Shakers

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The Shakers are a Christian religious group that originated in Great Britain circa 1750. The official name of the denomination is the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming. The founders of the Shakers were James and Jane Wardley. They had broken with the Society of Friends during the mid 1700s. They believed that it was the Shakers' duty to actively seek converts. The Shakers were originally known as Shaking Quakers, because they commonly trembled in religious fervor in their services.

In 1774, the Shakers arrived in North America. Mother Ann Lee was their leader. She played an important role in the establishment of Shaker communities in the Northeastern and Midwestern sections of the United States. Shakers tended to live in their own communities. Many outsiders disliked the religious beliefs of the Shakers, although these same people commonly admired the Shakers for their industriousness. Shakers believed in communal ownership of property. The entire community held all property in common. They believed that men and women were equals.

They also opposed marriage and were major proponents of celibacy. Since Shakers rejected sex as a sin, they had to rely on new converts to continue to exist. Sometimes homeless people or migrant workers would join the Shakers for brief periods to receive free food and clothing during the colder winter months. Once spring arrived, these recent converts would leave the Shaker community and not return until the next winter. By the 1860s, the Shakers were in serious decline due to a lack of new members. Today, only a very few people still follow the Shaker religious tradition.

Shakers arrived in Ohio in 1805. The first three Shaker missionaries seeking converts in the state were John Meacham, Benjamin Youngs, and Issachar Bates. Their first convert was Malcham Worley who lived near Turtle Creek. The Shakers established several communities in the state, but the most successful ones were at Lebanon and North Union (modern-day Shaker Heights). By 1846, more than four hundred Shakers called Lebanon home.

The Shakers established typical communities in Ohio. They made productive livings from their orchards, livestock, and other farming activities, as well as from their furniture-making endeavors. By 1900, Ohio's Shakers had virtually disappeared. The main reason for this was the lack of new converts. As their numbers declined, many Ohio Shakers moved to Shaker communities in other states.


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