Great Lakes Region Religious History


The books and articles below are about churches, missionaries and other religious activities in the history of the Great Lakes region. See the right column for more info about this website.


Pages from the Early History of the West and North-West: embracing Reminiscences and Incidents of Settlement and Growth …

Cincinnati: Methodist Book Concern 1868
Beggs, S. R. (Rev.)Go to Book

(title continued) “…and Sketches of the Material and Religious Progress of the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, with especial Reference to the History of Methodism”

Rev. Stephen R. Beggs was born to Methodist parents in 1801 in Virginia, and the family settled in Clark County, Indiana when he was about six years old. He became a preacher before he was 20. This volume is his autobiography and also contains historical material about Methodism on the frontier in Illinois. Some of the topics found in the Table of Contents are:

Early Methodism in Indiana, Districts and Circuits, Introduction to the Illinois Work, Pioneer Experiences, Quakers and Infidels at a Methodist Meeting, A Primitive Baptism, Mission Work in Chicago 1831-2, Terrors of an Indian Raid, History of Peoria, Sketch of Rev. Jesse Walker, Aurora and Ottawa, Sangamon County, the Plainfield Work, The Chicago Indian Massacre of 1812, Mrs. Kinzie’s Narrative, Causes of the Sauk War, The Methodist Book Concerns in New York and Cincinnati, History of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, Western Methodism, James B. Finley, St. Louis in the Olden Time, Progress of Methodism in Illinois.

Methodists, church history, circuit preachers, Methodist meetings, pioneers, Sauk War, Fort Dearborn massacre, James B. Finley, online books free

The Life and Times of David Zeisberger, the Western Pioneer and Apostle of the Indians

Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott 1870
De Schweinitz, Edmund AlexanderGo to Book

The author stated in the Preface that this 700-page biography is based upon original manuscripts. He wrote, “In addition to their regular correspondence with the Mission Board, Zeisberger and his fellow missionaries wrote voluminous journals of their everyday life among the Indians, as also complete reports of any occurrences of special interest. These manuscripts, which are mostly in the German language and number many thousands of pages, have been preserved, and I have carefully studied them all.” A comprehensive geographical glossary and an exceptionally detailed index are found at the end of the book.

Also see: Hulbert, Archer B., ed., “The History of the Northern American Indians, by David Zeisberger” in Native Americans in Ohio History

David Zeisberger, missionary, biography, Native Americans, Moravians, 18th century, 1700s, free history, history book online

A Journal of the Life, Travels, and Religious Labours, of William Savery…

London: 1844
Evans, Jonathan, comp.Go to Book

(title continued) “… Late of Philadelphia, a Minister of the Gospel of Christ, in the Society of Friends compiled from his original memoranda”

“William Savery in 1793 was, in conjunction with John Heckewelder, and the agents of the government, and by the desire of General Washington, sent on a mission to the Indians of Ohio on the occasion of the meeting of a grand council at Sandusky. He kept a daily journal of his tour and of the incidents of his intercourse with the Indians, which occupies pp. 13 to 105 of this volume.”
– Peter G. Thomson, A Bibliography of the State of Ohio (1880)

Quakers, William Savery, biography, missionary, Native Americans, public domain, historical

Great Lakes Region Religious History

Sketches of Western Methodism: Biographical, Historical, and Miscellaneous, Illustrative of Pioneer Life

Cincinnati: 1854
Finley, James B.Go to Book

“The work relates almost entirely to Ohio, and consists mainly of biographical and autobiographical sketches; it is written in the entertaining style characteristic of the author, and to those interested in the memorials of the past connected with the lives of the early itinerant preachers, and collateral incidents in the history of the West, cannot fail to be of the greatest interest.”
– Peter G. Thomson, A Bibliography of the State of Ohio (1880)

For more works on Methodism in the region, see:
– Boase, Paul, “The Fortunes of a Circuit Rider” in Ohio Religious History

King, I. F., “Introduction of Methodism in Ohio” in Ohio Religious History
Cartwright, Peter, Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, the Backwoods Preacher in Illinois Religious History;
Leaton, James (Rev.), History of Methodism in Illinois from 1793 to 1832 in Illinois Religious History;
Bennett, P. S., History of Methodism in Wisconsin in Wisconsin Religious History;
Holliday, Rev. F. C., Indiana Methodism: Being an Account of the Introduction, Progress, and Present Position of Methodism in the State in Indiana Religious History
Price, Ruth, “Indiana Methodism 1816-1832” in Indiana Religious History;

Methodists, biography, church history, pioneer, Ohio, online books, US history book

A Narrative of the Mission of the United Brethren among the Delaware and Mohegan Indians …

Philadelphia: McCarty and Davis 1820
Heckewelder, JohnGo to Book

(title continues) “…from its Commencement, in the year 1740, to the Close of the Year 1808, comprising all the remarkable incidents which took place at their missionary stations during that period. Interspersed with anecdotes, historical facts, speeches of Indians, and other interesting matter”

“This work, which covers a space of sixty-eight years, from the first commencement of the Moravian labors among the red men to the death of the venerable Zeisberger, must still be considered in a historical point of view, as one of the standard records of the times. Mr. Heckewelder was an eye-witness of a great proportion of what he relates, and had the best opportunities of acquiring information. Of his honesty, too, those who have read his unassuming work, can entertain no doubt; he represents things as they were without any attempt at coloring or ornament.”
– Peter G. Thomson, A Bibliography of the State of Ohio (1880)

Also see:
– Day, John E., “The Moravians in Michigan” in Michigan Religious History

Moravians, church history, missionary, Delaware tribe, Mohegan tribe, 1700s, David Zeisberger, history book, online book

The Early Jesuit Missions in North America; compiled and translated from the letters of the French Jesuits, with notes

NY: Wiley and Putnam 1847
Kip, William Ingraham (Rev.)Go to Book

The chapters each describe a Jesuit mission. Chapter headings, with the year of the mission, are:

-Missionary Life among the Abnakis. 1722
-The Wanderings of Father Rasles. 1689-1723
-The Death of Father Rasles. 1724
-Catherine, the Iroquois Saint. 1656-1715
-The Iroquois Martyrs. 1688-1693
-Montcalm’s Expedition to Destroy Fort George. 1757
-Father Marest’s Journeys through Illinois and Michigan. 1712
-Voyage up the Mississippi. 1727
-Mission to the Arkansas. 1727

For more works on Jesuits in the region, see:
Nute, Grace Lee, ed., Documents relating to Northwest Missions, 1815-1827 in Great Lakes Region Religious History;
Palm, Mary B. (Sister), The Jesuit Missions of the Illinois country, 1673-1763 in Illinois Religious History;
Parkman, Francis, The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century in Michigan Religious History;
Thwaites, Reuben Gold, The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France, 1610-1791 in Michigan Religious History;
Verwyst, Chrysostom, Missionary Labors of Fathers Marquette, Menard and Allouez, in the Lake Superior Region in Wisconsin Religious History

Jesuits, New France, French colonial era, 1700s, 1600s, Abnakis, Iroquois, missionary, Catholic history, history book online

Great Lakes Region Religious History

“The Quakers in the Old Northwest”

Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association Vol V, 1911-1912, 60-72

Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Mississippi Valley Historical Association
Lindley, HarlowGo to Article

The author briefly describes the growth of Quaker communities in the south in the 1750s and afterward, especially in South Carolina and Georgia. At the end of the 18th century these Quakers became increasingly uneasy with the slave society around them, and they began migrating into Ohio Territory in 1795. The migration of the southern Quaker communities to northern locations is described in some detail.

History of the Mission of the United Brethren Among the Indians in North America

London: 1794
Loskiel, George HenryGo to Book

“Part I, consisting of eleven chapters, is devoted mainly to a description of the Habits and Customs of the Indians, their Language, Dress, Superstitions, etc. Parts II and III are devoted to the history of the Indians under the Charge of the Moravian Mission. An account of the Massacre of the Christian Indians, at Gnadenhutten, is given in part III, p. 180.”
– Peter G. Thomson, A Bibliography of the State of Ohio (1880)

Moravians, missionary, Gnadenhutten massacre, Native American customs, 18th century, American history book

History of Baptist Indian Missions, embracing remarks on the former and present condition of the aboriginal tribes …

Washington: Morrison 1840
McCoy, IsaacGo to Book

(title continued) “… their settlement within the Indian territory, and their future prospects”

According to the author’s introduction, this book was produced from notes taken throughout the period of his missionary work from 1818 to 1839. He was very critical of the way Indians had been deprived of their land and treated by ‘Anglo-Saxon settlers’ and by the U.S. Government. McCoy’s missionary goals included helping them to adapt and survive in American society, reporting their living conditions to philanthropic organizations, and bringing them Christianity.

This appears to be an unusually thorough and detailed account of this type, running over 600 pages of small type. In addition to the variety of Missions where he was posted, McCoy traveled a good deal. He worked with a number of philanthropic organizations in addition to the Baptist church, and was involved in efforts to shape national legislation on Indians. He made exploratory tours for proposed new missions, and also a number of trips to Washington, DC and other eastern cities. In Michigan, McCoy established the Carey Mission in 1823 on the St. Joseph River, near the present site of Niles. He established the “Thomas Mission” on the west side of the Grand River in Michigan, on land that is now part of Grand Rapids, in 1826.

Locations and tribes mentioned in the Table of Contents include:
Wabash River, IN, Fort Wayne, IN, Delawares, Potawatomies, St. Joseph’s River, Ohio, Ottawas, Sault Ste. Marie, Shawanoes, Arkansas, Missouri, Otoes, Omahas, Choctaws, Creeks, Cherokees, Osages, Chippewas.

For more works on Baptists in the region, see:
Brand, Edward P., Illinois Baptists; a History in Illinois Religious History;
Stott, William T. , Indiana Baptist History, 1798-1908 in Indiana Religious History;
Trowbridge, Mary Elizabeth Day, History of Baptists in Michigan in Michigan Religious History

Baptists, Missionaries, Native Americans, Carey Mission, Niles MI, Thomas Mission, books online, American history, religious history

Black-robes, or Sketches of Missions and Ministers in the Wilderness and on the Border

Philadelphia: Lippincott 1872
Nevin, Robert P.Go to Book

The book is divided into four parts: “The Jesuit”; “The Moravian”; “The Methodist”; and “The Presbyterian”.

Jesuits, missionary, Moravians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Native Americans, US history, public domain

Great Lakes Region Religious History

Documents relating to Northwest Missions, 1815-1827

St Paul: Minnesota Historical Society 1942
Nute, Grace Lee, ed.Go to Book

The subject is the re-establishment of French Jesuit missions among the Indians after the War of 1812, which had ended British control over the region.

Jesuits, Catholics, missionaries, Indian missions, 1810s, 1820s, 19th century, Northwest Territory, archives, history book

The Prairie Missionary

Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union 1853
Powell, Mrs. O. S. Go to Book


A History of the Baptists in the Western States East of the Mississippi

Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society 1896
Smith, Justin AlmerinGo to Book


Missionary Abominations Unmasked: or, A view of Carey mission…

South Bend: Beacon 1833
Smith, Timothy S.Go to Book

(title continued) “…containing an unmasking of the missionary abominations practiced among the Indians of St. Joseph Country at the celebrated missionary establishment known as Carey mission under the superintendence of the Rev. Isaac McCoy”

Smith settled in South Bend, IN in 1826, about 10 miles from the Carey Mission, and appears to have been selling liquor to the Indians. Reverend McCoy, who ran the Carey mission at the present site of Niles, was engaged in efforts to ban the trade. After about two years of doing business with the Mission, Smith concluded that McCoy and his associates were appropriating government money, selling supplies to whites at exorbitant prices, and selling them iron and steel belonging to the Indians. He claimed that children were mistreated and that there was constant dissension and quarreling. See Isaac McCoy, History of Baptist Indian Missions on this page.

Reverend Isaac McCoy, Carey Mission, South Bend IN, Baptist Indian mission, online books, free history

Highways and Hedges; or Fifty Years of Western Methodism

Cincinnati: Hitchcock & Walden 1870
Stewart, JohnGo to Book


“The Coming of the Circuit Rider Across the Mountains”

Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association Vol IX, 1915-18, 271-82

Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Mississippi Valley Historical Association
Sweet, William W.Go to Article

This history covers the period 1784-1811; when the activities of circuit riders west of the Alleghenies were directed by the Western conference of the Methodist church. The goals and methods of the circuit riders are described, some of the men are profiled, and the developing organization of the Methodist church is traced.


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