David D. Newell


William Scales is an elusive and intriguing figure in the history of early Shakerism. Scales was not a typical Shaker convert - he was a graduate of Harvard University, had been an itinerant Congregational minister, and had published two works prior to his conversion to Shakerism in 1782 or 1783. It is known that he wrote about Shakerism, both when he lived with Mother Ann Lee "and the elders with her" as well as afterwards, but until recently, it was presumed that none of his works about the Shakers had been published or survived in manuscript form. Scales' "The Mystery of the People Called Shakers Laid Open" has recently come to light. It was published in the June 15, 1789 issue of the Boston Gazette and Country Journal and prominently featured on the first page.

It is a remarkable work by an eccentric and controversial genius. It sheds new light on the early years of the Shaker Church - a period not well illuminated for there are few surviving primary sources which document the tumultuous first years following the opening of the Shaker gospel to the World.

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