|GSP scholars dig Shaker history
RELEASED: July 7, 2005
DANVILLE, KYIn 1805, a religious group called the United Society of Believers, more popularly known as the Shakers settled on a farm named Pleasant Hill, just north of Danville and Centre College. They lived peaceful, orderly lives for more than 100 years. Now, 200 years after the founding of Pleasant Hill, a group of Kentucky Governor's Scholars is literally digging into Shaker history.
This week, scholars in an archaeology class taught by Kim McBride, co-director of the Kentucky Archeological Survey and the Kentucky Heritage Council, are excavating the sidewalks and foundation of the former boys' dormitory. Along with many of the other original buildings in the settlement, the dormitory burned in the 1920s, around the time the village was divided and sold.
From the 1920s, when the last of the Shakers at Pleasant Hill died, until the early 1960s, the buildings and land at Pleasant Hill were used as restaurants, general stores and gas stations. A nonprofit group acquired Pleasant Hill and what remained of the Shaker buildings in 1961, and set out to restore that had been the third-largest Shaker settlement in the country. Today more than 30 of the original buildings have been restored, and Shaker Village now attracts more than 100,000 visitors each year.
The Governor's Scholars Program and McBride have been working with Shaker Village since 1994, excavating about 10 sites on the property.
On the first day of the current excavation, the GSP students unearthed the limestone sidewalks and part of the foundation. They also found a few artifacts possibly dating back to the Shakersincluding bricks, window and bottle glass, nails, a door handle and even a button.
"I always thought digging in the dirt was pointless until I found out that you could actually find stuff," said Rebecca Metry of Louisville, as she swept the clay away from a piece of broken bottle glass.
"I've never done anything like this before," says Brock Kidd from McDowell, Ky. "These buildings have been underground since the 20s."
Since the land was used for farming until the 1960s, not everything the students found belonged to the Shakers. Kidd says his classmates unearthed, among other things, a lawnmower belt.
In addition to excavating the property, the scholars also took a tour of Shaker Village and learned about the history of the religious group, which believed in equality among men and women, celibacy, and equal opportunity for members of all races to develop their talents.
"They were smarter than some people think," says Bethany Hobbs of Beattyville, Ky., referring to the inventions the Shakers contributed to the modern world, including the process of making brooms, buckets and candles. "You wouldn't think people that long ago would be that advanced."
The scholars agree that excavating is something they wouldn't get to do in a regular high school classroom setting.
"When it comes to archeology, Kentucky isn't they first place you think of," says Dylan Holland of Louisville. "I wouldn't get another chance to do this, and it's cool being a part of it."
Holland says that didn't know much about the Shakers before he came to GSP, but there's one thing he wishes he knew that might make excavation a little easier.
"It would be nice to know what shape the building was," he says.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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