The evangelical fire reached such heights, in fact, that one swath of western and central New York state came to be known as the Burned-Over District.
Charles Grandison Finney, the influential revivalist preacher who first coined the term, explained that the residents of this area had experienced so many revivals by different religious groups that that there were no more souls to awaken to the fire of spiritual conversion.
Residents of urban centers, rural farmlands, and frontier territories alike flocked to religious revivals and camp meetings, where intense physical and emotional enthusiasm accompanied evangelical conversion.
The Second Great Awakening emerged in response to powerful intellectual and social currents.
Americans looked on these changes with a mixture of enthusiasm and suspicion, wondering how the moral fabric of the new nation would hold up to emerging social challenges.
Increasingly, many turned to two powerful tools to help understand and manage the various transformations: spiritual revivalism and social reform.
Camp meetings captured the democratizing spirit of the American Revolution, but revivals also provided a unifying moral order and new sense of spiritual community for Americans struggling with the great changes of the day.
The market revolution, western expansion, and European immigration all challenged traditional bonds of authority, and evangelicalism promised equal measures of excitement and order.
The Cane Ridge Revival drew thousands of people, and possibly as many as one of every ten residents of Kentucky.
Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian preachers all delivered passionate sermons, exhorting the crowds to strive for their own salvation.