Authors: Ann H. Gabhart
Tags: #Historical, #FIC042030, #FIC042040, #FIC027050
© 2012 by Ann H. Gabhart
Published by Revell
a division of Baker Publishing Group
P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
Ebook edition created 2012
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Page 157—“Come Life, Shaker Life”—
Selection of Hymns and Poems; for the use of Believers
. By Philos Hamoniae, 1833
Pages 158, 405 & 431—“Simple Gifts”—
Page 389—“Search Ye Your Camps”—
New Lebanon Hymns
The internet addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers in this book are accurate at the time of publication. They are provided as a resource. Baker Publishing Group does not endorse them or vouch for their content or permanence.
To my family—
a treasured gift and blessing.
A Note about the Shakers
American Shakerism originated in England in the eighteenth century. Their leader, a charismatic woman named Ann Lee, was believed by her followers to be the second coming of Christ in female form. After being persecuted for those beliefs in England, she and a small band of followers came to America in 1774 to settle in Watervliet, New York, and there established the first community of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, more commonly known as Shakers. By the middle of the nineteenth century, nineteen Shaker communities were spread throughout the New England states and Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana.
The Shaker doctrines of celibacy, communal living, and the belief that perfection could be attained in this life were all based on revelations their Mother Ann claimed to have divinely received. The name
came from the way they worshiped. At times when a member received the “spirit,” he or she would begin shaking all over. These “gifts of the spirit,” along with other spiritual manifestations, were considered by the Shakers to be confirmation of the same direct communication with God they believed their Mother Ann had experienced.
The Shakers sought a peaceful, simple life by shutting away the “world.” They were as self-sufficient as they could be, raising their own food and making their own clothes from cloth they weaved and their shoes from leather they tanned.
One of their best-known sayings was “Hands to work. Hearts to God.” They believed work was a very necessary part of worship. So when their communities grew in population and they had many hands to keep busy, they began to sell the products of their enterprise—garden seeds, brooms, hats, potions, and silk kerchiefs, to mention a few. Shaker may be the first commonly known trademark name in America. If it was a Shaker product, it was trusted to be as advertised and a good value for the money. The Shakers were also known to be a peaceful and generous people who never refused help to any in need.
In Kentucky, the Shaker villages of Pleasant Hill and South Union have been restored and attract many visitors curious about the Shaker lifestyle. These historical sites provide a unique look at the austere beauty of the Shakers’ craftsmanship. The sect’s songs and strange worship echo in the impressive architecture of their buildings. Visitors also learn about the Shakers’ innovative ideas in agriculture and industry that improved life not only in their own communities but also in the “world” they were so determined to shut away.
Harmony Hill Village
Entered on this 11th day of June in the year 1849
by Sister Sophrena Prescott
The Gathering Family sisters picked the last of the strawberries in the patch behind the barn. Only got a paltry 8 gallons and Sister Wilma said some of those were so small they were nigh on impossible to cap. But the late-picking jam will be sweet in any case. The sisters have cooked a plenitude of jam. The brethren will be well supplied for their trading trips. If those people at White Oak Springs don’t buy it all. They eat well there, I am told. Matters not to us who eats our excess jam. We have been blessed with a bountiful harvest of berries and it appears the wild raspberries are bearing an abundant crop.
Two of the young sisters have gone out into the woods with buckets to gather the raspberries. The thought of raspberry pie for dinner is a pleasant one. But I worry I shouldn’t have given Sister Jessamine permission to go. She will find the berry vines. I have no doubt of that, but will she be entangled by the briars and end with her dress and apron ripped and ruined? Will she remember to bring any berries home in her bucket? Ah, Sister Jessamine, a sweeter little sister one could not have. Yet, she is often the subject of discussion among the elders and eldresses. What will we do with Sister Jessamine?
Eldress Frieda may take me to task for giving the sister permission to go into the woods, but she has diligently kept to her duties for days without mishap. Plus I did send Sister Annie with her. At eighteen, Sister Annie may be younger than Sister Jessamine by a year, but is as sensible as Sister Jessamine is not. Even so, I worry like an old hen that has lost sight of her little chicks and fears the shadow of a hawk passing over. I haven’t seen the shadow, but I know our Sister Jessamine only too well. I will be peering out the window all the afternoon and not properly paying mind to my task of penning the labels for the jam jars.
“Sister Jessamine, where on earth are you taking us?” Sister Annie asked as she held on to her cap while ducking under a low-hanging branch.
Jessamine didn’t slow her walk as she glanced back at Sister Annie. She liked Sister Annie. She really did. But oh, to be alone in the woods and not always encumbered with a sister to slow her down. She wanted to run free. To swing on a vine if she took the notion. To sit and lean back against a tree trunk and dream up stories about the birds above her head. None of that would be considered proper behavior for a Shaker sister, and Sister Annie did so want to be a proper Shaker. She’d be sure to confess anything she thought improper to Sister Sophrena, no matter which of them committed the supposed sin.
“The best berries are up ahead,” Jessamine said. “I can smell them.”
“You’re not smelling raspberries. That isn’t possible,” Sister Annie said even as she stopped and lifted her nose a bit to sniff the air.
Jessamine bit the inside of her lip to hide her smile. “My granny could smell squirrels in the trees.”
Sister Annie’s groan plainly carried up to Jessamine in spite of the rustle of last fall’s leaves underfoot. “Is there anything your granny could not do?”
“Stay alive.” Jessamine muttered the words under her breath. She didn’t want Sister Annie to be reporting them.
After all, it had been almost ten years since her granny failed to keep breathing and the old preacher carried Jessamine to the Shaker village. Not bad years. She wouldn’t want her Shaker family to think she was ungrateful for the food and shelter they’d given her. Given her druthers, she would have stayed in the cabin in the woods, but a child of ten is rarely given her druthers. Or a girl of near twenty either for that matter. Duties and responsibilities went along with that food on the table and roof over her head.
There were no perfect places this side of heaven. That was something her granny used to tell her, although in Jessamine’s mind their cabin in the middle of the woods seemed perfect enough. Of course her granny never said the first thing about the Shakers. She might not have heard about how they aimed to make a perfect place on earth to match the perfection of heaven. A place with no sin of any kind. A place where all lived as brothers and sisters. A place where a girl couldn’t run off to the woods on her own to pick a handful of raspberries and pop them every one in her mouth. At least not without feeling a little guilty about how she might be depriving her sisters and brothers back at the village of a tasty pie.
So far she hadn’t found that first handful of raspberries to eat or to put in her pail. And she wasn’t being exactly truthful saying she could smell raspberries. She only said that so Sister Annie would keep walking deeper into the woods. The girl’s flushed face gave every indication she was ready to turn back. A frown was thundering across her forehead and her mouth was screwed up into a knot not much bigger than an acorn. Any minute now she was going to plant her feet on the path and refuse to go a step farther. And they had to be close to White Oak Springs. They had to be. All Jessamine wanted was a glimpse of the place.
One of the new sisters had built such a word picture inside Jessamine’s head of the hotel at White Oak Springs that Jessamine thought it must be a palace set down in the middle of a flower-filled oasis. This sister claimed that in the heat of the day beautiful girls walked across grassy yards with fine parasols to keep the sun off their faces while young men from all around the country sought their favor.