The leading edge of a wave does not move evenly across the beach, but rather sends foamy fingers of water forward over the sand. So it was with the expansion of the Methodist, United Brethren, and Evangelical churches from their heartland in the Middle Atlantic states. Methodism's leading edge rolled into Kentucky in 1786. It sent a finger circling northeastward into New England in 1789. During the next three decades the tide of evangelization moved through the Mississippi Valley and sent offshoots into Alabama and Texas. One cowboy, speaking of life across the Mississippi in the 1830s, said, "No Sunday west of St. Louis, no God west of Fort Smith." But God was there, awaiting words of witness, and Methodist witnesses opened a Shawnee mission near Kansas City in 1830. They arrived in Oregon in 1834, in San Francisco in 1847, in Santa Fe in 1850, and in Denver in 1858. Meanwhile, United Brethren expansion stretched through Maryland and Virginia into Kentucky, through New York into Canada, and through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois into Michigan. Evangelicals moved in the same directions.
These waves of evangelistic expansion became a tide of church growth, paralleling the tide of nationalism that was carrying settlers across the continent. In 1790 the Methodists, United Brethren, and Evangelicals claimed 1.47 percent of the United States population; in 1820, 2.79 percent; in 1850, 5.37 percent. This growth was accompanied by the development of a number of institutions.
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