New Shaker Book Highlights Watervliet Settlement

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their name is wicks book coverThere is a new book about the Shaker community and the original (1776) Shaker settlement in the United States in Watervliet, NY.

‘Their Name is Wicks’: One Family’s Journey Through Shaker History by Ann C. Sayers shines a light on the peak years of Shaker history, from the 1820s to the 1850s.

This is the first comprehensive study of a whole (and very large) family who moved to the Watervliet Shaker community.

Sayers’ book offers readers a perspective on why hundreds of people migrated to the rather odd utopian religious sect in Upstate New York known as the Shakers, giving-up all private property, swearing off relations between the sexes, and living a very strict religious life. Through the saga of one family, Sayers helps illuminate why joining the Shaker community made sense for early 19th century farming families.

The Wicks – Job and Polly and their ten children – arrived in 1824 at the first Shaker settlement in America, just across from the present day Albany International Airport. Judging by the journals Sayers uncovered in her research, the family arrived with nothing but the clothes on their backs. This was a likely reason many families came to the Shakers, according to Sayers, rather than because of religious or utopian leanings. They came because they couldn’t make a living, and the Shakers offered food, shelter, safety and community.

Mother Ann Lee brought her small band of believers to the site after leaving England, where they endured persecution for their religious beliefs. The “Believers” grew into one of the most successful religious utopian communities of all those that developed in the early 19th century. Upstate New York saw a huge surge in religious energy in the early to mid-1800s, and the area west of Albany came to be known as “The Burned Over District,” in reference to the spiritual “fires” that swept across the land.

Mother Ann, who was born on Leap Day in 1736, is buried in the Shaker Cemetery not far from the Shaker Meeting House in Watervliet, just southwest of the Albany Airport.

Author Ann Sayers, is a long-time volunteer with the Shaker Heritage Society and is a former librarian.

The book will be available at the Shaker Heritage Society shop and at other bookstores in the Albany area.

One thought on “New Shaker Book Highlights Watervliet Settlement

  1. Christina Kelly

    I read Ann’s book this weekend. It offers insight into this one family, but far more broadly into life in a Shaker community and the Shakers’ relationship with the world.


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