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7 Borderlands Redemption Protestants Negotiate the Ohio River Valley PhiliP n. MUlder Joseph Badger brought redemption to Ohio. Beginning in 1800 he made several journeys to proselytize in the region on behalf of the Connecticut Missionary Society with the stated goals “to Christianize the Heathen in North America, and to support and promote Christian knowledge in the new settlements.” The Presbyterian minister intended to alter the beliefs and lives of people he found in Ohio and whom he judged crude and pagan: settlers and Indians. Aggressively confronting the inhabitants of this “unbroken wilderness,”Badger made Ohio his own spiritual and physical frontier ,a place to be transformed by the religion and culture he would impose.1 Most of Badger’s fellow immigrants to Ohio dismissed Indians as pagans ,strangers,and enemies,objects to be transformed or removed.Badger, however, detoured from the path many other Protestant proselytizers followed by sometimes befriending Native American neighbors and defending them against the onslaught of other American settlers. His efforts preserved a remnant of the Ohio before it became a frontier for missionaries and settlers. Badger sustained the past compromises that had made Ohio a “middle ground,” a place where negotiations among various Europeans and Indians trumped the purposes of any one party. Badger’s competitors ran roughshod over his designs and efforts as they charged into Ohio and trampled any hope of preserving compromise. Settlers and missionaries overwhelmed Native Americans in the years following the American Revolution , and steadily the Indians’control and negotiating power diminished. + Borderlands Redemption: Protestants Negotiate the Ohio River Valley · 169 Overwhelming the early West, Badger’s contemporaries were transforming the place into a frontier. Despite their aggressive efforts, they were not entirely successful. The changing relationships with Native Americans precipitated other transformations in the place, too, resurrecting conditions that had preceded the frontier and middle ground. As the settlers wrested control of Ohio and lost their Native American nemeses, they turned on each other. Badger found that those disagreeing with his milder approach to the remaining Indians were joined by those who challenged his other purposes. Badger, affiliated with the Connecticut Missionary Society, was trying to spread his particular form of Presbyterian religion. His competitors favored Methodism, Baptist religion, Catholicism, Congregationalism, or other faiths; some had given up on existing forms of Christianity and were creating their own churches; and many settlers hoped to avoid churches and missionaries altogether. The multiple interests converged and clashed in the land they all hoped to claim. Although steadily reducing the middle ground that had included Indian voices, the frontier’s settlers blazed no single path toward Protestant success.They reintroduced another dynamic in Ohio: the revival of a borderland. Reminiscent of previous centuries when competing empires vied for the North American interior, the multiple missions, churches, and settlers now clustered in insular groups and argued over people, boundaries, and territories under their control. They introduced a multifaceted Protestant presence in the early West, and their many competing efforts preserved in the Ohio River Valley vestiges of a borderland, a religious microcosm of the historical imperial rivalries. The powers of Europe no longer vied for the territory as they had, but their shadows help us clarify the experiences of people like Joseph Badger and the Protestants competing in the new religious borderland.2 Badger was an accomplished competitor. He filled his account of his ministry and mission with adventurous stories of frontier bravado. His work began soon after he served in the American Revolution, a link that accentuated hints of militancy in his efforts to extend and perfect Christianity and the culture of the Western Reserve. He marched away to Ohio, the place he labeled a “wilderness,” and walked into innumerable perils arising from the weather, the travel, and the life around him. The punishing weather alternately inflicted downpours, heavy snow, frigid air, and ice 170 · Philip N. Mulder on the minister. As a result, Badger struggled through slippery snow- and ice-covered paths that imperiled horse and rider, and river crossings that nearly swept both away. Badger’s route, from Connecticut south toward New Jersey and then west through Pennsylvania, carried him over increasingly challenging obstacles. Ferries conducted him across the Hudson at Newburgh,near the beginning of his journey,but soon Badger had to forge more of his own way. At one river crossing, he encountered especially high waters. Confronted with the choice of making the risky crossing or spending a night in an undesirable camping spot, Badger directed his...


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