DID YA KNOW by Pat Vaughn
The Reverend Nicolas Cox, among the first itinerate missionaries, was followed by others; strong men dedicated to the task of spreading the concepts of Unitarianism and Universalism into the South. Rev. Jonathan Whitaker, his son Daniel and Rev. Edward Mitchell were among those leaving established church communities to carry the message of a new liberal religion to the immigrant settlers along the Mid-Atlantic trails.
Jonathan Whitaker graduated at Harvard in 1797. He is described as talented and literally acute, with liberal principles that harmonize with those who have been styled Unitarians. He served in Sharon, MA and New Bedford before becoming an itinerate minister, preaching in Virginia and North Carolina. Daniel, also a minister and newspaper editor for several sarcastic and scurrilous publications (anti-slavery), traveled with him.[i]
Edward Mitchell, originally from New York, separated from the Methodist Church to organize the United Christian Friends in 1796. Although Mitchell maintained his Trinitarian belief and never formally joined the Universalists, his message to Richmond audiences in 1823 was one of Universal Salvation.[ii]
These men were part of a movement that introduced a new understanding to Christian believers. The traveled from isolated homestead, to farm settlement, to village, to city, sharing their message of salvation. They organized tent-meetings, held lectures from wagon-beds and established churches dedicated to beliefs that were not acceptable in the hallowed halls of Christianity. Unitarians, among other denominations, were slower to support itinerate missions into the frontier and often discovered once they did arrive that the Universalists had preceded them.
In Richmond the religious leadership, aware that concepts of non-conformity were seeping into small pockets of their assemblages, resisted in every means possible; using their pulpits, the newspapers and pamphlets to impress upon Richmond’s citizens the perils of Deist, Unitarian and Universalist belief.
[i] “Biographical Sketches of the Congregational Pastors of New England,” http;//www.archive.org/stream/biographicalsket05favi_djvu.txt z
[ii] The Larger Hope; The First Century of the Universalist Church in America 1770-1870”