Mary Jewett

A Short Biography:  Mary Jewett, Harvard Shaker  (1717-1791)

by Roben Campbell, Shaker researcher


Mary and Abel Jewett, both born in Rowley, Massachusetts, raised their children in Littleton. They found truth and solace in the beliefs of Shadrach Ireland, a New Light Baptist preacher, who renounced the flesh and worldly goods.[1]

Ireland was one of many moved by George Whitefield and the Great Awakening[2]. He was accused of blasphemy for ‘denouncing the dead state of religion,’[3] and took refuge in the northeast corner of Harvard, the future location of the Shaker village. Here he secretly built a dwelling with the help of some of his followers including Mary’s husband. This dwelling became known as the Shaker Square House, which still stands today. At the end of his life in 1780 Ireland believed his body would rise again.[4] Many of his followers felt betrayed and dispersed. Mary and her husband Abel were ready and willing to unite with the Shaker gospel when Mother Ann Lee arrived in June of 1781, and a year later provided refuge to Mother Ann and the Elders when pursued by a mob from Harvard.[5]

With sixty others Mary Jewett lived long enough to be one of the signers of the village Charter in 1791, which was the first Harvard document signed by both female and male Believers.[6] Two of her children became leaders in the village, Sarah as the village first physician from 1791 to 1810,[7] and Aaron as the first Trustee in the Shaker office from 1791 until 1808, and then, assistant until his death in 1816.[8]



[1] Testimonies of Mother Ann and the Elders, copied from collection by Eunice Bathrick in 1869, p. 226, the Shaker Manuscript Collection, WRHS.VI.B.v.10.

[2] p. 94, Sketches of Shadrach Ireland. Square House, &c.WRHS.VI.B-4, pp. 94-110.

[3] Thomas Hammond Book, p. 163, the Shaker Manuscript Collection, WRHS.VII.B.22.

[4] Ibid., p. 166.

[5] August 16, 1782, Testimonies of Mother Ann and the Elders, first published in 1816, second edition in 1888 with minor changes, p. 89.

[6] P. 79, The Harvard Shaker Record Book, the Shaker Manuscript Collection at the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester MA.

[7] 1834-1843, Harvard Physicians’ Journal, the Shaker Manuscript Collection, WRHS.V.B.v.41.

[8] FM Leadership succession



All rights reserved. © Roben Campbell, 2016.