THE characteristics of the religious institutions and practices that developed in western Pennsylvania were, like those of the other aspects of life in the region, determined partly by influences that flowed in from Europe and the East and partly by the frontier environment. The basic element in these influences was undoubtedly the religious beliefs and habits that the settlers brought with them when they crossed the mountains to their new homes in the West, but those beliefs and habits were strengthened and developed by the conscious efforts of the governing bodies of the various denominations and were modified, sometimes temporarily, sometimes with permanent results, by the ever-present exigencies of frontier existence.
A notable feature of the religious heritage of the immigrants was its great diversity. This was due in part to the fact that the settlers came either directly or indirectly from such widely separated regions as Ireland and Germany in the Old World, Virginia and New England in the New, and in part to the multiplicity of religious beliefs that prevailed in eastern Pennsylvania as a result of a similar diversity of origins and of the spirit of toleration that had been a striking characteristic of the province from its beginning. The isolation of frontier life and the resultant lack of opportunity and incentive for maintaining religious observances tended, however, to weaken the interest of many of the settlers in what had been for them the orthodox expression of a belief in God. A considerable proportion of them drifted away from organized religion and were never reclaimed by the church; others were easily drawn into the first denomination that began to function effectively in their communities.
European influences were stronger in some denominations than in others. The Associate and the Reformed Presbyterian churches--bet-