A New Promised Land? Denominations, Local Congregations, Camp Meetings, and the Creation of Community in Early Kentucky, c.1780-1830

  • Jonathan Peter De Vries

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis examines the importance Kentucky's religious denominations played in the development and transformation of early Kentucky (1770's to 1830). This thesis will show that though federal and regional governments may have created the laws that established newly opened territories, it was often the denominations that played an important role in the creation of that community and stability of the wider societies. Beginning with camp meetings this thesis will argue that denominations began the process of creating community by actively placing these meetings outside the bounds of early congregations and into the backcountry. In doing so denominations brought outsiders, in many cases for the first time, into direct contact with the denominations. This thesis will also argue that denominations developed a new form of worship that was more inclusive and more communal, allowing for wider participation by settlers, especially by women, children, or slaves at these meetings. This thesis will then turn its attention towards the ideas and concepts of the local congregation. This thesis will argue that the local congregation was ideally situated to reinforce the beginnings of community which were established with camp meetings. Through activities such as the calling of ministers as well as the election of elders, deacons, and other lay positions in their local congregation, settlers became active members of the local congregation and entered into a deeper connection with the community. The local congregation offered settlers access to an institution that was both local and communal. Finally this thesis will turn towards a study of physical church buildings arguing that such buildings expressed and reinforced concepts of community and stability. This thesis will argue that over time those congregations that had access to a church often found stability and security. This thesis will also focus on the layout of churches arguing that denominations strengthened already established and shared ideas of community within their congregations through these layouts. By understanding how denominations created community within Kentucky this thesis will argue that the denominations played an important role within newly established territories and that only through a study of these denominations can one begin to understand how the process of western expansion was able to succeed.
    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMatthew Ward (Supervisor), James Livesey (Supervisor) & Callum Brown (Supervisor)


    • Kentucky
    • Religon
    • Nineteenth Century
    • Backcountry
    • Eighteenth Century
    • Denominations
    • Religious denominations
    • Congregation
    • Churches
    • Church
    • Camp meetings
    • Anglican Church
    • Presbyterianism
    • Presbyterian Church
    • Baptist Church
    • Baptist
    • Methodists
    • Methodist Church

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