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1850-1877: Religion: Chronology

1850-1877: Religion: Chronology




  • Three German pastors sent to America by a German Lutheran society organize the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.
  • The Free Methodist Church expands to Canada.
  • The U.S. government organizes the Utah Territory, putting itself on a collision course with the Mormons, who had organized the autonomous state of Deserei in 1849.
  • The New School (Presbyterian) General Assembly repudiates the proposition that slavery is divinely sanctioned.


  • The first Young Mens Christian Association (YMCA) in the United States opens in Boston.
  • Spiritualists briefly organize a communal society at Mountain Cove, Virginia.
  • Isaac Hecker, a convert from Methodism to Catholicism and a member of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists), returns to the United States from his priestly training in Rome.
  • 13 Apr. Sabato Morais is elected rabbi of the congregation of Mikveh Israel, the Se phardic synagogue in Philadelphia, and goes on to become a founder of Conservative Judaism.
  • 3 Aug. Irish-American Francis P. Kenrick succeeds Samuel Eccleston, S.S., as Roman Catholic archbishop of Baltimore.


  • Episcopalian bishop George Washington Doane of New Jersey is tried and acquitted of possible financial wrongdoing in the management of two schools he had founded.
  • Louis Kossuth tours the United States promoting Hungarian independence and denouncing Catholics for siding with the Hapsburgs.
  • The Universalists establish Tufts College in Medford, Massachusetts.
  • The Society of Jesus founds Loyola College in Baltimore.
  • The First Plenary Council of Baltimore meets and recommends the establishing of parochial schools.
  • 28 Mar. John Nepomucene Neumann becomes Roman Catholic bishop of Philadelphia.
  • 13 Aug. Gustaf Palmquist and followers organize the first Swedish Baptist church in the United States.
  • 18 Nov. Rose-Philippine Duchesne, a missionary who worked among the Potowatomi Indians in Sugar Creek, Kansas, dies at her religious community, Sacred Heart, in Saint Charles, Missouri.


  • Charles Loring Brace organizes the Childrens Aid Society.
  • Joseph Michael Baumler (or Bimeler) dies. He had founded Zoar, Ohio, as a community for German Separatists from Württemberg, Bavaria, and Baden in 1817.
  • Episcopalian William Augustus Muhlenberg, pastor of the Church of the Holy Communion in New York City, sends his Memorial to the House of Bishops, outlining ways the church could be a force for Christian unity in the United States. Specifically, he suggests ordaining men willing to carry out Christs Great Commission (to preach the gospel to all nations), regardless of how well they conform to Episcopalian tenets.
  • The American Unitarian Association rejects Transcendentalism and affirms the divine origin and authority of Christ.
  • 30 June Alessandro Gavazzi, an Italian former priest lecturing in New York City, falsely accuses Archbishop Gaetano Bedini, visiting the United States as a papal representative, of being the Butcher of Bologna, responsible for executing Italian republican leaders who were actually killed by Austrian troops.
  • 24 Nov. Jean-Baptiste Lamy is consecrated Bishop of Santa Fe in the New Mexico Territory.


  • Members of the religious community of Bethel, Missouri, under the leadership of the charismatic Wilhelm Keil, build covered wagons and cross the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains to establish a second community at Aurora, Oregon.
  • 8 Dec. Pope Pius IX announces the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, that is, that the mother of Jesus did not share in the sin that had caused Adam and Eve to be expelled from the Garden of Eden and that had been transmitted to all their human descendants.


  • Matthias Brinser organizes the United Zion Church, a branch of the United Brethren in Christ, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
  • The Cape Fear Conference of Free Will Baptists is organized in North Carolina.
  • Ellen Gould Harmon White, the Adventist Prophetess, moves to Battle Creek, Michigan.
  • David Einhorn, later to become a prominent Reform rabbi, arrives in the United States.
  • The nativist, anti-Catholic American Party sweeps the California state elections, which leads to the states halting its practice of distributing tax receipts to private denominational schools. Spurred by nativists in its legislature, New York State passes a law requiring lay trusteeship of religious property. Nativists also win elections in Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
  • 6 Aug. Nativist rioting in Louisville, Kentucky, kills more than twenty people.


  • Ebenezer and George Draper, majority stock owners in the Christian community of Hopedale near Milford, Massachusetts, liquidate their shares.
  • The first YMCA in New York City opens.
  • Dwight Moody has a conversion experience and moves to Chicago.



  • New School Presbyterians divide over slavery.
  • James Lloyd Breck establishes Seabury Divinity School in Faribault, Minnesota, for the training of Episcopal ministers untainted by the Tractarian, or Oxford, Movement (an attempt to convert Episcopalians to Catholicism).
  • 8 Apr. The Christian Reformed Church is formed in Zeeland, Michigan, by Dutch immigrants.


  • The Association of Reformed Presbyterian Churches drops of the South from its title when its northern counterpart joins the United Presbyterian Church.
  • The Board of Delegates of American Israelites is formed to help explain Judaism to Gentiles and to counter acts of anti-Semitism.
  • Temple Sinai opens in Chicago. It is the third Reform temple to open in the United States, following Temple Har Sinai (Baltimore, 1842) and Emmanuel (New York, 1845).
  • Sept. Atlantic Monthly publishes Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.s The Deacons Master piece, or, The Wonderful One-Hoss Shay: A Logical Story, a mockallegorical poem about the Puritan theological system then dying out in New England.


  • Isaac Hecker opens the Church of Saint Paul the Apostle in New York City, the mother church of the Paulist Fathers.
  • Baptists form the Southern Theological Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina.
  • The Amana Society is incorporated in Iowa. Its formal name is the Community of True Inspiration, a pietistic sect founded by the German Michael Krausner.
  • The American College, a residence for U.S. Catholic clergy studying in Rome, is established.
  • The Society of Jesus founds the present-day University of San Francisco, California.
  • Emmegahbowh, an Ojibway, becomes the first of his tribe ordained to Episcopal orders.


  • The Advent Christian or Seventh-Day Adventist Church is founded in Battle Creek, Michigan.
  • Geneva College in upstate New York changes its name to Hobart College to honor the late High Episcopalian bishop of New York, John Henry Hobart.
  • The General Conference Mennonite Church is organized.
  • Southern Lutherans form their own synod.
  • 5 Jan. John Nepomucene Neumann dies.
  • 10 May Theodore Parker, minister of the Twenty-Eighth Congregational Society in Boston and a leading Unitarian and social reformer, dies.


  • The Swedenborgian Church is incorporated in Illinois.
  • Dwight Moody retires from business to involve himself in religion, mostly through YMCA organizational work and fund-raising.
  • The Protestant Episcopal Church of the Confederate States of America is organized.
  • Henry W. Bellows of All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City organizes the United States Sanitary Commission to provide for the medical care of Union soldiers.
  • May The General Assembly of the Old School Presbyterians affirms its loyalty to the Union, precipitating the creation of a separate General Assembly for Southern Old School Presbyterianism.
  • Nov. George H. Stuart, a Philadelphia banker, organizes the United States Christian Commission to provide moral and charitable services for Union soldiers.


  • Congress passes a law against polygamy, aimed at the Mormons.
  • Roman Catholic archbishop John B. Purcell of Cincinnati calls for the emancipation of all slaves.


  • The New Apostolic Church is organized.
  • In a letter to Jefferson Davis, Pope Pius IX addresses him as Your Excellency, giving rise to the rumor that the Vatican officially recognizes the Confederacy.
  • The Pennsylvania Ministerium withdraws from the Lutheran General Synod to protest the inclusion of the Franckean Synod, which had been formed in western New York in 1837 and influenced by the revivalist Charles G. Finney.
  • The Christian Union, a denomination of independently organized churches, is formed.
  • A Mormon named Granville Hedrich acts on a vision telling him to return to Independence, Missouri, and claim Mormon property there.
  • Pope Pius IX issues an encyclical titled Quanta Cura and its accompanying document, the Syllabus of Errors. In these two documents he outlines the reasons in Catholic doctrine for opposing modern philosophical developments and condemns specific trends in scientific research and political thought.
  • Spring Roman Catholic Patrick Lynch of Charleston, South Carolina, becomes the official Confederate commissioner to Rome.
  • 31 July Martin John Spalding succeeds Francis P. Kenrick as Roman Catholic archbishop of Baltimore.


  • Isaac Hecker begins publication of the first popular Catholic monthly magazine in the country, Catholic World.
  • German-speaking Baptists organize the North American Baptist Conference.
  • The National Unitarian Conference formulates a statement of beliefs on the importance of submission to Jesus Christs leadership.
  • Roman Catholic archbishop Peter Kenrick of Saint Louis denies the sacraments to members of the Fenian Brotherhood, a group dedicated to the establishment of Irish independence through war if necessary.
  • Dec. Bishop Patrick Lynch returns to the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, after obtaining a pardon for his Confederate activities during the Civil War.


  • The Evangelical Church-Union of the West combines German migrants Lutheran and Evangelical synods.
  • The Colored Primitive Baptist Church is organized.
  • The Northern Methodist Church organizes a separate black conference, headed by a black bishop, as part of the general denominational structure.
  • Henry W. Bellows becomes the president of an American committee to lobby the federal government to participate in the International Red Cross movement.
  • The Southern Methodist Church releases its black members to form their own organization.
  • 4 Oct Opening of the Second Plenary Council of the Roman Catholic hierarchy of the United States.


  • Mormons in Missouri repurchase the temple lot first bought by their sect in 1831.
  • Unitarian Francis Ellingwood Abbot forms the Free Religious Association in response to the National Unitarian Conference statement on the importance of Christs leadership.
  • Mary Prout organizes the Independent Order of Saint Luke in Maryland, an African American womens society providing medical and death benefits.
  • Isaac Leeser and Orthodox rabbis form Maimonides College in Philadelphia as a Jewish institute of higher education.
  • Samuel Chapman Armstrong approaches the American Missionary Association for financial aid, which he uses to create Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute in Virginia.



  • The Universalists establish a divinity school at Tufts College.
  • Elder James R. Howell of New York, a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Zion, organizes the Reformed Zion Union Apostolic Church in Boydton, Virginia.
  • Rabbi Samuel Hirsch chairs a rabbinical meeting in Philadelphia that produces a Reformed understanding of the Jewish Diaspora.
  • Northern Presbyterian New and Old Schools merge, as Southern Presbyterian New and Old Schools had done during the Civil War.
  • Phillips Brooks becomes pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church in Boston, a position he holds for twenty-five years.
  • 11 Oct. Sister Irene Fitzgibbon of the New York Sisters of Charity sets a cradle outside the door of her new institution on West Twelfth Street in New York City, the future New York Foundling Hospital.


  • Black Southern Methodists form the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • Dwight Moody asks Ira D. Sankey to become the organist and song leader for his religious meetings.
  • Southern Methodists permit lay delegates to attend conferences.
  • The first modern ecclesiastical historian, Philip Schaff, accepts a teaching position at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
  • 12 July. Eight people are killed in New York City when some five hundred Irish Catholics attack a parade of Protestant Irish (Orangemen) celebrating the anniversary of the 1680 Battle of the Boyne.
  • 5 Dec. The Grant administration announces a new Peace Policy for native tribes. Concerned that competing evangelization efforts from various Christian denominations would complicate pacification, the federal government begins to assign reservations to denominations.


  • Herbert Cardinal Vaughan of England founds the Society of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, popularly known as the Mill Hill Fathers, to evangelize among former slaves in the United States.


  • Old Order, or Wisler, Mennonites, form under the leadership of Jacob Wisler, in opposition to what they perceive as disturbing innovations in the faith.
  • Finnish Lutherans organize the Solomon Korteniemi Lutheran Society.
  • While visiting England, Dwight Moody substitutes at a London pulpit, and leads his first revival.
  • Edgar P. Wadhams, a convert to Catholicism, becomes the bishop of Ogdens-burg, New York.
  • 30 July James Gibbons becomes Catholic bishop of Richmond, Virginia.


  • Cornelius Vanderbilt donates $500,000 to organize a Methodist university and seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, which adopts his name.
  • New York State makes Memorial Day a legal holiday.
  • George David Cummins, assistant bishop of Kentucky, forms the Reformed Episcopal Church in an attempt to evade the growing interest in preserving and elaborating the rituals of Episcopalianism.
  • Maimonides College closes.
  • Patrick Healy, S.J., a mulatto, becomes president of present-day Georgetown University.
  • Helena P. Blavatsky migrates from czarist Russia to the United States, where she becomes a leading Spiritualist.
  • 8 July Isaac Mayer Wise founds the Union of American Hebrew Congregations to coordinate Reform Jewish life.
  • 2 Dec. The Reformed Episcopal Church is organized in reaction to the ritualism and Catholicism of the Tractarian Movement.


  • The Seventh-Day Adventists send their first missionary to Europe.
  • Southern Presbyterians organize an autonomous Colored Presbyterian Church.
  • In response to a potential schism, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church reduces ritualism and increases the field of acceptable beliefs.
  • Solomon Schindler, a leading secular reformer, becomes the rabbi of Temple Israel in Boston.


  • Jean-Bapriste Lamy is elevated to the status of archbishop.
  • James F. Wood becomes the archbishop of Philadelphia.
  • 15 Mar. John McCluskey becomes the first U.S. citizen to be named a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • 12 June James Augustine Healy, Patricks brother, becomes Catholic bishop of Portland, Maine, and remains in that position until his death in 1900.
  • 3 Oct. Isaac Mayer Wise founds Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.



  • Archbishop James F. Wood opposes the Molly Maguires, a secret group of Irish American coal miners who use violent means to counter the growing power of mine owners.
  • The Southern Theological Seminary moves from Greenville, South Carolina, to Louisville, Kentucky.
  • 9 May The United Christian Church splits off from the United Brethren in Christ in Campbelltown, Pennsylvania.
  • 3 Oct. James Gibbons succeeds James Roosevelt Bayley as Roman Catholic archbishop of Baltimore.

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