Peter Hoehnle


The common roots of the Shaker and Inspirationist movements, is a fact that, interestingly, neither group appears to have been aware of. This ignorance of common origins might be because although the Shakers have historically listed the French Prophets among their forbearers, the Inspirationists of Amana have never done so. The emerging doctrines of the Inspirationists and the Shakers provide an interesting contrast.

Inspiration played a powerful role in both communities. According to Shaker tradition, it was following a vision by Ann Lee that the English Shakers made the decision to immigrate to the New World in 1774. Similarly, testimonies delivered by Christian Metz encouraged the members to congregate on several rented estates in the religiously tolerant region of Hessen Darmstadt, then inspired over eight hundred members to migrate to New York State from 1843 to 1845, build the six villages of the Eben-Ezer Society, and establish a system of communal living that remained essentially unchanged for nearly ninety years.

Shortly after the Inspirationists arrived in New York they accidentally initiated contact with the Shakers. On Valentine’s Day in 1846, a visitor from Eben-Ezer, Elder Charles L. Mayer, who served as the Society’s general business agent, appeared at the Watervliet Shaker village. He had come to the village at the invitation of two Shakers that he had met while on business in nearby Albany.

The meeting led to a brief period of interaction between members of the two groups, but Inspirationist feelings about the position of Ann Lee scuttled any attempts for creating a “nearer acquaintance and connection” between the them.







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Journal Title

American Communal Societies Quarterly



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