Christianity on the Early American Frontier: Christian History Timeline

American Religion

1771–1799 Preparation

1776 Methodists number 4,921

1784 Baptists number 35,101; Francis Asbury ordained as America’s first Methodist bishop

1790s First Methodist awakenings in North, West, and South

1798 James McGready begins revivals in Logan County, Kentucky; Bishop Asbury begins annual circuits from Maine to Georgia and along the Western frontier

1799 McGee brothers inspire revivals in Kentucky

1800–1835 “Second Great Awakening"

1800 Revivals in Gaspar River and Mud River, Kentucky

1801 Cane Ridge, Kentucky, revival under Barton Stone

1802 Revival at Yale under Timothy Dwight; collegiate awakenings throughout East

1804 Shakers send missionaries to frontier

1810 Founding of American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, America’s first foreign missions society

1816 American Bible Society formed

1817 American Sunday School Union begun

1825 Charles Finney begins seven years of intense evangelism in the Northeast

1826 American Tract Society and American Home Missionary Society begun

1828 Lane Seminary founded in frontier Cincinnati to provide clergy for the West

1830–1850 Fragmentation

1830 Finney’s greatest revival, at Rochester, New York; Joseph Smith founds Mormons

1833 Founding of Oberlin College, abolitionist stronghold

1835 Lyman Beecher’s “A Plea for the West” calls for Christian civilization of the West

1837 Presbyterian Church split into Old and New School branches over various issues, including revivalism

1838 Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Divinity School Address” outlines Transcendentalism

1844 YMCA founded; Methodist church splits over slavery

1845 Baptists split over slavery

1847 Mormon migration to Utah

1848 The Fox sisters begin the Spiritist movement, which sweeps America

1850 Membership in Protestant denominations soars to 3.5 million

1855 Dwight L. Moody converted at age 18; Methodists claim 1,577,014 members, and Baptists 1,105,546 members

1857 China opened to missions

1857–1858 Prayer Meeting Revival or “Third Great Awakening”—estimated one million converted

U.S. History

1771–1799 Preparation

1787 Constitutional Convention

1792 Washington reelected unanimously; Kentucky statehood; Whitney’s cotton gin invented

1794 Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason

1796 Tennessee statehood

1800–1835 “Second Great Awakening"

1801 Thomas Jefferson becomes third president

1803 Louisiana Purchase doubles size of the United States

1805–1806 Lewis and Clark expedition explores West

1807 First successful steamboat

1812–1814 War with England

1817–1818 Seminole wars

1820 Missouri Compromise

1822 Santa Fe Trail opens

1823 Monroe Doctrine

1825 Erie Canal opens

1830–1850 Fragmentation

1826–1846 Indians removed across the Mississippi

1828 Andrew Jackson elected president; Baltimore and Ohio Railroad begun

1831 The McCormick reaper

1833–1837 Financial panic and recession

1835 The Colt revolver

1836 Samuel F.B. Morse’s telegraph; Texas gains independence; Battle of the Alamo

1845 The phrase “manifest destiny” appears

1846–1848 Mexican-American War

1846 Irish potato famine

1848 Gold discovered in California

1852 Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin published

1857 Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court

1859 Darwin’s Origin of Species; first oil well.

By Keith J. Hardman

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #45 in 1995]

Keith J. Hardman is professor of philosophy and religion at Ursinus College, Collegeville, Pennsylvania. He is author of Charles Grandison Finney: 1792–1875 (Syracuse, 1987) and a member of the Christian History advisory board.
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