Ohio Religious History


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


“Early Ecclesiastical History of the Western Reserve”

Papers of the Ohio Church History Society Vol 1, 1890, 14-42

Oberlin, OH: Ohio Church History Society
Barton, Rev. W. E.Go to Article


“The Fortunes of a Circuit Rider”

Ohio History 72 (April 1963): 91-11

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Boase, PaulGo to Article

In this article the author describes, with many examples, the unique, highly effective organizational approach that the Methodist church used on the frontier, with the central element being the use of ‘circuit rider’ preachers to establish contact with and serve even the tiniest, most remote communities. Another key element of the system was the annual conference, where the traveling preachers presented their financial statements, “submitted their characters to the scrutiny of their brethren, listened to their most eloquent pulpit orators, subdivided and reorganized the districts and circuits, and formulated plans to capture additional territory and membership for the church.”

For more works on Methodism in the region, see:
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;
Finley, James B., Sketches of Western Methodism: Biographical, Historical, and Miscellaneous, Illustrative of Pioneer Life in Great Lakes Region Religious History

circuit rider, Methodist, pioneers, free history, 19th century, 1800s

“A Stormy Epoch, 1825-1850”

Papers of the Ohio Church History Society Vol 6, 1895, 1-22

Oberlin, OH: Ohio Church History Society
Bosworth, Mrs. L. A. M.Go to Article


“Mount Pleasant and the Early Quakers of Ohio”

Ohio History 83 (Autumn 1974): 220—55

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Burke, James L. and Bensch,Donald E.Go to Article

The author opens this article with a brief history of the Quakers and their beliefs, and moves on to the history of early Quaker migration into Ohio. The first Quakers to arrive in Ohio are thought to be a family that settled about four miles from present-day Morrow in 1795. A number of other Quaker families arrived at several locations in 1797. By 1800 substantial groups of Quakers were moving from both south and east, and it is estimated that 800 families were in Ohio by the end of that year. The author reviews a number of these groups, including the locations they originated, where they settled, and routes they took. The remainder of the article is a history of the Quaker community at Mount Pleasant in the 19th century.

For more works on Quakers in the region, see:
Williams, William, Journal of the Life, Travels, and Gospel Labours of William Williams, dec., a Minister of the Society of Friends, Late of White-Water, Indiana in Indiana Religious History;
Smith, H. E., “The Quakers, Their Migration to the Upper Ohio, Their Customs and Discipline” on this page.

Quakers, 18th century, 1700s, 19th century, 1800s, Mount Pleasant OH, Morrow OH, migration, history online

“Religion in the Western Reserve, 1800-25; Distinctive Character of Western Reserve Religion”

Ohio History XXXVIII, July 1929/Number 3, 475-501

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Davis, Harold EGo to Article

The author contrasts the denominations and styles that gained strength in the Western Reserve with southern and western Ohio. He argues that missionaries of all the Christian churches found settlers throughout Ohio that, in general, were previously not religious. The spread of religion in the south and west was mainly accomplished by Baptists and Methodists, who brought a highly emotional brand of Christianity. In the Western Reserve, by contrast, most of the missionaries in the first quarter of the century were from Congregational or Presbyterian churches. At that time the two denominations were cooperating closely, and the theology and style of both were much the same. Ministers were generally educated at New England colleges, and, in contrast to the emotional approach of their less-educated Methodist and Baptist counterparts in other regions, these New England ministers regarded intelligence and morality as the main components of religion.

religion, Congregational, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, ministers, 19th century, 1800s, Western Reserve, history magazines

Ohio Religious History

“Rev. Manasseh Cutler”

Papers of the Ohio Church History Society Vol 6, 1895, 78-87

Oberlin, OH: Ohio Church History Society
Dickinson, Rev. C. E.Go to Article


“History of the American Young Men’s Christian Association” [YMCA]

Papers of the Ohio Church History Society Vol 3, 1892, 80-98

Oberlin, OH: Ohio Church History Society
Doggett, L. L.Go to Article


“Early Ohio Camp Meetings, 1801-1816”

Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 61 (January 1952) 32-50

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Johnson, Charles A.Go to Article

The author places the beginning of the camp meeting movement in Kentucky in July 1800, when a popular Presbyterian preacher moved services outside because the great crowd he attracted wouldn’t fit in his church. Many in that group improvised shelters and stayed for days. Almost immediately other Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist ministers in the area followed suit. The first encampment in Ohio was in 1801.

Much of this article is a description of Methodist encampments. The Methodists began systematically adopting this approach to gaining converts in 1804, holding at least 59 encampments in Ohio between 1804 and 1816. In 1811 it was estimated that the Methodists held between 400 and 500 camp meetings per year, nation-wide. The Methodist meetings were toned down somewhat from the earlier meetings, and attracted crowds in the hundreds, versus early meetings in the thousands. In the earlier meetings it had been common for hundreds to fall prostrate or become nervously affected.

“”Camp meetin’ time” was a holiday occasion as well as a time of devotion for the Ohio pioneer. Supplying the need of group association to overcome the seclusion and monotony of a rural existence, it offered relief from farm drudgery and a chance for four whole days of preaching, praying, and singing together.” “Here was a chance to make new friends and meet with old ones. Within and without the camp grounds, youths engaged in “sparking” as best they could when confronted with the event-packed service schedule. In addition, camping out was a pleasurable pastime for all Americans.”

religion, 1800s, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, encampments, camp meeting, history free

“Introduction of Methodism in Ohio”

Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society Publications 10 (1901) 165-219

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
King, I. F. Go to Article

This article begins with a brief history of Methodism; first in Great Britain with John Wesley in 1738, then in America in the late 1760s with the arrival of some Irish Methodists. The author describes the establishment of the first American bishopric in 1784, and the unique organization that was developed by Wesley to bring recruits into the belief, select and fund preachers, and establish conferences to give the preachers guidance. He says that by 1791 there were in England 52 preachers and 125,000 members, and in the U.S. 200 preachers and 38,000 members.
There is then a description of the first camp meetings in Kentucky and soon afterward – about 1800 – they began to appear in Ohio. The article includes a number of lengthy sections by other authors; among them are passages from the memoirs of some of the first Methodist circuit riders in Ohio describing how they lived in the early days. The history then moves forward gradually to mid-century, describing the spread of Methodist churches throughout the state. Inserted is a table showing the dates of the first arrival of Methodism in numerous Ohio towns. There is also a sample circuit schedule from 1823.

Methodist, church history, 1700s, 18th century, camp meetings, Kentucky, Ohio, circuit riders, public domain

Two Years’ Experience Among the Shakers …

West Boylston: Lamson 1848
Lamson, David R.Go to Book

(title continued) ” … Being a Description of the Manners and Customs of that People, the Nature and Policy of their Government, their marvellous intercourse with the spiritual world, the object and uses of confession, their inquisition; in short, a condensed view of Shakerism as it Is”


History of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 1821-1921

NY: Pustet 1921
Lamott, John HenryGo to Book

The author was Reverend John Lamott, Professor of Church History at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Cincinnati. His approach to this history was to cover the subject in three parts; starting with a chronological narrative that begins with early Church leaders in Ohio. He followed that with a geographical portion that covers the boundaries of the Cincinnati diocese, showing how it was divided and re-divided into four dioceses, with Cincinnati becoming in 1850 an archdiocese. The last part is an institutional history, stressing the role of the Church in promoting education. There is a very substantial bibliography in the front containing many books on Ohio and Cincinnati history as well as Church history.

Chapter headings are:

-The Beginnings of Catholicity in Ohio
-The Bishops of Cincinnati
-The Boundaries of the Diocese and Archdiocese of Cincinnati
-Hierarchical Constitution
-Ecclesiastical Property
-Diocesan Synods and Provincial Councils
-Regular Communities in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati
-Social Life
-Conclusion
-Appendix, Pieces Justificatives

See also:
– Blanchard, Charles., ed., comp., History of the Catholic Church in Indiana in Indiana Religious History
;
Garraghan, Gilbert Joseph, Catholic church in Chicago, 1673-1871 in Illinois Religious History;
Pare, George, The Catholic Church in Detroit, 1701-1888 in Michigan Religious History;
Heming, Harry Hooper, The Catholic Church in Wisconsin in Wisconsin Religious History

Catholic church, church history, Cincinnati OH, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, books, books online free

Ohio Religious History

“The Puritanic Influence in the Northwest Territory, 1788-1803”

Ohio History XLII, October 1933/Number 4, 409-45

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Langhurst, Winfred B.Go to Article

The author wrote, “It is the purpose of this study to show how the lives of these peoples (early settlers from Kentucky, Pennsylvania and western New York) in the Old Northwest between the years 1788 to 1803 were shaped and molded by Puritanic influence; how this Puritanic influence originated in the West; why it spread; and how it came to dominate territorial thought both politically and socially.” She reviews Puritan culture and beliefs, and shows how many of the Marietta settlers were Puritans. Then she argues that Territorial leadership and the General Assembly were dominated by four religious groups; the ‘New England Puritans’, Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, Methodists and Quakers, and that the latter three groups all supported the Puritans in using the Territorial government to carry out their agenda, including the prevention of vice and morality, and promotion of education.

Puritans, Northwest Territory, religion, Methodists, Quakers, Presbyterians, Scotch-Irish, 18th century, 1790s, ebooks free

“The “Kentucky Revival” of 1799-1805″, with Especial Reference to its Effects upon Christianity in Ohio”

Papers of the Ohio Church History Society Vol 5 1894, 44-71

Oberlin, OH: Ohio Church History Society
Leonard, Rev. D. L.Go to Article


Shakers of Ohio …

Columbus: Heer 1907
MacLean, J. P.Go to Book

(title continued) ” … Fugitive Papers Concerning the Shakers of Ohio, with Unpublished Manuscripts”

Illustrated. Chapter headings are:

The Kentucky Revival and its Influence on the Miami Valley
The Shaker Community of Warren County
Rise, Progress and Extinction of the Society at Cleveland, Ohio
Watervleit, Ohio, Shaker Community
Origin, Rise, Progress and Decline of the Whitewater Community of Shakers Located in Hamilton County, Ohio
Shakers of Eagle and Straight Creeks
Shaker Mission to the Shawnee Indians
Mobbing the Shakers of Union Village
Spiritualism Among the Shakers of Union Village, Ohio

Twenty Five Years in the West

Chicago: Manford 1867
Manford, ErasmusGo to Book

Memoir of an itinerant Universalist minister in the Old Northwest.

“Religion as a Factor in the Early Development of Ohio”

Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association IX, (1915-16) 75-89

Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Torch Press
Mitchell, M. J.Go to Article

The author of this article tries to determine how much, and in what ways, religion influenced the development of institutions and the culture of the pioneers from the earliest settlements until about the 1820s. She says that the influence of the Congregationalist church was clear in the Marietta settlement. One of the leaders of the Ohio Company, Reverend Manasseh Cutler, organized a church of 31 of the 48 settlers before the departed New England. The early settlement of Youngstown in the Western Reserve also was Congregationalist. The frontier settlements in the east and south of Ohio consisted largely of Scotch-Irish Presbyterians from Pennsylvania.

The author shows how the churches led in establishing educational institutions in Cincinnati, and in publishing many of the first newspapers in Ohio. She claims that in the early settlements social life was centered in the churches, and “religion was the chief intellectual food.” She also covers the competition between different denominations for recruits, the multiplication of sects, and the phenomenon of Presbyterian and then Methodist camp meetings.

religion, religious history, Congregationalist, Marietta OH, pioneers, 18th century, 1800s, history

“Philander Chase, the Pioneer Missionary and Educator”

The “Old Northwest” Genealogical Quarterly III, (Oct 1900) 157-61

Columbus, Ohio: “Old Northwest” Genealogical Society
Morehouse, Frederic CookGo to Article

Philander Chase (1775-1852) grew up in New Hampshire, graduated from Dartmouth College, and was ordained about 1800. In 1817 he settled in Worthington, in central Ohio, and began missionary work, founding a number of parishes. In 1821 he became the president of Cincinnati College, and about that time began efforts to establish a theological seminary in the west. He failed to get support from U.S. east coast church authorities, so he went to England to obtain funding. His success there enabled him to found the Theological Seminary of Ohio and Kenyon College at Gambier in Knox County. This article also describes subsequent efforts by Chase to found churches and schools in Ohio.

Philander Chase, missionary, pioneer, Cincinnati College, 19th century, Kenyon College, Theological Seminary of Ohio, public domain

Debate on the Evidences of Christianity …

Bethany, VA: Campbell 1829
Owen, Robert and Campbell, Alexander
Go to Book

(title continued) “… containing an examination of the social system, and of all the systems of scepticism of ancient and modern times, held in the city of Cincinnati, for eight days successively, between Robert Owen, of New Lanark, Scotland, and Alexander Campbell, of Bethany, Virginia”

This book is a nearly verbatim account of a debate on the evidence for Christianity that began April 13, 1829 in Cincinnati between Robert Owen and Alexander Campbell. The debate continued for two weeks and featured 25 speeches by each. Robert Owen (1771-1858) was a successful industrialist in Scotland who developed a non-Christian philosophy and founded new communities on the basis of his philosophy, including one in New Harmony, IN. Campbell was a minister from Bethany, VA who was an experienced debater on Christianity.

Robert Owen, atheist, 19th century, religion, books, books online free

Ohio Religious History

“Ohio Sunday-School History”

Papers of the Ohio Church History Society Vol 3, 1892, 1-20

Oberlin, OH: Ohio Church History Society
Pond, Chauncey N.Go to Article


David Zeisberger and his Brown Brethren

Bethlehem, Pa.: Moravian Publication Concern 1902
Rice, William HenryGo to Book


The Universalist Church in Ohio

Ohio Universalist Convention 1923
Robinson, Elmo ArnoldGo to Book


“Lydia Finney and Evangelical Womanhood”

Ohio History Vol 103 Summer-Autumn 1994 170-189

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Rokicky, Catherine M.Go to Article

Lydia Andrew Finney (1804-1847) was the wife of Charles Grandison Finney, who was a professor at Oberlin College and a leader in the evangelical movement known as the ‘Second Great Awakening’. Lydia Finney became an evangelical leader in her own right, becoming very influential among women in the movement. This paper was written by a graduate student who was apparently writing a dissertation on Finney. It explores the role of women and of Finney in this religious movement in the 1830s and 1840s.

evangelical, Second Great Awakening, Lydia Finney, Charles Grandison Finney, Oberlin College, women in religion, 19th century, American history

“The Quakers, Their Migration to the Upper Ohio, Their Customs and Discipline”

Ohio History XXXVII, January 1928/Number 1, 35-85

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Smith, H. E.Go to Article

This 50-page history was written by a descendant of early Quaker settlers in Ohio. He explains that Quaker farmers in southern states were under pressure by the 1780s and 1790s from their coreligionists to divest their slaves and disavow the system of slavery. A group in North Carolina decided to facilitate the movement of Quakers into the Northwest Territory, which was by statute to be free of slavery, and the first group of Quaker settlers crossed the Ohio River at Wheeling in 1800. By the end of that year it was believed that over 800 Quakers had arrived in Ohio country.

Quakers, customs, religion, 1790s, 1800s, pioneers, Ohio country, history

Pictures of Early Methodism in Ohio

Cincinnati: Jennings and Graham 1909
Williams, SamuelGo to Book


“An Expedition against the Shakers”

Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society Publications 21 (October 1912) 403-15

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Youngs, Benjamin SethGo to Article

There is no information here about the author, but a note at the end of the article indicates that this was actually written in August 1810, immediately after the incident described. Clearly it was written by a member of the Shaker community, although it isn’t clear who it was meant for. According to the article, 500 armed men, in uniform and with their officers arrived at the Shaker meeting house near Lebanon in Warren County and demanded that the Shakers their “renounce our faith and practice, our public preaching and mode of worship, or quit the country.”

The article goes on to describe the preceding events that led to this confrontation, and then describes events when the troops arrived. A crowd of locals that he estimated at 1,500 to 2,000 came also; many of them armed. The church was accused of having kidnapped some local children. Most of the article then describes meetings and negotiations between representatives of the church and of the local community.

1810, Shakers, Lebanon OH, religious persecution, American history


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