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On Nov. 10 the Anderson County Humanities Council will provide an opportunity to hear the story of Mary Settles, the last Shaker at Pleasant Hill.
Janet Scott, who portrays Mary, will tell Mary’s story from 7-8 p.m. at the Emma B. Ward Elementary School library.
Mary Settles was born Oct. 31, 1835, in Louisville. Her mother, Mary Ann, died during childbirth, leaving Mary to be raised by her father, Daniel.
Mary developed a love for learning at an early age and was drawn to teaching immediately. She was teaching in the Louisville Public School system when she married Frank Settles.
News of settlers in Missouri carving out a new nation traveled rapidly and Mary’s husband was eager to join them. Frank planned that he and Mary would have a large family — at least 10 children — to work the land.
When Mary gave birth to their second child, she nearly died. The midwife told her she could not have any more children. This didn’t fit in with Frank’s plans to go to Missouri, so he took Mary and their two children to Pleasant Hill. Leaving Mary a “widow” and the children without a father, Frank left his family in the care of the Shakers.
Over time, Mary embraced the Shaker community and them, her. She took on the Shaker life which called for equality for women, celibacy, simple living, seeking salvation, and living communally. She began teaching again, and for 27 years, she educated the young women at Pleasant Hill.
Like the rest of America, Pleasant Hill was changed forever by the Civil War. With the battle coming to their back door, the Shakers did what they could to help the hungry and wounded soldiers, but they refused to involve themselves in the politics of the war.
In the end, Mary was the last of the Pleasant Hill Shakers. She died on March 29, 1923, in the Center Family House and was buried in the cemetery at Pleasant Hill.
Janet Scott portrays Mary Settles for Kentucky Chautauqua. Scott graduated summa cum Laude with honors in theater from Columbia University. She studied acting with Stella Adler and had a 30-year professional career in theater in New York.
The program is a presentation of the Kentucky Humanities Council, with local sponsorship provided by the Lawrenceburg Woman’s Club.
Admission is free and open to the public.