National Geographic : 1970 Aug
Shaker community; earlier ones had been founded in New York at Watervliet, outside Albany, and New Lebanon. At the height of the Shaker movement, just before the Civil War, there were about 6,000 members of the sect in 18 communities ranging as far west as Ohio and as far south as Kentucky." Mr. Dodd produced an old engraving of one of the Shakers' strange sessions of worship. In the picture, the faithful were dancing themselves into the shaking frenzy from which they took their name (opposite). "There's a prophecy of Mother Ann's that the sect will have a rebirth when its numbers are reduced to the number of her original mission," Mr. Dodd said. "Although I don't have a complete list of present-day members, I suspect they may now be close to that count on a nationwide basis." My mother, who is 79, remembers visiting the Shakers with her father, a farmer who liked to buy their famous vegetable seeds. On their way home to West Stockbridge, grandfather would sometimes steer his buggy through Lenox. "We've seen some plain and honest birds this morning," he'd say to his small daughter. "Let's look at the peacocks in the afternoon." The "peacocks" were the New Yorkers who were spending millions around Lenox on mansions and grandiose hospitality in imitation of Edwardian English country life. Their edifices included 100-room "cottages," and even one reproduction of the Petit Trianon at Versailles. Many Estates Now Serve Educational Purposes The great houses of Lenox are now filled mostly with school children, for many have been taken over by the board ing schools for which the Berkshires are well known. Lenox School, begun in 1926 by the Episcopal Church, occupies the former Schermerhorn estate and adjacent properties in a setting of shady woods and splendid buildings. The institution, "a place asking moderate tuition for boys of moderate means," has 180 students, taught by a faculty of 27. "We try to -instill the idea of service in our boys," David H. Wood, assistant headmaster, said, "and we're particularly proud of our summer projects. Our groups have spent sum mers really helping out the disadvantaged in Japan, Mexico, Canada, England, and an American Indian reservation." One of the newest of Berkshire's schools, Simon's Rock, lies 11 miles south of Lenox, in a fold of the hills in Great Barrington. The founder, Mrs. Elizabeth B. Hall, told me that the site was once the home of her parents. Here she is creating something new in American education-a four-year course in college-level liberal arts for students who have completed the tenth grade. About 130 now study at Simon's Rock, which graduated its first class this year. Any area students whose talents run to the performing arts find themselves in a good geographical position for summer time extracurricular studies. The Berkshire Theater Festival is at Stockbridge at the end of that Main Street which resident "Norman Rockwell (preceding pages) has celebrated in one of his paintings. Since its founding in 1966, the festival has pro vided a stage for new plays away from the financial and critical pressures of Broadway. 218 "Shake, shake along, shake along, Daniel; Shake out of me all things carnal." So chanted members of the Shaker sect during Sunday dances (right) at their communal farm near Pittsfield. For more than a century, be ginning in 1790, the colony thrived here, breeding cattle and devel oping an extensive garden-seed business. The society required converts to accept celibacy, and, despite taking in orphans, the Berkshire community dwindled to three by 1960. Last year 35,000 visitors toured the settlement, now a museum that includes the circular barn, workshops, and five-story brick dwelling (below).