Marker #1817, "Shaker Ferry Road / Shaker Landing"

Marker #1817, “Shaker Ferry Road / Shaker Landing,” in Mercer County marks the site of a vital transportation route for Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill and other nearby communities during the nineteenth century.

The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, better known as Shakers, was a Protestant sect founded in 1747 in England. Its members were known for whirling and dancing vigorously as a part of their communal worship practices. In 1774, a small group of Shakers led by Mother Ann Lee sailed across the Atlantic and eventually settled near Albany, New York. During the next century, the Shakers established 19 utopian religious communities across the northeastern United States, Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky.

The Shakers who settled at Pleasant Hill in 1806 would have fascinated the other residents of Mercer County during the nineteenth century. In addition to their unconventional worship habits, the Shakers set themselves apart from the outside world through their plain dress and dogmatic commitment to orderliness and simplicity, their communal living arrangements, their vows of celibacy, and their ideological pacificism. Nevertheless, the Shakers of Pleasant Hill regularly engaged with others who lived in central Kentucky and beyond. In fact, their economic livelihood often depended upon it.

While the Shaker community at Pleasant Hill was built around principles of agrarianism and self-sufficiency, commercial trade also brought them into regular contact with their neighbors. Shakers enjoyed a reputation for well-made artisan goods such as Shaker brooms, furniture, leather goods, baskets, cookware, processed fruit and vegetable products, seed packets, and herbal medicines, among many other items. Shaker Ferry Road, the subject of this historical marker, was used to transport these products to markets across the country. During the nineteenth-century heyday of flatboat and steamboat travel, Shaker goods frequently made their way up the Kentucky River to the Ohio and then down the Mississippi to New Orleans and other port cities.

During the Civil War, Shaker Ferry Road was used at various times by both Union and Confederate armies moving through central Kentucky. As pacifists and civilians, the Pleasant Hill Shakers lived in fear of military units in their midst, a concern fueled in part by the constant threat of losing horses, wagons, food, and goods to whatever forces passed through the area. Nevertheless, their religious commitment to hospitality for strangers also compelled them to feed anyone who sought their aid, regardless of ideological affiliation. As a result, thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers camped at Pleasant Hill at different times.

In the decades after the Civil War, the number of residents at Pleasant Hill’s Shaker community dwindled as the Shaker religious movement as a whole encountered declining public interest and paid a demographic price for making celibacy one of its ideological cornerstones. The expansion of railroad networks throughout Kentucky and beyond also diminished the need for Shaker Landing as a transport hub along the Kentucky River. Nevertheless, traces of the various transportation networks that the Shakers established in Mercer County continue to exist to this day.

Historical marker #1817 reads:

Shaker Ferry Road

Begun 1826, this two-mile section of road was Shaker lifeline to trade on Kentucky River. Although improved by Shakers in 1840s, the present road, cut from stone cliff by star drills and sledgehammers, was not completed until 1861. Evidence of drill holes is still visible. Frequent use by heavy Civil War equipment caused severe damage, but Shakers made repairs.

Shaker Landing

At foot of this road is landing purchased by Shakers, 1830. Site made Pleasant Hill busy river port and ferry crossing. Quality Shaker products left here for downriver markets as far away as New Orleans. During Civil War, ferry confiscated by Federal forces; it was soon retrieved and back in use. By 1873, ferry could transport two wagons and horse teams at each crossing.



Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, junction of US 68 and Shaker Ferry Rd.