I am very excited about today’s guest because a) Ann H. Gabhart is a fave Kentucky author and b) she’s giving us a photo tour of a place I love to visit – one that’s about ten minutes from my house!
SERIES: Shaker #7
GENRE: Historical Fiction
RELEASE DATE: April 30, 2019
When Darcie and Walter Goodwin hear of a new cholera epidemic sweeping the area, they join the Shakers whose villages seem immune to the disease. It’s meant to be a temporary stay, but Walter is killed in a riverboat accident. With no family and no money, Darcie has little choice but to stay with the Shakers. To complicate matters, she is expecting a baby conceived before she and her husband came to the Shaker village. Marital relationships are considered sinful in this celibate community, putting Darcie in a unique–and lonely–position. Can the arrival of widower Flynn Keller and his headstrong daughter offer Darcie the hope of happiness . . . and family?
Ann H. Gabhart returns to the enigmatic world of the Shakers in this emotional exploration of the power of love and the bond of family.
Take a Tour of a Shaker Village with Ann H. Gabhart
The Refuge is my seventh Shaker book. When I first set out on this Shaker writing path, I found books about Shaker history in their heyday of the 1800s, but I didn’t have to depend on books to picture my setting. Instead I headed to the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill here in Kentucky (https://shakervillageky.org) to do some on foot research.
So come along with me on a tour of the Shaker village I used as the model for my fictional Harmony Hill Shaker village.
The village is now a tourist attraction with a fine restaurant in the Shakers’ Trustee House where the brethren conducted business with those of the “world” and provided overnight accommodations for visitors. Now visitors can stay in that building or in various other structures around the village. A museum and re-enactors give a glimpse of what Shaker life was like for over 100 years in this village founded in 1805. The village closed in the early 1900s and the last Pleasant Hill Shaker, Mary Settles, died in 1923.
When we walk these same paths the Shakers once walked, the village has an air of peaceful quiet. But imagine with me how different it must have been when the Shakers were constructing their buildings and manufacturing all manner of items from chairs to brooms. Hear that blacksmith hammer ringing down on an anvil and the clunk of bricks going on the houses. The sound of axes and saws would be loud as the brethren cut lumber and beams from trees harvested in their woods. On top of that, cows might be calling their calves and hens cackling to brag about their eggs. We can imagine Shakers in uniform dress hurrying along these stone paths to work at whatever duty they’d been assigned whether in the gardens, a workshop or laundry house. They lived by the motto “hands to work, hearts to God.”
And work they did. They were self sufficient and raised their own food and made their own clothes by spinning the threads and turning those threads into cloth on looms.
The Shakers were always looking for better and more efficient ways to do things. They are credited with coming up with many inventions including a machine to make the first flat brooms. Shaker brooms became one of their most popular products. They also sold their seeds far and wide across the south.
We could talk about their products all day, but I know you want to see where they worshiped. Their meetinghouse was an architectural wonder of open space to give room for their dancing and had great acoustics for their songs. You see two doors because the men and women entered through separate doorways, not only at the meetinghouse but in the residence houses as well. Since they believed in celibate living as brothers and sisters, they also had two stairways in their residences with one for the brethren and one for the sisters to eliminate even incidental contact that the leaders feared might lead to what they considered sin.
Directly across from the meetinghouse we see the Centre House where the Church Family, the most faithful members of the Society, lived. The Shakers quarried the stone from the nearby river bluffs and built this remarkable building in 1833. The stone house makes an appearance in all my Shaker books set after that date even when my characters don’t live there but instead live in the Gathering House, a brick building nearly as impressive, which housed novitiates who were learning the Shaker way.
Now we’ll head back to the Trustee House where we began our tour to see the beautiful winding stairs that were another feat of architectural genius considering the era and the equipment the Shakers had available. While my picture only shows one, a like stairway is on the other side of the hall to keep that Shaker way of one for the men and one for the women. I always let my characters be amazed by these beautiful stairs and Darcie is again in The Refuge because I am continually amazed by them myself.
And here we’ll end our visit, but if you want to sit down and think about how the Shakers lived and maybe open up The Refuge to read about Darcie’s time in the village, you can try out this Shaker rocker with a foot warmer too.
Thanks for coming along with me on a tour of an actual Shaker village. Now I hope you’re ready for a visit to my Harmony Hill Shaker Village.
Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling and award-winning author of several Shaker novels—The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, The Gifted, and The Innocent—as well as historical novels—River to Redemption, These Healing Hills, Angel Sister, Love Comes Home, and more. Writing as A. H. Gabhart, she is also the author of the popular Hidden Springs Mysteries series. She has been a finalist for the ECPA Book of the Year and the Carol Awards, has won two Selah Awards for Love Comes Home, and won RWA’s Faith, Hope, and Love Award for These Healing Hills. Ann and her husband enjoy country life on a farm a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Learn more at www.annhgabhart.com.
Ann Gabhart is offering a print copy of The Refuge to one of my readers! (US only) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? Have you ever visited a Shaker village?