Explore the Shaker Swamp with local filmmaker Ted Timreck. Buy DVDs
About the Shaker Swamp Conservancy  

The story of the Shaker Swamp brings together three aspects of New Lebanon's heritage...
...the Native Mohicans
who led the first settlers to the thermal Springs and gathered medicinal plants with the Shakers
...the Mount Lebanon Shakers
herbalists to the world in the 1800s
...and the Tilden Company
built next to the Shaker Swamp -- the first commercial drug company in America.

The Shaker Swamp Conservancy is an all-volunteer New York State Not-For-Profit corporation with 501(c)(3) status, governed by a board of directors. We meet at least four times a year and plan for public presentations on the progress of the Project, work on communication with our supporters and partners, especially the Columbia Land Conservancy, the Farmscape Ecology Program and landowners, and discuss how best to extract the history of the Swamp, revitalize it and make it public, and provide opportunities for education and recreation.

How it all started...

In 2006 New Lebanon resident and filmmaker Ted Timreck proposed investigating the story of the 400-acre "Shaker Swamp" in New Lebanon.

This Swamp was the site of the first pharmaceutical company in the US, a huge herbal and medicinal plant processing factory called the Tilden Pharmaceutical Company.

The Shakers had used this Swamp for their own medicinal and herbal business. Further, Shaker diaries confirm that area Native Americans taught the Shakers how to harvest and process herbs, medicinals and food from the Swamp.

Today, however, the Swamp is largely forgotten. Our vision was to attempt to "marry" the three threads of its history -- Native, Shaker, and Tilden -- with its function as a water resource and as a unique habitat for plants.

In 2007 we gathered a local team of historians, preservationists, archaeologists, botanists, organizers, and constituents to find out if there was a story here and how telling it could benefit New Lebanon and our region.

The Project has three phases...

Phase 1 involved preliminary research into Native American, Shaker, and Tilden history, into Swamp ecology, and into the Project's potential for New Lebanon. Our goals for Phase 1 were to conduct primary research, privately finance and produce a DVD on the Swamp, and to publicize and show it to interested groups.

By the end of 2007 we had met often as a Team; we met with Swamp landowners and abutters; we had several field trips by botanists and Darrow students to begin an inventory of Swamp flora, and we produced a short promo video to help raise money.

By 2008 Ted Timreck Productions had finished the full length DVD. From 2008 to 2009 it was shown to the public and many organizations.

By the end of Phase 1 we had reached our goals of producing the full DVD video and of verifying that a story of local and regional importance existed.

Phase 2 began in 2010 with an affiliation with the Lebanon Valley Business Association, whose "Swamp Project" served to broaden our local base of support.

Phase 2 goals were to do a more complete inventory of swamp botany and deeper research of Native American, Shaker and Tilden records to strengthen the narrative ties between the three "arms" of the project. We wanted to identify the most appropriate access points, places where visitor centers could be located and where trails might be made.

We incorporated The Shaker Swamp Conservancy in New York State as a nonprofit, established a board that includes the head of Darrow School, the president of the Shaker Museum and Library, the president of the New Lebanon Business Association, the head of NY Parks and Trails, a local business owner, a retired researcher from the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, and a local lawyer.

The Board currently has seven members:

John Dax, President
Fiona Lally, Vice-President
Linda Hursa, Treasurer
Deborah Gordon, Secretary
David Stocks
Nancy Wolf
Robin Dropkin

Karen Coy Ross is the Project Coordinator.

We passed bylaws and established a governance structure, and in October of 2011 were granted tax-exempt 501c3 status.

Naragansett Tribal Preservation Officer, Doug Harris at Stone Ruins in New Lebanon

Earlier that year we were awarded a very generous $2,000 grant from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation's Fund for Columbia County. Half of this grant was used, along with in-kind donations, to make a DVD called "Stone Ruins of New Lebanon," which explored in concert with a visit by a Naragansett Tribal Preservation Officer, the significance of an undiscovered carved megalith and a nearby "chamber."

The film "Stone Ruins of New Lebanon," financed in part by a grant from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation's Fund for Columbia County, was produced by Ted Timreck Productions and had its debut screening in May, 2012.

Doug Harris, Naragansett Tribal Preservation Officer; Steve Oberon, Archaeologist; Jerry Grant, Director of Research and Library Services at the Shaker Museum & Library and Filmmaker Ted Timreck at stone ruins in New Lebanon
Karen Ross, Project Coordinator

New Lebanon Town Historian Kevin Fuerst

Ted Timreck's films, "Stone Ruins of New Lebanon" and "Medicinal Wetlands" are available on loan from the library or may be purchased online. For more information, see DVDs


The other half of the grant, again with in-kind and private donations, funded a more complete series of field studies by a team of Ph.D. botanists from the Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Project.

Both projects were completed on time, and the ecological report is a valuable reservoir of data with listings of plant and animal species found in the Swamp, with habitat maps and photos, and with a full narrative description. A Columbia professor is currently doing core sampling in the Swamp to analyze past soils and land use there.


The Brethren's Workshop
Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon

Phase 3 goals are to seek funding from both private and public sources. This includes individuals and grants from foundations and state and federal agencies. Our goal is to acquire property in the Swamp and to work toward creating a public recreation site. We envision trails, handicap accessible boardwalks with audioguides, information kiosks on wetlands ecosystems, and exhibits that tie the Swamp ecology to its human history.

These will be linked to programs and exhibits at the Shaker Museum and Library. Opportunities would exist for local and regional students to do research on the Swamp.

We expect to expand the "Medicinal Wetlands" DVD produced for Phase 1 into a one hour documentary for public television.

Further in the future, we envision joining up with the annual Mount Lebanon HerbFest to sponsor a natural medicines component, drawing on all aspects of homeopathic and natural medicine--including Native voices--bringing in lecturers and practitioners, and partnering with resources at Darrow School and the Shaker Museum and Library.





There are a number of research and planning threads we are pursuing.

We plan to continue our research into Native American, Shaker, and Tilden use of Swamp lands. We hope to use our funded research into the Shaker journals to sift through that data and extract a useful narrative of their views of and use of the Swamp, and we hope to benefit from our Historical Society's ongoing study of the Tilden company and the medicinal business that grew out of their use of Swamp lands.

We are working to strengthen ties with interested parties and are working closely with our constituents - local residents and Swamp landowners, the Town of New Lebanon, Darrow School, Shaker Museum and Library, and Columbia Land Conservancy.

We are researching the process of building boardwalks and have filmed several fact-finding visits for this.

We intend to lay the groundwork for seeking major funding during Phase 3 by establishing relationships with New York and Massachusetts state entities.

Join Us

The mission of the Shaker Swamp Conservancy is to preserve the Shaker Swamp as a unique and defining asset of the Lebanon Valley, to promote understanding of this natural resource and its human heritage, and to create related opportunities for public access, education, and recreation. 


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Shaker Swamp Conservancy
PO Box 833
New Lebanon, NY 12125

Email: info@shakerswamp.org

Photo Credits: Claudia & Condrad Vispo, and Karen Ross

©2012- Shaker Swamp Conservancy. All rights reserved.