CONCLUSION:
I
TINERANCY AND THE
TRANSFORMATION OF
THE EARLY AMERICAN RELIGIOUS WORLD
IN
THE LATE
1760s, a cranky Anglican missionary by the name of
Charles Woodmason traveled westward on a quest to circumscribe a
new parish on the South Carolina frontier. His mission proved much
more complicated than those of a generation before. Like his pre-
decessors, he faced arduous travel over treacherous, sometimes im-
passable trails to reach an ignorant, often indifferent frontier popu-
lation. Yet where earlier missionaries had usually provided the only
religious leadership for frontier settlers, Woodmason found himself
competing in a robust environment of religious choice fostered by
evangelical itinerancy. The crusty clergyman complained that the
absence of parishes in the Carolina backcountry permitted people
to be "eaten up by Itinerant Teachers, Preachers, and Impostors
from New England and Pennsylvania-Baptists, New Lights, Pres-
byterians, Independents, and an hundred other Sects." He charged
that the "Variety of Taylors who would pretend to know the best
fashion in which Christs Coat is to be worn" so bewildered frontier
settlers that they neglected religion altogether.
Woodmason thus found himself in the distasteful position of ped-
dler competing in a religious marketplace to sell Christ's coat in its
respectable Anglican style. He adapted as best he could by imitating
the fashionable extemporaneous delivery of his rivals. He repeated
the Liturgy by heart and used "no Book but the Bible, when I
read the Lessons." He also boasted that he had the "whole Service
and all the Offices at my fingers Ends. I also give an Extempore
Prayer before Sermon-but cannot yet venture to give Extempore
Discourses, tho' (,:ould certainly perform beyond any of these poor
Fools. I shall make Trial in a short time."
I
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