Distinguished Lecture: Robert Lehman Fund | Stephen J. Paterwic


Distinguished Lecture: Robert Lehman Fund | Stephen J. Paterwic

Surface Prosperity and Serenity/Internal Dissension and Scandal, a “Real” Consideration of Enfield, Connecticut Shaker Village

As visitors alighted from sleighs to enjoy the chicken dinners served at the trustees’ office or disembarked from the trains that stopped at Shaker Station, the general impression they formed of the Enfield community bordered on awe. The experience of seeing palatial-like buildings, wonderful landscaping, and a farm like no other, was something few ever forgot, and many contrasted the place with conditions elsewhere in the late 19th century. No outsiders, however, were privy to the terrible stress the remaining Shakers endured when they said goodbye to the crowds that had come to enjoy their hospitality. The repercussions of a sexual scandal of the 1860s surfaced with a vengeance in the early 1890s that polarized the community. Despite the efforts of Shaker leadership to ameliorate the situation, nothing helped in the long run.

This presentation will discuss the internal issues that plagued and eventually destroyed the “union” so highly prized by the Shakers. The insights gained will help provide a more nuanced view of the community behind the objects they left as part of their legacy.


About Stephen J. Paterwic:

A native of Springfield, Massachusetts, Stephen Paterwic grew up just a few miles from the former Enfield, Connecticut Shaker community. His paternal grandparents had a farm that was once an out-family of that society. He is a retired math teacher and has been a student of Shakerism for fifty-six years. He serves as a trustee of the Shaker Library and Museum at Sabbathday Lake, Maine, as well as being a member of Hancock Shaker Village’s Collections Committee. He has authored five books and scores of articles and has given over eighty formal presentations covering a wide range of Shaker topics. His greatest blessing, however, has been his nearly fifty years of close friendship with the Sabbathday Lake Shakers. He is deeply grateful to be part of the glorious work of the Shaker Gospel and to support the Testimony as a vital force so needed by the world.

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