December! Christmas carols blare from every storefront. One party follows another-the
office get-together, and visiting family, and over to friends’ for eggnog. The
shops get more crowded every day: people jostling, and pushing, and grabbing what’s
on the shelves.
Come December, we try to get away from the frantic pace of the holidays, if only
for a couple of days. We like to find a quieter, gentler place, where we can reflect
on the true meaning of Christmas, and rediscover ourselves. Shaker Village of
Pleasant Hill provides just such an island of serenity.
The Shakers were a 19th-century group of religious zealots who developed a society
based on the tenets of celibate purity, confession of sins, separation from the
world, and community of goods. They developed more than a score of colonies in
the United States, two of them right here in Kentucky, one at Pleasant Hill, near
Harrodsburg, the other in South Union.
Pleasant Hill was founded in 1805 as a result of the Great Revival held in Kentucky.
By 1830 it had grown to nearly 500 inhabitants, and was a prosperous, self-sustaining
community. After the War Between the States, the village declined. By 1910 only
12 Shakers remained. The last of them died in 1923.
The buildings and grounds changed hands several times after that, until 1961,
when a group was organized to preserve the remaining Shaker structures and farmland.
This effort returned the village to its 19th-century appearance. Continuing restoration
and education work has turned the village into a living-history museum, with costumed
interpreters, craftspeople, and farm workers showing visitors what Shaker life
was all about.
The Shaker society was divided into five communal families, each numbering from
50 to 100 members. Semi-autonomous units, each family had its own dwelling, shops,
barns, fields, and orchards. Restored structures from the West Family, Centre
Family, and East Family-including their dwellings and some outbuildings-line the
main street of the village, in addition to Society buildings, such as the Meeting
House and Trustees’ Office. Separated by some distance is the North Lot Dwelling,
where converts were placed. They lived here for a trial period and could withdraw
at any time if they found the lifestyle too difficult.
Many of the buildings are set up the way they would have been when the village
thrived. Take the West Family dwelling, for instance. This unit was an "aged
family," set apart so that they might engage in tasks requiring less physical
energy, such as preserve making. In fact, the preserve shop still survives. Built
in 1859, the West Family sisters, that year, put up 4,442 jars of sweetmeats.
Also nearby is the dry house, where the sisters dried barrels of apples and other
fruits from the orchards.
Preserves were a major item of trade for the Shakers. Spiritually, they believed
in separation from the world. But on a practical level, trade was an important
part of their lives. During their flourishing years the sale of flat brooms, preserves,
garden seed, and herbs made the Shaker name a hallmark of excellence.
The Shakers brought many innovations to day-to-day tasks. Clothes washing, for
instance, was done communally using horse power, and ironing was done with an
arrangement of weights and rollers that pressed clothing without the application
of heat. At the East Family Wash House, built around 1825, the original cauldrons
are still in place, as well as part of the washing apparatus.
You’ll find many of the craftspeople are on hand as well. The broommaker’s shop
is of special importance because one of the many contributions made by the Shakers
is the flat broom. Until this innovation, brooms were round, and not nearly as
efficient. You can see them being made, using the same tools and materials used
in the 19th century. Or you might see pails, buckets, churns, or the world-famous
Shaker boxes being made in the Cooper’s shop. These, too, were trade items, with
as many as 2,000 articles of cooper’s ware made each year.
Pleasant Hill is an exceptional living- history museum on many levels. Not the
least of these is that lodging and meals are available in museum buildings. Each
of the guest rooms (which, by the way, are scattered throughout the complex) is
furnished in Shaker-inspired reproduction furniture, and hand-woven rugs and curtains.
But they are as modern as tomorrow, with air conditioning, telephones, private
baths, and television.
The Trustees’ Office dining room offers both Shaker entrées and Kentucky country
fare. Dining hours are set as two- or three-seatings, and you must have reservations
for a particular seating. It’s a good idea to pick your dining time the same time
you make room reservations.
During the month of December, a variety of Shaker Village holiday activities is
scheduled as follows:
Saturday, December 2: Pleasant Hill Craft Store Open House-large craft
store decorated for the holidays, special activities, and visiting craftspeople
demonstrating oval box making and hand-turned wooden writing instruments.
Saturday, December 2 & 9: Shaker Order of Christmas-Christmas music
concerts at 1, 2, and 3 p.m.; Pleasant Hill Singers at 1:30, 2:30, and 3:30 p.m.
invite visitors to sing and decorate the tree in the Center Family Dwelling.
Saturday, December 9: Community Christmas Caroling in the Village-Caroling
along the lantern-lit village road at 7:00 p.m. Refreshments will be served. In
the Shaker spirit, canned goods for the less fortunate are the price of admission.
Monday-Saturday, December 1-30: Holiday Tea, 2-4 p.m., reservations advised.
December 26-31: The Simple Gifts of Christmas-guided tours focus on Shaker
life and Christmas customs at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Shaker Christmas music performances
at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m.; and showings of "The Shakers," narrated by
Ben Kingsley, at 2:30 p.m., fee, (800) 734-5611.
For information, contact: Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, 3501 Lexington Road,
Harrodsburg, KY 40330, (859) 734-5411 locally, or (800) 734-5611 outside the area.
Day Trips & Short Stops
Kentucky is dotted with house museums, restored residences, and farmsteads
showing the lifestyle of particular families. While interesting to visit, they
were usually homes of well-to-do or famous Kentuckians and do not show us how
"regular" folks lived.
The Dinsmore Homestead, near Burlington, is an exception. The Dinsmores were not
particularly notable, nor were they well-to-do. They were just a farm family that,
according to museum director Carol Chamberlain, "would have been middle class
by today’s standards." Everything in the main house and outbuildings belonged
to the family. Indeed, Julia Dinsmore lived in the house from the time it was
built, in 1842 until she died in 1926. Thus, a visit to the homestead provides
a looking glass into the way we really were.
James and Martha Dinsmore moved from their sugar plantation in Louisiana to Boone
County in 1839, purchasing about 700 acres. One ambition was to raise grapes for
wine, and eventually about four acres of vineyard was established. A blight wiped
these out, however, about the time of the Civil War, and James planted purple
osier willows instead, and established a successful basket making industry that
eventually employed 20 people.
When James died in 1872, daughter Julia inherited the farm, and ran it until her
death. After that there were no full-time residents. Family members did, however,
use it as a summer vacation home.
Several buildings remain of the original farmstead. In addition to the main house-and
all the original furnishings-there are two carriage houses, with antique vehicles
still in them. Next to the big house is a log cabin that predates the Dinsmore
purchase. This was used as a kitchen until 1916, when a small wing was added to
the main house. At that time, a kitchen was installed inside, and indoor plumbing
was added for the first time. The cabin is still used, from time to time, for
demonstrations of hearth cooking.
Nearby is the Roseberry House, which serves as museum headquarters. Originally
part of a row of special purpose buildings, it was converted to lodging for Harry
and Suzie Roseberry, a couple who had come up from Louisiana, and who worked for
the Dinsmore family all their lives. The center portion of the building had been
Although you can visit the property anytime, the main house can only be seen as
part of a guided tour. You can photograph to your heart’s content outside, but
no cameras are permitted inside the main house. Tours are offered Wednesdays,
Saturdays, and Sundays, from 1-5 p.m., on the hour.
For information, contact: Dinsmore Homestead Foundation, P.O. Box 453, Burlington,
KY 41005, (859) 586-6117.
It always amazes us how many serious fishermen put their rods up once the temperatures
drop. The fact is, winter can be one of the most productive fishing times of the
year. Not only that, but some species are actually more available now than in
Take walleye and sauger, for instance. Most of the time they are found very deep,
and most fishermen don’t bother with them at all. Right now, however, you’ll find
them in the tailwaters near most dams, especially on the Ohio River, and on main
tributaries such as the Kentucky, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers.
There’s a misconception that boaters have the best opportunities for these tasty
fish. But the fact is, shorebound anglers can do just as well, fishing from the
rip-rap that lines the shores.
Leadhead jigs are the best approach, either tipped with a live minnow, or with
a small twisty-tail grub. Cast the jig quartering upstream, and let it bounce
along the bottom. Set the hook anytime the jig’s movement seems different. Often
it will have only hung up on a rock or debris. But just as often that slight pause
or twitch is all that marks the take of a feeding walleye or sauger.
Winter is the time, too, for really big gamefish. Musky fishing, for instance,
comes into its own this time of year. The big water wolves come out of the deep
into shallow water during the winter months and tend to congregate around creek
Cave Run Lake remains our favorite musky water. And there is surprisingly little
fishing pressure this time of year, so you won’t have to fight the crowds that
gather in the fall and spring.
Large crankbaits and jerkbaits are the way to go. And be sure to use a rod with
lots of backbone. Wimpy tackle won’t make it when a trophy musky swallows your
Striped bass are another cold-water fish. And Lake Cumberland is the place to
find them. Indeed, many authorities believe the next world record will come from
Used to be that stripers came up high during the winter. But since the forage
base changed to alewives, they stay deeper, where the baitfish are. Best bet is
to troll, using live shad, setting up a cross-section of rigs so you cover the
water column from about 15 feet deep to as much as 90. Your depth finder will
help determine where the fish are. Look for the schools of baitfish, and you’ll
find the stripers with them.
For information, contact: Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources,
#1 Game Farm Road, Frankfort, KY 40601, (800) 858-1549.