More anecdotal than a real "history" volume, but still incredibly entertaining, Phares' 182 page collection details stories about fiery frontier preachers and their encounters with Indians, bootleggers, outlaws, their congregations, and even-- on some occasions-- each-other! I recommend it highly for anyone interesting in Christian History, Frontier History, or both. There are even stories about determined "laymen" in the book, like the one I have copied out for you here.
I like to read anything about the old Texas Rangers and was really impressed by this anecdote about hard-bitten lawman-- and devout Baptist-- Captain Bill McDonald:
Conversion of strong tough men on the frontier did not make milquetoasts of them. The laity followed much in the individualistic, picturesque footsteps of the preachers in combining rugged frontier work with worship. Many of the most notable gun-packing characters of the Old West were also devout Christian workers.
The famous Texas Ranger Captain Bill McDonald will suffice to illustrate.
One of the fastest-draw "dead-eyes" on the borderlands, he possessed a singular reputation for tracking down criminals single-handed. But he also had a singular reputation for regular and punctual attendance at religious services. He was superintendent of his Sunday School, and taught a class of adult men. Only in direst emergencies did he permit his law-enforcement duties to prevent him from conducting his voluntary teaching duties. And he usually managed to overcome such emergencies.
One Sunday morning he was called upon to investigate the stealing of some horses. Since this could well mean missing Sunday School, he he hurried off in the hope of getting back on time.
McDonald arrived at the Baptist Church a little behind schedule, but the assembly was still awaiting his arrival.
He proceeded to open his class, with only a brief preliminary remark about his tardiness-- a simple apology for having ridden his horse so hard to be back on time.
When Bill McDonald went after a man it usually meant news-- of one kind or another. The men all wanted to inquire about his trip, but the exercises were already late, and the solemnity of the occasion did not encourage the asking of irrelevant questions.
But... when the class of men had assembled, one fellow could simply not resist asking if the Ranger had caught the horse rustlers.
The Sunday School Teacher nodded casually, as he thumbed his Bible in search of the text for the day.
"Anybody get killed??" the class member asked again, his curiosity out of control.
"Four," the teacher answered, and started reading his text.
Then, as an afterthought, he paused, devoutly, and remarked, as if someone might not know:
"I was fired upon."
And the class went on, as if nothing extraordinary had occured and this was all in a Sabbath Day's work, as it truly was for Captain Bill McDonald.
From Bible In Pocket, Gun In Hand; The Story Of Frontier Religion by Ross Phares (Doubleday, 1964.) Pp. 55-56.