The Samuel Bettle journals consist of four small leather-bound volumes kept during Bettle's tours as a minister for the Society of Friends during the summers of 1841 and 1860. Two of the volumes (1 and 2) contain extensive and often vivid accounts of his ministering activities and missionary work in central Pennsylvania during July and August, 1841; while a third includes an extensive and detailed account of Bettle's participation in a mission to the Oneida Indian School and reservation near Green Bay, Wisconsin, in May and June, 1860. The fourth journal contains a less extensive account of travel in New York state and New Hampshire later in the summer of 1860.
Bettle's journey through central Pennsylvania came at a particularly difficult time in the history of the Society, following the separation of the Hicksites from the predominantly Orthodox Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. It is tempting to speculate that part of Bettle's mission was to shore up support among the Orthodox Quakers in the center of the state, and perhaps begin to heal over the rifts. His tour was focused on the spiritual lives and needs of Friends and he paid close attention to the state of their meetings, to their marriages, education, and to children and the elderly. Typical of his interests was the story he extracted from a 94-year old Friend, Jesse Harris, of an intense religious experience during the time of the Revolution: "I had not been in the practice of attending religious meeting at the time of the breaking out of the difficuties [sic] with the mother country but about then solemn friend I was experienced a fresh visitation of heaven divine grace & in yeilding [sic] to the requisition of duty I experienced much love & sweetness & there after thought it my duty to attend all such meetings as they can in course [& in them] found such an influx of love life & power as I had never before had any perception of" (vol. 2). Bettle records his attendance at meetings, sometimes with a summary of his own ministering or that of others, and the journal includes some excellent descriptions of travel through a mountainous and difficult part of the state.
The volume that includes an account of Bettle's mission to the Oneidas in 1860 contains, if anything, an even fuller description of events. Bettle wrote at considerable length of his meetings with representatives of the Oneida, Menominee and Stockbridge Indians, including one religious meeting. The journal provides a rare account of a Quaker minister's spoken message as well as an interesting and valuable account of negotiations between the Oneidas and Friends.