Archive for the ‘Shakers’ Category

” … the evident progress of my health”

In 1800, Sarah Livingston Jay visited Lebanon Springs, New York, in search of a remedy for her ailments. Columbia Hall, serving the spa, opened in 1794; it stood 300 feet above the valley and at full capacity could accommodate 400 guests. Writing to her husband John in Albany on July 28, Sarah recounted details of her stay and her wish to retire to their home in Bedford, New York, which was nearing completion.

My dr. Mr. Jay,
The only circumstance that has induced me to remain so long at a distance from you & from home has been the evident progress of my health. The air of this place no less than the Bath has had a wonderful effect upon it. The Mayor & Mrs. Van Ranselear, myself &c. last evening climbed one of the highest mountains here & I was not at all fatigued; the view from it was superb. Bathing now has the same effect upon me it formerly had that is to say it gives me a charming glow & occasions a quick circulation. Remember me if you please to our friend the D[octor]. He will be gratifyed to hear that I am so much recovered. I long very much to see you & the Children & can hardly believe that a fortnight has not quite elapsed since we parted. …

Our quills are cut up & the family not having risen yet I am writing with the stump of a pen that is as stiff as my knife. Maria [the Jays’ eldest daughter] is very well & still sleeping. Sammy & horses are very well. Hannah [a servant she sent for] has answered our purposes as well as an elder person wd. have done. Give my love to Ann [their daughter whom they usually called Nancy], tell her there is not any body here that she is acquainted with except the Mayor & his party. Kiss Sally & Wm. [their two youngest children] for me. I hope to hear from home this evening by Mr. & Mrs. Perkins who are expected here. I hope they meet with no impediments at Bedford for I am more than ever desirous of being there, then we may roam together & together inhale the salubrious breeze. Now a cruel regret that my beloved husband & children do not with me partake of the Rural pleasures in which they so much delight diminishes the satisfaction these wild scenes are calculated to inspire.
Adieu my dr. Mr. Jay!
believe me ever yours S. J.

While in Lebanon Springs, Sarah took the opportunity to visit the Shaker Society settlement in New Lebanon. She described to John her reception there. “We have twice visited the Quaker settlements, & each time received every mark of attention we could wish; nor was the pleasure afforded us by their civilities at all diminished by the simple confession that they thought them due to the family of a Governor (John was governor of New York State) for whom they entertained the sincerest respect. I have purchased of them some very clever sheets, towels & ticken & likewise very pretty shirting for servants at a very reasonable rate.”

The Sarah Jay’s letter can be found on pages 371-72 of Selected Correspondence of Sarah Livingston Jay and John Jay. The illustration of the Mt. Lebanon Shaker Village Stereoview (ca. 1880) can be found on this SITE.

posted December 17th, 2012 by Janet, comments (1), CATEGORIES: Health,New York,Shakers

The Shakers

Madame du Pin (see previous post), the French aristocrat who, with her husband and children, had fled to the United States in 1794, adjusted amazingly well to life on a farm near Albany. A sect called the Shakers—they worshiped by ecstatic dancing or “shaking”, hence the name Shaking Quakers or Shakers—living nearby in Niskayuna, now Watervliet, interested her, and she arranged to be taken with her husband on a tour of their property.

A nice wagon, loaded with fine vegetables, often passed before our door. It belonged to the Shakers, who were located at a distance of six or seven miles. The driver of the wagon always stopped at our house, and I never failed to talk with him about their manner of life, their customs, and their belief. He urged us to visit their establishment, and we decided to go there some day. It is known that this sect of Quakers belonged to the reformed school of the original Quakers who took refuge in America with Penn.

After the war of 1763, an English woman [Ann Lee] set herself up for a reformer apostle. She made many proselytes in the states of Vermont and Massachusetts. Several families put their property in common and bought land in the then uninhabited parts of the country. … Those of whom I speak were then protected on all sides by a forest several miles deep. This establishment was a branch of their headquarters at Lebanon [New York]. …

We came out in a vast clearing traversed by a pretty stream and surrounded on all sides by woods. In the midst was erected the establishment, composed of a large number of nice wooden houses, a church, schools, and a community house of brick. The Shakers … greeted us with kindness, although with a certain reserve. … We had been advised that nobody would offer us anything, and that our guide would be the only one to speak to us. He first led us to a superb kitchen-garden perfectly cultivated. Everything was in a state of the greatest prosperity, but without the least evidence of elegance. Many men and women were working at the cultivation or the weeding of the garden. The sale of vegetables represented the principal source of revenue to the community.

We visited the schools for the boys and girls, the immense community stables, the dairies, and the factories in which they produced the butter and cheese. Everywhere we remarked upon the order and the absolute silence. The children, boys and girls alike, were clothed in a costume of the same form and the same color. The women of all ages wore the same kind of garments of gray wool, well kept and very neat. Through the windows we could see the looms of the weavers, and the pieces of cloth which they were dyeing, also the workshops of the tailors and dress-makers. But not a word or a song was to be heard anywhere. …

Having … visited all parts of the establishment, we took leave of our kind guide and entered our wagon to return home. …

This description appears on page 311 of In the Words of Women. Recollections of the Revolution and the Empire From the French of the “Journal D’une Femme de Cinquante Ans”. was written about 1843 and first published in 1906, edited and translated by Walter Geer (New York: Brentano’s, 1920), p. 214 ff. The photograph of the headstone of Mother Ann Lee comes from this SITE.

posted December 10th, 2012 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Farming,New York,Religion,Shakers

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