Following is a guest post by Jennifer Bornemann, a board member for Friends of the White Water Shaker Village, Inc. Greater Harrison Chamber members are invited to share their expertise. Contact the Chamber to learn more.

This 1823 Shaker Village holds a remarkable distinction – it is the sole surviving Shaker Village in Ohio, making it a one-of-a-kind jewel in our region.  Of notable significance, White Water is home to the only brick Shaker Meeting House in the United States, a structure that sets us apart.  The innovative design of this meeting house features a rare attribute: the second floor and attic are suspended by a truss and hanger system in the attic.  Therefore, no support columns are on the first floor leaving space for dancing without the obstruction of columns. 

White Water Shaker Village: A Unique Piece of History

Though unknown to many area residents, the remains of a once-thriving communal religious community can still be found right here in Harrison, Ohio.  White Water Shaker Village, located at 11813 Oxford Road just north of the New Haven community, was founded in 1823 by early settlers in Hamilton County and Butler County.  These settlers were part of a religious group formally known as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, but commonly known as the Shakers, which prospered in Ohio in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  They were called “Shakers” because of the ecstatic dancing during their worship services. 

The buildings that still remain on Oxford Road are rich in religious, social, and architectural history.  White Water Village is home to the only brick Shaker Meeting House in the United States and is the only intact Shaker Village in Ohio.  The brick Meeting House, built in 1827, has a unique architectural design in which the second floor and attic are suspended by a truss and hanger system in the attic.  This design enabled the Shakers to dance during their religious services on the first floor without the obstruction of columns. 

History of the Village

Two hundred years ago, Shakers from Union Village in Lebanon, Ohio, came to preach at the request of families living in Morgan Township, Butler County.  They soon found rich soil, abundant timber, and the flowing stream of the Dry Fork of the White Water River in Hamilton County’s Crosby Township.  They decided to establish a Shaker Village there, which became known as White Water.  Early converts donated their properties, thus enlarging White Water’s holdings.  The village grew to 1,128 acres in Hamilton County and 664 acres in Butler County.  

For 93 years, White Water Shaker Village was a thriving center for the Shakers.  They were known for their simple way of life, technical innovations, music, and hand-crafted furniture.  They also believed in the importance of gender equality.  At its height before the Civil War, there were 180 Shakers living at the White Water Village.

After the Civil War, the village’s population declined.  By 1916, with fewer than 10 Shakers left, the village closed, and the land was sold to three local farming families. Later, it was purchased by Great Parks of Hamilton County.  At Miami Whitewater Forest, the 7.8-mile Shaker Trace trail winds across former Shaker land. 

Friends of the White Water Shaker Village

In 2007, a nonprofit, Friends of White Water Shaker Village, Inc. (FWWSV), leased eight acres and ten historic structures of the village.  Since then, volunteers have worked diligently to open the village to the public.  FWWSV has completed many projects, including restoring all windows in the Meeting House, building new modern restrooms, and installing a septic system.  Current projects include renovations to the 1849 Milk House and a volunteer painting initiative in the 1832 Dwelling. 

Help Us Open the Village and Bring Tourism to Harrison

Following the 200th anniversary year, FWWSV continues to raise awareness of the Shaker village, to increase membership, and to raise funds for restoration work. Memberships and donations are important, as they provide the resources to preserve the great treasures in this village.  You can help FWWSV continue its work to preserve, restore, and open the Shaker buildings to the public by becoming a FWWSV member.  Visit the FWWSV website for more information about membership and about scheduling private tours, participating in corporate sponsorships, and signing up for volunteer opportunities.  Please help us spread the word about this unique place right here in Harrison, Ohio.  

For more information, please visit our website.

About Jennifer Bornemann

Jennifer worked as a teacher prior to becoming involved in Friends of the White Water Shaker Village, an all-volunteer organization that is dedicated to preserving the Shaker heritage and buildings on Oxford Road. Jennifer produces a monthly newsletter (Click here to subscribe for restoration updates and learn about upcoming events). She also serves as an ambassador for Greater Harrison Chamber of Commerce.