Who are the Shakers?

Letter Announcing the Death of Brother John Vining

The following letter was sent to Shaker Workshops by Betty Smith of Georgia, to be included in our web site. She states, “The letter was sent by my grandfather, Josiah, to his brother John Vining II and wife Fanny announcing the death of their father, John Vining I, who died at the Shaker Village mentioned in the letter.”

Spelling is as found in the letter.

New Lebanon Oct 15th 1827

Brother it has been a number of years since I wrote to you, but present circumstances makes it my duty to write; the occasion of my writing is somewat sorrowful; it is to inform you of the suddn death of my Father; with some of the preceding circumstances. He lived at the same House where you last visited him; on the 29th Sept, he was in company with two aged men at work about a mile from home on the mountain, about 2 O’clock he manifested more than common anxiety to go home early; as it was Saturday, he said he must go and do some choars such as preparing wood for the Sabbath. he invited one of the men to take charge of his ax, told him it was a good ax, but he did not know that he should ever use it anymore. He came home did some choars, and as it was not yet night, he took an ax and went about 18 rods from the house and went to cutting down a beach tree on the steep bank of a small brook; he was heard chopping but a short time before the shell sounded for supper, But as he did not come to supper after a little while it excited some anxiety in the family concerning him and search being made he was found dead. It appears that he fell and the bank was so steep that he went about 18 feet before he stoped. A Coroner was called and a jury of inquest was holden. The jury was from Pittsfield and the following was their virdect. Taken from the Pittsfield paper.

Died in Lebanon at the East family of the united society of Shakers a man by the name of John Vining, was found dead on the night of the 29th ult, aged 66. He was formerly of Leyden Mass. A jury of inquest was holden on him and a verdict found of accidental death.

Time wates for no man neither does any man know the hour when he shall be called neither knows the manner of his dissolution therefore it is all important that he by a Godly life is prepared at anytime. The surviving part of the family are in a middling state of health at the present. Farewell from Josiah.

Click here for a scan of the letter.

Click here for a scan of the letter’s envelope.

Click here to read John Vining’s obituary in the Pittsfield paper, as mentioned above.

Editor’s Note: John Randall Vining, son of Josiah and Hannah Abigail (Dawes) Vining, was born 26 Jul 1761 in Norton, Massachusetts. He married Rachel (——-) before 1781. Before joining the Shakers, they had six children, of whom five lived and died as Shakers at the New Lebanon, New York Shaker community. As reported above, he died 29 Sep 1827 in New Lebanon, New York.