Hannah Cohoon,  Tree of Life , 1854

Hannah Cohoon, Tree of Life, 1854

“The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing” 

Officially known as The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, the Shakers (whose unofficial name derives from the nickname “Shaking Quakers,” bestowed upon them because of their tradition of dancing) originated in southern France in the seventeenth century, but truly began in Manchester in 1770, when Ann Lee had a revelation that the only way to truly follow Christ was to become celibate, thus renouncing the original sin. In 1774 Mother Ann Lee (as she became known) traveled to America with eight followers. For the first few years, during the American Revolution, they kept to themselves in their community in Niskayuna (near Albany, New York). In the 1780s, however, the Shakers spread further into Eastern New York and throughout New England. In 1790, the Shakers authored a covenant—those who signed it pledged to renounce personal property, reject sin, and live celibate.

The Shakers had their golden age between 1820 and 1840, known as The Era of Manifestations.