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Hoosier History Live

Nov 2, 2023

A controversy about religion divided churches, communities and even families in southern Indiana during the early 1800s. The conflict among Baptists even affected the church that young Abraham Lincoln attended with his family in what is now Spencer County.

Our guest Randy Mills, a retired distinguished professor at Oakland City University in southern Indiana, has researched and written about the fights, which involved missionaries sent to the then-Western frontier (which included Indiana) from the East as well as foreign and domestic missions. According to Randy Mills, a Midwest historian, some historians suspect the bickering that impacted Little Pigeon Baptist Church, which young Abe Lincoln attended, may have caused the future president to avoid formal religious affiliations later in life.

"At the heart of the bitter conflict was a frontier preacher named Daniel Parker whose violent preaching against mission efforts split churches, communities and families," Randy Mills says. In an article that he wrote for Indiana Magazine of History, Randy Mills noted the feud among congregations was triggered by the arrival in the frontier of a Baptist missionary, John Mason Peck, from New England.