By the turn of the decade following Mother Ann Lee’s visit in 1783, the Massachusetts Shaker community known as Hancock began its existence. From a small gathering of dedicated followers, many of whom donated the land on which the community was founded, the fledgling utopia began to grow. In 1830 the congregation’s numbers had reached just more than 300, with a total of around 3,000 acres being worked.
In 1826, a short four years before its peak, the community completed building its iconic round stone barn for use in its dairy industry. Additionally, Shaker “Believers” were involved with basketry, broom making and woodworking – the community built its own water-powered mills for grinding grains and sawing the wood.
By the 1930s, as the number of believers dwindled to near 50 members (mostly women and orphaned girls), land was being sold off and original buildings on the property were being torn down.
In 1960 it was no longer possible for those who still lived and worked in the community to continue, so the remaining land and buildings were sold to a conservation group that was determined to keep the Shaker way of life preserved.
Today, the Hancock village is the largest Shaker museum in size and study in the East. It sits on 1,400 of the original 3,000 acres. Travel west out of Pittsfield, Mass. on route 20 and you’ll see the community’s Brick Dwelling (built in 1830) on the left side of the road. (Learn more about the village at HancockShakerVillage.org.)
During its heyday, Hancock needed, built and used many different styles of small benches and stools. This stool is modeled from a circa 1830 design which is part of the collection at the Shaker Museum in Old Chatham, New York.
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