Burned-Over District

America's Second Great Awakening (a reference to the Great Awakening of the 18th century) lasted some 50 years. From the 1790s to the 1840s, waves of religious fervor spanned the entire United States. The spirit of revivalism swept through western New York in the late 1820s and early 1830s and was referred to as the "burnt district" because so many revivals had taken place there. The revivals in western New York were in large part the work of Charles Grandison Finney, a lawyer-turned preacher. As an introduction to Hebraic law, Finney began to study the Bible, and soon after devoted his life to theological studies.

The Second Great Awakening came to a head when Finney conducted a revival in Utica, New York, where three thousand "experienced conversion." Finney argued that a Calvinist God did not control the destiny of human beings. "He told congregations throughout the northern United States that they were ‘moral free agents' who could obtain salvation through their own efforts—but, he admonished, they must hurry because time was short."

The Second Great Awakening placed responsibility on ministers and followers alike to enlist in the work of extending God's Kingdom. Many Yankees left the "Burned-over District" in western New York to settle in Wisconsin, accompanying them was evangelical reform and its ideals. By 1850, one-fourth of Wisconsin's population (68,600 persons) were New York natives, giving Wisconsin the nickname, "New York's daughter state."

Camp-meeting / A. Rider pinxit ; drawn on stone by H. Bridport. Library of Congress digital ID: (color film copy transparency) cph 3g04554 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3g04554 (b&w film copy neg.) cph 3a52048 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a52048