Church Family - Shirley Shaker Village - Painting by Sandy Farnsworth

Shirley Shaker Village

Shirley Shaker Village began in 1793. Founded by Mother Ann Lee, the land was donated by local land owners Nathan Willard, Elijah and Ivory Wildes, and John Warren. It was around the houses of these original members that Shirley Shaker Village grew and developed. Eventually there were three separate families that comprised the Shirley Shaker community. By the 1850's membership of the Church, North, and South families totaled 150 Shakers. The Church family buildings included the meetinghouse, a large dwelling, brick office, brick wash house, brick trustees shop, barns and other wooden shops and dwellings. The South family was located in Lancaster. It had a home for the aged as well as an office, dwelling house, barn, and workshops. The novitiate order was located in the North family which was made up of a three story brick shop, office, dwelling house, broom shop, barns and sheds.

The Shirley Shaker Village produced many of the same products as other Shaker villages, including broom-making, mop manufacturing, and herb production. In addition, its abundant orchards supported an applesauce industry which continued for most of the 19th century. However, the industry that was unique to Shirley Shaker Village was their cotton manufactory. This was located on the Catacunemaug Brook. When the Shakers could no longer support the factory it was sold to a firm based in New Bedford. Later the buildings were used to manufacture rope for over 100 years.

In 1908 the Shirley Shaker Village closed, and its remaining sisters moved to the nearby Harvard Shaker Village. The state of Massachusetts purchased the property and used it to house an Industrial School for Boys. In 1972 the reform school was closed. At present, the grounds of the Shirley Shaker Village are used for minimum, medium, and maximum security prison facilities. Eight of the Shaker buildings remain on their original foundations. Three others have been moved. The area was placed on the National register of Historic Places in 1976.
Additional Information: see the 1884 essay published by William D. Howells. Here he describes his visit to the Shirley Shaker Village.


Shaker Tours - Guided Tours of the Shirley Shaker Village may be held by special request of groups of 8 or more. Since the site of the village is not part of the state correctional facility, special arrangements must be made for visiting.
In 2017, public tours are scheduled for May 21st, September 17th, October 8th, and October 22nd. Additional tours may be scheduled for groups of eight or more. These tours introduce visitors to the architecture and lifestyle of the Believers who lived in Shirley from 1793-1908. Visitors meet at 12:30 p.m., at a restored Shaker building on the grounds of the Massachusetts Correctional Facility and have an introductory talk on the Shirley Shaker Community. After the talk, they go through two other Shaker buildings. The cost is $15 for non-members and $10 for SHS members. Due to limited space, reservations must be made and paid for in advance. Contact Shirley Historical Society, P.O. Box 217, Shirley, MA, 01464 or


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Shirley Historical Society
182 Center Road
PO Box 217
Shirley, MA 01464-0217
Telephone: 978-425-9328 (Most Saturdays and Mondays from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.)

Web Site:

For information on activities and events
at the Shirley Shaker Village,
please go to our Calendar of Shaker Events