The Yankee West: Community Life on the Michigan Frontier

By Susan E. Gray | Go to book overview
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5
A Pretty Joining of God and Mammon

RELIGION AND COMMUNITY

In March 1836, the Reverend William Page reported to the American Home Missionary Society (AHMS) on the state of organized religion in western Michigan. He had found Gull Prairie

inhabited by one hundred or so Presbyterians and Congregationalists, who in the infancy of the settlement were going to have an Eden on a footstool, with nothing but Angels for neighbors--nine deacons and three ministers--But so much salt of the earth piled upon one place, lost its savor . . . sourness and discord has been the result--These Christian townships on prairie land, however well intended, and fascinating in the prospect . . . are a sort of religious selfishness--a holy worldly mindedness--a pretty joining of God & mammon--a smug way of laying up treasures on earth under the show of benevolence and self denial which will sooner or later turn into a hornet's nest. 1

Page was clearly enjoying his flight of rhetoric, but he was dead serious. "I write," he explained to the secretary of the society, "not for publication--

-119-

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