The Ordeal of Thomas Barton: Anglican Missionary in the Pennsylvania Backcountry, 1755-1780

The Ordeal of Thomas Barton: Anglican Missionary in the Pennsylvania Backcountry, 1755-1780

The Ordeal of Thomas Barton: Anglican Missionary in the Pennsylvania Backcountry, 1755-1780

The Ordeal of Thomas Barton: Anglican Missionary in the Pennsylvania Backcountry, 1755-1780

Synopsis

The Ordeal of Thomas Barton: Anglican Missionary in the Pennsylvania Backcountry, 1755-1780 explores the career of the Rev. Thomas Barton. Barton's ministry uniquely illuminates life on Pennsylvania's pre-Revolutionary frontier and more generally in the colonial American backcountry. As missionary for the Church of England in Pennsylvania's back-counties, Anglo-Irishman Barton championed the interests of the Anglican church and the proprietary of William Penn's children in a turbulent borderland beset by both threats from the French and their Native American allies and challenges to English authority from a largely Scots-Irish Presbyterian population. Ultimately, whatever hopes he may have nurtured when he emigrated to America were destroyed when the winds of revolution swept him to a life of loss and suffering in New York City, where he died. Drawing upon Barton's Forbes expedition journal, a large volume of extant letters, and sermons, this study seeks to appreciate the tragic life of a mid-level Anglo-Irish placeman who sought to expand his opportunities in pre-Revolutionary Pennsylvania, one of North America's most enlightened colonies.

Excerpt

This discussion of thomas BARTON’S American adventure has its genesis in 1987 when my wife and I acquired property on Chestnut Hill in Tyrone township, Adams county, Pennsylvania. Concealed in woods on the land was a small graveyard of unmarked fieldstones, the origins of which no one seemed to possess any accurate information. Local speculation identified it as the resting place of Native Americans or escaped AfricanAmerican slaves who had found protection in the Quaker community nearby. After over a year’s research at the Adams County Historical Society and discovery of some old deeds carefully preserved by a neighbor, we began to obtain a more accurate understanding of its origin: the burial ground, dating from the 1760s and early 1770s (but possibly as early as the 1740s), held the remains of the Church-of-England McGrews, a large Ulster Scots-Irish family which had migrated to Chester county, Pennsylvania, most probably from Aughnacloy, county Tyrone, c. 1729, and which had finally settled in Tyrone and its adjacent townships, Menallen and Huntington, in then western York county. the McGrews took possession of and cultivated their land during a time troubled by conflict with the French and Native Americans who raided the Pennsylvania frontier. Profound discord within the frontier communities also prevailed, for the largely Ulster Scots-Irish and Anglo-Irish who settled the new lands “over Susquehanna” brought with them many of the rivalries and factional disputes that had distinguished their troubled existence in northern Ireland, a cultural turbulence fueled by religious friction among the Anglican, Quaker, and Presbyterian faiths by which they defined themselves. With the removal of the French-and-Indian threats after 1763, the denominational conflicts intensified, often contributing to the evolving political antagonisms that dramatically climaxed just before and during the American Revolution.

I discovered that during the years 1755–59 Thomas Barton, hitherto a relatively obscure figure in local history, actually had played a key role on the trans-Susquehanna frontier. As itinerant missionary for the Society for . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.