Mother Ann Lee founded the Shakers in Manchester, England.  She brought eight followers to America in 1774.  The first Shaker communities in America were established in New England at the time of the Revolutionary War. In 1805, three missionaries were sent from the Eastern lead community, New Lebanon, N.Y., to establish Shaker communities in the West. At that time, Ohio and Indiana were part of the Northwest Territory while Kentucky was known as the Southwest. Great religious revivals had spread through these areas in the West, and the Shakers hoped to make inroads with those who attended the revivals. 

Seven major Western Shaker communities were established. There were four in Ohio: Union Village, west of Lebanon; Watervliet, southeast of Dayton; White Water in western Hamilton County; North Union near Cleveland, now Shaker Heights. In Kentucky, Pleasant Hill is located south of Lexington while South Union is near Bowling Green. In Indiana, West Union was north of Vincennes along the Wabash River.

In 1985/86 the Western Shaker Study Group was founded, an area-wide group, with the stated purpose of learning about and sharing the history and heritage of all the Shaker communities west of the Alleghenies.