Question: Were revivals and religious excitement too common to be noticed in the newspapers?

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Question: Were revivals and religious excitement too common to be noticed in the newspapers?

One report of a Methodist camp meeting in Palmyra only made it into the local newspaper because of a fatality due to alcohol consumption

Ironically, evidence for local religious meetings was less likely to be documented in the newspapers because they were so common. One report of a Methodist camp meeting in Palmyra only made it into the local newspaper because of a fatality due to alcohol consumption. The paper, in a less politically correct time, pointed out that the deceased was Irish and had died due to alcohol at the Camp-ground outside Palmyra:

The deceased, we are informed, arrived at Mr. McCollum's house the evening preceding, from a camp-meeting which was held in this vicinity, in a state of intoxication....It is supposed he obtained his liquor, which was no doubt the cause of his death, at the Camp-ground, where, it is a notorious fact, the intemperate, the lewd and dissolute part of community too frequently resort for no better object, than to gratify their base propensities.[1]

The Methodists strenuously objected to the implication that their camp meetings where places where people came to get drunk. The Palmyra Register printed a clarification about a week later:

By this expression we did not mean to insinuate, that he obtained it within the enclosure of their place of worship, or that he procured it of them, but at the grog-shops that were established at, or near if you please, their camp-ground. It was far from our intention to charge the Methodists with retailing ardent spirits while professedly met for the worship of their God.[2]

Thus, Joseph's recollection of religious excitement in Palmyra is confirmed at the very edge of the Spring of 1820; very close to the time when he said he prayed to God about religion. [3]

Notes

  1. Palmyra Register (Palmyra, NY), 28 June 1820.
  2. Palmyra Register (Palmyra, NY), 5 July 1820.
  3. This episode in the Palmyra Register was noted in Walter A. Norton, "Comparative Images: Mormonism and Contemporary Religions as Seen by Village Newspapermen in Western New York and Northeastern Ohio, 1820-1833" (Ph.D. Diss., Brigham Young University, 1991), 255. Discussed in footnote 3 by Richard L. Bushman, "Just the Facts Please (Review of Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record by H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters)," FARMS Review of Books 6/2 (1994): 122–133. off-site