Sweeping Everything before It: Early Mormonism in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey

In the summer of 1838, Elder Benjamin Winchester (fig. 1) ventured into Monmouth County, New Jersey, to preach the gospel. Winchester was the first Mormon missionary to make it into the Pine Barrens, an area so named because of its sandy, unproductive land. Soon “the news went abroad, that a Mormon preacher had made his appearance in the land.” Winchester wrote, “As to [Mormon] principles, and rules of faith, the people knew nothing, except by reports. . . [and] the people flocked out, crowds to hear, yet at this time, more out of curiosity than anything else.” Once Winchester began preaching to the people, the people found his message “so different from what they had expected, that it caused a spirit of inquiry, so much so, that it had calls in every direction.” The more Winchester preached, “the great the excitement, so that in every town, and neighborhood, where I had preached, what the world calls Mormonism, was the grand topic of conversation.”

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