Q: What do people from Georgia, Rhode Island, Iowa, Colorado, Wisconsin, California, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey know that you don’t?

A: They know that Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester is an amazing place. There were people at Shaker Village from each of those states, as well as England, on the October morning we visited.

The Travelin Maine(rs), George and Linda Smith of Mount Vernon, have spent their lifetimes enjoying all that Maine has to offer. Now they’ll tell you all about it — their favorite inns, restaurants, trips, activities, experiences, and travel books and websites — in their own personal style. They’ll be offering anecdotes, tips and all the details you need. So join them in exploring, experiencing and enjoying the great state of Maine.

Q: What do people from Georgia, Rhode Island, Iowa, Colorado, Wisconsin, California, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey know that you don’t?

A: They know that Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester is an amazing place. There were people at Shaker Village from each of those states, as well as England, on the October morning we visited.

Shaker Village includes a store with many interesting products, a fascinating museum, a craft store with locally made crafts from lamps to baskets to cheese balls, a farm with sheep and goats and several historical buildings.

The village hosts many conferences and special events these days, from concerts to a workshop at which you make your own Shaker chair. And there’s no better place to examine your own life and contemplate the simple pious lives of Shakers.

There’s also no better time to visit than Dec. 3 for the special Shaker Christmas fair.

Linda

Not in years have I had such a fascinating history lesson as the one I got while visiting Shaker Village. Fifteen minutes out of Auburn sits a piece of living history that is well worth a visit. There are three active members still living here, making this the only remaining working Shaker Village.

A guided tour will take you through two centuries of amazing history. Gardens of vegetables and herbs are still tended across the street. You’ll notice manicured grounds and trees as you stroll through the property.

The Shakers were centuries ahead of their time. They believed in living simply, long before articles appeared about decluttering one’s life. And they didn’t need to be told to eat locally.

When you enter the meeting house you will be asked to put on shoe protectors to help preserve the floors. The fact that this building has never been refurbished, or even repainted, is astounding.
The Shakers used herbs for the pleasing blue stain on the woodwork, beams and the long continuous bench that circles the room. Pegs are on the walls for coats, and benches are placed near the small podium where Sunday services still take place. It must be a very memorable event when the Portland Symphony Orchestra performs here in June.

The upstairs rooms offer a unique look at the orphan boys’ quarters, an elder’s bedroom, a dining room and a cobbler shop. Walking into these rooms, you really experience the feel and the smells of what life must have been like. I couldn’t begin to take in so many authentic artifacts. It truly felt like stepping way back in time.

I learned that the Shakers had a great mind for business. Perhaps best known for their furniture, they produced three types: primitive, classical and Victorian. I learned that the type of finial on their rockers determined which Shaker Village the rockers came from.

Over the years, Shakers have produced seeds, oval-shaped boxes, woolen cloaks and chocolates. Today, they only produce herbs. An enormous variety of cooking herbs and herbal teas are available in their famous tins. Flip the tin over and you’ll find the date it was packaged. Talk about freshness!

We got to peek into the room on the third floor of an 1800s building where the herbs are dried and stored. The aroma in that room was heavenly!

Be sure to stop at the reception area where you can purchase tickets for the tour, locally made crafts and herbs, as well as books written by and about Shaker life.

George

The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing got their Shakers name for their enthusiastic dancing. The Shakers are America’s oldest communal society. They live a simple life, seeking Christ-like perfection in every part of their lives, from cooking to carpentry to worship.

From a peak of 6,000 members in the 1880s, the Shakers are down to their last three participants, all of whom live in Maine.

Our planned one-hour visit at Shaker Village in October turned into a fascinating three-hour tour. The guided tour consumed 45 minutes and 200 years. Standing in the meeting house, unchanged since it was built in 1794, and walking through the elders’ quarters above, was very special.

In the dining room, chairs are hung on pegs so the room can be easily cleaned. So many years. So many great ideas, many still being utilized today.

As we progressed through the buildings, we also advanced through history. I had no idea the Shakers invented so many things, including permanent press cloth. The first Shaker chair went to President Abraham Lincoln.

Today, they no longer peddle their products by horse and buggy. Most of their herbs are sold over the Internet.

The state helped preserve this special property when it purchased part of the Shaker orchard and built a highway bypass that sharply reduced traffic on the road through the village.

We hope to return for a Sunday service, reduced these days to one hour. Shaker services once consumed the whole day. Shaker hymns are very lively and uplifting, and their simple piety comes through strongly in a service of scripture and witness.

If you are looking for unique Christmas gifts, this is the place. The Dec. 3 Christmas Fair includes special gifts for all ages, plus home-made baked goods and the Shakers’ famous “White Elephant Room.”

Merry Christmas!

Visit George’s website: www.george
smithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under:

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.