American Frontier Preachers

Discussion in 'The Literary Forum' started by Rutherglen1794, May 12, 2019.

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  1. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks to a brother on this site, I’ve been reading online some old biographies of Baptists who lived on the American frontier during the late 1700’s. Really good stuff.

    (For example: )

    It has me wanting more.

    I know it’s a long shot, but does anyone know if there are any printed books containing the biographies and diaries of “frontier” American pastors from the 1700s & first half of the 1800’s?

    Thank you!
  2. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

  3. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    You may enjoy "The Man Who Moved a Mountain" about Presbyterian church planter Bob Childress. It was early 20th century Appalacia instead of the Wild West but it is very much like a frontier preacher story.
  4. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I'm slowly working my way through the Centennial History of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. It covers 1803-1903, and gives sketches of each presbytery, congregation, and minister of the ARP within those years. There's a lot of frontier stuff in there.
  5. Wayne

    Wayne Tempus faciendi, Domine.

    Richard Webster's History of the Presbyterian Church in America. [early name for the PCUSA]--you can find this at Log College Press. Many of the biographical entries will be for frontier pastors and evangelists.

    Daniel Baker would be one evangelist who comes to mind. Look up his works, also at LCP.

    The Life of David Brainerd, would be another title to read.
  6. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thank you, gentlemen.

    What do you like about this particular topic?
  7. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

    You're on the frontier, trying to make a living in a new world. You aren't rich, but you get by. You live with a few other families in short distance of a mill, maybe a ferry, or an inn. You are believers, you form a congregation of sorts, you have your Bible you brought from the old country. You can gather together, but you have no minister. You haven't heard a sermon in 9 months.

    Then, over the hill, comes the beautiful-footed minister. He gathers you all together, encourages you, teaches you. Here are 3 babies that haven't been baptized, yet. Over there a couple that needs to be married. He blesses you all in the Lord, and too soon is on his way. He'll be back through again in a few months on his way back up the Great Wagon Road.
  8. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    I was not aware that this existed, I'll have to take a look!
  9. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    Yeah, a few years ago the ARP online bookstore was giving them away, along with several other volumes of ARP history, just to clear out space I suppose. I tried to find copies to give as gifts recently, but I had a hard time finding any.
  10. Frosty

    Frosty Puritan Board Sophomore

    There is a great biography of John McMillan in our church library. I haven't found it elsewhere yet, but loved every bit of it. He was a western PA frontier Presbyterian preacher.

    I agree about The Life of David Brainerd (just about everything was 'frontier' then!).
  11. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Are you all trying to tempt me into quitting my job so that I can spend every day reading?
  12. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    This expansion of the churches into the American frontier is why we have more Baptist and Methodist churches in the USA than Presvbyterian and Episcopal churches in America, especially in rural areas:

    In the early American frontier the Baptists and Methodists out-paced the Presbyterians and Episcopalians and outgrew them because they were not as strict in ecclesiology and this freed up more folks for circuit-riding and gathering together frontier assemblies to hear the preaching. A higher level of strictness of those who were from more "high church" denominations led to more rules and order (but also slowness) in expanding into the wildernesses to the West of the established colonies.

    Another aspect of ecclesiology was the "clericalism" of the mainline denominations. These men were very highly educated and genteel, whereas most Baptist and Methodist preachers were less educated and often from humble origins. So they were able to endure the frontier more easily.They were ordinary poor folks.

    The mainlines were also being infected with secularism, which reduced their evangelistic zeal.

    Also, the self-government of the baptists made it easier to take initiative and make local decisions quickly whereas more hierarchical church structures made decisions slower.

    All of these factors allowed Baptists and Methodists to grow like wildfire on the American frontier.

    I believe this is a good case-study in how Christianity expands into new areas and we can learn some lessons as we look into the future of Christianity in places like China and India. I see the same results in Papua as well.
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
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  13. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

    Granted, though in the earliest days (pre-revolution/pre-wilderness road) it was the Presbyterians which were the frontier ministers - "Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson", while the Anglican ministers were all settled in their parishes. But I agree with your main points.

    The Cumberland Presbyterians did give it a shot, though (as in, loosening standards to get more men in the field).
  14. Fly Caster

    Fly Caster Puritan Board Sophomore

  15. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    The old saying is that the Methodists would ordain anyone who could ride a horse, while the Baptists would ordain the horse.
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  16. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I'll take a baptist horse over an Anglican parson.
  17. Ryan J. Ross

    Ryan J. Ross Puritan Board Freshman

    There are dozens of books on this. It’s easier if you identify which denomination interests you because nearly all traversed the frontier in different areas and wrote about it.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  18. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

    Also, for a very interesting Anglican itinerant in the South Carolina backcountry, Charles Woodmason. Some of his diary is here,

    The full work:
    Woodmason, Charles, and Richard J. Hooker. The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution: The Journal and Other Writings of Charles Woodmason, Anglican Itinerant. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1953.

    He is a pretty amusing writer, from the excerpts I've read.

    He was mildly persecuted by the staunch Presbyterians of the Waxhaws (who also had no time for New Light Presbyterians):

    But there was some common ground:
    He also had an unfortunate incident with a horse's kick that left him with an "incapacity for nuptial rites", but I'll leave the details to the reader.....
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