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Burned-over District of NY

"The burned-over district was the religious scene in the western and central regions of New York in the early 19th century, where religious revivals and Pentecostal movements of the Second Great Awakening took place."


"When religion is related to reform movements of the period, such as abolition, women's rights, and utopian social experiments, the region expands to include areas of central New York that were important to these movements."
(above from Wikipedia)


Whether or not a tour will ever take place - discussion on this page of the various movements; where they are today; and how some contributed to social reform should prove interesting.

Any and all comments on this topic will be greatly appreciated!!!

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  • Yep - Polarity!!!

  • On Thanksgiving Day - my sister and I went to the movies and saw Steven Spielberg's 'Lincoln' - which we both thought was a great rendering of how things were in those days - and the bickering in Congress still goes on today - lol.
    Besides being about the movement to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States - to free the slaves in every State - it went beyond that with the hope for a future when women and freed slaves would also have the right to vote - thankfully that has all come to pass.  In seeing and hearing the views of the Congressmen of Lincoln's days - it reminded me of this 'Burned Over District' and movements such as abolition and women's suffrage that were happening there almost simultaneously.  


    "When religion is related to reform movements of the period, such as abolition, women's rights, and utopian social experiments, the region expands to include areas of central New York that were important to these movements."  Wikipedia

  • Hi Fr. Richard -


    What you say is quite intriguing - and food for thought - and brings up the question if there was a 'force' - why did it manifest differently in interpretation?   Maybe something like a powerful Ley Line - similar to the ones that have been identified in England - and possibly the Dragon Lines of the Chinese???


    May the Force Be With You!!!

    Sr. Kathy

  • janesville_events_burned2.jpg

    Interestingly - many of the movements which were 'birthed' in the 'burned-over district' either left New York State or simply faded into oblivion.  The following is from a website about Wisconsin Hometown Stories and a group which was founded by a 'lawyer' - Charles Grandison Finney - which migrated there and expanded its population by over 25 percent.  His followers brought their newly founded ideals and evangelical reform to Wisconsin and the rest is history.  Not sure what this movement was called - but Finney - who is considered the Father of American Revivalism - was said to address mostly followers of a Calvinist God - in what were called 'camp meetings' or 'tent revivals.'

    "America's Second Great Awakening (a reference to the Great Awakening of the 18th century) lasted some 50 years. From the 1790s to the 1840s, waves of religious fervor spanned the entire United States. The spirit of revivalism swept through western New York in the late 1820s and early 1830s and was referred to as the "burnt district" because so many revivals had taken place there. The revivals in western New York were in large part the work of Charles Grandison Finney, a lawyer-turned preacher. As an introduction to Hebraic law, Finney began to study the Bible, and soon after devoted his life to theological studies."

    "The Second Great Awakening came to a head when Finney conducted a revival in Utica, New York, where three thousand "experienced conversion." Finney argued that a Calvinist God did not control the destiny of human beings. "He told congregations throughout the northern United States that they were ‘moral free agents' who could obtain salvation through their own efforts—but, he admonished, they must hurry because time was short."

    The Second Great Awakening placed responsibility on ministers and followers alike to enlist in the work of extending God's Kingdom. Many Yankees left the "Burned-over District" in western New York to settle in Wisconsin, accompanying them was evangelical reform and its ideals. By 1850, one-fourth of Wisconsin's population (68,600 persons) were New York natives, giving Wisconsin the nickname, "New York's daughter state."

  • Anyhow - some of those newly found groups up there in the burned-over district seemed to be having too much sex - and polarity being what it is - there had to be a group that would practice celibacy - the Shakers - a group that had actually formed in 18th Century England.  The first members of this group were known as the "Shaking Quakers" because of the 'ecstatic' nature of their worship services.  The Shakers had work ethics that bordered on perfection and their craftsmen are known for that style of furniture simply called 'Shaker Furniture.'   The Shakers were also Pacifists -  believed in 'equality of the sexes' - giving a Utopian aspect to life unbounded by social class, education, or gender.

    The Shakers were very active in this area and estabished their first communal farm in Central New York.  They were active in many of the New England States and Kentucky.  Many of their earlier villages have become museum sites.  The Shaker believers counted into over six thousand but by the 1920s only 12 communities were left.  The only active Shaker community in the United States today is in Sabbathday Lake,  Maine, and had only five members as of January, 2011.  This community is still accepting new recruits - adults who wish to embrace Shaker life are welcome. 


    "The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, known as the Shakers, is a religious sect originally thought to be a development of the Religious Society of Friends.[1] Founded upon the teachings of Ann Lee, Shakers today are mostly known for their cultural contributions (especially their style of music and furniture), and their model of equality of the sexes, which they institutionalized in their society in the 1780s.


    "Ann Lee joined them by 1758 and soon assumed leadership of the small community. The loss of four children in infancy created great trauma for “Mother Ann,” as her followers later called her. She claimed numerous revelations regarding the fall of Adam and Eve and its relationship to sexual intercourse. She had become the “Mother of the new creation,” who called her followers to confess their sins, give up all their worldly goods, and take up the cross of celibacy."


    'Shakers developed written covenants in the 1790. Those who signed the covenant had to confess their sins, consecrate their property and their labor to the society, and live celibate. If they were married before joining the society, their marriages essentially ended when they joined. A few less-committed Believers lived in "noncommunal orders" as Shaker sympathizers who preferred to remain with their families. The Shakers never forbade marriage for such individuals, but considered it less perfect than the celibate state."

    "As their communities grew, women and men shared leadership of the Shaker communities. Women preached and received revelations as the Spirit fell upon them. Thriving on the religious enthusiasm of the first and second Great Awakenings, the Shakers declared their messianic, communitarian message with significant response. One early convert observed: “The wisdom of their instructions, the purity of their doctrine, their Christ-like deportment, and the simplicity of their manners, all appeared truly apostolical.” The Shakers represent a small but important Utopian response to the gospel. Preaching in their communities knew no boundaries of gender, social class, or education."


    "A Shaker village was divided into groups or "families." The leading group in each village was the Church Family, and it was surrounded by satellite families that were often named for points on the compass rose. Each village was governed by a leadership team consisting of two men (Elders) and two women (Eldresses). Shakers lived together as brothers and sisters. Each house was divided so that men and women did most things separately. They used different staircases and doors. They sat on opposite sides of the room in worship, at meals, and in "union meetings" held to provide supervised socialization between the sexes. However, the daily business of a Shaker village required the brethren and sisters to interact. Though there was a division of labor between men and women, they also cooperated in carrying out many tasks, such as harvesting apples, food production, laundry, and gathering firewood."


    "Shakers did not practice procreation themselves. Children were added to their communities through indenture, adoption, or conversion. Occasionally a foundling was anonymously left on a Shaker doorstep.[30] They welcomed all, often taking in orphans and the homeless. For children, Shaker life was structured, safe, and predictable, with no shortage of adults who cared about their young charges."

    "When Shaker youngsters, girls and boys, reached the age of twenty-one, they were free to leave or to remain with the Shakers. Unwilling to remain celibate, many chose to leave; today there are thousands of descendants of Shaker-raised seceders."

    "The Shaker goal in their temporal labor was perfection. Ann Lee's followers preserved her admonitions about work:

    "Good spirits will not live where there is dirt."
    "Do your work as though you had a thousand years to live and as if you were to die tomorrow."
    "Put your hands to work, and your heart to God."

    (from Wikipedia)


     Shaker style furniture

  • Last night, while watching an episode of "Antiques Roadshow" coming from Salt Lake City, Utah, two of the articles brought in for valuation were an old Proclamation by the Governor of the Utah Territory, and an advertising piece of cloth which made reference to the "Mormon War."

    Whoa - "Mormon War?" - first time I had heard that phrase - but a little googling and Wikipedia information made it clear no war had taken place - there were no battles - and issues were resolved through negotiation. There were some civilian casualties at the time - non-Mormon - and non-military - 120 unfortunate unarmed settlers - men, women, and children - on their way to California - who were slaughtered for some unknown reason - caught in the cross-hairs of the fog of this non-war - the blame wrongfully placed on Native Americans - this was called the Mountain Meadows massacre - and the beginning of some other skirmishes with interesting outcomes - was this part of the Wild - Wild - West?

  • The Oneida Community was definitely one of the more interesting groups in the burned-over district - and when I read about the postmenopausal women becoming instructors in the art of love to a much younger male 'student' - it made me laughingly wonder if these members of what was a religious commune were not the precursors to the phenomenon called "Cougars" which is in vogue at this time. 


    Many of the groups that were formed within the burned-over district have not survived or have not survived in their original concepts - one in particular - the Latter Day Saint movement or Mormon Church - hardly made it to the survival mode when it left New York State and moved westward - where its doctrine of polygamy was accepted - originally  it was reserved for its founder Joseph Smith - then a small hierarchy of the church - with eventual extension to all males of the faith.  At the time of his death in Illinois Smith was said to have been sealed to 33 women - sealed being the Mormon term for multiple marriages. 


    The practice of polygamy was quite controversial even among some of the church's adherents - with one popular political party calling it one of the two remnants of barbarism - the other being slavery.  In 1862, the United States Congress passed the Morrill Act, which prohibited plural marriage in the territories (including Utah) and dis-incorporated the church.  Today members of the church are monogamist and anyone found to be practicing polygamy are 'excommunicated.'


    The actual membership of the Mormon Church today can be as high as 14 million - and that is quite a difference from when the church left New York State with barely 100  members.  Proxy baptism for the dead might account for the high number - and, in 1995,  the church agreed to stop baptizing Jewish victims of the Holocaust.  There is actually no way for anyone to prevent this type of baptism after death.  Joseph Smith introduced this practice into the church in the 1840's - with Mormons citing Paul’s letter to the Corinthians as precedent to the practice. “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead not rise at all?” Corinthians 15:29


    The early life of Joseph Smith is interesting - with his family being drifters from New England - and lack of a formal education - his becoming a 'prophet' was highly unlikely.  He was ten years old when the family moved to western New York State - and the 'Second Great Awakening' was already in full bloom - he and his family took part in what was a fairly common practice called religious folk magic - many members of his family claimed to have dreams and visions believed to be direct communications from God.   The younger Smith was confused by all the various denominations his family embraced at one time or another - and a personal concern for the welfare of his soul led to his own visions and the eventual founding of the Mormon Church.


    Most of this info came from various Wikipedia sites - there is a lot of information out there about Joseph Smith and his church - just a smattering was placed here.

  • A bit more about Noyes and the Oneida Community, from memory of reading the book about them. As pointed out by Sr. Kathy, a complex kind of group marriage was practiced there.   Male continence was used as a form of birth control and a tool for potential enlightenment of the men.  If one desired to have "knowledge"  of another member, a petition or request was made and the other person would accept or reject.  If accepted, a date was set up, and a room where they could get to know each other made available.  While they could engage in whatever activity they wished, they could not spend the entire night together. The elders of the community felt that spending entire nights together led to people being possessive about each other.  These dates were not expected to produce a pregnancy.  

    This task was left to the Elders who had definite ideas about selecting  certain genetic characteristics.  Noyes, as leader, not surprisingly, fathered more of the children born there than anyone else.  Usually very attractive young women were selected to be mothers based on both their attractiveness and intelligence.  

  • Hi Jeffrey - thanks for your input - we as Rosicrucians are "walking question marks" - so everything is relevant. I had heard of several groups that make up this 'burned-over district' - but had never heard of it referred to in a group concept.

  • This book was quite interesting and was my introduction to the "burned-over" district. The author certainly knows how to humble many personalities back to normal humans and AMORC has several references although while he doesn't really touch on the greater esoteric subjects that would be of more interest to AMORC members the most interesting being Manly Hall and a short speculation on one of the AMORC books he definitely ties many little threads of US and religious history together. And his framing of Hitler was very intriguing especially after watching one of the Ancient Alien episodes :-)


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