Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Earthquake Revival

The earthquake in the midwest last week had a magnitude of 5.2. The great earthquake centered near New Madrid, Missouri that hit the newly developing Illinois Territory in 1811-1812 was, in comparison, a magnitude of 7.5 to 8.0. We referred yesterday to the quake on December 18, 1811 as the steam boat New Orleans entered the waters of the Mississippi River. That quake was followed a month later by a second quake on January 23 and finally one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded in the United States on February 7, 1812.

Following the great earthquakes of 1811-12, there was a tremendous revival of religion across the frontier areas. Among the leaders was George Wolfe II. His family had earlier migrated by flatboat from the Alleghenies down the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers into Kentucky where his father George Wolfe I was active in gathering other Brethren to establish church life in the new area.

The sons of George Wolfe I, George II and Jacob, were among the early explorers of the forested land in Southern Illinois as early as 1803; and became the first white settlers in what became Union County in 1808-09. Following the great earthquakes, the younger George Wolfe led his neighbors in bringing together a Dunker congregation; they chose him as their first minister. He was to become the outstanding leader of the so-called Far Western Brethren. His influence was always cast on the side of maintaining union and harmony, while at the same time preserving the unique positions of the Brethren on the frontier.

Wolfe was a stalwart defender of traditional Brethren practices over against other aggressive religious bodies. He is known to have held debates on these points with Baptist and Catholic opponents. More on this tomorrow.

Sources: "New Madrid Earthquake," Wikipedia
Fruit of the Vine,
Donald F. Durnbaugh