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Posted: 1506602097000
Classification: Query
Surnames: Lee, Settles
The founder of the Shakers was one Ann Lee who was a blacksmith’s daughter and a mill hand in Manchester, England. She was dissatisfied with her religion (Church of England) and thus joined a group called the Wadley Society. This society had broken with the Quakers and their worship included shaking of the body and motions of the head and arms. They came to be called the Shaking Quakers – later just Shakers.

Before the movement reached America their official name was the United Society of Believers in the Second Coming of Christ. The members usually referred to themselves as “Believers.”

Now Ann Lee wasn’t all that active in the group until several sad things happened. She was forced into an engagement with another blacksmith named Abraham Atandernin. Then she lost an infant (either at birth or in infancy). Soon Ann Lee became known as Mother Ann Lee and she came to America with other members to the Hudson River area of New York. This was in 1774. During the next hundred years, the colonies grew and spread all over America.

In America during the early years, it was not an easy time for anyone. The Shakers offered a way for people to belong to a community which practiced cleanliness, public sanitation, purity of food and health care. Money was distributed evenly among the members; no one was forced to stay. But, the women lived separate and apart from the men and cohabitation was forbidden. There were children in the communities however as families would join the society and bring their children. A goodly number of divorces occurred outside of the community when wives or husbands took off for the Shaker towns and left behind their spouse.

In the early 1800’s there was a definite growth spurt and converts came in great numbers. There were noted to be about 6,000 before the Civil War but by 1875, only 2,500 Shakers were known. Due to their belief on celibacy and changing economic conditions, by 1900 there were only 1,000 Shakers. The last sister died in Canterbury, NH in 1992, a Settles.

The theology of the Shakers sometimes matches that of mainline churches. They believe in the Godhead and in Christ. However, they did not look for the return of Jesus in the flesh, but in spirit only.

Ann Lee taught that Christ’s second appearing was going to be a quiet one, unheralded, within individuals open to the anointing of His spirit.

Mother Ann Lee was believed to be the Bride of Christ. She never claimed to be Christ but a Second Eve – a helpmate. Shakers were required to “open their minds” through a complete and honest confession of all known sin that came to their mind. All Shakers practiced celibacy which they called “Virgin Purity.”

They believed in the pooling of their goods; sharing with one another.

They were pacifists.

Many of us know of the beautiful but plain furniture they made and sold to raise money for the community. They raised their own crops and livestock and sold many items to the outside world.

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