10 July 2011

North Dakota Revivalism-End of the Story

In recent weeks, I posted a couple of posts related to a July 1930 editorial that discussed an upcoming Billy Sunday meeting in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The author of this editorial, W. P. Davies, opposed such revivals based upon the city's experience with an evangelist by the name of Hunt, who raised funds for a tar-paper "tabernacle" and then proceeded to spread rumors about many prominent members of Grand Forks society. 

While those posts referred to an editorial from July 1, 1930, Davies clarified his position on July 3 in the Grand Forks Herald.  He started his article by stating, "Those who read the article in this column relating to the so-called evangelist Hunt may have gained the impression that I did not and do not admire Mr. Hunt.  That impression is quite correct."  The editorialist then went on to explain his reasoning in this follow-up article.

He mentioned that Hunt was able to amass a very large children's choir for the occasion of his meetings.  In fact, the choir number about 300 and Davies remembered how well they could sing.  However, it seems that Hunt changed the words of familiar hymn tunes and then inserted parodies of leading members of Grand Forks society for the children to sing.  Apparently, Davies also had a problem with the way Hunt used "coarse suggestiveness" to bring the "vileness of the saloon and bawdy house" to bear in his sermons.  The story of Hunt and Grand Forks ended after several people dropped a lawsuit against the evangelist to claim the tar-papered tabernacle.  In these two articles, it does not appear that Davies opposed Christianity or religion in general, just certain self-promoting preachers like Mr. Hunt.

Unfortunately, from a quick search of the digital archive, it appears that Davies did not disclose his opinion of the Billy Sunday event.  The acceptance (or non-acceptance) of Sunday, as well as other opinions on Hunt's meetings from contemporaries, could be a great avenue of future study to better gauge the attitude of this town on the Northern Great Plains toward revivalism in the early twentieth century.  Some who study evangelicalism argue that this type of revivalism was very important in leading to the "revival" (pun somewhat intended) of the fundamentalist movement in the late 1940s.

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