Religion and the West

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Religion and the West

Religion had a significant impact on the settling of the West. Religious beliefs shaped how many Americans thought about the frontier and its possibilities. Some believed their religion would "civilize" the West, saving it from evil forces, and they ventured out into unknown areas to save souls. Others' religion caused them to seek refuge in the West as they were forcibly chased from the "civilized" East. The West became a vast testing ground for how tolerant America would become. The effects of religion on the West can best be understood by describing the experiences of three groups: the Native Americans, the Protestants, and the Mormons.

The first missionaries

By the early nineteenth century all Native Americans had had some degree of contact with Europeans. While there were certainly instances of pleasant, respectful meetings between Native Americans and Europeans, the majority of their interactions led to the eventual decimation of the Native Americans. Some early interactions with Europeans gave Native Americans cause to be wary of them. In 1598 Spain granted all of present-day New Mexico to Juan de Oñate (pronounced Wahn day Own-YAH-tay; c. 1550–1630) to found a colony. Oñate terrorized the Pueblo inhabitants of the Southwest, brutally and forcibly converting them to Catholicism. If Native Americans dared to resist, they were attacked by the Spanish army. In the early 1600s, Oñate ordered an entire town burned when Native Americans denied the advance of the Catholic friars (members of a religious order). The resulting attack killed five hundred men and three hundred women and children. Oñate sentenced the survivors to twenty years of labor, a sentence made all the more difficult when Oñate ordered that each man over twenty-five years old have one foot severed.

The Pueblo nation of New Mexico revolted in 1680, drove the Spanish colonists from their land, and reached an agreement with Spain. Over the next twelve years, as they held the Spanish at bay, the Pueblo tried to rid their lives of Spanish influence, shunning European goods and holding ceremonies to "unbaptize" Catholic converts. Never again did the Spanish so brutally try to impose their religion and culture on the Pueblo.

In 1769 missionary Father Junipero Serra and a Spanish army established the first of what would become twenty-one missions along the coast of California. Serra directed the soldiers to round up the native peoples and bring them, by force if necessary, to the missions. Unable to leave the missions, the native Californians were converted to Christianity and severely disciplined for resistance. Once baptized, the Native Americans essentially became slaves to the missions and were trained to work in its fields, lay bricks, make shoes and saddles, or provide other necessities for the mission.

Native American religious traditions

Over the years, as contact with other cultures increased, Native Americans struggled to account for the changes in their spiritual beliefs. There were many different Native American religious beliefs and practices, so it is difficult to do more than generalize about common features of Native American religion and how it changed with the press of westward expansion.

Though many Native American groups identified themselves as "the real people," who had a special relationship with their creator, they did not oppose other groups' assertions of similar claims. Native American religions were diverse and adaptable and emphasized the interdependence of life. They blended ancient traditions with more recent practices to continually offer new ways to approach the sacred. Borrowing from others' practices or new experiences only enhanced Indian ceremonies and beliefs. In The Invasion Within: The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America, James Axtell noted that in religious matters "purposeful change and adjustment was the only norm."

Although some Native American belief systems were based on pantheism, or worship of all gods, many added a Great Spirit as the most powerful of the many gods. There were different interpretations of the Great Spirit, but the description of an Osage Indian in 1925 provides a good common definition: "All life is wakan [spiritual power]. So also is everything which exhibits power, whether in action, as the winds and drifting clouds, or in passive endurance, as the boulder by the wayside. For even the commonest sticks and stones have a spiritual essence which must be reverenced as a manifestation of the all-pervading mysterious power that fills the universe." Others spoke of Wakanda, or Great Wakan, in the sense of a "supreme being." In addition, nature spirits provided guidance for understanding humans' place in the natural world. For many Indian cultures, relations with nature were just as important as human relations. These Indians believed that parts of nature, from birds to fish to rocks, were in some sense people—that is, ancestors of the human race. The Indians interpreted behavior in the natural world in human terms and used their interpretations to explain a wide range of natural happenings, from how night and day were divided to why dogs have long tongues.

The challenge of white contact

Despite the differences between the religious worlds of Europeans and Native Americans, there was no avoiding interaction. By the early nineteenth century, Native Americans had experienced dispossession of and removal from their lands. They had begun to feel that trade with white Americans and alcohol consumption were damaging their cultures. Defeat in battle and the white encroachment also undercut many native groups' confidence in the power of their traditional belief systems. Disease proved one of the most devastating attacks on the Indians' worldview. In 1837 smallpox nearly wiped out the Mandan tribe of North Dakota. Cholera, brought by settlers traveling the Oregon Trail a decade later, decimated the Lakota and the Cheyenne of the Great Plains. In the face of these disasters, Indians struggled to explain the terrible loss of life and their changing circumstances.

The Indians' response to Christianity, or what they called the "white man's medicine," was varied and often depended on local factors, including how a certain tribe experienced disease, defeat, or removal. Many groups initially seemed interested in the secrets of the Bible, or "Great Book," and were willing to convert in order to learn about what they saw as a potential source of power. When ancient ways seemed insufficient to deal with their changing situations, some Indians incorporated Christian rites and beliefs into their own practices. If the expected benefits did not materialize, some rejected the missionaries and turned hostile. Despite Indians' initial willingness to participate in Christian practices, they did not abandon their belief system. The Coeur d'Alenes, for example, were instructed by Jesuits (members of a Catholic religious order) during the 1840s. The Coeur d'Alenes honored the new "medicine" by building an impressive Renaissance-style church, without nails, in present-day Idaho. Yet they also reshaped Catholicism to suit their own traditions, developing a Christian war ethic that prescribed prayer before battle, forbade scalping and warfare on Sundays, and enlarged the meaning of charity to include killing in defense of the community.

Indian skepticism

While Native Americans adapted to the new ideas the whites brought, some aspects of the white man's religion puzzled them. One of the most disturbing trends Indians identified was the difference between how Christians behaved and what they preached. In his 1833 autobiography, Sauk leader Black Hawk decried this: "The whites may do bad all their lives, and then, if they are sorry for it when about to die, all is well? But with us it is different: we must continue throughout our lives to do what we conceive to be good." In a famous speech in 1828, Red Jacket of the Iroquois touched a sore point among Protestants with his comment on denominational divisions: "You say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why do you not all agree, as you can all read the book? ... We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us their children. We worship that way. It teaches us to be thankful for all the favors we receive, to love each other, and to be united. We never quarrel about religion."

Many Native Americans tried to counter the persistence of missionaries by arguing that Native Americans and whites were meant to believe differently. Black Hawk explained, "If the Great and Good Spirit wished us to believe and do as the whites, he could easily change our opinions, so that we would see, and think, and act as they do." But whether Native Americans accepted or rejected Christianity, the march of westward expansion took away Indians' ability to continue their traditions without acknowledging the impact of life with whites.

Tecumseh and the Prophet

One of the most important instances of Indian resistance to white encroachment was based on Indian religious beliefs. In 1794 General Anthony Wayne (1745–1796) defeated an Indian force drawn from several tribes, including the Shawnee, at the battle of Fallen Timbers (see Chapter 1). The resulting Treaty of Greenville in 1795 was meant to end Indian resistance to white settlement in much of present-day Ohio. The British continued to rally the Indians against the white Americans, however, and fighting continued through the War of 1812 (1812–14).

Indian resistance was based not only on Britain's support but also on the Shawnee religion. In 1805 a Shawnee named Tenskwatawa, or the Prophet (c. 1768–1834), began to have visions and used them to create a religious message grounded in resistance to white expansion. He preached moral reform and spiritual renewal through returning to old ways. The new religion revived old rituals and added some new ones that were rooted in Christianity, like the ceremony of confessing sins to Tenskwatawa. The Prophet traveled widely among the western tribes, and people from across the trans-Appalachian region (the area between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River) joined him.

Tenskwatawa's brother was Tecumseh (1768–1813), the war leader of the Shawnee. As the American government continued to pressure all the western Indians for more land cessions, Tecumseh tried to forge a union among Indian tribes based on the Prophet's teachings. Tenskwatawa's defeat at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 dealt the religious revival a serious setback, and the religious movement gradually faded as American troops wore down the Indians. Tecumseh's eventual alliance with the British marked the beginning of the end for Native American resistance, as England acknowledged American control over the Great Lakes area in 1815.

Coping with white domination

After losing their land and livelihood and being confined to reservations, Native Americans sought new ways to cope with their dramatically changed lives. Many native religions began to be driven by the vision of an Indian utopia free of whites. In the early 1870s native prophets in California began preaching about the eventual reemergence of Indian culture and the defeat of whites. These prophets claimed that if "true believers" danced, prayed, and received visions of their dead relatives, fire or flood would purge the earth of whites and Indians would be free to live as they wished. These dances were called "ghost dances."

The most famous ghost dance was that of the Plains Indians in 1889, when the despairing Indians gathered to summon the destruction of whites and the revival of Indian life. Led by Paiute prophet Wovoka, these ghost dances would last for days. His followers would dance in circles, chant, pray, and fall into trances that revealed visions of the Indians' old world, a landscape alive with buffalo and free of whites. Stories of these ghost dances inspired similar gatherings in reservations across the Plains. Fearful of these ceremonies, whites asked the military for help. In 1890, when whites attempted to arrest the leaders of this religious rebellion, famous Sioux chief Sitting Bull was killed. Shortly thereafter, Seventh Cavalry troops rounded up a group of suspected Ghost Danceleaders (two-thirds of whom were women and children) near Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota. As five hundred soldiers attempted to disarm the Indians, a gun misfired. Thinking they were being attacked, the soldiers opened fire on the almost defenseless Indians. In the end more than three hundred Sioux were slaughtered. Those who escaped were left to freeze to death in the surrounding hills (see Chapter 8). Though the Ghost Dance movement continued after the massacre at Wounded Knee, for many the killings marked the end of Indians' hope for a life without whites.

Protestant missionaries

For many, religion was the glue that held together civilized society. Westward expansion altered American society because new communities were often established without the social rules of the church to govern behavior. On the frontier, many Americans perceived a decline in public morality and civic-minded behavior and a rise in antisocial activities such as drinking, dueling, gambling, and prostitution. Some worried that if such tendencies were not curbed, the republic itself, based as it was on notions of responsible citizenship, was threatened with corruption and eventual extinction. Samuel Mills's reports from his travels west of the Alleghenies (part of the Appalachian Mountains) from 1812 to 1814 reinforced concerns about frontier communities without ministers, churches, or Bibles. In the capital of Illinois, Mills could not find one copy of the Bible. Mills's and others' expeditions influenced churches to start missionary projects to prevent heathenism from overtaking the new communities of the frontier and to bring Native Americans into the protecting fold of Christian civilization.

The desire to convert Indians was the initial draw for many missionaries. While the first missionary projects concentrated on the Indian populations nearest white settlements, missionaries soon set their sights farther west. When four Indians from the Columbia Plateau (in present-day Washington, Oregon, and Idaho) came to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1831 to seek "the white man's book of heaven," Methodists, Presbyterians, and Jesuits turned their attention to the distant lands beyond the Rocky Mountains. But in 1847, Cayuse Indians, believing missionaries had started a devastating measles epidemic, massacred missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Prentiss Whitman and eleven others at an Oregon mission. Missionary projects in the region came to an abrupt halt.

Missionaries were not the only means of introducing religion to the newly formed communities of the West. Migrants carried their religious background with them to their new homes. In addition, churches reached out to the West with evangelizing programs.

One of the greatest triggers for religious evangelizing came with the discovery of gold in California in 1848. The gold rush prompted a vast migration: the California population rose from 14,000 in 1848 to 200,000 four years later and then to 380,000 in 1860. The sudden emergence of a makeshift society exclusively devoted to the accumulation of wealth captured the attention of the nation. One common image of California depicted it as a breeding ground for a creeping corruption that could infect the rest of the country. By the 1850s the Protestant establishment had become obsessed with California as the indicator of a need for evangelism. This new interest replaced their earlier enthusiasm for converting Native Americans.

Despite California's image as an unchurched wasteland, there were a few stalwart clergymen accompanying the 49ers, and they industriously established at least fifty small churches within a short time. In the early years of the gold rush, the letters and reports of the overworked ministers tell of an endless round of duties—marriages, funerals, care of the sick and dying—interspersed with street-corner and saloon evangelism. Methodist minister William Taylor exhorted daily on San Francisco's wharf to ensure that the first words heard by arrivals would be the Gospel.


Indians were not the only inhabitants of America who were chased away from white settlements. Mormons also fled the persecution of the East. The Mormon church demanded that the Saints, as believers were called, display cleanliness, virtue, industry, and complete obedience to the church in return for assured salvation. As the Mormon community grew and prospered, outsiders became envious and suspicious of them. Soon hostility toward Mormons grew to a fever pitch, and they were forced to migrate farther and farther west in search of a secluded area where they could practice their faith.

Peter Cartwright, Methodist Preacher

Peter Cartwright (1785–1872) was a typical Methodist preacher of the trans-Appalachian West. In 1802, at age seventeen, Cartwright began riding into the rough areas of Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and Indiana to preach. He became famous for his homespun sermons and for his ability to handle every situation that arose on his journeys. Unlike many in his profession, Cartwright was married and had nine children. In fact, his decision to move to Illinois in 1823 was prompted by family concerns, especially a desire to raise his seven daughters and two sons in a free state and to be able to purchase land for their future inheritance. Cartwright wrote that his first Illinois district in 1826 "commenced at the mouth of the Ohio river, and extended north hundreds of miles, and was not limited by the white settlements, but extended among the great, unbroken tribes of uncivilized and unchristianized Indians." He preached for more than forty years on the frontier and immortalized the old frontier and the "backwoods preacher" in his autobiography. He remembered:

A Methodist preacher in those days, when he felt that God had called him to preach, instead of hunting up a college or Biblical institute, hunted up a hardy pony or a horse, and some traveling apparatus, and with his library always at hand, namely, Bible, Hymn-book, and Discipline, he started.... He went through storms of wind, hail, snow and rain; climbed hills and mountains, traversed valleys, plunged through swamps, swam swollen streams, lay out all night, wet, weary, and hungry, held his horse by the bridle all night, or tied him to a limb, slept with his saddle blanket for a bed, his saddle or saddle-bags for his pillow, and his old big coat or blanket, if he had any, for a covering. Often he slept in dirty cabins, on earthen floors, before the fires; ate roasting ears [corn on the cob] for bread, drank butter-milk for coffee, or sage tea for imperial; took, with a hearty zest, deer or bear meat, or wild turkey, for breakfast, dinner, and supper if he could get it.... This was old fashioned Methodist fare and fortune.

Source: Peter Cartwright, Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, the Backwoods Preacher, edited by W. P. Strickland (Cincinnati, OH: Hitchcock & Walden, 1868).

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as the Mormons, originated in 1823 when a young Joseph Smith (1805–1844) had a vision of God and Jesus. Later Smith claimed he had been visited three times by the angel Moroni, who told him of golden plates containing the lost history of the Americas. Smith translated the plates to write the scripture of the "true" church. After eighteen months of writing, Smith published The Book of Mormon in 1830. The first gathering of the church took place in April 1830. The church was structured like others, except that Smith claimed to have been endowed with divine power and declared that he had unquestionable authority to direct the Saints. Opposition to this new religion grew as people outside the church learned of the church's approval of polygamy (marriage to more than one person at the same time) and the union of religion and politics. Critics charged that polygamy defiled the Christian family and that the blending of religion and politics sullied the ideals of the newly democratic nation.

Despite hostility from outsiders, the Mormon religion prospered. Nearly two thousand Mormons had gravitated to Kirtland, Ohio, by 1835. Finding themselves unwelcome in Ohio, the congregation moved to Missouri in 1837. Hostility toward Mormons grew in Missouri until 1838, when warfare broke out. Smith was arrested on charges of treason, and the governor of Missouri declared the Mormons a blight to be exterminated. The Mormons fled to Illinois, where they secured a charter for their own city, which they called Nauvoo. They hoped to make Nauvoo into a safe place to live apart from non-Mormons. Soon they had built Nauvoo into the second-largest city in Illinois, with a population of more than ten thousand. By 1844, the Mormons prospered as merchants. Nauvoo included sawmills, flour mills, a tool factory, a foundry, a chinaware factory, and an unfinished temple. Illinois residents felt threatened by the growth of the town and felt jealous because they were shut out of Mormon commerce. Increasingly frustrated, they worked up an anti-Mormon hysteria and began to harass the Mormons. In the midst of this hysteria, the state governor ordered Joseph Smith and his brother Hiram to be arrested. Both were shot dead in 1844 by a group that stormed the jail where the brothers were held.

The promised land

Brigham Young (1801–1877) succeeded Smith as the leader of the church. But the troubles in Illinois did not end with Smith's death. In 1845 the Illinois legislature revoked the Nauvoo city charter. Young and others decided that the Mormons needed to find a secluded area to prosper and grow as a church. Young gathered the Saints to travel more than a thousand miles to the Salt Lake Valley in present-day Utah, an area Young did not think others would covet. Organizing the emigrant families into groups, Young prepared his followers to travel along what would become known as the Mormon Trail. Young's encouragement and good leadership made the first trek a tremendous success and strengthened the faith of many. Thereafter the Saints commemorated the parallels between their journey and that of the ancient Hebrews: like them, the Mormons had been led by a Moses through a wilderness to a promised land.

On April 14, 1847, the pioneer company left Winter Quarters (near present-day Omaha, Nebraska) in search of the Great Salt Lake Valley. By July 21, 1847, the first of the travelers reached the valley; within forty-eight hours a dam and irrigation ditches had been built and five acres of potatoes had been planted. Eight days after arriving, the Mormons had plowed fifty-three acres of land; planted forty-two acres of potatoes, corn, buckwheat, oats, and beans; plotted out a forty-acre temple; and made preliminary surveys for the city of Salt Lake. None of the first company perished on the trip to Salt Lake (except Young's horse, which was shot accidentally).

Some Must Push and Some Must Pull: The Best-Known of the Handcart Songs

1. Ye saints who dwell on Europe's shore,
prepare yourselves for many more
To leave behind your native land for
sure God's judgment are at hand.
For you must cross the raging main
before the promised land you gain,
And with the faithful make a start, to
cross the plains with your handcart.

Chorus: For some must push and some must pull, as we go marching up the hill;

So merrily on our way we go, until we reach the Valley-O.

2. The lands that boast of modern light,
We known are all as dark as night,
Where poor men toil and want for bread,
Where peasant hosts are blindly led.
These lands that boast of liberty
You ne'er again would wish to see,
When you from Europe make a start
To cross the plains with your handcart.
3. As on the road the carts are pulled,
'Twould very much surprise the world
To see the old and feeble dame
Thus lend a hand to pull the same;
And maidens fair will dance and sing,
Young men more happy than the king,
And children, too, will laugh and play,
Their strength increasing day by day.
4. But some will say, "It is too bad,
The saints upon the foot to pad,
And more than that, to pull a load
As they go marching o'er the road."
But then we say, "It is the plan
To gather up the best of men,
And women, too, for none but they
Will ever travel in this way."
5. And long before the valley's gained,
We will be met upon the plain
With music sweet and friends so dear,
And fresh supplies our hearts to cheer;
And then with music and with song,
How cheerfully we'll march along,
And thank the day we made a start
To cross the plains with our handcarts.
6. When you get there among the rest,
Obedient be and you'll be blessed,
And in God's chambers be shut in,
While judgments cleanse the earth from sin;
For we do know it will be so,
God's servant spoke it long ago.
We say it is high time to start
To cross the plains with our handcarts.

Source: B. A. Botkin, ed., A Treasury of Western Folklore (New York: Crown, 1951).

The handcart companies

By the end of 1848, five thousand Saints had traveled to Salt Lake City. Content that they had found their new Zion, or ideal community, the Mormons increased their missionary activities to invite all believers to Salt Lake and established the Perpetual Emigrating Fund (PEF) to aid the emigration of poorer converts. Of all the emigrants to travel the Mormon Trail, the handcart companies were the poorest and the most determined. Many of these travelers were penniless Scandinavians or Englishmen who jumped at the chance when the church offered to pay their way to America. When the converts arrived in Iowa City, Mormon organizers outfitted them with supplies and handcarts, which were much like large wheelbarrows—wooden boxes on two large wheels with two long shafts for pulling. Followed by a supply wagon pulled by oxen, handcart emigrants pulled their belongings an average of 10 to 20 miles a day on dry, flat land and much less when crossing rivers or trying to traverse sand or sticky mud.

The first of the handcart companies left Iowa City in June 1856, arriving in Salt Lake four months later. The fourth and fifth companies got a later start that would prove disastrous. The late start meant that the companies would have to brave high winter winds and freezing conditions at the end of their journey. And along the way, unforeseen hardships awaited them. The dry air of the plains shrank the green wood of their cart wheels, and some fell apart. Buffalo herds stampeded their cattle and oxen. Taking precious time to search for them, the companies only recovered part of their stock. Without the teams to pull the heavier supply wagons, the handcarts were weighted down with additional supplies, which slowed the companies' progress all the more. Hundreds of miles from Salt Lake, winter set in and rations were cut. People began to die. John Chislett, captain of a hundred in Handcart Company Number Four, is quoted in Seven Trails West: "Our old and infirm people began to droop, and they no sooner lost spirit and courage than death's stamp could be traced upon their features.... We soon thought it unusual to leave a campground without burying one or more persons."

Hearing about the handcart companies' troubles, Mormons in Salt Lake rallied to send rescue wagons along the trail, bringing food and comfort to travelers. Though the rescue efforts were generous and committed, the fourth and fifth handcart companies lost more than 200 of the original 1,076 travelers who had left Liverpool, England.

The tragedy did not stop others from pulling their loads to Zion. In the following four years, more than a thousand people pulled handcarts to Salt Lake. In all, one in ten handcart travelers died on the trail, and more died shortly after reaching the valley. The last handcart company traveled in 1860. Though the majority of believers traveled under easier conditions, the suffering and struggle endured by the handcart companies on the Mormon Trail suggested "that the true Mormon Trail was not on the prairie but in the spirit," according to Arthur King Peters in Seven Trails West. By 1870, more than eighty thousand Mormons had trekked to Salt Lake City, with six thousand dying on the way.

The Mormons had found their Zion and were successfully increasing their numbers to stave off their opponents. Almost a decade after Mormons reached Salt Lake and just as the first handcart companies were starting out from Iowa City, public outrage about Mormon polygamy and Brigham Young's authority over his followers caused President James Buchanan (1791–1868) to dispatch twenty-five hundred troops to destroy Salt Lake City. In 1858, the Mormons were prepared to defend their position. However, before the troops reached the city, Buchanan withdrew them and pardoned the Mormons. Instead of destruction, the army brought the Mormons monetary gain, as they bought supplies and provisions when they marched through the city. In Seven Trails West Peters credited the army's business as the origin of many Mormon fortunes. At the end of the twentieth century, the Mormons remained centered in Salt Lake City and continued to grow as a community; the church counts more than nine million people as Saints.


Religion played a strong hand in shaping the West: it was used as an oppressive force that tried to change native cultures; a tamer of immorality in newly formed communities; and a rallying cry to believers seeking a safe haven from the world. Many risked their lives to bring their religion to the frontier. In the end, the frontier struggles among those of differing religious beliefs helped secure the tradition of religious tolerance in America.

For More Information


Monaghan, Jay. The Book of the American West. New York: Julian Messner, 1963.

Stegner, Wallace. The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail. Salt Lake City, UT: Westwater Press, 1981.

Wexler, Sanford. Westward Expansion: An Eyewitness History. New York: Facts On File, 1991.

White, Richard. "It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own": A New History of the American West. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991.

Williams, Jean Kinney. The Mormons. New York: Franklin Watts, 1996.

Web sites

Heritage Gateways. [Online] (accessed April 14, 2000).

Kavanaugh, Thomas W. Imaging and Imagining the Ghost Dance: James Mooney's Illustrations and Photographs, 1891–1893. [Online] (accessed April 14, 2000).

"So We Die." The West: Episode 2 1806–1848. [Online] (accessed April 14, 2000).

Tecumseh. [Online] (accessed April 6, 2000).


Allison, Robert J. American Eras: Development of a Nation, 1783–1815. Detroit: Gale Research, 1997.

Axtell, James. The Invasion Within:The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985

Ballantine, Betty, and Ian Ballantine. The Native Americans: An Illustrated History. Atlanta, GA: Turner Publishing, 1993.

Botkin, B. A., ed. A Treasury of Western Folklore. New York: Crown, 1951.

Cartwright, Peter. Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, the Backwoods Preacher. Edited by W. P. Strickland. Cincinnati, OH: Hitchcock & Walden, 1868.

Josephy, Alvin M., Jr. 500 Nations: An Illustrated History of North American Indians. New York: Knopf, 1994.

Mancall, Peter C., ed. American Eras: Westward Expansion, 1800–1850. Detroit: Gale Research, 1999.

Peters, Arthur King. Seven Trails West. New York: Abbeville Press, 1996.

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Religion and the West

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Religion and the West