"Mother Ann's Work" reached Harvard early in the 1840s. Journals describe Shaker sisters and brothers speaking, singing, or acting in the name of a discarnate person during worship. Often a worshiper would be seized by great trembling, or whirl like a top, or begin to jerk uncontrollably, sometimes falling to the floor and either struggling in distress or laying as dead until the message of the spirit came. Then he or she would deliver "gifts" — assurances of love, messages from the dead, directions on correct practices, or visits from Jesus or Mother Ann, departed believers, Native Americans, or famous figures such as Alexander the Great, Benjamin Franklin, or William Penn.
These spirit visitors would share sacred wisdom or bestow a "spirit gift" such as a ball of love or a basket of peace. When one instructed the community to sow seeds of peace before planting their crops, the Shakers were seen marching through their fields, sowing and watering invisible seeds. Some gifts involved songs, dances, or intricate, symbolic "spirit drawings."
By 1845 this tide of intense Shaker spiritualism had begun to ebb. The population of the Shaker community in Harvard peaked at about 200 during the period of Mother Ann's Work. Membership gradually declined after the Civil War, but the community did not disband until 1918. Their burying ground and a number of their buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.