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1800-1860: Religion: Chronology

1800-1860: Religion: Chronology




  • Spokane prophet Yurareechen (the Circling Raven) predicts that soon there will come from the rising sun a different kind of man from any you have yet seen, who will bring with him a book and will teach you everything, and after that the world will fall to pieces.


  • The Cane Ridge, Kentucky, camp meeting revival becomes the symbol and standard of evangelical religion in the early republic.
  • The Plan of Union between the Congregationalists and Presbyterians allows the creation of presbygational churches in order to facilitate missionary work along the frontier.


  • Barton Stone and associates publish Last Will and Testament of the Presbytery of Springfield, secede from the denomination, and call themselves simply Christians.


  • Shawnee Lalawethika falls into a coma and awakens to proclaim a vision given by the Master of Life, instructing the Indians on what must be done to restore Indian power. The Shawnees acknowledge him as a prophet, and his name becomes Tenskwatawa, the one that opens the door.


  • Inspired by the Shawnee Prophet, the Delawares begin a witch hunt to root out those who would undermine the new religion. Those singled out are Christian converts or Indians with ties to the white world; four are burned at the stake.


  • Tenskwatawa leaves Greenville, in western Ohio, and moves with his followers to Prophetstown, or Tippecanoe, a site offered to him by the Kickapoos and Potawatomis.



  • The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) forms as an interdenominational agency to coordinate missionary endeavors.


  • Tecumseh takes his first journey to the Southern tribes to gain allies against white encroachment.
  • 7 Nov. The Shawnee Prophets forces are routed at the Battle of Tippecanoe.


  • 5 Oct. Tecumseh is killed at the Battle of the Thames, Ontario.


  • Baptists begin foreign missions under the authority of their Triennial Convention.



  • Cumberland Presbyterian Church splits from the main Presbyterian Church over issues of ordination and deviations from the Westminster Confession. Its alterations are a direct response to the religious needs of westward-expanding settlements.


  • Congress establishes a civilization fund to be distributed among the missionary societies operating Indian schools. Although the money is a small portion of the private contributions, the alliance provides an important psychological boost to the missionary endeavor, linking it with a vision of national destiny in Christian terms.


  • Two dozen Iroquois Catholics from a mission near Montreal settle among the Flatheads in the Columbia Plateau. After introducing them to rudimentary Catholicism, the Iroquois leader, Ignace La Mousse, urges the Flatheads to seek further religious instruction.


  • Joseph Smith is first visited by the angel Moroni, who tells him of ancient gold plates buried in a hill near Palmyra, New York.


  • The Campbellites sever ties with the Baptists and begin calling themselves Disciples of Christ.



  • The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is published.
  • The Church of the Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints forms, with Joseph Smith and five others as elders.


  • Four Nez Perce and Flathead Indians arrive in St. Louis, seeking the white mans book of heaven. This so-called Macedonian cry prompts a new stage in the missionary drive in the West.



  • Jason Lee and his nephew head west with three other Methodist missionaries with the intention of serving the Flathead Indians in present-day southwestern Montana. They instead settle in the Willamette River valley of Oregon.


  • Alexander Campbell publishes The Christian System in reference to the Union of Christians, and a Restoration of Primitive Christianity, as Plead in the Current Reformation to clarify the Christian movement.
  • Lyman Beecher, head of Lane Seminary in Cincinnati, publishes Plea for the West, which summarizes the Protestant establishments aspirations for the West and warns of a Catholic plot to take over the region.


  • Under the auspices of the ABCFM, the Whitmans and the Spaldings cross the Rockies to set up a mission among the Columbia Plateau Indians. Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spalding are the first Euro-American women to make the journey across the Rocky Mountains.


  • The first of five smallpox epidemics among the Western Indians over the next thirty years nearly wipes out the Mandans.
  • In the Presbyterian General Assembly, moderates and conservatives band together to void the Plan of Union, striking more than five hundred churches and between sixty thousand and one hundred thousand members off the rolls.


  • A struggle between New School and Old School factions within Presbyterianism leads to a division of the denomination.


  • Fifty-one recruits arrive at the Methodist mission in the Willamette River valley.
  • Massive immigration of Irish and German Catholics makes the Catholic Church the largest denomination in the nation by 1850.
  • Jesuit priest Pierre-Jean De Smet makes a grand tour of Western tribes.


  • Jason Lee becomes involved in the creation of the Oregon Provisional Government, and the Missionary Society recalls him for being overly engaged in secular activities.
  • Marcus Whitman returns from the East, bringing the largest contingent of settlers and wagons to date along the Oregon Trail.


  • The Methodist Episcopal Church divides into Northern and Southern branches over the issue of slavery.
  • 27 June Joseph Smith and his brother Hiram are murdered in a Carthage, Missouri, jail by a mob.
  • 22 Oct. William Miller and his followers await the end of the world. When it fails to materialize, the predictions date is changed. The movement evolves into the Seventh-Day Adventists.


  • The Baptists split into Northern and Southern branches; the Southern Baptist Convention remains a separate body to this day.


  • The Mormons begin to evacuate Nauvoo.


  • The first Mormon settlers reach the Salt Lake basin.
  • 28 Nov. In the Whitman Massacre, Cayuse Indians kill fourteen white adults at the Waiilatpu Mission in Oregon.


  • Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo the United States acquires a large tract of Southwestern territory, which brings into the nation indigenous peoples and a Hispanic population of nominal Catholics.


  • Disciples of Christ/Christians hold their first national convention in Cincinnati, primarily to mount evangelism efforts, despite the resistance of many members to any institutional organization beyond the congregation.



  • Fearing the invasion of a federal army, Mormons and their Ute allies attack a wagon train and kill 120 California-bound settlers.


  • President James Buchanan orders an expedition of 2,500 soldiers to Utah in order to assert federal authority over the Mormons. The force camps outside Salt Lake City until recalled at the outbreak of the Civil War. Meanwhile, Buchanan pardons the Mormons.

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