally the Gathering Order, which con-

sisted of four elders, two of each sex, where all were directed

to go who desired to join the community, and where strangers

called to secure information respecting future membership.

Many called in the fall of the year and when spring opened

would withdraw. These were called "Winter Shakers." The

principal resources of this family were the manufacture and

sale of brooms and the selling of milk at the door.

The third and last trip was made with Mr. Ralph Hogan,

who accompanied me for the purpose of taking such photo-

graphs as I desired, which accompany this work. In the three

trips I found the ground muddy and in places almost impas-

sable. It is probable that the Shakers improved their own

roads, although the evidence is wanting.

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Rise, Progress and Extinction of the Shakers.   59




The arts and sciences have already been indirectly treated

and need not be specially pointed out. Their dress was not

unlike that of the Quakers. The men wore their hair long be-

hind, and the women had their heads enclosed in caps. Their

dress was plain, severely so. In this that of the women was

more striking and least attractive.

They did not associate with the world, save in the matter

of gain. They sought no acquaintances, but lived strictly within

themselves; but having frequent visits and communications with

the parent Union Village.

The Western Reserve Historical Society possesses three

MS. letters, which are here inserted, being of sufficient interest

for preservation. These letters were not enclosed in envelopes,.

but endorsed on the back, one having a broken seal. The first

is endorsed, Rhoda Watson.

"UNION VILLAGE Dec. 2d 1828.

Kind Sister Rhoda I received your handsome little pres-

ent by the hand of the Brethren together with your kind love

&c, for which I truly feel thankful for I wish to remember

& be remembered every faithful cross-bearer,--I likewise

was very much pleased to read your good determinations as ex-

pressed in the conclusion of your little letter; and I can assure

you if you abide faithful in the calling whereunto you are called

the end of your faith will be the salavation of your soul,-I am

glad to hear of any one setting out to save themselves from this

untowered generation.-

As to any Kindness or charitable feeling manifested by me

while I was there I can make you heartily welcome I re-

member very well of paying a visit to your house when James

was on his deathbed.-I felt willing to show kindness but I

had but little opportunity that I remember of If I remember

right you was unwell yourself when I was there and besides

that and attending on James you had a young child, & was

obliged to neglect it a little sometimes-perhaps on one of these

occasions I might have tried to help a little, but I cannot re-

60 Ohio Arch

60        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


member of much, - however it seems that you accepted a willing


It is a time of general health which blessing for one I

enjoy and have since you saw me (in general)-So as a token of

my well wishes I send you this little present,-I thought I must

send you something that would be of use to you as probably

you are in the habit of wearing a cap before now.-The chest-

nuts are quite a rarity with us, of course taste very good. -I

have sent you a hymn noted down. -This may suffice to express

my faith and determination-

Be so kind as to accept of my best gospel love and give

it to as many as you feel - but in particular to Elder Ashbel - &

Bro Rufus-Eldresses Lois & Sister Thankful & Sister Polly,

&c,-for I do love them-


The next is without date, but addressed to Thankful, Union

Village. It is on paper that bears greater age than the above.

How it was returned to North Union is unknown. "Thankful"

is probably Thankful Stewart.

"Kind Sisters Thankful and Polly  I cannot express the

sensations of love and gratitude I owe you with the rest of my

kind Elders for the blessings the kindness & good ministra-

tions which I have received from you ever since my first ac-

quaintance with you for which may I never cease to be thank-

ful though tongue cannot express As we are now to be left

destitute for a little season of the kind care and protection of

our Elders O remember us in your prayers that we may be

enablled to walk agreeable to your desires and not leaving a

wound upon so glorious a cause as we are called to obey I

feel like one among my Brethren and Sisters that means to be

faithful while you are absent from us and through life for I

do feel thankful for the privilege which I now enjoy through

the blessings of the gospel O may we again have the privilege

of seeing all our Elders that we may be the better enabled to

make our thankfulness more clearly manifest be so kind as to

accept of my best love and give it to all with whome I have

had any acquaintance and all that belong to the family of Christ

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Rise, Progress and Extinction of the Shakers.  61


and Mother for may I ever esteem love and union as the great-

est treasure on the earth-In haste.

So kindly Farewell,


The third letter is of a different nature and calls up travel-

ing of other days. It had been sealed and on the back was "To

Sister Rhoda North Union Center Family."


Respected Sister Rhoda.-I now undertake to write a. few

lines to let you know how we got along on our journey. The

Brethren both turned sick soon after we left the shore and

could not sit up part of the way. Elderess Sister did not own

that she was sick.

The swells were so high and rough that I became sickened

though not so much as to vomit. By dinner time we were some

better & eat some. after this we were well enough, with the

exception of a dizziness in the head. We left Cleveland at 9

o'clock and reached Sandusky half past 2. here we put up

at a carr office, took supper and learned that the morning train

did not leave until 10 oclock Friday, and at Springfield stay

over night, then reach Dearfield by 8 oclock Saturday morning.

Rather than tarry so long by the way, we chose to go along

with the train that ran in connection with the boat that we

had left. This train had but two passenger carrs attached to it,

and think there were about 50 people in the one we were in

and not so many in the other. We left Sandusky a little be--

fore 6 evening and got to Springfield half past 3 morning.

Our tickets told us that we were 134 miles from the Lake.

This train runs no farther than to this place & back again.

therefore we all moved ourselves & baggage out, and into

another that runs from this place to Cincinnati. We started I

think, about 4, passed through Xenia soon after day break and

reached Dearfield* just at 8 oclock Fri morning. No one

but ourselves stoped here, and at that moment the Lebanon

Hack drove up and took us in. We had no rain on our way,

*Now South Lebanon.

62 Ohio Arch

62        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


and here we found the roads as dusty as they were when we

left home, and a great change as far as the eye could behold

the leaves on the trees were mostly red or yellow, the earth and

grass seemed parched and dry. The Hack landed us safe at our

door by 10 Oclock Friday morning. The Brethren and Sisters

were not looking for us untill next day. Nothing very especial

took place while we were absent, and we found the family in

tolerable good health, and glad to see our safe return. The

next day after we got home it began to rain and was showery

for. three days. Since that we have fair weather and a pleas-

ant time for our good friends from Pleasant Hill,* a carriage

load of them have come to Union Village, and are visiting the

Second Family to-day. we have learned some pretty little

songs from them. Their names are as follows Elder Brother

Joel Shields and Henry Daily Elder Sister Sophia Vooris &

Elenor Hatfield.

Brother Timothy wishes to send a pleasant spinner by the

Brethren, and he has not sufficient time to make one before

they start, therefore he sends one that has been in use long

enough to be proved very good.

With much pleasure we will long remember our visit at

North Union, and not at this time return our warmest thanks

and best love love love.

I would like to have my particular love given to all the

Sisters, and especially to the young Sisters. Were it not for

being so tedious I would love to name them all, one by one,

but I think I have already been tedious enough so

Farewell in love,



These letters are written in a clear, legible hand, and prob-

ably indicate the general nature of the correspondence between

the communities of North Union and Union Village.

It is not to be inferred that their interests were wholly

within themselves. The general reputation of the Shakers is

that they are kind to the unfortunate and needy and never

*A Shaker Community in Kentucky.

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Rise, Progress and Extinction of the Shakers.    63


turn away one empty handed from their door. Unfortunately,

however, when one leaves them, even though he or she may

have been a faithful follower for years and rendered most ex-

cellent service, that one is abandoned and "given over to the

world, the flesh and the devil." While this is equally true of

all the religious sects it does not redound to their credit. It

is not the Spirit of the Great Exemplar.

On the other hand, it must be noted that while the Shaker

was capable of driving a sharp bargain, yet in his dealings he

was honest. His wares were exactly as represented. Shaker

goods have always been synonomous with honest productions.

Their fabrics were made of the best material, and always found

a ready market.

As may be inferred, the sexes lived apart, although in the

same building. In reference to the Middle Family, the brethren

lived on the north and the sisters on the south side of the main

building. In the days of greatest prosperity those who made

brooms lived over the shop and some at the office. At first the

children were at the East Family; when removed to the Middle

Family the boys had a house not far from the office, and the

girls a residence across the street from the church. The chil-

dren were under the immediate charge of a keeper. No child

under ten was taken into the family unless accompanied by its

father or mother, or both.

The separate families had their own dining-rooms attached

to the main residence. In 1870 there were two long tables,

the brethren served at the one and the sisters at the other. The

ministry always was served at a separate table, and the chil-

dren had their repast after all the others had finished their meal.

It was the practice for all to kneel before and after eat-

ing; no loud talking was permitted during meals, and only

such conversation as became necessary for the serving of the

food. They had breakfast at six o'clock, dinner at twelve and

supper at six. The signal for rising in the morning and for

their meals and meetings was given by a bell. All were sup-

plied with wholesome food in sufficient quantity. Pork was

eschewed, on the grounds that it was not wholesome. Some

of the members refused to eat meat in any form. Alcoholic

64 Ohio Arch

64        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


stimulants or ardent spirits was not allowed to be used, save

when prescribed by a physician as a medicine, and even that

toleration became almost obsolete.

The children were cared for with great kindness, and the

government was strict, and the force usually applied was moral

suasion. At the proper age the child was sent to school, under

the instruction of one of the community, where the common

branches were taught. The last teacher was Miss Elmina Phil-

lips, daughter of Elder Freeman Phillips, of the Mill Family,

who joined the society in 1841. Miss Phillips passed so good

an examination before the county board that it was always

received without further trial. She left the community in 1875,

and now resides in Cleveland. As the Shakers had enough

children to form a district under the law they drew money from

the public funds, but when the children became few in num-

bers the district was divided and assigned to others. The salary

for the teacher's services, like that of all others, went into the

common funds.

Labor was honorable amongst them. Whatever position

one might hold, still he must labor with his hands. But the

general spirit was to move slowly. There was not that incentive

to energy, push and daring characteristic to the man of success.

In the allotment of labor due consideration was allowed to adapt-

ability, and when any one displayed an ingenuity in a certain

line restrictions were not placed on him. Whatever growth

and development that occurred were due to the energy mani-

fested by a leader in that line, as already noted.

As the people lived up to their best ideas of health, there

was, in consequence, but little sickness. Among them con-

tagious diseases were unknown. In the early stages of the

community their mode of practice was Thompsonian more than

any other, but in later years they paid more attention to venti-

lating their sleeping apartments and dwellings, and by the re-

forms instituted sickness became almost unknown, and hence

there was but little use for drugs and doctors. Still there were

two doctors among them, one of whom was a graduate of Yale

College and took lectures under Professor Sullivan. In ex-

treme cases they were known to take the Water Cure. A hospi-

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Rise, Progress and Extinction of the Shakers.   65

tal, called the Nursery, was provided for the sick, and there

all attention demanded was administered with the utmost kind-

ness. As already intimated, the hospital was seldom used, but

under the laws regulating their manners and customs such a

place, when needed, was of the utmost convenience.

Under the regulations adopted it must go unquestioned that

the whole tendency was towards longevity. During the first

forty-eight years of the society's existence, there were ninety-

two deaths, fifty males and forty-two females. The average

age was over forty-nine. Nine were over eighty, thirteen over

seventy, twelve over sixty and ten over fifty years of age. Be-

sides these there were three children under two years, and one

boy under eight who was killed by an accidental fall from a

steep bank below the grist-mill.



Vol. IX-5.

66 Ohio Arch

66        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


The funerals were attended with but little ceremony. When

a person died among them the body was kept from twenty-four

to forty-eight hours, and even longer if circumstnces so re-

quired. The friends and relatives of the deceased outside the

community living at a reasonable distance were notified of the

hour of the funeral. The body was laid out and placed in a

plain coffin, having a lid at the head, and was then placed in

the lower hall of the dwelling, just before the commencement

of the ceremony. The members of the society then assembled in

their chapel, usually with those from the other families. The

meeting opened with a solemn song, or an appropriate hymn

composed for the occasion, after which the elder stepped out

and addressed those present, in which he endeavored to impress

the thought that they too were born to die, and whatever things

were lovely and of good report in the life or character of the

deceased, they should be imitated by the living. Short ad-

dresses were sometimes made by others, in which the brethren

and sisters participated. At the close of this ceremony all

proceeded to the burial. As they passed out of the hall they

took the last farewell look at the remains of the departed by

passing on either side of the coffin with noiseless tread, until

they formed two abreast, brethren with brethren and sisters

with sisters, and in this way they moved slowly and silently to

the grave. Arriving at the place of interment, the coffin was

carefully removed from a vehicle and then lowered into the

grave. The brethren then filled the grave, in which all usually

bore a part. While this was proceeding there was either sing-

ing or speaking. They claimed, in their later history, that

the spirit of the departed often attended the obsequies and com-

municated, through some inspired instrument, words of cheer

and comfort to the living.

The grave having been closed, the one in charge, then dof-

fing his hat, dismissed the attendants in the following words:

"Having performed the last kind act to our departed friend,

we may all return to our homes."  No badge of mourning was

worn, but the dress or suit worn on Sunday was donned.

The burial ground is located in the extreme northwestern

corner of the apple orchard connected with the Middle Family.

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Rise, Progress and Extinction of the Shakers.   67

The space so attached is eighty feet square, surrounded by pine

trees. On the east and south exterior is an avenue of thirty-

five feet hemmed in by a row of mulberry trees, the leaves of

which they used for silk-worms. The burial plat proper is

divided into four sections by two avenues, ten feet in width,

running north and south and east and west. The females were

buried on the north and the males on the south side. The

burial was in ridge rows. The place, while kept plain, yet was

attended with care.

I visited this spot every trip I made. I found the burial

ground fully in keeping with the deserted village. The word

ruin, or dilapidation, was written everywhere.  The tombstones

were in all positions, from the erect to the one flat on the sur-

face. One grave had been opened, and others bore indications

of the same.

68 Ohio Arch

68        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


They commenced the interments at the extreme west side.

All the graves had the headstones in the first row. There were

21 headstones in the first row, 19 in the second, 17 in the third,.

16 in the fourth. Then came the avenue. There were 12 in

the fifth, 3 in the sixth and 2 in the seventh. I counted 13

graves without stones in the sixth and 9 in the seventh. There

were probably other graves, but I failed to identify them.

With but few exceptions the only inscriptions are simply

initials of the name. All are made out of sandstone save one..

In the extreme northwestern corner, lying flat on the grave is

a marble stone, with the following inscription: "Our Mother

Lydia Russell consort of Elisha Russell died June 29, 1839,

aged 63 yrs. 10 ms. 28 ds. This stone was erected by her

daughters in memory of a dear mother."

In the fourth row, eighth stone from the south: "Elisha

Russell died October 15, 1862, aged 83." In the same row,

third grave from the north: "O. M. T.* died May 23, 1858,.

aged 39 years." In the seventh row, fifth grave from the south:

"In memory of Sewel G. Thayer who departed this life Feb.

27, 1881 aged 78 yrs. 7 mo."    Same row: "In memory of

Rodney E. Russell who departed this life Sept. 3, 1880, aged 84

yrs. 3 mo. 3 ds."


The government is a theocracy, all the various communi-

ties in the United States being subservient to that at Mt. Leba-

non, New York. The ministry is the highest order in the selec-

tion of which the general membership has no choice. The com-

munity is under their immediate jurisdiction. Then come the

elders. The legal trustee is the one in whom the land is vested

that the laws of the state might be complied with. The min-

istry was a higher, spiritual state than that of the other elders.

To a certain degree it was removed from the others, and such

associations as occurred was formal. While the first ministry

in the incipient stage preached openly to the world, it was not

true when the organization had become completed. They de-

livered discources to the membership, but during the religious


*Olive Melvina Torrey.

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services known as Public Meetings, when non-members were

admitted to the worship as spectators, the ministry remained in

the second story of their apartments. About six feet above

the floor there was in each apartment-men and women-an

aperture in the wall through which the ministry could see the

worshippers below.

Their mode of government, as already intimated, was to

combine everything within themselves. They were a law unto

themselves. They did not go to law    if the same could be

avoided, but sometimes were drawn into it by seceding mem-

bers. In such cases they defended themselves by employing the

ablest counsel that could be obtained. Their standing counsel,

on all legal questions, for nearly forty years, was Samuel Stark-

weather, of Cleveland. They never lost a case, for the reason

that he never undertook one for them unless he was positive

that they were in the right.

An extraordinary case occurred in the courts of Cuyahoga

county, which was a test one in regard to the validity of their

Church Covenant. It originated by a sister, who, after having

been a member of and residing in the society for the space of

fifteen years, withdrew from it and married a reckless man,

and they connived together to sue for the services which she

had rendered during her membership. It was admitted that

the services had been rendered, but inasmuch as she had signed

the covenant, in which she had voluntarily pledged those services

to a consecrated purpose, the society was thereby released from

all pecuniary obligations.

The interest excited by the trial of this case was very great,

as manifested by the crowds attending the hearing, as it pre-

sented for the first time for decision, in northern Ohio, a ques-

tion which involved a cardinal principle of Shakerism. Emi-

nent counsel was employed on both sides, the defendants having

retained Governor Reuben Wood and Judge Starkweather. The

plaintiffs attempted to avail themselves of the popular preju-

dice which then existed, but their arguments were based on

the assumption that the existence of such a society was against

public policy, by its alleged opposition to the union of the sexes

in matrimony, and by their advocacy of celibacy.

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Governor Wood, in an able argument, overthrew the prop-

osition of the opposing counsel by expounding the law, and

referring to the decisions of the Supreme Court in the states

of Maine and New Hampshire. He was followed by Judge

Starkweather, who, in the ablest speech of his life, showed that

the tree is known by its fruits, that these people called Shakers,

by the simplicity and purity of their lives, by their exemption

from the strife of worldly ambition, and by the consecration

of themselves and all they possessed to their religious faith,

but imitated the example of the Christians in Apostolic days

more than any other sect in Christendom, and that their views

on the subject of matrimony were in no way variant from the

teachings of the Apostle Paul.

The result of this trial was a victory for the Shakers, and

settled a question over which they could never again be dis-

turbed. It is but a matter of justice to Judge Starkweather to

state that for the valuable services he had long rendered them

as legal adviser, he never made any charge or received any

compensation, save what the society deemed best to bestow upon


They never took any part in politics, nor voted at elections,

but paid their taxes according to law. They took no oaths in

the courts of law, but affirmed to tell the truth of what they

knew concerning the case at issue. They bore no arms, nor

studied the art of war. During the Civil War two were drafted

into their country's service. Although a release could have

been procured by the payment of a certain sum, yet this they

refused, because, as they claimed, it was contrary to their prin-

ciples. One of them maimed himself and thus escaped. The

other went into the hospital service and took care of the sick,

owing to his scruples about bearing arms.

It would be unreasonable to claim that under a system as

practiced by the Shakers all would live up to their ideals. Every

community has its weak membership; but those not in harmony

with the ideas promulgated sooner or later retired from the


They were very fortunate in the selection of their legal

trustees, for they never suffered materially by defalcations.

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Public meetings, in the days of their strength, were held

every Sunday at the church, opening usually about the first of

May and continued until the first of September. The services

commenced at half-past 10 o'clock A. M. Their exercises con-

sisted in singing, marching and sometimes in dancing, accord-

ing to the movement of the Spirit. They believed in the Bible

as a revelation from God, but not in plenary inspiration. They

believed it was a record of God in past dispensations, but not

the word itself, for they claimed that could not be limited nor

circumscribed to the boundaries of any book. They believed

in books as records of the word of God, of present revelations,

from which they read and expounded occasionally on Sunday,

in their public meetings, in the attempt to prove from the Bible

that they had the word of God given to them in this day, adapted

to the age in which we live, of which they kept a record.

On such occasions the elders did most of the reading and

speaking, although others, of both sexes, were not prohibited

when impressed by the Spirit. They believed that "where the

Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty."

Other meetings were held in the family during the week,

on Wednesday and Friday evenings, at half-past 7, called Union

Meetings, where the brethren and sisters met together in dif-

ferent rooms, for the purpose of having an hour's social con-

versation on temporal or spiritual subjects, and whatever tended

to promote union, peace and harmony.

On Wednesday and Thursday evenings, at 8 o'clock, they

had family meetings, where they went forth in their usual man-

ner of worship, in singing and marching, two abreast, motion-

ing with their hands, and sometimes toward the close of the

meeting they had a lively dance, quickened by the Spirit.

Their solemn meetings were not wholly confined to the

church and the family chapels. When Shakerism was at its

highest pitch they assembled in the church and there formed a

procession and marched to the Holy Grove equidistant between

the Middle and East Families, and in the woods worshipped

God in His first temple. It must not be inferred that all their

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services were simple, for in the early history of that ism there

were extravagant performances, but time gradually eliminated



Men are more sensitive in regard to their religious views

than any other opinions held. Every man should be accorded

the right to express himself on this point, if for no other reason

than that, owing to the bias of the human mind, it is so easily

misjudged or misinterpreted. On this subject I shall follow

the exact language of James S. Prescott, their historian. In the

Prescott MS. it is stated:

"First-They hold that God is dual, male and female, Father

and Mother; that these two attributes exist in the Deity; that

these two principles are exhibited throughout the universe of

God; wherever we turn our eyes, we behold these two princi-

ples, male and female, throughout the animal kingdom; if we

turn our eyes to the vegetable kingdom we find the same; if

we turn our eyes to the universal kingdom, we find there the

same two great principles, 'positive and negative'; if we look

into the Bible we find the same principles recognized from

Genesis to St. Paul's epistle to the Romans, where he says,

'For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world

are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made,

even his eternal power and God-head, so that they are without

excuse,' Romans 1, 20. According to Moses, among the things

which are made was man: 'So God created man in his own

image; in the image of God created he him; male and female

created he them,' Genesis 1, 27. Thus the duality of God is es-

tablished by holy writ.

"Second-They hold that 'Christ was the Lord from heaven

a quickening Spirit; created male and female in the image of

God; that his first appearance was in the male, in the man Jesus;

his second appearance was in the female: Ann Lee, born in

Manchester, England, in 1736, on the 29th of February; re-

ceived the revelation of Christ in 1770; came over to America

in 1774. First church was organized in 1792.

"Third-They recognize two orders of people on the earth.

1st, The rudimental or Adamic order, where all who wish to

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marry and populate the earth are required to keep the law of

nature, i. e., have no sexual intercourse except for offspring;

whatsoever is more than this, cometh of evil. They do not con-

demn marriage where there are fit subjects to improve the race,

if they keep it where it belongs, in the Adamic order. They

say it is not a Christian institution, but a 'civil right,' therefore

they abstain from it, as Christ and the Apostles did. 2d, The

spiritual order is where all who enter it are required to keep

the 'higher law,' 'the law of grace and truth'; have no inter-

course between the sexes, except social, and that which can

be enjoyed and perpetuated in the 'spirit world.' They hold

to living lives of virgin celibacy, as being the highest, holiest

and happiest life a person can attain to while in the form. They

hold to a separation between these two orders, and between

church and state.

"Fourth-They hold to a community of interest in all

things, where 'no man has aught of the things he possesses he

calls his own, but they have all things common.'

"Fifth-They hold to the doctrine of an oral confession of

sins to God, before living witnesses, as a door of hope into the

church, and as indispensable to finding the power of salvation.

This is the first and initiating step into their order. Not because

the Catholics have derived and retained the form of confession

from the primitive church; not because it is written in the Bible

'confess your faults (i.e., sins) one to another, and pray one

for another, that ye may be healed.' When souls are laboring

under deep convictions of sin, they want some confidential friend

before whom they can open their whole lives, without fear or

reservation, and make a clean breast of it before God. And

this friend they can always find in both sexes in the Shaker

order. As Joshua said to Achan: 'Make confession unto Him

(i. e., God), and tell me now what thou hast done: hide it not

from me.' This was typical of a true Gospel confession. Here

was a confession made to God before a living witness. Joshua

VII, 19.

"Sixth-They hold to dancing as an act of divine worship.

The first founders of the institution were led into it by spirit

influence, and many times by an irresistible power, which at-

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tended them by night and by day. Hence they were greatly

persecuted by their orthodox neighbors, it being so new and

strange, and so contrary to the fixed creeds, lifeless forms and

ceremonies of the churches,-Christian in name, but pagan in


"They say that dancing was the original mode of worship

of God's ancient people, and that it was only fulfilling ancient

prophecies that it should be restored in the latter day (See Jere-

miah XXXI, Psalms and various other Scriptures). Hence

dancing and marching have become their established form of


"Seventh-They believe the resurrection is synonymous with

regeneration; that it is a gradual growth and rising out of the

death of the first Adam, into the life and Spirit of Christ,-a

resurrection of the soul and not of the body. They believe with

St. Paul 'that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God';

'that there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body'; that

when they put off the former, the natural, they put on the latter,

the spiritual; that when the natural body once dies and returns

to dust, it can never be resurrected, changed or transformed

into spirit, without counteracting the immutable laws of nature.

"Eighth-They believe in a probationary state after this

life, that God is just; that the millions of earth's inhabitants

who have died and gone into the 'spirit world,' who never had

a chance to hear and obey the Gospel of salvation in this life,

will have an offer of it there; as it is written, 'For Jesus Christ

also hath once suffered, being put to death in the flesh, but

quickened by the spirit, by which He went and preached to the

spirits in prison,' etc. 1 Peter 111, 18, 19; and in IV, 6; 'For

this cause was the Gospel preached also to the dead, that they

might be judged according to men in the flesh, and live accord-

ing to God in the Spirit,' etc.

"Ninth-They believe that Christ is to judge the world

through His people, as it is written, 'Do ye not know that the

saints shall judge the world?' 1 Corinthians VI, 2, 3. Know

ye not that we shall judge angels? They believe that this work

of judgment has begun on the earth, that the hour of his judg-

ment is come, Rev. XIV, 7; 'And Jesus said, For judgment I

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am come into this world,' John IX, 39; 'And judgment was

given to the saints of the Most High,' Daniel VII, 22; some

men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and

some men they follow after. This work is also progressive and

is inseparably connected with the resurrection of the soul.

"Tenth-They believe that every man will have to atone

for his own sins, and work out his own salvation; that Christ

came to set us an 'example that we should follow his steps,' and

thereby save us from our sins, and not in them. They believe

in being saved by the blood of Christ, i. e., by living his life:

'the blood is the life thereof'; 'this is eating his flesh and drink-

ing his blood,' John VI, 53, 54: thus becoming incorporated

into his spirit, and being at-one-ment will ever avail him any-

thing, and every one will have to become personally righteous

by doing right. 'He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even

as he is righteous,' I John III, 7."



The Shakers claim that communications from    departed

spirits occurred among them several years anterior to the Roch-

ester rappings. Elder James S. Prescott was requested by the

editor of the Cleveland Weekly Herald to write out an account

of these early manifestations at North Union. His article was

copied into the Shaker and Shakess for April, 1874, and was

made use of by Nordhoff in his "Communistic Societies of the

United States," published in London in 1875. As the Prescott

MS. contains some important features not given in the Herald

article, I will more closely follow it than the one already pub-


During the latter part of July, 1838, some young sisters were

walking together on the north bank of Doan Creek, between

the Mill Family and the grist-mill, near the hemlock grove,

when they heard some beautiful singing, which seemed to be

in the air just above their heads. They were taken by sur-

prise, listened with admiration and then hastened home to re-

port the phenomenon. Some of these girls afterwards became

mediums. Prior to this manifestation word had come to the

elders by letter that there was a marvelous work going on in

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some of the eastern societies, notably at Mount Lebanon and

Watervleit in New York, and when it reached those in the west

all should know it; and every individual felt that there was a

heart-searching God in Israel. These manifestations were the

greatest they ever expected to witness on the earth, being more

than an ordinary revival of religion.

The invisibles commenced their work one Sunday among

the little girls in the childrens' order, while in meeting of their

own with their care-takers, the doors were closed, when sud-

denly involuntary exercises commenced, such as going with

great speed across the room, back and forth, with great ve-

locity, nor could they stop, nor be stopped, by any human

agency. A messenger was dispatched in haste to the elders,

with the message that something uncommon was going on in

the girls' department. The elders, then engaged in the regular

religious services, brought the same to a close just as soon as

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circumstances would permit, hastened to the scene to witness

the phenomena. They saw the little girls were under an in-

fluence not their own. They were hurrying around the room,

back and forth, as swiftly as if driven by the wind. When at-

tempts were made to arrest them, it was found impossible, be-

cause that which possessed them was irresistible. Suddenly

they were prostrated upon the floor, apparently unconscious of

what was going on around them. With their eyes closed, mus-

cles strained, joints stiff, they were taken up and laid on beds,

mattresses, etc. Then they began to hold conversations with

their guardian spirits, and others, some of whom they once

knew in the form, making graceful motions with their hands

and speaking audibly, so that all in the room heard and under-

stood, and formed some idea of their whereabouts in spiritual

realms they were explaining. Alternately and at intervals they

would sing some heavenly and melodious songs, motioning

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gracefully with their hands, which surpassed anything they

ever heard before. Sometimes they would appear to be flying,

and their arms and hands would go, apparently as swift as the

wings of a humming bird; at other times they would appear

to be swimming across a river, beyond which was a plain, i. e.,

the rudimental sphere; beyond this was a beautiful country, far

surpassing anything language could describe. They were taken

to the cities of the redeemed and to the mansions of the blessed.

About the same time the boys began to see visions, and

their gifts were similar to that of the girls. These children

were, for the greater part, between ten and twelve years of age,

and entirely incapable of feigning these manifestations, nor

could they have been guilty of collusion, trickery, fraud or any-

thing of that description. All they had to do was to be passive

in the power that enveloped them. Adults of both sexes, whose

physical organization would possibly admit of mediumship, were

soon under the same influence.

The following is the first song given direct from the "spirit

world," sung by a young sister while in a vision, which occurred

in August, 1838. Her guardian angel called the poem

In the year 1843, when the Millerites were looking for

Christ to come literally,  through the literal clouds, he was

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among the Shakers spiritually, in spiritual clouds of his wit-

nesses, accompanied by legions of the invisible hosts. He took

up his abode at North Union for the space of three months,

during which time none were allowed to go off the premises,

except the trustees on public business, or needful occasion.

During this extraordinary visit he made himself known through

mediums of both sexes, and by inspired communications, among

which were brief sketches of his own life, written by his own

hand, corresponding with what is written concerning him in

the New Testament. Likewise a short communication from

each one of his beloved disciples, bearing testimony to the truth

of what the Holy Savior had written, all of which they had in

MS. copied from the original.

The most important event to the Shakers in "spirit mani-

festations," took place at Mount Lebanon, New York, in 1843,

"which will sooner or later interest all mankind." It was in

the giving of the SACRED ROLL AND BOOK, as a word of warn-

ing to the inhabitants of the earth, that the judgments of God

were nigh, even at the door. Of what has taken place since

that time let the world be judge. They are called calamities

by the world, and these have not yet ceased, but grow more

and more serious every year. What will be the end of these

things no one can tell. As true as God spake by Noah to the

antediluvians, even so has he spoken to the world in these days

through the Shakers by the SACRED ROLL AND BOOK.

The Shakers believe that this ROLL might be called the

Bible of the Nineteenth Century, adapted to the day and age

in which we live, and, as such, no doubt will be handed down

to generations yet unborn,-that in the ages to come God's

own book, written by His own Hand, may be left as His hand-

prints on the sands of time.

The Shakers claim they have as much evidence to believe

that the SACRED ROLL AND BOOK were given through a holy

man of God, raised from his childhood in the church at Mount

Lebanon, who wrote and spake as he was moved by the Holy

Spirit, as they have that any part of the New Testament was

so written, and more too; because the former has never been

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perverted by commentators and translators from their original


In this new Revelation the doctrine of the trinity is ex-

ploded, and two great principles established, viz., a FATHER

and a MOTHER in the DEITY. On these two hang all the law

and the prophets, and are the foundation principles of Shaker

theology. All others are tributary to them.

The Shakers did not withhold this new Revelation from

the world; but performed as they were commanded at the time

it was communicated. Five hundred copies were distributed

gratuitously to the nations of the earth as follows: One copy

each was sent to the president and vice president of the United

States, the various heads of the different departments at Wash-

ington, to the governors of the various states and territories

of the American Union, to all the crowned heads of Europe

and the heads of all foreign countries, so far as civilization ex-

tended and access could be had through their ministers and

consuls at Washington. Of all these sent out, the King of

Sweden alone responded.

The spirit manifestations continued for a period of seven

years in succession, in different forms and phases, in which

nearly all nations were represented by the spirits of their dead,

taking possession of living mediums, speaking in their own

language, and acting out all the peculiar characteristics of the

nations to which they beolnged.



Miss Elmina Phillips, at my request, placed at my disposal

her unpublished MS. entitled, "Christmas Among the Shakers

in the Olden Time."

Probably the English founders of Shakerism in America

brought with them the English custom of celebrating Christmas,

and introduced it among their American converts. Certainly

fifty years ago, when the congregational descendants of the

Puritans in New England were going about their usual em-

ployments on Christmas as on any other day, their Shaker de-

scendants in northern Ohio were keeping it as the one great

holiday of the year.

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There was a stir of Christmas preparation in the air two

or three weeks beforehand. Individual members had no money

to spend for Christmas gifts, since all the purchasing for the

community was done by the trustee deacons and deaconesses;

but it was understood that it was to be a day of good cheer and

that the e would be gifts for all.

The eldresses and trustee sisters might be found occasionally

in private consultation, likely to result in a trip of the latter to

the little town, now grown to be a great city, where such things

as they could not raise or manufacture for themselves were ob-

tained. And sometimes a rap at the eldress's door would bring

the family deaconess to the door with an air of Christmas mys-

tery, and through the crack she opened to receive your message

might be heard the click of shears, indicating that new goods

were being cut.

The kitchen deaconess was busy superintending the picking

over of the apples, setting the barrels of choicest ones conven-

ient for Christmas day, inspecting the pickles and preserves,

and honey, etc., consulting with the trustees and the cook and

baker, which consultations were likely to result in cakes and

puddings and chicken and other pies, etc., in due season.

You are thinking, perhaps, as is probably true, that the New

England housewives must have brought recollections of Thanks-

giving to Ohio, where Thanksgiving day had not yet been in-

troduced. But this was only one phase of the preparation-

chiefly the day was kept as holy day. Much of the worship of

the Shakers consisted of singing, and they made their own hymns

and tunes; and Christmas would hardly have been Christmas

if a company of the young people had not gone around in the

early morning singing a Christmas song to awaken the family.

So the favorite hymnist was quietly reminded, now by one young

singer, then another, that a new song for Christmas morning

would be wanted. And the company of singers must be chosen,

and copies of the new song privately written and distributed to

each one, with the music for those that could read it; for op-

portunities must be caught to practice it on the quiet, since it

would not be Christmas like if there were no mystery about it.


Vol. IX-6.

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There were many musical young people among them at that

time, and I have known one hymnist to be applied to for a new

song for two separate companies of singers, neither company

knowing of the other till they met on their rounds in the morn-


And, as the day drew near, the elders did not fail to counsel

the people in meeting that if there were any differences among

them they should be reconciled, that there might be nothing to

mar the Christmas good-will.

On Christmas eve, at half-past seven, at the sound of the

bell, all retired to their rooms, and one read aloud and the others

listened to the story from John XIII of the washing of the dis-

ciples' feet. Then each two washed each other's feet, "and

when they had sung a hymn they went out," if they chose, to

make any final preparations for the morrow.

This was the time usually chosen by the Christmas singing

band for the final, and probably the only full rehearsal of their

morning song; and, as if casually, by twos and threes, they took

their way to some shop sufficiently remote from the dwelling

house that their voices would not be heard there, and in which

the brother in charge of the building had agreed to have a good

fire, and to let the members of the company in by signal. When

they were satisfied that all knew the song, some young brother

volunteered to waken all the company in due time in the morning

and they separated for the night. At nine o'clock all was dark

and silent in the village.

Next morning as early as half-past four the singers met,

perhaps in the kitchen, and partook of some light refreshment,

set ready the night before just to put them in voice, and then

started out to sing, first in the halls of the principal dwelling,

then at every house in the little village, in which several people


By the time they had gone all around the family, if there

was sleighing, a span of horses and sleigh was likely to stand

convenient, and the company merrily started off to sing their

song at one of the other families a mile away. If they met a

sleighload from the other family coming to sing to them, as

they sometimes did, they hailed each other and kept on their

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way, sure of a warm welcome, though not of surprising and

waking the friends where they were going.

And after breakfast, as all rose from the table and kneeled

for a moment in silent thanksgiving together, the new song

was probably sung again in the dining-room, the kitchen sisters

coming in to listen to or join in the singing.

At 9 A. M. the singers met to select and rehearse the hymns

to be sung at the church meeting at the meeting house.

At 10 A. M. came union meeting, which was a number of

social meetings held at the same hour, the brethren usually going

to the sisters' rooms.

The brethren and sisters were seated in two rows facing

each other at opposite sides of the room; doubtless it sounds

more stiff to alien ears than to one brought up from childhood

in the customs of the community. There was cheerful chat of

this and other Christmas days, and singing of new and old

songs, and passing around of pans of cracked nuts and pop-

corn, etc.

At 11 o'clock lunch was carried around to the rooms in big

pans by some of the young brethren and sisters-great quarter

sections of the most delicious cake, if memories may be trusted,

and slices of creamy, home-made cheese and whitest bread and


At 1 P. M. all the families assembled at the meeting house.

The services were the same as at the usual Sunday meetings,

except that there were special hymns and special readings from

scriptures, old and new.

After meeting baskets of choice apples were carried around

and the gifts which had been prepared for each one-usually

some article of clothing somewhat nicer than common.

At 4 P. M. came the principal meal of the day, and after-

wards a big basket was carried around to the rooms to receive

offerings of clothing for the poor. All were expected to give

something from their own store. And the day closed with quiet

talk, probably interspersed with singing.

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Hail, hail, the beautiful morn hath dawned

The joy of angels and men;

The star of the east, with beauty beyond

All others has risen again.

Awake, disciples of Christ, and sing,

Your robes of gladness put on,

And precious gifts and offerings bring

Our loved Redeemer to crown.

Not gold, nor myrrh, nor frankincense sweet

Our Savior asks from our hands,

But hearts that with love and tenderness beat

To bless and comfort his lambs.

Go seek and feed my wandering sheep,

Forgive the erring and lost,

Thus prove your love for me, and thus reap

The precious fruits of the cross



The actions of men make history. In order to understand

history the lives of the principal actors in making it must be

given. The history of North Union is practically summed up

in the lives of a few. Of the following characters depicted I

confess I have no other knowledge save that given in the Pres-

cott MS. In fact, I never heard of these men until revealed to

me in the above record. It is but just to follow closely what

is therein written of the lives of the founders of North Union.

Their characters must be presented in the view held by those

the best acquainted, however fulsome the praise may be. The

order as given is also preserved.

The Russell Family.-As the origin of the North Union

Family was largely due to the Russells, both in point of zeal

and number, they naturally stand first in the record. There

were three brothers, who emigrated from England between the

years 1730 and 1745 and settled in or near Hebron and East

Windsor, Connecticut. Their names were John, Jacob and Wil-

liam Russell. William once lived in West Windsor, Connecti-

cut. His son Samuel, born about 1714, died in Windsor at the

age of 65 years, and was buried in the cemetery of West Windsor

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Square, Connecticut. He had four brothers, Ebenezer, Ellis,

Jonathan and Hezekiah. Samuel had six children, Jacob,

Stephen, Cornelius, John, Elizabeth and Rachel. Elizabeth mar-

ried a man by the name of Ebenezer Young, one of the fourth

generation from Miles Standish, of Plymouth Rock memory.

Rachel married a man by the name of Cook, who once lived in

Cherry Valley, New York. John, the fourth son of Samuel,

married Polly Thrall, brought up a family and died in Rodman,

Jefferson county, New York, June 22, 1844.

Jacob, the eldest son of Samuel, was born in West Windsor,

Hartford county, Connecticut, April 26, 1746. He married

Esther Dunham, of Hebron, Connecticut, where he lived about

66 years, and brought up a large family, consisting of six sons

and six daughters, one of whom died when about two years

old, named Jerusha. The names of those who survived were as


Elijah, born July 18, 1773.

Esther, born October 23, 1774.

Jerusha 1st, born July 7, 1776.

Return, born March 1, 1778.

Elisha, born November 14, 1779.

Samuel, born January 15, 1783.

Jerusha 2d, born February 24, 1785.

Content, born May 7, 1787.

Ralph, born August 3, 1789.

Roxana, born March 10, 1792.

Obedience, born May 23, 1794.

Rodney, born May 15, 1796.

In the year 1812 Jacob Russell, with a number of his sons,

emigrated to Ohio and settled in the township of Warrensville,

Cuyahoga county, where he died on August 29, 1821, aged 75

years. His grave is not far from the site of the woolen-mill

at the Center Family. It is marked, enclosed with pailings and

has a pine tree growing over it. His wife Esther died in Solon,

September 16, 1835, and was buried at Chagrin Falls, aged

85 years.

On his way to Ohio he was accompanied by the families

of Elisha Russell and Nathaniel H. Risley, his son-in-law, in

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all about twenty persons. They started on June 13 with three

ox teams and heavily loaded wagons, and had not proceeded

far before news came that war was declared between the United

States and Great Britain, and, if they did not want to be massa-

cred by the Indians, they must turn back; but not in the least

intimidated, they continued their journey under the rays of the

scorching sun, determined to see the end of their journey, each

one contributing a full share in making the way comfortable,

cheerful and happy. In many places the roads were new and

almost impassible, especially after leaving Buffalo. At Cat-

taraugus Creek, in driving into the boat one team jumped over-

board, and after much difficulty it was rescued. The next

morning the party started again with the same fortitude and

courage that actuated the pioneer, neither turning to the right

nor left, but determined to accomplish the object sought. The

roads were in a deplorable condition from Buffalo to Cleveland.

On their arrival in the latter place they were informed that

"there was but one frame house and that was a log cabin."

They first stopped at Newburgh, and thence to Warrensville,

and settled on sections 23 and 34. After a tedious journey of

600 miles all arrived safely at the destination during the latter

part of August, 1812. They set at once to work and constructed

shelter, making houses out of logs, cut and rolled together,

notched at the corners. They had puncheon floors. The houses

were roofed with elm bark. The chimneys were made of mud

and sticks. Their neighbors consisted of the families of James

Prentiss, who lived about half a mile south, and Asa Stiles and

Daniel Warren, about a mile south. For a whole year they

felt they were in jeopardy every hour, not knowing what might

befall them, especially when the army, upon which they de-

pended for protection, had been surrendered to the enemy at

Detroit. They then believed that the Indians would be let loose

upon them, and a general massacre would overtake them. Un-

der this state of excitement the people were expecting the British

and Indians to fall upon the country about Cleveland. They

packed up their goods and prepared to move, but did not know

in what direction. During the excitement the settlers in and

around Cleveland threw away in the woods over $1,000 worth

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of provisions. As provisions were scarce this greatly added to

their discomfort. Wheat was worth $3.50 per bushel; salt,

$24 per barrel, and mouldy at that. The only method they pos-

sessed of grinding their corn was to excavate a hollow in the

end of a log, and placing the corn therein, pounded it with a

heavy pestle hung to a spring pole. Such was the fear and con-

sternation brought on by the war that people were afraid to

work without keeping up a constant and vigilant watch, day

and night, in order that the alarm be sounded.

Under such a consternation they worked as best they could,

cutting down trees, cleaning off land and fencing their farms.

In 181O, Samuel Russell, son of Jacob Russell, emigrated

from Chester, Massachusetts, to Aurora, Portage county, Ohio,

where he lived to a good old age. In 1813, Elijah Russell, the

oldest son of Jacob, emigrated from Rodman, New York, to

Warrensville, where he lived and died at the age of 83 years.

Return Russell, son of Jacob, emigrated from Rodman, New

York, to Warrensville, in 1822, and died October 5, 1834, aged

55 years. Ralph came to Ohio in 1812. After being separated

a distance of six hundred miles, most of them were gathered

together and settled in Warrensville. Some of them asscribed

this "to the overruling providence of God, that they should be

the first founders of a branch of a community of people com-

monly called Shakers."

Ralph Russell.-The subject of this sketch was born in

Windsor, Hartford county, Connecticut, August 3, 1789. In

1812 he emigrated to Warrensville. As previously noted, he

visited Union Village in 1821, and became a convert to that

form of faith usually called Shakerism, and at once set about

its practice and promulgation. He was the originator and for

a season the active and efficient leader of the North Union So-

ciety. It was said of him that "he was a burning and shining

light, and many were willing for a reason to rejoice in his light;"

but when a superior light and gift came from the church at

Union Village in the person of Ashbel Kitchell, in the spring

of 1826, Ralph could not vie with Ashbel, and hence Ashbel's

light and gift increased, while that of Ralph gradually de-

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creased, until he lost his influence and leadership among the


Ralph subsequently withdrew from the society, went to

Solon, a few miles distant, bought a farm, moved his family,

and there lived until his death, which occurred December 28,

1866, in the 78th year of his age.

Ralph Russell was tall and straight, about six feet in height,

well proportioned, dark complexion, black hair and eyes and of

a winning manner, mild and persuasive in argument, naturally

of a sociable and genial disposition, and was kind and hospitable

to strangers.

Richard W. Pelham.-Although Richard W. Pelham was a

member of the society at Union Village, yet he figures so largely

in the formation and history of North Union that he may be

said to have been a member of the latter also. He was born

May 8, 1797, in what is now Indiana, two miles above the Falls

of Ohio. He was the youngest of eight children, and his

mother dying soon after his birth, his father gave him to his

uncle, E. L. Pelham, a physician and Methodist preacher. Not

having any children of his own, the uncle adopted Richard into

his family and reared him with great care and tenderness. He

then lived on the east side of the Chesapeake Bay, called the

"Eastern shore of Maryland," in Talbot county. When Richard

was eleven years of age, the uncle removed from Maryland to

Lyons, New York. At the age of thirteen, during a religious

revival, he joined the Methodists, but before reaching his twen-

tieth year, he was dissatisfied with his church relations. Being

disappointed in not finding that holiness of life, that purity of

heart, that power over sin and a sinful nature, which he had

expected to find, he proposed to his uncle to leave, and seek

his fortune in the wide world; but his uncle being wealthy,

and unwilling to part with his only adopted son, a young man

so useful and full of promise, and one on whom he had placed

his chief dependence and reliance for support in his old age,

offered to make him sole heir to his entire estate, and showed

to him the document that would secure to him this great prize.

All this was no more to the young man than a blank page in

a book. His religious nature had taken the turn of an intense

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yearning of his soul, and he craved salvation, and nothing short

of this would satisfy him. Go he must, and go he did. After

traveling hundreds of miles, he brought up as a weary traveler

to the hospitable roof of Elder Matthew Houston, who at that

time stood at the door of entrance into the church at Union

Village. Here, for the first time, he found that for which he

had desired, a true apostolic church, where "no man had aught

of the things he possessed he called his own, but they had all

things common," after the example of the primitive church.

Here he found a church, consisting of both sexes, living lives

of "virgin" celibacy." To him this was more satisfactory than

silver and gold. After being thoroughly initiated into this or-

der he felt anxious to go out and proclaim it to the world, which

impulse is natural to all converts to a new form of religion. On

representing his feelings to Elder Matthew Houston, and others

of the family, he was advised to wait for a propitious moment,

with which counsel he readily consented, believing that his ad-

visers were competent to decide. When the tidings came he

was sent to North Union. With James Hodge he was directed

to go to Warrensville, and in March, 1822, set out for that

place, two hundred and fifty miles distant, as the roads then

ran. They had one horse and a heavy Dearborn wagon, and

the roads, at that season of the year, were almost impassable,

so that they were compelled to walk on foot the greater part

of the distance, but through their zeal and perseverance they

overcame all obstacles and arrived in safety at their point of


After a six weeks' successful mission the two evangelists,

in May, returned to Union Village. "I could tell," says Mr.

Pelham in his autobiography, "of many thrilling incidents, ac-

cidents and hair-breadth escapes, through which myself and co-

laborers passed in this and after visits to North Union and

other places; but the account might seem tedious, and must

mostly be omitted. Suffice it to say, that I traveled the road

over twenty times between Union Village and North Union,

making an aggregate of over 5,000 miles, besides going to the

State of New York and other places as a missionary. This dis-

tance seems trifling in this day of railroads; but in those days

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of mud roads and corduroy bridges, when the 'rail' laid the

other way, that is, across the road, it took eight days of hard

labor for man and beast to travel the road between these two

points. Taverns were then few and far between, many of which

were mere log huts infested with fleas, mosquitoes and bedbugs,

so that sometimes we had to lodge in our wagons, at other times

on the hay in the barn. We carried our provisions with us and

cooked and ate our meals by the roadside."

Elder Richard W. Pelham was considered by the Shakers

to have been an extraordinary man, and intellectually had no

superior among them. Under the tuition of Elder Matthew

Houston he mastered the Greek and Hebrew languages and

translated the Bible into English, which enabled him to cope

with any of the theologians of his day. As a critic and author

he had but few equals among his own order, and as a public

speaker he was among the best, both at North Union and Union

Village. His discourses were eminently practical, argumenta-

tive and instructive. But his voice was feeble and his manner

of delivery unpleasant. As a writer among his brethren he

ranked high. They point with pride to his tract on "What

Would Become of the World, If All Should Become Shakers,"

and allege that "it is generally conceded to be one of the ablest

productions among believers, on that subject, and is irrefutable

and unanswerable."

Richard W. Pelham was not only one of the first founders

of North Union, but also of the communities of Groveland,

Livingston county, New York (formerly located at Lodus Bay,

near Lake Ontario, New York,), and White Water, Hamilton

county, Ohio. In person he was of the average height, large

hazel eyes, black hair, also beard, and weighed about one hun-

dred and thirty-five pounds. He died at the Second Family,

Union Village, Ohio, January 10, 1873.

Ashbel Kitchell.-The success of North Union, during its

first period, was largely due to Ashbel Kitchell, who was born

August 21, 1786, in Morris county, New Jersey. His pane-

gyrist declares that "he was a noble specimen of humanity and

an honor to his profession. One of earth's rarest productions;

a gifted man in nature; a man of great muscular strength, and

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of great executive ability; a Napoleon of his day, and a giant in

intellect. It was said of him, if he had received an early edu-

cation he would have made an excellent judge in the Court

of Common Pleas. But his talents were of great use in the

church militant in fighting the battles whose weapons are not

carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong-


In person he was above medium height, large head, self-

esteem quite prominent, veneration large, large ears and eyes,

deep and broad across the chest and shoulders, corpulent, weigh-

ing about two hundred and fifty pounds, and of a dignified and

commanding appearance.

Early in the spring of 1826 he was appointed presiding

elder at North Union, and under his administration the com-

munity was organized and greatly prospered, and his authority

extended over a period of five years. This growth was largely

due to his practical business methods and indomitable will.

Decision being a prominent feature of his mind, he never falt-

ered. His word was law, and when he willed to do a thing it

was done without question. His wonderful will-power may be

illustrated in the following special instance:

Elder John P. Root was sick in a log cabin and given over

to die. The brethren and sisters generally had been to see him

and taken their final leave, not expecting him to live from one

hour to another. Elder Kitchell had just returned from a visit

to Union Village, and learning of his illness, immediately re-

paired to his bedside, and when he arrived the sick man's mouth

and extremities were cold and his jaws set. Looking intently

on the outstretched form he said, in a firm voice, 'Pomeroy,

live.' 'I will,' replied he. 'There is no gift for you to die,'

said Kitchell. Thus uniting his will-power and positiveness

with Pomeroy's faith and passive obedience, a barrier against

death was formed, which had to yield its victim to a further ex-

tension of life. From that hour Pomeroy began to mend and

soon recovered.

In his discourse his favorite theme was a Mother in Deity,

which he handled with power, and at times was carried beyond

himself. Although he reproved sin and disorder with severity,

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yet he was tender-hearted, sympathetic and easily touched by

the sorrows and griefs of those around him. In all his deal-

ings with mankind he was no flatterer, but open, frank, gen-

erous and candid. He died at Union Village, March 27, 1860,

in his 74th year.

Matthew Houston.-In the early days of the Shakers, there

were but few, if any more prominent, or as well educated as

Matthew Houston. He was born in Virginia, December 25,

1764; educated for a Presbyterian clergyman and was one of

the leaders in the Kentucky Revival, which commenced in the

beginning of the Nineteenth Century and continued for several

years in succession. He was a man of high standing in society,

of great influence, possessed a classical education, which aided

his naturally superior intellectual endowments. He had been

a slave-holder, but subsequently manumitted them. Under the

spirit of the Revival, together with others, he embraced the

principles of Shakerism and became one of its leading founders

in the west, both in Ohio and Kentucky. He had the rare gift

of entering the hearts of the people and gathering them around

him. He was a great and good man. His greatness consisted

in his humility, self-denial and shild-like simplicity and obedi-

ence to that order with which he had covenanted.

He succeeded Ashbel Kitchell as presiding elder at North

Union and continued in that office for two years. In person he

was of medium height, light complexion, large head, but well

balanced, small, round eyes, wide apart, which sparkled with

intelligence and good humor, broad across the chest, long body,

short legs, fat and corpulent, which gave him the appearance

of an English nobleman, but by no means aristocratic. In man-

ner he was affable and courteous, easy and graceful, naturally

of a mirthful turn, but not vain, social and generous, warm

hearted and always carried with him the sunshine of pleasantness

and made all happy around him. Everybody loved Elder

Matthew Houston. He died at Union Village, March 18, 1848,

in the 84th year of his age.

David Spinning.-Although not one of the fathers of North

Union, yet Elder David Spinning's work is a part of its his-

tory. He was born September 17, 1779, and succeeded Elder

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Houston as presiding elder at North Union, October 24, 1832,

and held the office for eight years, during which time there was

a steady growth of the community. He had been a Presbyterian

layman and took an active part in the Kentucky Revival.

In June, 1834, a new ministry was formed consisting of

Elder David Spinning, R. W. Pelham, Lucy Faith and Vincy

McNemar, all thoroughly prepared for the duties involved in

their office. When this valuable contingent arrived from Union

Village, Elder Spinning was greatly gratified and took courage,

because all were examples that could be followed. Such an

acquisition would strengthen him in his purposes.

Elder Spinning was a conscientious and devoted man. He

was slow in his judgments, preferring to arrive at conclusions

after thorough investigation. From principle he practiced self-

denial, curtailed all unnecessary expenses, lived on a plain, sim-

ple diet, dressed plain and cheap, refused tea, coffee, tobacco

and all other superfluities. He condemned excess of every de-

scription, and became a strict vegetarian. His view of man was

also extreme, holding that all were universally lost in selfish-

ness, and there was no possible way whereby the selfish desires

could be so effectually destroyed or overcome as to place it upon

the altar of self-denial. The principal reason he assigned for

this course, which he rigidly imposed on himself and fearlessly

taught to others, was that a portion might be saved for the poor,

and, further, that by such a practice he could lay up treasure

in heaven. He held to the idea that when he entered the future

state the question would not be asked him what he believed,

but what he had done to benefit suffering humanity.

In person Elder Spinning was of medium height, dark

complexion, black hair, dark hazel eyes, veneration and benevo-

lence large. In manners he was simple, modest, unassuming,

courteous and agreeable. As a public speaker he had no equal

at North Union. He was natural in his delivery, abounded in

figures of speech, in natural similitudes, and in symbolic lan-

guage. However, his discourses, though logical, yet were so

simple that a child could understand him. Such a speaker was

calculated to please and instruct his audience. It was during

his administration that spirit manifestations first occurred at

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North Union. He departed this life at Union Village, Decem-

ber 22, 1841, in the 63d year of his age.

Samuel Russell.-The successor of Elder Spinning was

Samuel Russell, who was born in Rodman, Jefferson county,

New York, May 14, 1807, being the son of Return Russell. He

was admitted in the North Union Society in the fall of 1823,

being about 16 years of age. On September 15, 1840, he was

appointed presiding elder, and for eighteen years continued in

that office. Under his guidance improvements were introduced

and the character and growth of the community maintained.

He was a man of rare talents and great executive ability.

But his genius was better adapted to that of a trustee than a

Gospel minister, because the spiritual part of his nature was

subordinated to that of business.

In person Elder Russell was about five feet, eleven inches

in height, well proportioned, evenly balanced head, hazel eyes,

black hair, of a quick and active mind, easy address, a high

sense of order. He withdrew from the society August 19, 1858,

when in his 51st year, took with him the Church Covenant and

only yielded it after securing a compromise.

John P. Root.-Another of the prominent men was John

P. Root, born in Pittsfield, Berkshire county, Massachusetts,

June 28, 1799, and admitted into the North Union community

March 15, 1825, and thus may be ranked as one of its early

founders. He had been a classleader among the Methodists,

and of the most zealous kind. When he first emigrated to Ohio

he settled on some wild land in Grafton, Lorain county, for

which his father had exchanged his farm. He passed through

all the hardships of pioneer life almost alone and single-handed.

In July, 1825, he was appointed farm deacon, which place

he occupied three years and gave good satisfaction. On the

organization of the church in 1828 he was appointed the third

legal trustee, which place he filled for five years. In 1833 he

received the appointment of first elder in the Middle Family,

which place he filled for many years. In 1858 he was appointed

successor to Samuel Russell in the ministry, which appointment

was ratified by the members. As the ministry was dissolved in

1862, he continued to be presiding elder. Among his brethren

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he was known as Elder Pomeroy. He was deeply imbued with

a religious baptism while among the Methodists, and this un-

diminished he carried into his new faith and always held the

temporal to be subordinate to the spiritual. The principle that

actuated him was the golden rule. He believed in the doctrine

of "live and let live," which he daily practiced. He would ask

no one to do a thing he would not do himself. In him the poor

always found a generous friend, and he never sent away any

one empty handed, but relieved all whenever it was in his power.

Although a farmer by education he had a turn for mechanics.

In the Middle Family, where he was first elder for many years,

he showed his aptitude for mechanics by making bureaus,

tables, stands, drawers, chests, joiner-work, etc., etc., which

could have been seen in every room.

In his preaching his favorite theme was the same that de-

lighted the ear and heart of every preacher, viz., "A Mother as

Well as a Father in the Deity." From that he became an un-

compromising defender in woman's rights, which he did not

fail to impress on his auditors.

In stature Elder Root was about six feet in height, fair com-

plexion, large blue eyes, high forehead, language easy and flow-

ing, veneration large, bald head, tender hearted and an open and

frank countenance. He ceased to be presiding elder in July,

1876, and was succeeded by James S. Prescott. Elder Root died

in August, 1881, in his 83d year.

James Sullivan Prescott.-It is with more than an ordinary

degree of pleasure I turn to the biography of Elder James S.

Prescott, for without his zeal in trying to preserve the history

of his little colony, it would have sunk into oblivion. The

lovers of history owe him a debt of gratitude. He first wrote

out his sketches, placed them in the hands of Judge John Barr,

of Cleveland, who, over his own signature, caused them to be

published in the Cleveland Daily Herald for June 13, 21, 28;

July 5, 11, 18, and 25, 1870. Afterwards Elder Prescott wrote

another MS., in which he corrected the typographic errors and

discrepancies which occurred in the published account. He

wrote that MS. "expressly for the Western Reserve Pioneers'

and Early Settlers' Association, in Northern Ohio," The MS.

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is written in a clear, bold hand, in blue and black ink, and covers

121 pages. Great care has been exercised to have it go to the

printer and published as written. Unfortunately he failed to

separate the history of the community from that of the ruling

elder. As he has recorded it, the history is simply a series of

biographical successions. Many important features are left out

entirely. Although living in sight of the East Family scarcely

a record is made. Why this family was overlooked must for-

ever be unaccounted for. But, as has been previously intimated,

the writer of this owes nearly all his information concerning

North Union to the writings of Elder Prescott. His MS. closes

with the year 1870. What I have learned of the community

since that period was secured after much diligence. That the

recent period is greatly lacking in this record, is admitted, but

not the fault of the writer.

Elder James S. Prescott was born in Lancaster, Worcester

county, Massachusetts, January 26, 1803. In the usual accepta-

tion of the term his father was not orthodox, but his mother

was a pious, devoted woman and belonged to the Congregational

Church in Lancaster. She brought up her children under the

pastoral care of Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Thayer, Unitarian. She

taught them their Bible and catechism, and that after the strict-

est manner of the Puritans. On Sunday her children were not

allowed to play until after sundown, on which question her

word was law. At the age of ten James went to live with his

uncle, Brigham Prescott, in West Boylston, about ten miles

distant. At the age of sixteen he went to live with Charles

Stearns, of Springfield, Massachusets, on the border of the

Connecticut River, to learn the mason's trade. After spending

one season there, he then went to Hartford, Connecticut, and

engaged himself to Danforth Rogers, a practical mason, with

whom he continued four years, during which time he assisted

in the construction of some of the largest buildings in that city.

The winter of 1820 saw him the subject of a religious re-

vival, and then connected himself with the close communion

Baptists, under the pastoral care of Elisha Cushman. The fol-

lowing year he became a teacher in the African Sunday school

and so continued for three years. While still a minor, and

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serving his apprenticeship, in the winter season he attended

the "Literary School and Female Academy," taught by George

J. Patten. At the age of twenty-one he entered Westfield

Academy, Massachusetts, and there completed his education.

In 1825 he was employed by the executive committee of

the Baptist Missionary Convention of New York to teach the

missionary school at Oneida, consisting of about forty Indian

scholars of both sexes, instructed on the Lancastrian plan.

In July, 1826, he emigrated to Cleveland, Ohio, and there

went to work at his trade. While engaged as a journeyman,

Elisha Russel came from North Union to hire a mason to lay

the foundation of a dwelling house. James Prescott responded,

and leaving his trunks in Cleveland, took his tools under his

arms and went out afoot and alone. On arriving at the Shaker

settlement he found them living in log cabins, similar to Indian

wigwams, but kept neatly and cleanly. Immediately he set

about the work he was to perform and laid out the foundation

and started the corners of the building. The Shakers helped

lay the cellar walls, and in about two weeks they were ready

for the framework, and in due course the house for the Center

Family was ready for occupation. That house still stands and

is given in the illustration.

While engaged with the Shakers, and looking with great

favor upon them, he received a letter from Frederick Collins,

an old classmate, requesting him to come to Unionville, about

ten miles from St. Louis, Missouri, as a missionary. On that

mission he started to go, but being out of health he stopped

in Cleveland to work at his trade and recuperate. While thus

engaged he investigated the doctrines of the Shakers and com-

pared the same with the Bible, and found he had no cause to

seek further. When he saw the purity of the lives the Shakers

led, and the power of God attending their meetings, the heavenly

inspiration of their singing, and a flaming testimony against the

licentiousness of the world, he was satisfied that he had "found

Him of whom Moses and the prophets did write," and to this

he would hold until he could find something better. As he

viewed the various sects of Christendom he could find no people

Vol. IX-7.

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on the earth that came so near the Pentecostal Church, in their

principles and practices, as the Shakers. Under this convic-

tion he did not wait long before he made up his mind to prove

the work for himself. On making his determination known

he was admitted into the society in the fall of 1826. In 1827

he was appointed second elder in the Cabin Family. The breth-

ren, to show their approval and to ratify the appointment, took

him on their shoulders and carried him around the meeting-

room, exclaiming, "the lot has fallen upon Jonah."

After continuing in the elder's lot for four years he was

released in order to take charge of the district school. For a

period of about fifty years, when not engaged in teaching school,

he was in the elder's lot in the different families, sometimes

first and sometimes second, and for about forty years was one

of the legal trustees. He was thus not only one of the early ad-

vocates, but continued long as one of the pillars of the com-


The only notice, "The Manifesto," June, 1888, gave of this

faithful laborer was as follows: "James S. Prescott died at

North Union, Ohio, April 3, 1888, age 85 years, 2 months and

8 days. Brother James has been in the community sixty-two

years. He was a faithful laborer in the Gospel field. S. S. M."

In the little graveyard at North Union the body of James

S. Prescott rests in an unmarked and an unknown grave. There

are none to weep over him or plant a flower to lessen the mo-

notony of his surroundings. His friends either lie buried

around him or else have taken their departure. He saw the

colony in its infancy; he was with it in its strength and decline.

Had he lived another year he would have seen its dissolution.

He was spared that sorrow, yet he must have realized that the

inevitable hour was near at hand. Rest, sweet saint, thy labors

are over. The society which thou didst give thy life for its

welfare and promotion, like thee, has passed away. But thy

life was not a failure, and the course thou didst pursue will

be an admonition to generations that must follow.

Return Russell.-One of the important members of the

society was Return Russell, born in Windsor, Hartford county,

Connecticut, March 1, 1778. He emigrated to Ohio in 1822.

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He had a wife and eleven children, six sons and five daughters,

viz., Luther, Edward, Samuel, Sanford, Robert, Henry, Hul-

dah, Abigail, Mary Ann, Roxana and Lydia, all of whom, save

Luther, were gathered into the Shaker fold, and out of that

numerous family only one remained in the society in 1870, and

that was Abigail, otherwise called Rachel, was, in above named

year, the elder sister in the Middle Family.

Return had been a Baptist and a highly esteemed member

of that church. He did not relinquish his sentiments without

a thorough investigation, and when convinced he yielded to the

testimony and joined the Shakers in 1823. He purchased a lot

in Warrensville, which included the land about the saw-mill,

for which he paid one thousand dollars. This land, and that

purchased by the trustees of Union Village, on which the cen-

ter house still stands, were adjoining the lands of Ralph and

Elijah Russell.

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When the church was organized in 1828 Return was ap-

pointed first legal trustee, which place he held until 1834. He

was a laborious man, and in constructing the dam across the

stream at the grist-mill, his zeal to do good work carried him

beyond his physical powers of endurance, although of a strong

constitution. He was above medium height, broad across the

chest, square shouldered, large, open countenance, high fore-

head, dark complexion, and black hair. He was of a social

and genial disposition, intelligent and agreeable in conversa-

tion, possessing faculties by nature superior to the ordinary

class of men, and eminently calculated for the position he filled.

He departed this life at the Middle Family on October 5, 1834,

in the 56th year of his age.

Elisha Russell.-On November 14, 1779, Elisha Russell

was born in Windsor, Connecticut. He emigrated to Ohio in

1812, and was one of the first pioneers to settle in Warrensville.

He had a wife and five daughters,-Mary, Candace, Abigail,

Hannah and Adeline. He was a man of great activity and

usefulness. In point of muscular strength he had but few

equals. Unfortunately, when a young man, he cut his knee-

joint, which made a stiff leg for the rest of his life. For many

years he was one of the legal trustees. Although a farmer by

occupation, he was useful in repairing wagons, carts, buggies,

sleighs, etc. He was industrious, quick and active. He died

October 15, 1862, in his 83d year.

Riley Honey.-One of the first, if not the first, child born

in the Western Reserve, and one of the first pioneers of War-

rensville, was Riley Honey. He was born in Burton, Geauga

county, Ohio, December 31, 1798. He could wield an axe

among heavy forest timber in cleaning off land, erecting log

cabins; he could boil down sugar water, catch raccoons, find

wild honey, and further, was the equal of any of his neighbors.

His early training gave him an advantage over those who had

not endured the hardships of pioneer life. He was prepared

in an eminent degree to become one of the first founders of a

community.whose principles are based upon sacrifices and daily


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He entered the society in 1822, while it was still in embryo.

He came alone and single-handed, without any family, in the

prime of his activity, and devoted a long and useful life in build-

ing up the cause of truth and righteousness. He was appointed

first legal trustee September 15, 1840, which place he still oc-

cupied in 1874, during which time he gave general satis-

faction, and at two different periods was, at short intervals,

appointed second in the ministry. He was universally known

as an honest man.

In 1835 he was taken sick and given up to die. He was

emaciated and reduced to a skeleton. The lingering look, the

parting word, the silent tear, the last farewell, were reluctantly

given. His grave clothes were prepared and the funeral hymn

composed. He requested to see the elders of the church. David

Spinning, then presiding elder, immediately responded, and ar-

riving at the bedside was moved with compassion and tender

sympathy. Elder David prayed in spirit, in low humility, in

deep supplication and silent yearning. That prayer was heard

and answered, not by any outward manifestation, but by a deep,

silent, invisible power, and Riley Honey began to recover from

that very hour, and soon after was able to take his place in the

ranks of the faithful, and resume his labors in all his daily avo-

cations. In his old age he began to take a deep interest in bee

culture. He died August 7, 1884, aged 85 years, 5 months and

6 days.

Elijah Russell.-Windsor, Connecticut, was also the natal

place of Elijah Russell, and was there born July 13, 1773. In

1813 he emigrated from Rodman, Jefferson county, New York,

and settled in Warrensville, Ohio, and thus became one of the

western pioneers. He purchased a farm heavily timbered, and

at once set apart to clear it for cultivation. In 1822 he em-

braced the testimony of the Shakers, and the first meeting of

that order took place in his cabin. His family consisted of a

wife, six daughters and one son, the children named Melinda,

Eunice, Esther, Adeline, Caroline, Emeline and Marcus, all

of whom were gathered into the Shaker fold. His wife was a

member of the Baptist Church, an excellent woman and an

ornament to society.

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Elijah was old-fashioned and eccentric, but made himself

useful in the cultivation of fruit trees, in which he was success-

ful. After the church was organized he devoted his time ex-

clusively for many years in planting nurseries, setting out or-

chards, pruning and grafting in the proper season, sparing no

pains to procure the best varieties of apples, peaches, pears,

plums, cherries, etc. When a tree did not bear fruit to suit

him, or was of an inferior quality, he would cut off the limbs

near the body with a fine saw, smooth the top with a sharp

knife, put in one or two scions of some choice variety, and within

a few years that tree was seen bearing different kinds of fruit

of a superior quality, size, color and flavor. All of the old or-

chards, of which there were two quite extensive ones, at all

the three families, owed their origin and subsequent cultivation

chiefly to the labors of Elijah Russell. In times of drouth he

was often seen carrying water from a distance to moisten the

roots of the young trees. His time for pruning was in the

spring, after the sap began to flow, and from that time on

until the fruit became too large to admit of any further en-

croachments. Although he pruned sparingly and cautiously,

yet he believed in pruning to some extent. By close observa-

tion he learned that the best way to set out an orchard was to

place the trees on top the soil, and then bank up around them,

instead of setting them down on the clay, as he had formerly

done. In winter he was frequently seen stamping the snow

down around the trees to prevent the mice from gnawing the

roots, and in summer he would remove the turf from around

the trees.

Elijah Russell was a practical man, and contributed more

towards furnishing the community with good, wholesome fruit,

both for the table and the market, than any other man who be-

longed to the society. He departed this life February 26, 1857,

in the 84th year of his age.

Chester Risley.-The next after Ralph Russell who started

in the work of the faith at North Union was Chester Risley,

who was born in East Hartford, Connecticut, December 6, 1794.

He embraced the faith March 30, 1822, and set out to obey it.

He had a wife and a daughter Lucina, both of whom subse--

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quently became adherents of the same faith. When the Sha-

kers found Chester he owned a small farm adjoining that of

Elisha Russell on the east, and lived in a log cabin.

Chester Risley was a practical man,-a man of deeds and

not of words. He had no faith in being saved by grace through

faith, without having corresponding good works. Hence he

was often heard to say, "We must work out our salvation. We

cannot talk it out, nor sing it out. An apostle hath said,

'Faith without works is dead: it being alone.'" He believed

in being saved by the blood of Christ, i. e., by living his life-

"the blood is the life thereof."

After the church was organized Chester Risley was called

to be an elder, which place he occupied for many years in the

different families, and was highly esteemed for his works, for

his devotedness to the cause, and for his pious and godly ex-

ample. By occupation he was a farmer and shoemaker. He

departed this life May 6, 1855, in the 61st year of his age.

William Andrews.-In the formation of the society the

founders filled some important station. Such was the case also

with William Andrews, who was born January 16, 1776, in

Little Hoosett, or Stephentown, Renssellaer county, New York.

In July, 1825, he was admitted into the community. He

had a wife and four children,-Phoebe, Harriet, Louisa and

Watson-who were subsequently gathered into the society. He

had been brought up at Mount Lebanon, New York, and con-

sequently was indoctrinated into the principles of the commu-

nity. As he had that faith implanted in him when young he

never got rid of it, and thereby found no true peace and com-

fort until he was brought under its obedience. So he put away

a wife, and she a husband that they might live according to the

principles they accepted.

By occupation William Andrews was a tanner and currier,

and for many years was useful in this line. He departed this

life March 22, 1850, in his 75th year. In 1870 the entire family

was dead, with the exception of Watson, who was still living

at the time the society was dissolved.

Oliver Wheeler.-Although not a member at the beginning,

yet Oliver Wheeler might be classed as one of the founders of

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North Union Society. He was born in Preston, Connecticut,

August 14, 1790. He had been an exhorter in the Methodist

Episcopal Church. Deeply imbued with the religious element,

and not finding Methodism that which he sought, he became

a member of the United Society of Believers, January 22, 1825.

His three children, William, Sally and Hester Ann, then living

in Aurora, a few miles distant, chose to come with him, but

his wife decided to remain where she was. A mutual separa-

tion took place.

Oliver was a pious, devoted man. He made himself use-

ful, first as a caretaker of children, then as an elder, and finally

as second in the ministry. He died from the effects of a sur-

gical operation for hernia, September 12, 1848, in his 59th


Rodney Russell.-The youngest son of Jacob Russell was

Rodney, who was born in Windsor, Connecticut, May 15, 1796.

In 1870 he was the only surviving male member of the Russell

family at North Union. He was a single man, and owned a

farm a little distance south from the settlement, which he ex-

changed for land lying north and adjoining land owned by the


He entered the society with his four brothers and conse-

crated his property, his time and his talents and all he possessed

to build up and support his religious faith. To that cause he

devoted a long and useful life and blessed many an orphan

and poor widow, who had been brought into the community

and permitted to partake of the fruits of his labor. By occu-

pation he was a farmer and shoemaker. He died at North

Union, September 3, 1880, aged 84 years, 3 months and 7 days.

Daniel N. Baird.-No Shaker was better known in Cleve-

land than Uncle Daniel, as Daniel W. Baird was usually called.

He was born in Grandville, Jefferson county, New York, No-

vember, 7, 1801, and was admitted into the society in October,

1823. By occupation he was a wheelmaker, was of an inventive

turn of mind, and took out several patents, among which were

a brace and bit; but none yielded him much profit. As soon as

the society began to use machinery he found some soft metal,

supposed to be composed of tin, pewter or lead. He found that

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this composition was excellent for gudgeons of the wheel to his

turning lathe to run in without heating by friction, and sub-

sequently became quite extensively used at North Union.

Some years afterwards a man by the name of Babbitt in-

vented a box for this same kind of metal to run in, and then

commenced a suit against Ward & Co., of Detroit, for infringe-

ment of his patent. The defense summoned Daniel as a wit-

ness, who appeared in court with his box and soft metal, and

testified that he had invented that box and composition and

used it for years prior to Mr. Babbitt's patent. He turned the

scale for the defendants, who, feeling under great obligations

to him, offered to reward him handsomely, but he would take

only his expenses in attending court. However, he did accept

a free pass which they gave him over all the railroads and

steamboats in their jurisdiction and as far as their influence

over other companies and conveyances extended. This privilege

he was not slow to improve; he visited some of the principal

cities both east and west and was in Washington a short time

before his death.

Daniel never enjoyed good health, and was dyspeptic from

the day he entered the society to the time of his death. He was

a very useful man, and for several years was acting trustee for

the society. In buying and in selling and peddling their home

manufactures, in most things he exercised good judgment and

gave general satisfaction. A short time before his death he

started to go to Cleveland on foot, and got as far as the Mill

Family, when taking sick, in a day or two he expired. He died

June 2, 1867, being in his 66th year.

Sisters.-Among the first founders of North Union were

some pious, devoted, active and intelligent sisters, whose serv-

ices were eminently successful in the cause espoused. These

sisters, should have found a biographer and sketches of

their lives, would have been just as useful and entertaining as

those of the brethren. The Prescott MS. states that the data

was not at hand for such a purpose. Such data as exists is

here given. Those who were most prominent in the inception

and who lived at Union Village were:

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Anna Boyd, Betsey Dunlavy, Charlotte Morrell, Susannah

Stout, Melinda Watts, Lucy Faith, Lois Spinning, Thankful


Anna Boyd, Thankful Stewart and Lucy Faith were re-

markably gifted in song. They seemed to "sing with the spirit

and the understanding." There was an inspiration about their

singing that would inspire a whole assembly. The rich melody

of their voices, at a little distance, could hardly be distinguished

from a well-tuned instrument. Those who heard them were

extravagant in their praise.

There were other noble souls who subsequently were called

into the work, who may be justly ranked among the founders

of the community, but have long since passed away. They were:

Lydia Russell, Betsey Russell, Jerusha Russell, Eunice Rus-