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Contents:
Program 1305

1. Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill
2. National Underground Railroad Museum
3. Koenig Farm and Spinnery
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Season 13 Menu

Mercer County

For more information:

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, 1305 Lexington Rd., Harrodsburg, KY 40330, (800) 734-5611
Shaker Manuscripts Online offers links to primary sources.
• Janice Holt Giles’ historical novel The Believers, set at Kentucky’s South Union community, offers insights into the daily life of a Shaker village. It was the September 2002 selection for bookclub@ket.

Producer, videographer: Brandon Wickey


The Gift To Be Simple

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

The past is very much present on this edition of Kentucky Life. To start it off, host Dave Shuffett explores the beliefs and lives of the Shakers on a visit to the restored Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, near the Kentucky River in Mercer County.

The Shakers were one of many 18th- and 19th-century religious and utopian groups who took the biblical dictum to “come out from among them, and be ye separate” literally, founding communities just for their believers that were designed to be as self-sufficient as possible. Formally known as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming, the Shakers originated in England in the late 18th century, as an offshoot of the Quakers. A dissident group led by Ann Lee began incorporating whirling dances and frantic movements into their worship, causing them to be ridiculed as the “Shaking Quakers.” What made the group truly heretical in many eyes was that Lee herself claimed to speak directly with God, and many of her followers regarded her as the Second Coming of Christ in female form.

Persecuted for those beliefs, the Shakers looked to America as a land where they could live and worship in peace. Ann Lee and her small band emigrated shortly before the Revolutionary War, in 1774, founding their first community in New York. That community established the pattern all other Shaker settlements would follow, with strictly enforced separation of the sexes, communal ownership of property, members divided into “families” based not on blood ties but on their level of spiritual maturity, and a long day devoted entirely to work and worship.

As the United States grew, the Shakers kept looking to the frontier for places where they could attract new converts and live apart from “the world’s people.” Shaker missionaries came to Kentucky in the early 1800s, and the group eventually founded two communities in the state: Pleasant Hill in 1806 and South Union, in Logan County, in 1807.

Because the Shakers were celibate, they relied on recruitment of new converts to sustain their way of life. They also took in orphans and raised them in the Shaker faith, but most of those children left on reaching adulthood. Recruiting became more and more difficult as the 19th century wore on, and both Kentucky Shaker towns were heavily affected by the Civil War, with crops, animals, and even buildings confiscated. By the dawn of the 20th century, the Shaker experiment in communal living was dying. The South Union community was broken up in 1922, and the last Shaker living at Pleasant Hill died the following year.

But the Shakers are much more than a historical curiosity. Their self-reliance and their conviction that everyday work is a form of worship created high standards of craftsmanship and a simple, functional, but elegantly beautiful approach to the design of everything from chairs to buildings. This much-admired style, coupled with the Shakers’ deeply spiritual but also pragmatic way of life, have given the group a powerful appeal to generations of people looking for clues to a simpler, more fulfilling life.

After the last Shaker was gone from Pleasant Hill, its buildings were either abandoned or used for other purposes for decades. An extensive restoration effort began in the 1960s, and today the village is a restful place where visitors can see demonstrations of Shaker crafts, music, and agricultural methods. It also includes an inn, overnight lodging in various individual buildings, a popular restaurant, crafts shops, and miles of hiking trails through rolling countryside along the Kentucky River Palisades. The guides for our visit are Susan Hughes, education and interpretation manager, and Ralph Ward, historic farm manager.

Watch This Story (12:34)




Mason County

For more information:
National Underground Railroad Museum, 38 W. 4th St., Maysville, KY 41056, (606) 564-3200

Producer: Carolyn Gwinn
Videographer: Matt Grimm
Audio: Noel Bramblett
Editor: Brandon Wickey


Freedom Runners

National Underground Railroad Museum

In the last years before the Civil War, an estimated 1,000-1,500 enslaved African Americans successfully escaped slavery each year. And many of those heading north came through Kentucky, which shared 700 miles of border with free states. The fortunate ones were able to take advantage of a network of safe houses and helpful guides that came to be known as the Underground Railroad.

To explore some of that history, Dave hosts this edition of Kentucky Life from the National Underground Railroad Museum in Maysville. This Mason County town on the Ohio River and the surrounding area were a hotbed of Underground Railroad activity. In fact, the museum is located in the Bierbower House, which is known to have served as a safe house for runaways. False floors enabled fugitives to hide from pursuit until the next leg of their journey could be arranged. Curator Nona Marshall and volunteer Alice Gallenstein point out other artifacts and exhibits that tell the stories of well-known runaways and the “conductors,” black and white, who risked their own lives to help them escape.

Watch This Story (3:51)




Washington County

For more information:
Koenig Farm and Spinnery, 2811 Beechland Rd., Springfield, KY 40069, (859) 336-8438

Producer, editor: Cheryl Beckley
Videographer: David Brinkley


Mohair Mojo

Koenig Farm and Spinnery

Earlier in America’s history, a spinning wheel was a fixture of many rural homes. Then industrialization took over, and the production of thread and yarn became largely a factory affair. But the current boom in such crafts as knitting and crocheting has created an ever-growing demand for specialty yarns and unusual colors. In our next segment, we meet some Kentuckians who are helping to meet that demand: Kathy and Mark Koenig and their 100 or so Angora goats.

At their family farm in Springfield, the goats “share” their coats twice a year. The humans’ part is to do the shearing, gently wash the fiber, and then spin it into incredibly soft mohair yarns in various weights. Some are left in their natural colors, some are dyed, and some are hand-painted in custom colors and color combinations.

The Koenig yarns are sold via the farm web site, along with patterns and kits for specific projects. Kathy and Mark also operate a retail yarn shop on-site.

Watch This Story (6:52)



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