The Harvard Settlement was the second Shaker community in the United States and the first in Massachusetts. Following a period of religious unrest, a number of dissenters abandoned the Protestant Church of Harvard and constructed in 1769 what was to become known as the Square House. Seeking to establish relations with these idealistic zealots, Mother Ann visited the leaderless group in 1781 and quickly brought them into the folds of the United Society of Believers. Occasionally residing in the Square House herself, Mother Ann gradually cemented Shaker influence over the region and established a community of Shakers here over the next few years.
The longevity of Harvard Shaker Community was remarkable. In the 1880ís, the average lifespan of a Harvard Shaker was just over seventy years of age. It would be another 50 years before the general populace were to equal that. A casual walk through the Harvard Shaker cemetery reveals an unusual number of long lived community members, and ages in the 90ís are not uncommon.
The Harvard Shakers were in no doubt as to the reason of their extraordinary health and longevity. They had a special spring from which the entire community drank exclusively. In fact, they claimed a 16% increase in lifespan from its waters alone.
In 1855 a drought threatened the Harvard Community with failed wells. Not far from the East Family village was a spring on the west side of Oak Hill. Water from the spring was piped via a buried aqueduct for an entire mile to a reservoir on a hill behind Church Family, the main Shaker village. From here, all the houses of the Church Family community were supplied with its waters which were soon discovered to be of unusual purity. The entire cost of the new aqueduct system was $5000.