Ohio History Journal

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Moral Policemen on the Ohio Frontier

Moral Policemen on the Ohio Frontier






BUCKEYE FRONTIERSMEN wishing to join the Methodist

Church needed to possess only one virtue, "A desire to flee

from the wrath to come, and be saved from their sins."

Previous church membership, specific doctrinal beliefs, and

even conversion, during the probationary period, mattered

little. The seekers soon discovered, however, that prolonged

fellowship in the church, and the "desire to flee," meant strict

adherence to an earthy code of ethics, interweaving elements

of the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, and the Sermon

on the Mount as interpreted by John and Charles Wesley.

Sin was no vague, ill-defined, philosophic concept, and few

frontiersmen needed theological training to understand the

"General Rules" in the Discipline on how to show their desire

for salvation:


First, by doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially

that which is most generally practiced: such as,

The taking of the name of God in vain.

The profaning of the day of the Lord, either by doing ordinary work

therein, or by buying or selling.

Drunkenness: or drinking spirituous liquors, unless in cases of


The buying and selling of men, women, and children, with an intention

to enslave them.

Fighting, quarrelling, brawling, brother going to law with brother;

returning evil for evil; or railing for railing; the using many words

in buying or selling.


* Paul H. Boase is chairman of the department of speech at Oberlin College.

His last article published in the Quarterly was "Romance Rides the Circuit." It

appeared in the April 1956 issue.