Related Essays

Over the years, as I worked on Darkness Falls on the Land of Light, I frequently encountered fascinating incidents in the religious history of early New England that I elected to publish as separate articles. Appearing in a wide range of scholarly publications, these essays form a kind of companion reader to the book. Most of the links below direct interested readers to free, downloadable versions of these articles from the University of Richmond’s Scholarship Repository.



Seized by the Jerks (2019)

Detailed analysis of the origins, contested meanings, and legacies of the controversial “jerking exercise” of the Great Revival. Emphasizes the formative role of the jerks in the development of western Shakerism and the rise of independent Holiness-Penetcostal churches in Appalachia.

Citation: Winiarski, Douglas L. “Seized by the Jerks: Shakers, Spirit Possession, and the Great Revival on the Trans-Appalachian Frontier.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 76 (2019): 111–150.


Shakers & Jerkers (2017–2018)

Two-part series chronicles three Shaker missionaries’ “Long Walk” to the trans-Appalachia frontier in 1805 and their encounters with radical revival “Jerkers” in the Shenandoah Valley and East Tennessee. Includes edited transcriptions of Shaker correspondence.


Winiarski, Douglas L. “Shakers & Jerkers: Letters from the ‘Long Walk,’ 1805, Part 1.” Journal of East Tennessee History 89 (2017): 90–110.

Winiarski, Douglas L. “Shakers & Jerkers: Letters from the ‘Long Walk,’ 1805, Part 2.” Journal of East Tennessee History 90 (2018): 84–105.


Lydia Prout’s Dreadfullest Thought (2015)

Explores the devotional writing practices of Boston gentlewoman Lydia Prout as she struggled to cope with the repeated deaths of her children during the 1710s. Includes an edited transcription of Prout’s extraordinary spiritual journal. Winner of the Walter Muir Whitehill Prize.

Citation: Winiarski, Douglas L. “Lydia Prout’s Dreadfullest Thought.” New England Quarterly 88 (2015): 356–422.


The Sodomy Trial of Nicholas Sension (2014)

Edited trial documents from a landmark seventeenth-century court case in Windsor, Connecticut. Includes teaching guide. For a detailed analysis of the Sension case, see Richard Godbeer, “‘The Cry of Sodom’: Discourse, Intercourse, and Desire in Colonial New England.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 52 (1995): 259–286.

Citation: Godbeer, Richard, with Douglas L. Winiarski, ed. “The Sodomy Trial of Nicholas Sension, 1677: Documents and Teaching Guide.” Early American Studies 9 (2014): 402–443.


New Perspectives on the Northampton Communion Controversy I–IV (2013–2016)

Four-part series explores understudied manuscripts that provide new insights into the ecclesiastical controversy that led to the dismissal of the prominent New England clergyman Jonathan Edwards in 1750. Includes edited transcriptions of letters by minister David Hall and Northampton resident “Count Vavasor,” church admission testimonies from communities connected to the controversy, and a theological essay by Indian missionary Experience Mayhew.


Winiarski, Douglas L. “New Perspectives on the Northampton Communion Controversy I: David Hall’s Diary and Letter to Edward Billing.” Jonathan Edwards Studies 3 (2013): 268–280.

Winiarski, Douglas L. “New Perspectives on the Northampton Communion Controversy II: Professions, Relations & Experiences, 1748–1760.” Jonathan Edwards Studies 4 (2014): 110–145.

Winiarski Douglas L. “New Perspectives on the Northampton Communion Controversy III: Count Vavasor’s Tirade and the Second Council, 1751” Jonathan Edwards Studies 4 (2014): 353–338.

Winiarski, Douglas L. “New Perspectives on the Northampton Communion Controversy IV: Experience Mayhew’s Dissertation on Edwards’s Humble Inquiry.” Jonathan Edwards Studies 6 (2016): 31–80.


The Newbury Prayer Bill Hoax (2012)

Recounts a curious story involving a fraudulent prayer bill composed by disenchanted parishioners in Christopher Toppan’s Newbury, Massachusetts, parish. Includes a detailed discussion of the devotional practice of submitting weekly prayer notices.

Citation: Winiarski, Douglas L. “The Newbury Prayer Bill Hoax: Devotion & Deception in New England’s Era of Great Awakenings.” Massachusetts Historical Review 14 (2012): 53–86.


Native American Popular Religion (2010)

Revised and expanded version of essay originally published in Religion & American Culture (2005); comparative analysis of the religious worldviews of the native Algonquian peoples of southeastern New England and their English neighbors during the eighteenth century.

Citation: Winiarski Douglas L. “Native American Popular Religion in New England’s Old Colony, 1670–1770.” In Native Americans, Christian Missionaries, and the Reshaping of Early America’s Religious Landscape, ed. Joel W. Martin and Mark A. Nicholas, pp. 93–124. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.


Gendered “Relations” in Haverhill (2009)

Content analysis of one of the largest extant collections of church admission testimonies, or “relations,” from eighteenth-century New England. Includes edited transcriptions of the 1726 relations of famed Indian captive Hannah Duston and her brother.

Citation: Winiarski, Douglas L. “Gendered ‘Relations’ in Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1719–1742.” In In Our Own Words: New England Diaries, 1600 to the Present, vol. 1, Diary Diversity, Coming of Age, The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, Annual Proceedings 2006/2007, ed. Peter Benes, pp. 58–78. Boston: Boston University Press, 2009.


Religious Experiences in New England (2007)

Introductory essay on the history of Congregational church admission testimonies over two centuries.

Citation: Winiarski, Douglas L. “Experiencing Conversion.” In A People’s History of Christianity, vol. 6, Modern Christianity to 1900, ed. Amanda Porterfield, pp. 209–232. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2007.


Jonathan Edwards, Enthusiast? (2005)

Extended essay chronicling revival events in the Connecticut Valley leading up to Jonathan Edwards’s famous sermon performance of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God at Enfield, Massachusetts, in July 1741. Includes edited transcription of a Boston merchant’s letter describing Edwards’s preaching activities in the neighboring town of Suffield.

Citation: Winiarski, Douglas L. “Jonathan Edwards, Enthusiast? Radical Revivalism and the Great Awakening in the Connecticut Valley.” Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture 74 (2005): 683–739.


A Jornal of a Fue Days at York (2004)

Edited transcription of an extraordinary journal kept by an anonymous Boston merchant while traveling in Maine at the peak of the Great Awakening revivals in New England during the fall of 1741.

Citation:  Winiarski, Douglas L. “A Jornal of a Fue Days at York: The Great Awakening on the Northern New England Frontier.” Maine History 42 (2004): 46–85.



Chronicles the pious and rebellious reading habits of a Sandwich and Rochester, Massachusetts, farmer and aspiring civil magistrate from adolescence through adulthood.

Citation: Winiarski, Douglas L. “The Education of Joseph Prince: Reading Adolescent Culture in Early Eighteenth-Century New England.” In The Worlds of Children, 1620–1920, The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, Annual Proceedings 2002, ed. Peter Benes, pp. 42–64. Boston: Boston University Press, 2004.


A Question of Plain Dealing (2004)

Social history of eighteenth-century native American religious communities in Plymouth, Massachusetts, several members of which lived at Plain Dealing, the small farm of Indian preacher Josiah Cotton.

Citation: Winiarski, Douglas L. “A Question of Plain Dealing: Josiah Cotton, Native Christians, and the Quest for Security in Eighteenth-Century Plymouth County.” New England Quarterly 77 (2004): 368–413.


Souls Filled with Ravishing Transport (2004)

Traces an unusual outbreak of dreams, trances, and visions during New England’s eighteenth-century era of great awakenings. Includes an edited transcription of a unique vision manuscript preserved among the papers of minister Eleazar Wheelock.

Citation: Winiarski, Douglas L. “Souls Filled with Ravishing Transport: Heavenly Visions and the Radical Awakening in New England, 1742.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 61 (2004): 3–46.


Pale Blewish Lights and a Dead Man’s Groan (1998)

Recounts the fascinating story of New England’s best documented haunted house and the legal and literary struggles of its owner, Plymouth civil magistrate Josiah Cotton, who sought to persuade his neighbors of the follies and dangers of superstition.

Citation: Winiarski, Douglas L. “‘Pale Blewish Lights’ and a Dead Man’s Groan: Tales of the Supernatural from Eighteenth-Century Plymouth, Massachusetts.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 55 (1998): 497–530.