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A Protestant Missionary Describes Sabbath in Five Points

Troubled by evidence of extreme poverty in the nation's industrializing cities, many Protestant reformers set up mission houses in poor, immigrant neighborhoods to minister to the needs of the largely Catholic residents. But a cultural abyss divided reformers from the people they wanted to help, as evidenced by Louis Pease's shocked description of Sunday activities in Five Points, a working-class immigrant neighborhood in New York City.

Can this be the Sabbath God's holy day?" I involuntarily exclaimed, as I stood for a moment at the entrance of one of the avenues leading to the Five Points, and beheld the crowd of people pressing up and down Chatham street, while the heavily laden cars passed by, crowded with pleasure-seekers bound for the country, on their weekly holiday excursion. And then, as I walked slowly up Baxter street, to see the rum-shops, the junk-shops, the pawn-shops, the groceries, and the low Jewish clothing-stalls all open, the side-walks lined with apple-stands, and juvenile traffickers in papers and peanuts, while here and there were groups of night-thieves, vagabond boys, and loathsome, shameless girls prematurely ripened into infamous womanhood. Oh! who would suppose that this was the sabbath of the Metropolis of this great and Heaven-blessed country!

Source | Louis M. Pease, Five Points Monthly Record, May 1857, in Who Built America?, Vol 1 (New York: Worth Publishers, 2000), 457.
Creator | Louis M. Pease
Item Type | Newspaper/Magazine
Cite This document | Louis M. Pease, “A Protestant Missionary Describes Sabbath in Five Points,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 2, 2023,

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