The Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake, New Gloucester, ME, has tours of several of the old buildings in the place. We got tickets after we had watched the woodturning demonstration and went through the boys’ workshop, meeting house, and the ministers’ shop.
The Shakers must fit all standard criteria of a cult — founded by a charismatic leader, require members to give all their worldly possessions to the community. They made such big contributions to American culture, mostly in the 19th century, that I have a favorable view of them nonetheless.
The Shaker village at Sabbathday Lake is like a beautifully preserved oasis of the 19th century just off a major highway, route 26. In fact, until two years ago, when the road was slightly rerouted, the highway went right through the community. Our guide said that one of the community members wrote in her journal, early in the 20th century, “Seven automobiles passed on the road today. Our peace and quiet is gone.”
The thing that most impressed me about the buildings we were in is that there were Shaker peg rails around the upper walls of almost every room. Clothes, candle sconces, and other shelves were hanging from pegs.
Here’s something I didn’t know about Shaker creativity: One Shaker woman was working at her spinning wheel one day, watching the men outside sawing logs with a two-man saw. She looked some more at the spinning wheel, and the saw, and thought, and invented the circular saw.