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The Shakers at Hancock

Hancock Shaker Village began in the late 1780s, when nearly 100 Believers consolidated a community on land donated by local farmers who had converted to the Shaker movement. By the 1830s, with a great many more conversions and further land acquisitions, the community had peaked in population with more than 300 Believers and more than 3,000 acres.

During their peak period of growth and religious fervor, the Hancock Shakers erected communal dwelling houses, barns, workshops, and other buildings, and developed a large and successful farm. With the 1826 Round Stone Barn as the center of a thriving dairy industry, and with many acres of medicinal herbs, vegetables, fruits, and other crops, the Hancock Shakers enjoyed a simple, peaceful, and hard-working lifestyle, separated from the ways of the World. They named their utopian village The City of Peace, and organized the large community into six smaller communal groups known as Families for efficiency of work, worship, and administration.

The Shakers were proficient in a wide variety of crafts, trades, and industries, including woodworking and metalworking, basketry, broom making, and others. They developed their own water-powered mills for grinding grain, sawing wood, and manufacturing textiles. The Shakers were highly regarded for their honesty and industriousness, and for the quality of their products, which they marketed throughout the region and became an important source of income for their communal society.

Eventually, forces outside the community, such as the industrial revolution and the shifting of America from a rural to an urban society, worked against continued growth and stability. By the early 1900s, with dwindling converts needed to sustain the society, Hancock’s population had declined to about 50 Believers; mostly Sisters and orphan girls who had been adopted by the community, and a few adult Brethren. Many outlying acres of land were sold off, and buildings were razed during the final decades of the Hancock community. In 1960, the Shakers could no longer maintain their City of Peace, and they sold the remaining property to a local group of Shaker enthusiasts committed to preserving the Shaker heritage. The utopian village continues its life as a living-history museum.

Have you ever been curious about possible Shaker relatives? Enter a last name in our Searchable Hancock Database to find out if there were any residents at Hancock Shaker Village that may be part of your family tree.