On January 7, 1871, the Pleasant Hill East Family journal included an entry recounting a fracas during which William Pennebaker inflicted a severe and dangerous wound on the left side of Henry Spencer’s neck. This very compelling entry opens up an interesting window into the world of the Pleasant Hill Shakers—a world filled with people trying to live for spiritual perfection, but also a world filled with very raw human emotions. This tension between spiritual desire and physical reality is likely embodied in the lives of many Shakers, but perhaps none more so than in the life of William Pennebaker. A man of good reputation, who showed great promise at Pleasant Hill, was also a man who at times engaged in questionable actions. The series of events surrounding this “most lamentable tragedy” exemplifies this paradox. The following is an attempt to reconstruct the episodes of this very unique event for the first time, while trying to understand how this incident fits into the life of this Pleasant Hill Shaker.
American Communal Societies Quarterly
Available for download on Tuesday, January 01, 2019