Lesson 3: "Burned Over District"

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Each day have someone quiz you on the following spelling words. If you misspell any word then write them down 10 times each. Then quiz yourself on the definitions of each word. If you don’t know the definition, look it up and write it down.

  1. document
  2. missionary
  3. academy
  4. transportation
  5. congregation
  6. stow
  7. inhabitant
  8. hostile
  9. Napoleon
  10. anthem

Writing Prompts

Choose one of the following writing prompts and write a one-page story.

1. You are alone and lost in the woods when you hear a twig crackle. You spin around and find a crazy and wild looking man dressed in animal furs. You ask him who he is, and he responds, “I am Jim Bridger, tamer of the west!”

2. Life in a historical re-enactment town is as boring as it gets. Until one day, someone comes along, convinced the date is 1805 and that he is Stephen Prentiss, who died over 150 years ago.

3. You are a historian, which is not an easy job. You have to make sure no time-travelers ruin the time-table. One day you notice someone missing in time. Suddenly you start feeling ill, and realize your great-great-great-great-grandfather just disappeared.

4. The Erie Canal was opened for use just yesterday. You and some friends of yours decide to pirate a barge, not knowing that you’re starting a whole chain of “Erie Canal” pirates.

5. You go exploring with your family on your 50 acre backyard. After walking for 5 hours you stumble upon an old shed. On further inspection you find that it was an old small home of someone who had apparently made trapping his business. It was recently used and the date on the doorway says 1826.

"Burned Over District"

Narcissa grew up on a farm with a saw mill, garden, and large family. But Narcissa also grew up in the state of New York and experienced the effects of the War of 1812, a battle her father joined. Narcissa wouldn’t have remembered much from this experience, but the War of 1812 would forever affect the Native Americans and the feelings they stowed towards the migrating pioneers. The War of 1812 was not just the historical time where our Nation’s National Anthem was written, or when important documents were saved by First Lady Mrs. Madison. It was an unforgiving era for the French experiencing their Napoleon Wars against Russia, and the independence of Canada.

Narcissa was only fours years old when New York was brought into the fight. Her father joined the battle along with other New Yorkers and the Native Americans who lived in the area. Over 1,000 Native Americans served in the War of 1812, which included the Creek, Cherokee, and Choctaw Tribes. British allies were made with more hostile Indians, and others sided with the French. The war went on for almost three years, ending with the victory of the United States. This gave the inhabitants of rural areas an independent and stout feeling that resided for many years to come.

At the age of nine, five years after the War, Narcissa would have probably heard the rumors of an “Erie Canal” being built. The canal proved to be an incredible feat for the people of New York and it’s counties. Hand-picked and shoveled, this great channel took eight years to finish from 1817 to 1825. The canal cost the nation seven million dollars, but the canal re-earned the money spent on digging in less than two years. The water-way brought barges, cargo, and riches to New York. The canal brought more jobs, money, and people. It became one of the fastest ways to transport various rafts and river-boats.

As more and more people moved into the rural areas and counties of New York, these places began to become religious hot-beds for not only Pastors of peaceful congregations, but for non-christian denominations. Spiritualism was spawned by the Fox Sisters, Mormonism with Joseph Smith, “New Measures” with Charles Finney, and other religions were catching aflame among the doctrine-hungry towns-folk. Pastors began using more wild and forward persuasive preaching methods.

Unfortunately they began to rat on each-other so that their own congregations would have the most followers. This movement is commonly called “Burned-Over District”, but it is also known as the “Second Great Awakening”. It would affect most of New York from the beginning of the 18th century on to the mid-18th century.

One of the churches affected by this raging fire was Narcissa’s community church. She became a product of conversion and revival. When she was only 11 years old in the year of 1819, the church invited Narcissa into their tightly woven community, and taught her the love of God and how she should love her neighbors. For the next five years, Narcissa would fight an inner-battle on whom she considered her neighbor. This conflict within her ended with her deciding that the “heathens” living wild and free of God were her neighbors too, and they needed help.

During these five years of her conflict, important figures rose to the call of Fur Companies who wanted more trappers and hunters in the west. Young men including the famous 18-year-old Jim Bridger, Jedidiah Smith, James Beckwourth, and Joseph Walker headed out during the 1820’s, hired out by several different trapping organizations. They learned to rough it out, even during extreme cases, and became expert survivalists. Some of these mountain men became legendary in their own time, as they faced mountain lions, bears, hostile Indians, and freezing temperatures no person in their right mind would dare face.

And although most mountain men refused to be affected by the spiritual movement, certain honorable trappers such as Jedidiah Smith brought with him manners and self-respect into the forests of the west. He remained a gentlemen, even though he was often alone. He owned his own fur trading company, and helped discover paths into Oregon from California around 1826.

Stories of these mountain men and their tragic tales reached the strict ears of New Yorker’s. Tales of a free land burned in their hearts. Women were especially affected as rural places were not the best place to live in. Society had cut a hard-core life-style for girls and women. They often didn’t receive education, and dreamed of more to life than simply cleaning the house inside-and-out. Narcissa was one of the few who received a good education, so much that she decided to enroll in the Franklin Academy. She completed two terms and learned valuable skills that would later aid in her profession as a teacher.

Narcissa experienced a simple childhood and obtained a good education compared to most other girls during her time. However the turning point of her life would come during her sixteenth year. It was then she decided to fully commit her life to Christ and become a missionary. Here her conflict ended and her decision to help the Native Americans learn about God was finally chosen. In time she wrote her first letter to the ABCFM, telling them her dreams and hopes in missionary work. Unfortunately women were not allowed to become missionaries as single women, so Narcissa would have to wait until she met someone with similar interests. She became a school teacher for kindergartners in Prattsburg while she waited.

Meanwhile a young man was familiarizing himself with the missionary work and traveling west. His name was Marcus Whitman. Soon, he would meet the lovely Narcissa Prentiss and make a choice that would change both his life and her life forever.

Narcissa Whitman Ancestry

Write your answers on a piece of paper. When you’ve completed the quiz check the answers at the bottom of the page under the Answers tab.

The War of 1812 lasted about how long?

(a) Three years
(b) Five years
(c) Two years

About how many Native Americans helped America in the War of 1812?

(a) 500
(b) 200
(c) 1,000

How long did the “Erie Canal” take to build, and how much did it cost?

The “Burned-Over District” spawned which religions?

(a) Spiritualism with the Fox Sisters
(b) Mormonism with Joseph Smith
(c) “New Measures” with Charles Finney
(d) All of the above

True or False:

Narcissa’s community church was not affected by the “burned over district”.

Which famous trapper owned his own fur trading company?

(a) Jedidiah Smith
(b) James Beckwourth
(c) Jim Bridger

How old was Narcissa when she decided to become a missionary?

(a) 11 years old
(b) 26 years old
(c) 16 years old

Lesson Activities

Have fun and strengthen your vocabulary and spelling skills by playing our challenging online word games! Enjoy our relaxing puzzles or challenge yourself to put the pieces together in record time!

Lesson Challenge

Find Out!

Look up your local town or city and read about it’s history, or select an important town like Prattsburg, hometown of Narcissa Whitman.

Write down a small timeline with at least 5 important times in your town/city’s history including; the founding, elections, and building openings.

Quiz Answers

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  1. a

  2. c

  3. answers may vary – Took eight years to finish, and cost seven million dollars

  4. d

  5. False

  6. a

  7. c