For me to get the best feel for a time, person or event in history does not usually come from a book written on the specific subject. An author cannot go into every little detail or his work would likely go on forever. Also an author can choose what details to add or leave out of the story which can skew interpretation of the subject. Most stuff I have dug into you figure out there is always good and bad to a story and the hero probably has skeletons in the closet.
The best material for historical events or people I have found is often correspondence (letters) between people of the time and diaries. You can quickly discern their thoughts and opinions from this kind of stuff. It is about as straight from the horses mouth as you can get from someone who is dead.
Born July 4, 1793 and died in August 7, 1865, Issac Newton Youngs was a lifelong Shaker being brought into the Shakers at Watervliet NY. by his father Seth Young Jr. when he was six months old. He lived thru the Shakers great expansion and highest point to well into the decline in membership in the 1850’s & 60’s. I think why I was so taken with Brother Issac, he wrote about most everything he was doing, thinking and goings on at Mt Lebanon. There are 4000+ pages of his writings that have survived. Most any modern books on any subject concerning the Shakers has references to Issac Youngs in some way. He was prolific writer of journals, letters and also the church scribe for Mt. Lebanon NY. for decades. Many Shakers kept diaries and journals but they tend to be brief descriptions of what they were doing day to day. Brother Issac on the other hand was quiet detailed in his descriptions of things. He even wrote at length about his struggles with celibacy in his early twenties, the battle with “growing passions of nature” as he called it. The true goldmine in my opinion though was he also kept journals filled with his thoughts, problems, interactions with others and fears he had. These writings have given me a better feel for what Shaker life would have been like than anything else I have studied.
Woodworkers are often familiar with Issac Youngs because of his clocks, but he was known among the Shakers as much more than a clock maker. He apprenticed to be a tailor as a boy, a job he did his entire life but was not fond of. He also acceled as a carpenter, joiner, turner, toolmaker, stone mason, stone carver, wrote and sang music, farmed, excellent horseman, leaded seams on tin roofs, steam engine repair, boiler repair, blacksmith, millwright, and school teacher to name a few. To top it off, he was a complete workaholic and perfectionist.
This post it very brief, partial description of Issac Youngs the man. As I mentioned before, he is referenced in many books on Shaker stuff if you would like to know more about him. My favorite reference on INY is the book One Shaker Life by Glendyne Wergland. This is a well researched, in depth piece on Issac Youngs I think you would enjoy.
Next post we will delve into the three original INY clocks I have been fortunate to document in person.