Something Moving Beside the Breeze: Exploring an Abandoned Shaker Village in Groveland

Something Moving Beside the Breeze: Exploring an Abandoned Shaker Village in Groveland

SHAKER CEMETERY – Located off Moyer Road on the border of Groveland & Mt. Morris at Sonyea

Photos and text by George Cassidy Payne

The unmarked tombstones leave an impression. The elemental need to tell others that they were here. The same reason the cave people in Lascaux wrote on the walls with their hands. The eternal battle between simplicity and pride; the primal urge to leave a mark on the earth and the spiritual quest to disappear entirely. The Shakers were that for sure. A people bound by their love of family and land, yet ready to leave both at any moment — without a trace. A tombstone was not only impious but boring. Yet, they had to leave something.

In these photos, the mortal contest within the Shaker soul is captured in a few leaning slabs of decaying limestone on a grassy knoll. In the surrounding area are the Groveland Correctional Facility, Sonyea golf course, and an abandoned estate for the handicapped. To say that the air has a certain quality to it, is an understatement. Spooky and serene. Is it strange that I sat down in the graveyard, all alone, eating an apple I picked from one of the trees and stared up at the crystal blue skies of an early October day in the Southern Tier? It didn’t feel creepy to me. It felt peaceful. It felt lonely in the most humble and friendly way. Something moving beside the breeze.

In background, Groveland Correctional Facility

Shaker Cemetery

Shaker Cemetery

Abandoned building on the site of the former Craig Colony for Epileptics

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


Like what you see on our site? We’d appreciate your support. Please donate today.

Featured Posts