American Bible Society papers  1819-1855 (bulk 1828-1855)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The bulk of this accession consists of orders from subsidiary or affiliate Bible societies, often located in rural or frontier areas, for Bibles for distribution and sale. These orders came from societies ranging in location from Farmington, Maine, in the east to Bainbridge, Georgia, in the south, to societies in the western states and territories. The great number of local societies represented as correspondents and the quantity, quality, and cost of Bibles they ordered can be used to reconstruct patterns of evangelical activity and success on the fringes of the country during the 1840's and '50's. This correspondence provides evidence of American Bible Society activity in Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, and Maine, and several letters provide the names and officers of local Bible societies.

Included in the correspondence are a few informal reports from local societies of their situation vis-à-vis the needs of the evangelist, their finances, and the success of their efforts to date. Some of these societies served ethnic communities (Welsh, French, German, Native American) or frontier areas where contact was difficult. "You would find that lonely rides with your own conveyance over extensive Prairies and through forrests, is somewhat different from visiting important points by public Conveyances" (April 26, 1842).

A series of correspondence from the Wisconsin Territory to John Brigham in the late 1830's and early 40's is particularly detailed in describing plans for evangelizing in Wisconsin and reveals something of the mentality of the evangelists. The reports, orders, and letters from this quarter are detailed in terms of the numbers and types of Bibles distributed, the means used to distribute them, the finances of the local society, and the clientele served. The correspondents paint a fairly thorough picture of evangelical activity in Wisconsin and their personal experiences as evangelists.

Among their clientele were substantial numbers of Oneida Indians, the 'remnants' of the Iroquois, whom the correspondent, Julius Field, suggests 'are a peacible, Moral, - Industrious, and enterprizing People, - And the best of all Many of them give Satisfactory evidence of conversion & ardent piety' (May 20, 1842). Field continues at some length on the Oneidas and, in other letters, on the Oneida West Mission, 12 miles west of Green Bay. His descriptions of evangelizing among the Oneida are among the most complete in this collection, and his opinions on their life style and future prospects are particularly notable.

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