New Converts and Imprisonment
Created by Meredyth Tipton

Turning Point
Journey to America
Help from the Indians

Missionary Journey
Shakers Crafts


The Shakers acquired new converts and led to imprisonment

     Four years had passed since the Ann and her followers had settled in Niskayuna, and the group felt discouraged because no seekers had come to their village. Then, in March of 1780, things began to change due to a religious revival that was convened in New Lebanon, New York (thirty miles southeast of Niskayuna). People had grown tired of the Revolutionary War that was taking place at the time, and they seeked spiritual rejuvenation.
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They had been convinced that the millennium was close, and when this did not happen after a while, the revival fever dwindled, and many departed. Two men who departed west toward Albany, heard strange tales about a group of "Believers" living in the woods with a female leader referred to as "The Elect Lady." The men decided to check this place out and went to Niskayuna. The men became intrigued by their visit and went back to New Lebanon to tell others about Ann Lee and how amazing she was. When the leaders of the revival heard of this, they sent Calvin Harlow to interrogate Ann, and see how she responded to what Saint Paul had said during his ministry: ‘Let your women keep silent in the Churches; for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law, and if they learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home; for it is a shame for a woman to speak in church.’ He asked Ann how she reconciled being the leader of her church in accordance to the doctrine of Paul, and she replied, "The order of nature requires a man and a woman to produce offspring....He is the father, and she is the mother; and all children, male and female, must be subject to their parents....but when the man is gone, the right of government belongs to the woman. So it is with the Family of Christ." Harlow became completely enthralled and went back to New Lebanon to spread the word about Ann and her Shaker group.

    Through hard work and Lee’s missionary zeal, the group prospered and gained large numbers of converts during the 1780’s and 1790’s. However, as the number of converts increased, the number in opposition did also. As the war continued, some men accused the Shakers of "being unfriendly to the patriotic cause," from the fact of their bearing a testimony against "war in general." They were arraigned before the commissioners in Albany, and were required to purge themselves from the suspicion of being enemies in disguise, by taking an oath of allegiance; but swearing was not contrary to their faith. In July of this year, Ann, along with nine others, were imprisoned in Albany. They were treated with kindness by the commissioners; and many candid people expressed their displeasure at the injustice and inconsistency of imprisoning an innocent, harmless people for their religious faith.

     The leaders and Ann were visited frequently in prison, and many came to confess their sins openly, and show their deeds to Ann. Ann was eventually separated from the group and company that visited them in prison with the intention that she would be banished to the British army, but that failed, and she was sent to the Poughkeepsie jail. After six months of being imprisoned, the elders in the Albany prison were released by order of the Governor George Clinton. In December 1780, Ann was released as well and joined her group in celebration.