Tom Sakmyster


The events involving insanity and alleged insanity at White Water Shaker Village to be explored in this article can offer new insights into how Shakers dealt with the problems posed by the mentally deranged. This story, which involved a large family named Hobart that arrived at White Water in 1846, is unusually well documented in both Shaker and non-Shaker materials. I propose to use it as a case study to offer tentative answers to such questions as: How did Shakers define insanity? How did they respond when a Believer showed signs of mental derangement? What treatment was deemed appropriate? How did Shaker views about insanity compare to those held by non-Shakers? Finally, in what ways did the Shaker abhorrence of dissent complicate their views about the nature of insanity?

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