The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976 Page: 146
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Early in the nineteenth century denominational leaders had developed
the religious newspaper, usually a weekly, in which they eventually com-
bined the form and much of the content of a general newspaper with
religious news, interpretation, and exhortation. This uniquely antebellum
concept exploited the mass appetite for news to attract and hold an audi-
ence for the promulgation of moral values shared by most Protestants.
As conceived by their proprietors, the religious newspapers involved more
than the physical grafting of religious onto secular content or vice versa.
Through this agency the preacher-moralist expected to shape the whole
vastness and variety of American life and sanctify it as God's domain. He
would survey and arrange the events of the day according to the religion
of Jesus Christ. His news sheet would be "the horologue of Providence."
This hybrid was but one of the many agencies created to carry the far-
flung ministry of the churches in conversion, education, institutional con-
solidation, and moral reform after the Great Revival of the early nineteenth
century. By 1830 the religious newspaper press was a mature institution
with which the American public was well acquainted.3
Those who carried the Protestant claims into Texas were familiar with
the form and function of religious newspapers in the older regions. Pioneer
ministers in Texas corresponded with these out-of-state papers, skillfully
using them in behalf of their missionary activities.4 These leaders sought
to establish their own papers as soon as possible. This agency had been
viewed by their predecessors on other frontiers as an ideal device to com-
pensate for a shortage of clergy and for conditions adverse to communica-
tions. A local denominational paper would provide the intimacy of contact
and the details of organizational activity which would bring growth, unity,
and destiny to the Texas branch of the church. Texas had its own "moral,
spiritual, and ecclesiastical wants" which only local personnel, news, and
perspectives could serve. Prompted by the same vision of their utility and
the same extravagant views of the power of the press as leaders elsewhere,
Texas ministers founded several religious newspapers before the Civil War,
3Albert E. Dunning, Congregationists in America (New York, I894), 477; Western
Christian Advocate (Cincinnati), January 29, 1851; Northwestern Christian Advocate
(Chicago), August 24, 1853 (quotation). The religious newspaper appeared in its primi-
tive form in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1808, in Philadelphia in 1813, and in Chil-
licothe, Ohio, and Charleston, South Carolina, in 1814. Henry Smith Stroupe, The
Religious Press in the South Atlantic States, 1802-x865 (Durham, North Carolina, 1956),
62-63; William Wilson McKinney (ed.), The Presbyterian Valley (Pittsburg, 1958),
4R. Douglas Brackenridge made use of such missionary accounts in his early denomina-
tional history, Voice in the Wilderness: A History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church
in Texas (San Antonio, 1968), 163-170.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976, periodical, 1975/1976; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101203/m1/178/: accessed July 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.