Cane Ridge, Kentucky – The Second Great Awakening

July 4, 2022

In the crowd that afternoon was a mother with her two teenage daughters. They were listening to a Baptist minister who stood before them on a stump. He preached with powerful words about the deadly consequences of sin. Suddenly, the two daughters were seized with conviction as they fell to the ground like two dead women. The mother, a devout woman who loved the Lord, became very concerned. She bent over the two girls, fanning their faces in a frantic attempt to wake them up, but to no avail. After an hour later when one of her daughters let out a piercing scream, “Mercy, Lord! Mercy!” She then fell back into her trance-like state.

The girls continued their spiritual struggle for a few hours before one girl’s face changed and she smiled with a beautiful, heavenly smile and declared, “Precious Jesus!” It was obvious to everyone that she had had an encounter with the Holy Spirit that would change her life forever. She immediately began preaching and dozens of others had similar experiences. That weekend, countless souls were saved for the Lord in the most incredible fashion (taken from Trail of Fire, by Daniel Norris, page 39).

This was one of thousands of stories that occurred during a hot and humid August, 1801 in Cane Ridge, Ky. It would turn out to be one of the most important events in American religious history. Kentucky was not even ten years old in 1801. It was granted statehood in 1792. The population of Cane Ridge, Ky, in Bourbon County was twelve thousand people in 1800. But during the Cane Ridge Revival crowds of up to 25,000 people would gather in the fields to listen to the preachers and give their lives to the Lord, and experience the power of the Holy Spirit to transform them. One witness described it this way: “For more than half a mile I could see people on their knees, before God.”

What happened in Cane Ridge, Ky.? They were having a “camp meeting” much like was done back in Scotland where many had immigrated from. They would have a whole week of services, and it would culminate in the Lord’s Supper on a Sunday. They set up a makeshift pulpit on a platform, and folks gathered all across the hillsides. You can probably picture the scene in your mind – campfires here and there, wagons all around. All of the accounts tell us that the preaching went on almost nonstop. As one preacher finished preaching another would step up in his place. As the preaching went on, more and more people heard about what was happening in Cane Ridge, and they got in their wagons and showed up by the thousands. One testimony tells us that the road was full of wagons and they were all going in one direction. They were all headed to Cane Ridge for these revival meetings.

The preaching lasted for several days and was essentially nonstop, and it all culminated in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Sunday. But the folks didn’t want to leave. Monday morning rolled around, and they were still there, and so they got up and started preaching again. This lasted for another three days until finally, folks started getting back in their wagons, and heading back to their homes.

The revival in Cane Ridge was ending, it was only beginning. It is considered the most important spiritual event on the American frontier, and it would spread throughout our country as a pivotal event for the Christian soul of America for decades to follow. This was the first wave of what historians came to call the Second Great Awakening. Shortly after Cane Ridge, the evangelist Charles Finney would come onto the scene and hold revivals. These revivals were in major urban areas like New York City and up and down the east coast.

Last week we looked at how God prepared our country for the Revolutionary war and independence through the First Great Awakening. The Second Great Awakening woke up a spiritually dead country, and many think that spiritual fervor played an important role in helping our nation survive the civil war and begin the difficult task of healing as a nation. I believe God’s hand has been upon our nation many times throughout history. I think we are at a crossroads now as a nation, and need to see the hand of God move again to call us back to our spiritual roots. What about you? Could another Great Awakening be on the horizon? Could it begin again in Kentucky? Could it begin in our community? Prayer will be the key to a powerful move of the Holy Spirit again in our times. (Excerpted from (To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see,