Mapping the Great Awakening

The Global Baptist Annual Register

by Marlo Weisberg

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Welcome back!

We have officially entered into the craziest and busiest season of the year. With finals around the corner and Winter break quickly approaching, school work and extracurricular activities are building up quickly. My investment and interest in History 1325: “Doing Digital History” has greatly increased. In this course, we examine and analyze the Great Awakening through the data mining of primary sources.  The key questions that we are trying to answer through this class are “what is the Great Awakening and where did it take place?”  Researching different primary sources to try to answer these questions to the best of my knowledge is a daunting task for anyone, especially as a non-history major; however, Dr. Carte Engel and Mr. Klump have keen insights into the different facets of The Great Awakening along with ways to narrow ideas and research.

Individually, I knew I wanted to focus on something that encompassed one specific denomination or a certain geographical area to help me keep the chaos of the Great Awakening organized to the best of my ability.  Luckily, The Baptist Annual Register encompasses one out of the two criteria I set up for my initial research process.  The Baptist Annual Register obviously only discusses the Baptist denomination, but it focuses on the New World as well as Europe and parts of other countries. Regarding this document, I instantly liked the organization and methodology that kept this specific community feeling like there was some type of unity in the confusion of the Great Awakening.  This helps build the picture for why, through my research, The Great Awakening is a global phenomenon.

The Baptist Annual register does its best to arrange and classify different sermons, liturgies, conversions, baptisms, obituaries, and other types of documents that Baptist communities would send in to be compiled and reported.  This document single handedly organized and maintained a clear record of the evolution and spread of the Baptist denomination from 1790 to 1802 in America and Europe. Throughout my research and investigation into The Baptist Annual Register, I have found that the Great Awakening is truly an event that takes on a global perspective with the type of documents showing a community’s real history and interactions with revivals and religion. Out of the data points from the Baptist Annual Register my group and I collected, I believe the following ten points truly encompass and paint the picture of how the Great Awakening was a comprehensive event that included all Baptist people, even minorities.

Isaac Backus

First, The First Baptist Church in Middleborough, Massachusetts reported a history to the Baptist Annual Register.  Reverend Isaac Backus wrote and paid special attention to history of the Baptist denomination in New England along with Christian testimonies, and he included history of the first principles and settlement of the Baptist colonies in New England. Also, David George, an African American who was born in America as a slave, wrote an insightful letter.  He eventually escaped and made it to Sierra Leon as a part of the Black Loyalists.  In Sierra Leon, he discussed how he worked to build his own Baptist Church, and spread the work of God to the “natives of Africa.” The fact that The Baptist Annual Register had the foresight to include this record is remarkable for the time. It brings legitimacy to the fact that minorities played a role in The Great Awakening as well, and shows the spread of ideas and revivals in thoughts about religion were not just taking place in one area but rather globally.

Secondly, obituaries and minutes from different associations were reported to the Baptist Annual Register.  These documents aid in the idea that the Baptist Annual Register encompasses all facets of life.  The Cashie Baptist Church in Windsor, North Carolina documented and recorded the obituary of Reverend Jeremiah Dargan.  Dargan was the head minister and founder of Cashie Baptist Church and was known for his passionate sermons and often was notorious to bringing people and himself to tears.  Sadly, Dargan died after a long affliction with “gravel,” which is now known as kidney stones. Moreover, Hamsterley Baptist Church in Hamsterely, Durham, England sent in an obituary of their main pastor, Reverend John Hall.  Hall’s congregation held him in high esteem. His whole life was based off the principles of revival religion. He died a slow death with the whole community of the Hamsterley Baptist Church mourning his loss. Similarly, Reverend Don Taylor, a general Baptist, delivered a sermon at Mrs. Elizabeth Taylor’s funeral which was called “This is our God forever and ever and he will be our guide into death.” The fact that this was included in The Annual Baptist Register shows that women were involved in the Great Awakening to some extent. Lastly, Reverend Caleb Harris sadly passed away in Govilian, Wales in 1793.  He was a furious, solid, and hopeful man who started his own church, Llanwenarth Baptist Church in Govilian.  Additionally, the Baptist Meeting House in Attleborough, Norfolk, England informed the rest of the Baptist community of the minutes of the Warren Association.  This association enrolled 24 churches (3621 members) in the Attleborough, Norfolk region. The minutes also discussed the appointment of a secretary, treasurer, and chairman to Baptist Education Fund. At the High Hills of Santee Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina on October 30, 1790, The Charleston association granted admission to the three churches that applied. This meeting lasted 5 days and the first 2 days were spent in public devotion.  At Bear Creek Meeting House in Lenoir, North Carolina on October 13, 1792, The United Baptist Association (formerly known as Kehukee Association) enrolled 48 churches (3522 members). They discussed the idea of dividing association; however, it was decided that it would not be voted on until the meeting the following year.  Likewise, at Tate’s Creek in Madison, Kentucky on August 31, 1792, The Elk Horn Association enrolled 24 churches (1700 members) and agreed to defer the queries until next association.

Overall, The Annual Baptist Register shows that the Great Awakening was a global event that affected everyone not just white European men.  Additionally, the Great Awakening included the sharing of ideas about religion as well as simply the day-to-day interactions or inter workings of a community.  These different types of events make categorizing The Annual Baptist Register an easy task.  This document indicates that the Great Awakening was inclusive of women and African Americans from all over the world.

Work Cited

The Baptist Annual Register; Including Sketches of the State of Religion among Different Denominations of Good Men at Home and Abroad. London. 1791.

Further Readings

The Baptist Annual Register; Including Sketches of the State of Religion among Different Denominations of Good Men at Home and Abroad. Available at Hathi Trust Digital Library.

Kidd, Thomas S. The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America. Yale University Press, 2009.

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