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Oakland County Pioneer Historical Society Small Talk: “New York’s Burned Over District"

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 405 Cesar E Chavez Ave Pontiac MI 48342  See map

Substantial settlement of Michigan began in the 1820s. For the first thirty years of this settlement, most of these early settlers came from one location…upstate New York. More specifically, they came from a region known as the “Burned Over District”.


The “Burned Over District” was the scene of an intense religious revival in the late 1820s which laid the ground work for this district to become the center for a wide range of social, religious and political reforms that swept the country in the 1830s and 1840s. Temperance, abolitionism and women’s rights are just three of the movements which are closely associated with upstate New York. In addition, two of the uniquely American religious movements sprang from this area: Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and Adventists.


For students of Michigan history, it is important to recognize that Michigan’s territorial and early statehood years were dominated by people who came from the “Burned Over District.” While these migrants from New York were certainly not all “infected” by the religious revivals or supportive of the various “isms” that sprang from the region, they were certainly “affected” by them. And they carried their experience to Michigan.


The primary purpose of this workshop is to provide an overview of the “Burned Over District”, demonstrate how the enthusiasms carried over to Michigan and most importantly, to help you interpret the early history of your own communities in the context of events that carried over from this unique and influential area of New York.


Presenter Jim Craft, BA, MA in History, is a student of the ante bellum period of American history. He has a particular interest in the “Burned Over District” and the reform era associated with the 1830s and 1840s. Refreshments will be served. 

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