"I think whiile zealots fast and frown,
And fight for two or seven,
That there are fifty roads to town,
And rather more to Heaven."
Praed - Chant of Brazen Head
Here are a couple anecdotes about church attendance in Austinburg before we take up the journey West: The Tuttle family lived two-and-a-half miles from the church and there was not a Sabbath for over 30 years that the house of Ira Tuttle was not represented at the meeting. One Sunday their family team was hitched to the big buggy, which could easily carry 16, and were standing by the fence waiting for the load when the church bell began to ring, and the horses started for the meeting. When the family came out they were too far away to be caught. Those who went that day had to walk. The horses made the journey safely, stopped at the landing, then went on to the shed, where they stood waiting to be tied.
One Sabbath, when the family of Mr. Case were detained at home, his horse went alone to the meeting and stood by the hitching post through the service.
I mentioned "physical exercises" in regard to a church meeting in a previous post. One occurrence was at Cross Creek, Pennsylvania, at a service performed by the Rev. Joseph Badger. It was the custom of Prebyterians to meet in large numbers on sacramental occasions. On this particular instance, probably a thousand were upon the grounds when one of the gentlemen in attendance had one of these "bodily exercises." It seems he was overcome by his own intensity of belief and fell into some sort of a trance alarming most of the congregation. He asked them to carry him out, which they did. He then asked them to carry him back, which they also did. By this time he was trembling and as feeble as a dying man. Afterwards, he said, "I feel that I am in God's hands, and that He will do with me just what He pleases."
And among the accounts of these "exercises" in Ashtabula County was the following which appeared in Austinburg, from the memoir of Mr. Badger: "November 6, 1802, Lord's day, the people assembled in Deacon J. Case's barn. Preached twice to a very solemn assembly. Several were in deep distress, and became unable to support themselves. As the distressed were unable to go from the barn, prayer, exhortation, and singing were continued until after the sun went down. As three children, twelve or thirteen years old, were going from the barn to my house they all fell helpless. They were taken up and taken care of. One of them continued in a perfectly helpless situation for more than twelve hours."
I've heard of this happening in services where the preacher let loose with the "hellfire and brimstone", usually in connection with the Holy Roller Baptist type church, but never in a Presbyterian service.
In 1812 it was decided to build a meeting house, and in former times it was considered impossible to raise a building without whiskey, but the women declared that it was not necessary to aid the brawny muscles of the men with whiskey in order to raise the frame of the house of God, so they gathered together and made some home-made beer, flavored with sassafras, spruce, and other herbs, and gave it to the men in the place of whiskey, and the discovery was made that they got along very well without intoxicating liquor while raising the frame of that church.
Going backward to 1796, when the surveyors (for the Western Reserve) arrived, Indian trails, leading from one encampment to the other, were the only pathways to be found. The Connecticut Land Company opened the first public highway through this section, and it was the first road that was laid out and recorded on the Reserve. This was known as "The Old Girdled Road," and ran from Pennsylvania to Cleveland. In Ashtabula County this road passed through Conneaut, Sheffield, Plymouth, Austinburg and Harpersfield.