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Borderland Religion

Borderland Religion: The Emergence of an English-Canadian Identity, 1792-1852

J.I. Little
Copyright Date: 2004
https://doi.org/10.3138/9781442671546
Pages: 415
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442671546
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  • Book Info
    Borderland Religion
    Book Description:

    Since colonization, Canadians and Americans have viewed religious matters differently. While this is not surprising given contemporary Canadians' reluctance to embrace U.S.-style social conservativism, the roots of the phenomenon are seldom examined. J.I. Little seeks to correct this oversight withBorderland Religion.

    Focusing on the settlement period of the Eastern Townships region of Quebec, Little addresses the role played by religion in forging a distinctive national identity for English-Canadians. While radical evangelical churches and sects developed in the hill country of New England, they failed to gain a strong foothold in the neighbouring Eastern Townships despite the majority of the population there being of American origin. Rather, the British-based Church of England and Wesleyan Methodist Society became much the largest denominations in this border region.

    Borderland Religionis effectively a borderlands study in reverse. Rather than examining the dynamics of contact between two distinct cultures in a common geographical space, or middle ground, it explores how a common culture became differentiated on either side of an international boundary line. In the process, it also illuminates the woefully neglected history of Protestantism in Quebec.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7154-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  5. Part I: Introduction

    • 1 Protestant Identity in the Eastern Townships
      (pp. 3-24)

      In 1842 the touring Congregational minister Henry Wilkes reported that five years earlier there had been only one place of worship in the St Francis Valley village of Melbourne, but now ʻfrom a spot standing on which you cannot count fifty houses, you can see five Churches.ʼ To the west, in the small village of Granby, there were two Congregationalchurches nearing completion, one for the American settlers and one for the British, as well as a Catholic church. An Episcopalian church was about to be erected, and ʻProbably also a Methodist Chapel will in due time be built. If so...

    • 2 The Pioneer Era
      (pp. 25-52)

      The pioneer era of Eastern Townships history, with its slow population growth and hesitant institutional development, persisted until at least 1815. During these years of religious revivalism in New England, the Lower Canadian borderland was included in the circuits of various American Calvinist and evangelical churches, with the result that settlers saw circuit preachers only on an occasional basis. Even these visits were largely interrupted by the War of 1812, leaving the Eastern Townships largely dependent on unordained local preachers. The situation would not change much after hostilities had ended, thereby leaving an opening for the Church of Englandʼs Society...

  6. Part II: Postwar American Initiatives

    • 3 The Congregationalists
      (pp. 55-89)

      Alhough most of the pioneer settlers were undoubtedly Congregationalists prior to leaving New England, there was no settled Congregational minister in the Eastern Townships during the pioneer prewar era. As late as 1831, Lower Canadaʼs first official census report recorded that there were only 1,099 Congregationalists and Presbyterians (outside the Church of Scotland) in the region, or 3.2 per cent of the total Protestant population. The American missionary societies had not paid much attention to the region, and only in 1833 did the American Home Missionary Society (AHMS) begin to show an interest. That year, society president R.S. Storrs described...

    • 4 The Baptists
      (pp. 90-108)

      The somewhat sporadic development of the Baptists in the Eastern Townships was curtailed by the War of 1812, and, by 1831, they still numbered only 1,912, or 5.6 per cent of the region’s Protestant population. This percentage would fail to increase during the following two decades, and the reasons remained much the same as they had been in the pre-1815 pioneer era. The Baptist churches in the Townships continued for a number of years to be linked to American societies, such as the Danville, Vermont, Calvinist Baptist Convention, which by 1824 included Potton, Eaton, Hatley, and Stanstead.¹ Rather than being...

    • 5 The Smaller Sects
      (pp. 109-127)

      In 1816, the year that June snows destroyed crops in many areas of the world, including Lower Canada, there was a widespread religious revival.¹ It may not be coincidental, then, that this was the year that witnessed the appearance of the one radical religious movement ever to originate in the Eastern Townships, a sect generally known as the Pilgrims. The independent preacher Joseph Badger recorded in his journal that when he returned to the Eastern Townships from New England in 1816 he found that the ʻChristiansʼ in Ascot, whom he had lived among when he first left his parental home,...

    • 6 The Millerites
      (pp. 128-146)

      Writing in 1908, Miss M.A. Titemore remembered that, as a child of twelve living in the Lower Canadian border community of St Armand East, she had been somewhat uneasy on the day of 13 April 1843, ʻbut my mother, being a very sensible woman, quietly went about her household duties, which had a tendency to alleviate our fears.ʼ¹ What the Titemore family had been at least slightly worried about was William Millerʼs prediction that the Apocalypse would take place on that day, for many people in the borderland region had been thoroughly convinced by his interpretation of the Scriptures. What...

  7. Part III: Postwar British Responses:: The Wesleyan Methodists

    • 7 Laying the Foundations
      (pp. 149-176)

      With the War of 1812 preventing the Methodist Episcopal Church from providing more than a couple of missionaries for Lower Canada, Methodists in Montreal appealed to Britain for help, and appointments were made to Montreal and Quebec without consulting the American bishop. To counteract this initiative, once the war had ended, the Genessee Conference of 1815 assured the Upper Canadians who were in attendance that the Canadas would soon receive suitable preachers, and that they would be warned to avoid political offence. The conference recognized de facto the British preachersʼ occupation of Montreal and Quebec, but appointed Henry Ryan as...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • 8 Revivals, Reversals, and Shifting Strategies
      (pp. 177-224)

      Most of the Wesleyan missionaries in the Eastern Townships, as in the Maritimes, would come to take a somewhat sceptical view about the benefits of emotional revivals, but their initial arrival in the region was marked by a notable rise in religious fervour. It would seem that the situation was ripe for such a development, for waves of revivalism in which ʻthousands were prostrated with religious fervourʼ swept neighbouring Vermont in 1810, 1816, 1821, and 1826.¹ Most revivals were initiated at quarterly meetings that were transformed into what were known as protracted meetings. Richard Popeʼs description of one such event...

  8. Part IV: Postwar British Responses:: The Anglicans

    • 9 Building a Colonial Church
      (pp. 227-251)

      While there is no census identifying religious affiliation in the colony prior to 1831, it is clear that few of the settlers who migrated from southern New England to the Eastern Townships during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were Episcopalians. Furthermore, this was the era of the Second Great Awakening, when the pioneer settlements in the neighbouring hill country of Vermont and New Hampshire became centres of religious radicalism. Since the revivalist approach to proselytization was not compatible with Anglicanism, the Church of England would appear to have been at a considerable disadvantage on the northern frontier of...

    • 10 Messianism and Popular Response
      (pp. 252-278)

      In his study of the Anglican Church in Upper Canada, Fahey argues that it held a strongly messianic outlook from the 1790s until disestablishment became a reality in the late 1840s and early 1850s. He also states that since the Church in Lower Canada was on the periphery of that colony’s religious life, ‘its clergymen were not driven by the same sense of mission that inspired their brothers beyond the Ottawa River ... Put simply, their major concern was not charting the course of their society’s evolution, but survival.’¹ Thus, clergymen of essentially the same social, national, and educational backgrounds,...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 279-286)

    In December 1811 ʻA Poor Farmerʼ in Shipton Township wrote the following plaintive words to the editor of theQuebec Gazette:

    Eleven years have elapsed since I first entered these woods, with my family, and seven years since my residence in this Township ... On my first arrival in these woods, with my wife, both of us about the age of Twenty, we had one child, at present we have six, and have lost three. Our first care and inquiry was, in what manner shall we have our children Baptized, Educated, and taught the true Religion of Christianity. Hope led...

  10. Statistical Appendix
    (pp. 287-294)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 295-350)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 351-372)
  13. Index
    (pp. 373-386)