Canterbury Shaker Meeting House // 1792

The Canterbury Shaker Village was one of two Shaker communities existing in present-day New Hampshire (the other being Enfield Shaker Village, featured previously on here). In 1782 Israel Chauncey and Ebeneezer Cooley from the Mount Lebanon village of Shakers traveled to Canterbury and converted several prominent figures of the community by convincing some of the Christian farmers that the Shaker way was what they had been seeking. Among those converted to the Shakers, the Whitcher, Wiggin and Sanborn families, donated land to house the Canterbury Village community of Shakers and the Canterbury Village was founded in 1792, led by Father Job Bishop. The village expanded over time, and in 1803 there were 159 members in three families. Nearly fifty years later in 1850, the site contained 3,000 acres with a community of 300 housed in 100 buildings!

The first building of the Canterbury Village was the Meeting House. The Gambrel roofed building was constructed by members in reverent silence and supervised by Moses Johnson (1752-1842) who served as master builder of seven Shaker meetinghouses all over the Northeast. Inside, there were two stairways, one for men and one for women, located in the northwest and southwest corners of the building, each easily accessed by separate entrances, which led brothers and sisters from the first floor meeting room to the second story sleeping lofts.

In 1992, Canterbury Shaker Village closed, leaving only Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village open as a functioning community. There are apparently only two active Shakers left in the country, both at Sabbathday Lake in Maine. Many other villages like Canterbury, have been converted to museums, which give historians and the general public a great insight into how these places have functioned.

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