The longevity of Harvard
Shaker Community was remarkable. In the 1880ís, the average lifespan of a
Harvard Shaker was just over seventy years of age. It would be another 50
years before the general populace were to equal that. A casual walk through
the Harvard Shaker cemetery reveals an unusual number of long lived community
members, and ages in the 90ís are not uncommon.
The Harvard Shakers
were in no doubt as to the reason of their extraordinary health and
longevity. They had a special spring from which the entire community
drank exclusively. In fact, they claimed a 16% increase in lifespan from
its waters alone.
In the course of my investigations of this
remarkable Spring, I found a second spring
and aqueduct on Shaker Land. It is also located on Oak Hill,
directly behind the site of the East
Family village. The path of the aqueduct is still discernable in its
entirety, and leads to the site of the former East Family village.
Although I am not aware of any records relating to a spring and aqueduct
in relation to East Family, it would seem that this is what it is.
The spring is a marshy area on a
small plateau high on the hill. On my visit in August, it was only muddy
and not flowing. However, it appears from the run-off channels that it
still has a high flow rate at wetter times of the year. Lower down the
hill there were still pools and streams.
The Shakers sunk a stone well
into the marshy spring area. This still exists, and is about 4 to 5 feet
deep at this time. On my visit it was muddy and had an accumulation of
natural debris at the bottom. One wonders if the waters would still be as
fresh and pure were the well cleaned of debris and set flowing again.
The well is sunk into the side of
the hill, and about 2 feet down from the lip is a opening for the pipe and
aqueduct. All that remains of the aqueduct is a 6 inch deep by 2 feet
wide depression that runs down the hill to Route 2 where the East Family
village was. Near the bottom I
found several long rusted pipes. These had sections that were
galvanized - the galvanization process post-dating the Shaker settlement.
I would assume they are refuse from the construction of Route 2.
If anyone has further information
regarding either Spring and their history, I
would be pleased to hear from them. My email address is:
Field Report on the main Shaker Spring, click