Year: c. 1800s-1860s
Following the deaths of the Founders' generation most of whom were Deists, around the beginning of the 19th Century a Christian Revival movement known as The Second Great Awakening swept the country, converting many Americans to one or another faith based on the teachings of Christ.
At the time of the beginning of the Second Great Awakening, the western half of New York State was frontier territory occupied primarily by the Iroquois tribes. As whites began moving into the region, a good many utopians and religious revivalists were among them.
Most of these Messianists are forgotten to history, but many established Protestant faiths that are still active today. The area, in fact, was such a hotbed for adherents of the Second Great Awakening that it got the name "The Burned-Over District" because, according to popular opinion, the people there had been swept up so often in the fires of excited Christian religiosity that there was "nothing left to burn"---in other words, no one left to convert.
Among the most famous and popular of the itinerant preachers of the early 19th Century was Lorenzo Dow (1777-1834), who preached in New York State in 1802, "against Atheism, Deism, Calvinism and Universalism" (he was also virulently anti-Catholic), a man whose whoop-and-holler style has influenced televangelists down to the present day. Dow often preached before crowds of 10,000 and more. Dow's autobiography was for a time the most popular bestseller in the U.S., excepting only the Bible. "Lorenzo" became the most popular name for boys at the height of his fame.
The Latter Day Saints (Mormons): Joseph Smith, Jr., who became an itinerant preacher at fourteen years old, claimed he had been led by the angel Moroni to his source for the text of the Book of Mormon, a pair of golden plates buried in the earth near the town of Palmyra. The first editions of the Book of Mormon date back to 1830, and give "Palmyra" as their place of publication.
The Seventh Day Adventists: William Miller, the founder of Adventism, lived in the town of Low Hampton. He preached that the literal Second Coming of Christ would occur on October 22, 1844. Although Miller's calculations were apparently wrong, his teachings, focused on a very literal interpretation of Scripture (including holding the Sabbath on Saturdays) became extremely popular, and spread far beyond western New York State.
The Society for Universal Inquiry and Reform (the Skaneateles Community) was another utopian community in the region. Strict abolitionists, social reformers, and religious rationalists, the group was also communalist. Their farms and dairies were financially successful, but internal disagreements ended the Community in 1848.
The Burned-Over District was famed for its Spiritualists. The Fox sisters, of Hydesville, conducted séances in which they communicated with the Devil ("Mr. Split-Foot"), assorted demons and with the dead. Spiritualism became increasingly popular throughout America, reaching a peak during the Civil War. The town of Lily Dale and the Plymouth Spiritualist Church, in Rochester, are still Spiritualist centers.