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Wandering Souls

Protestant Migrations in America, 1630-1865

S. Scott Rohrer

Publication Year: 2010

In ###Wandering Souls#, Rohrer examines the migration patterns of eight religious groups and finds that Protestant migrations consisted of two basic types. The most common type involved migrations motivated by religion, economics, and family, in which Puritans, Methodists, Moravians, and others headed to the frontier as individuals in search of religious and social fulfillment. The other type involved groups wanting to escape persecution (such as the Mormons) or to establish communities where they could practice their faith in peace (such as the Inspirationists). Rohrer concludes that the two migration types shared certain traits, despite the great variety of religious beliefs and experiences, and that secular values infused the behavior of nearly all Protestant migrants.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. vii-viii

Part I. Migration in America

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Introduction: An Overview of Protestant Migrations, 1630–1865

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pp. 3-14

A hitchhiker, a farmer. Consider these two tales from across the centuries: after the breakup of his marriage, an unemployed college teacher embarks on a restless journey in the 1970s. He pauses to pick up a hitchhiker near Potlatch, Idaho. The hitchhiker greets his benefactor with a question: “Do you want a free Bible course? . . . Jesus is coming.” ...

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1. The First Frontier: Thomas Hooker and the New England Puritans

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pp. 15-44

On the simplest level, a migrant of the nineteenth century would have understood. To the west lay land. As the Puritan settlers arrived on Massachusetts’s shores during the Great Migration of the 1630s, the Connecticut Valley stood tantalizingly off in the distance, only a hundred miles from the coast. The valley was large, fertile, and beautiful. ...

Part II. The Protestant Sojourner

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2. Migration and the New Birth: Devereux Jarratt and the Anglicans of Virginia

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pp. 47-74

Devereux Jarratt was, at heart, an optimist. In 1752, he had the opportunity to escape the drudgery of farm work to open a school in the frontier county of Albemarle, Virginia. But Jarratt was also a realist with a wry sense of humor who well understood what he was getting himself into. ...

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3. Ethnicity and Mobility: Scotch-Irish Presbyterians in Eighteenth-Century America

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pp. 75-106

Maine. The ultimate borderland. Rocky, thin soil. Thick pine forests. Fierce cold. Spring came late; summer departed early. Devastating Indian wars. A frontier far removed from Boston and the sweet virtues of Puritan divines. Farther south, in the Shenandoah Valley, was another borderland, this one a world away from Williamsburg ...

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4. Land and Family: The Pietist Migration to North Carolina in the Late Colonial Period

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pp. 107-134

The Freys rode into Wachovia, North Carolina, on June 10, 1765, after a four-week journey from Pennsylvania. A wave of emotion likely engulfed them as the party—twenty-one people in all—surveyed the hilly countryside of their new home. These migrants surely felt tired after a month-long trip that had subjected them to bad roads, ...

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5. Reform and the Missionary Drive: Methodists in the Ohio Country

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pp. 135-164

In an 1802 letter to his brother, Philip Gatch sounded the trumpet call for Ohio. “The Countrey is beautiful in its situation and promices every advantage,” he began. “I am settled about Ten miles distance from the Ohio [River] and about Fifteen from Cincinnatta a Flourishing Town. . . . I believe we shall not want for trade in this Countrey.” ...

Part III. Journeys of the Pure

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6. The Dissenters: Baptists and Congregationalists in a Separatist World

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pp. 167-193

Two groups of migrants, some seventy-two people in all, gather at Clay Pit Creek in Middletown, New Jersey. It is September, still hot and a bit dry. The leaves have not yet turned, but fall is approaching. A wagon train loaded with supplies and the migrants’ belongings is forming in a grove a relatively short ride from Shrewsbury, ...

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7. God’s Chosen Sojourners: The Inspirationists of Amana, Iowa

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pp. 194-214

God said move, and they did. The exodus from Ebenezer, New York, began in 1855. When it ended ten years later, some eleven hundred members of the Society of True Inspiration had made the pilgrimage to Iowa, where they were to start life anew in a remote colony they called Amana. ...

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8. An American Exodus: Mormons and the Westward Trek

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pp. 215-243

For Joseph Smith, the end came on a muggy June day in 1844. The Mormon prophet, beset by jeering mobs and facing punishment from hostile civil authorities, was in jail in Carthage, Illinois, along with his brother, Hyrum. Illinois’s governor had promised to protect the Smiths, instructing all but one of the various local militias to disband: ...

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pp. 244-250

Religious migrations were more than colorful—they were an important part of American history. The wanderings of Protestants from the 1630s to the 1860s influenced the settlement of regions and the course of cultural development in both the thirteen colonies and the young United States. ...


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pp. 251-254


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pp. 255-288

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Topical Bibliography

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pp. 289-300

I began thinking about writing this book in the mid-1980s, when I was a young master’s degree student in history at the University of Virginia. Undertaking a study of internal migration in early America seemed too daunting at the time, and I filed the idea away in the recesses of my mind. ...


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pp. 301-302


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pp. 303-312

E-ISBN-13: 9781469604305
E-ISBN-10: 1469604302
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807833728
Print-ISBN-10: 080783372X

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 593325352
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Wandering Souls

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Church history.
  • Protestants -- United States -- History.
  • Migration, Internal -- United States -- History.
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