Skip to main content
Skip to main content

Manuscripts & Folklife Archives - Shaker Collections

Introduction

This is a list of collections in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives holdings of WKU's Department of Library Special Collections relating to the United Believers in the Second Coming of Christ, commonly known as the Shakers.  Most of the collections relate to the Shaker society at South Union in Logan County, Kentucky, but materials relating to other societies are also included.

Clicking on a collection name will link you to TopSCHOLAR®, WKU's online digital repository, where you can download a detailed finding aid for the collection.  You can also search TopSCHOLAR® for other collections that contain incidental material relating to the Shakers but are not listed on this page.  To further broaden your search to include sources such as published material, photographs, broadsides, etc., search KenCat, the Kentucky Library Research Collections catalog.

For more information, e-mail mssfa@wku.edu.

Journals and Diaries - South Union
Vital Statistics - South Union
Land and Buildings - South Union
Industry, Trade and Craftsmanship - South Union
Legal Affairs - South Union
African Americans - South Union
Research and Monographs
Oral Histories - South Union
Drama - South Union
Shaker Music
Shaker Memoirs
Records of Other Shaker Societies

Journals and Diaries - South Union

In accordance with the church constitution, Shaker deacons or trustees maintained record books documenting many aspects of life at South Union: weather, finances, agricultural and business operations, church meetings, ministerial appointments, member activity (admissions, work, accidents, illnesses, movements between houses, departures, deaths) and other matters of interest.  Elders also maintained records of various "families" or "orders," groups of believers housed together according to their degree of progress toward full membership in the church.  In addition, individual Shakers sometimes kept diaries or journals.  Many of these records are typescripted and indexed.  They provide valuable insight into the history, achievements and decline of the Shakers.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky 
Shaker Record "A," a journal of activities at South Union from 1804-1836.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
Shaker Record "B," a journal of activities at South Union from 1836-1864.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
Shaker Record "C," a journal of activities at South Union from 1865-1879.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
Shaker Record "D," a journal of activities at South Union from 1879-1917.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
A diary, probably kept by Eldress Betsy Smith, detailing an 1854 trip from South Union to visit Shaker societies in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Moore, Nancy Elam, 1807-1889
Eldress Nancy Moore's first diary, kept from 1861-1863, chronicling the effects of the Civil War on the pacifist Shakers as both Union and Confederate troops passed through South Union.  The diary was edited and published by Shaker historian Julia Neal.

Moore, Nancy Elam, 1807-1889
Eldress Nancy Moore's second diary, kept from 1863-1864, chronicling the effects of the Civil War on the pacifist Shakers as both Union and Confederate forces passed through South Union.  The diary was edited and published by Shaker historian Julia Neal.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
A journal of the North and East families recording activities at South Union in 1865 and from 1888-1897.

Moore, Nancy Elam, 1807-1889
A journal kept by an unidentified female recording activities at South Union for most of 1866.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
The record book of an unidentified author focusing on women's work at South Union in 1866.

Moore, Nancy Elam, 1807-1889
A journal, probably kept by Lucy Shannon of South Union, recording daily activities from 1871-1872 and January 1890.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
A journal kept by Elder John Rees Cooper and other Shakers documenting activities at South Union from 1872-1878.

Coke, William Gaston, 1895-1977
A journal kept by James Carr (1836-1918) recording activities at South Union from 1890-1893.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
The journal of Jane Cowan (1829?-1909) recording activities of the Center family at South Union from 1900-1903.  Additional entries by others date from 1919-1921.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
Journals kept by Lucilla Booker of the Center family recording activities at South Union from 1907-1910 and 1913-1916.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
A journal kept by James Carr (1836-1918) recording activities at South Union from 1909-1911.

Vital Statistics - South Union

South Union Shaker journals often included censuses of members, lists of the members of various "family" houses, and death records.  Censuses provide names and ages, and in some cases place and date of birth.  Some collections also include vital statistics from other Shaker societies.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
Shaker Record "A," a journal of activities at South Union from 1804-1836, includes a list of deaths from illness, especially in 1814, and an 1827 census of members.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
Shaker Record "B," a journal of activities at South Union from 1836-1864, includes 1854 and 1862 censuses of members.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
Shaker Record "C," a journal of activities at South Union from 1865-1879, includes censuses of member from 1867-1870, 1872-1873, 1875-1878, and a compiled list of members "who have lived and died at South Union" up to January 1, 1879.  The censuses often give comparative figures from the Shaker society at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
Shaker Record "D," a journal of activities at South Union from 1879-1917, includes censuses of members from 1879-1883 and 1885-1889.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
The South Union Shaker Necropolis compiles lists of deaths since 1810; the most recent deaths were recorded in 1918.  The information includes name, place and date of birth, date of death, and age at death.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
A graveyard book lists deaths at South Union from 1811-1881.  Short biographies of prominent members are also included.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
John Rees Cooper's journal lists the brethren of the North family at South Union, 1874.

Coke, William Gaston, 1895-1977
The journal of James Carr includes a name-only census of South Union members in 1891.

Land and Buildings - South Union

Bond Family Papers
The papers of Oscar Bond include material relating to his ownership and sale of farmland formerly belonging to the South Union Shakers.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
Various deeds and an 1860 agreement for the location of a depot for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad at South Union.

 Youngs, Benjamin
Youngs' 1818 letter to the New Lebanon ministry concerning the design of buildings at South Union.

Cook, Matthew
Floor plans of the Center Family house at South Union, and drawings of some of the architectural elements.

Whitaker, Francis J.
The papers of Shaker scholar Francis J. Whitaker (also known as Brother Thomas Whitaker of St. Maur's Priory) include research and photographs of buildings at South Union.

Industry, Trade and Craftsmanship - South Union

Shakers - South Union - Slaughtering of Animals
A chronology of hog and cattle slaughtering at South Union, 1814-1891, compiled from various sources.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
Contracts, leases and other documents relating to Shaker mills at South Union, 1810-1893.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
A ledger recording accounts of the fulling mill at South Union, 1814-1815.

Shannon, Thomas J., 1801-1895
A journal documenting Shannon's four-month trip from South Union to New Orleans, Louisiana, 1831-1832, to sell seeds and other Shaker goods.

Macy, Jethro
A diary recording Macy's work in carpentry and livestock at South Union, 1847-1848, and his musings on topics of personal interest.

Whitaker, Francis J., 1916-1994
The papers of Shaker scholar Francis J. Whitaker (also known as Brother Thomas Whitaker of St. Maur's Priory) include research on crafts, inventions and furniture.

Molesky, Constance H. and Gayle Wilson
A 1970 WKU student project includes photographs and a discussion of Shaker furniture at South Union and Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.

Legal Affairs - South Union

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
Documents relating to various lawsuits involving the Shakers, ca. 1807-1835.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky - Legal Papers
Records of a divorce suit brought by Sally Boles against her husband William after he joined the Shakers in 1808.

Holman, Billy
Records of an 1829 lawsuit against the Shakers include pleadings objecting to prejudicial treatment by the public and the legislature.

McElroy, Clarence Underwood, 1849-1928
Bowling Green lawyer Clarence McElroy's papers contain files on various legal matters involving the Shakers.

African Americans - South Union

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
Contracts relating to the hire and emancipation of African Americans, 1817-1841.

Slavery - Emancipation
An 1819 agreement allowing a family of emancipated African Americans to reside at South Union.

Whitaker, Francis J., 1916-1994
Shaker scholar Francis J. Whitaker's papers include research on African Americans at South Union.

Research and Monographs

Bennett, Mackie E. (Smith), 1880-1966
"The Shakers and Settlements in Kentucky," a 1935 paper by Mackie (Smith) Bennett.  

Blohm, Amanda
"Changes in the Economic Role of Women in Kentucky Shaker Communities," a 1997 WKU honors program thesis.

Coombs Family Collection
Clippings, notes, and a 1940 research paper by Elizabeth Coombs on the South Union Shakers.

Moore, Mary Elizabeth (Taylor) Leiper, 1885-1973
"The Story of the South Union Shakers," a paper and associated materials prepared for a radio show.

Neal, Mary Julia, 1905-1995
The papers of Shaker scholar Julia Neal, author of By Their Fruits: The Story of Shakerism in South Union, Kentucky and editor of The Journal of Eldress Nancy, include speeches, articles, correspondence and photographs relating to the Shakers at South Union and elsewhere.

Sanders, Nolan
"South Union: Their Business and Life in the 1870s," a 1979 WKU student paper.

Weeks, Estella T.
Weeks reports at length during the 1940s about her research discoveries on the Shaker communities at South Union and elsewhere.

Whitaker, Francis J., 1916-1994
The papers of Shaker scholar Francis J. Whitaker (also known as Brother Thomas Whitaker of St. Maur's Priory) include extensive research and writing on South Union and other societies, correspondence with other scholars, and photographs.

Oral Histories - South Union

McNulty, Sara Jane
Interviews conducted in 1989 with several Logan County residents about their memories of the South Union Shakers.

Drama - South Union

Miller, Russell Hale, 1905-1968
A play, "Shakertown Revisited," by WKU speech and English professor Russell Miller, first staged in 1962 at the annual Shaker Festival at Auburn, Kentucky.

Shaker Music

Ann Lee, the founder of the Shaker church, made music, singing and dancing an integral part of a believer's life.  Bringing their folk singing traditions from New England, the Shaker missionaries also adopted the frontier revivalist practice of combining religious lyrics with popular "jig tunes."  The new forms of Shaker music made their way back east, where the first hymnals were published.  Shakers also compiled their own manuscript hymnals.

Coke, William Gaston, 1895-1977
Nine hymnals dating from ca. 1827-ca. 1880, compiled by various Shakers at South Union: Betsy Smith, Mary Edwards, Chester C. Holman, Harvey L. Eads, Robert Johns, and some unidentified.

Coombs Family Collection
Bibliographer Estella T. Weeks discusses Shaker hymnals and other manuscript materials.

Sears Family Papers
Polly Ann Smith's hymnal, compiled in 1848 at New Lebanon, New York.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
Six hymnals and music books dating from 1844-1886, compiled by various Shakers at South Union: Nancy McNemar, a group of Center family sisters, Mary Edwards(?), Birdie and Virgie Breedlove, and Harvey L. Eads.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky - Hymns
An undated manuscript hymn book and music instructional notes.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
Words and music to Shaker hymns, 1886 and undated.  One appears to originate at Mount Lebanon, New York.

Shakers
Words and music to a hymn that appears to originate with Eldress Antoinette of Mount Lebanon, New York.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
Words and music to an undated hymn.

Shakers
A compilation of printed and manuscript hymns from various Shaker societies, and instructions for dances to accompany singing.

Shaker Memoirs

Chambliss Collection
The memoirs of Issachar Bates (1758-1837) include details of his travels on behalf of the Shakers.

Shakers - South Union, Kentucky
The autobiography of John Rankin (1757-1850), a Logan County, Kentucky Presbyterian minister who converted and became a Shaker leader.

Records of Other Shaker Societies

Milligan, R. A., b. 1849
The diary of R. A. Milligan, focusing on farm work from 1879-1894 at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.

Morrell, Prudence, 1794-1855
Prudence Morrell's journal chronicling her 1847 travel from the Shaker community at New Lebanon, New York to eight others in New York, Ohio and and Kentucky.

Shaker Death Records
A list of Shaker deaths at Hancock, Massachusetts, 1784-1818, and some at New Lebanon, New York.

Shakers
A list of members, 1837-1867, of two houses in the Shaker society at Union Village, Ohio.

 

Title page of The Kentucky Revival by Richard McNemar

 

 

 

Shakers dancing

 

 

 

 

Image of building at South Union

 

 

 

 

Cumberland & Ohio Railroad Company

 

 

 

 

Group of Shakers at South Union

 

 

 

 

Shaker music manuscript

 

 

 

 

Shaker seed and livestock vendor letterhead

 

 

 

 

Postcard of Shaker building

 

 

 

 

Image of two Shaker women

 

 

 

 

Floor plan of Shaker building

 

 

 

 

Shaker garden seed catalog

 

 

 

 

Shaker music manuscript

 

 

 

 

Needlepoint sampler

 

 

 

 

H. L. Eads letterhead

 

 

 

 

Notecard image of South Union

 

 

 

 

Shaker seed envelope

 

 

 

 

Shakers dancing    

 

 

 

 

Note: documents in Portable Document Format (PDF) require Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher to view,
download Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Note: documents in Excel format (XLS) require Microsoft Viewer,
download excel.

Note: documents in Word format (DOC) require Microsoft Viewer,
download word.

Note: documents in Powerpoint format (PPT) require Microsoft Viewer,
download powerpoint.

Note: documents in Quicktime Movie format [MOV] require Apple Quicktime,
download quicktime.

 
 Last Modified 3/9/17