The historian who attempts to reconstruct the events surrounding the Shaker child molestation trial of 1840 faces a daunting task. Much of the relevant primary source material simply has not survived. White Water village lost many of its records in a devastating fire in 1907. As a result, almost no White Water diaries, journals, or other internal records are available to the researcher. Most nineteenth-century Cincinnati court records were similarly lost in courthouse fires. Curiously, most contemporary Cincinnati newspapers neglected to report on the Shaker trial, and only a single copy of the one that did cover it has survived. As a result, although the basic facts of the origins, development, and impact of the 1840 trial can be determined, there remain areas of dispute and uncertainty. Nonetheless, the 1840 Shaker child molestation trial merits close scholarly attention, for such a study can offer insights into a number of issues, including the way Shakers responded in a time of personal crisis, the problems associated with the care of children in Shaker villages, and the range of attitudes toward the Shakers in the antebellum Midwest.
American Communal Societies Quarterly