Until then, home missionary work had been confined to western New York, Vermont and parts of Ohio. The two followed a route that started in remoter parts of Ohio. From there they went to Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee, then down to New Orleans via the Mississippi. Of the parts of Ohio they visited, they wrote: “The counties of Preble, Dark, and Miami are wholly destitute of preaching, excepting by a few New Lights, and some Methodists. Butler and Montgomery have only three preachers, and many of these places have had but little attention from missionary societies. [There was a] wild enthusiasm, which raged through these parts a few years ago. . .” However, they learned, “From the best information that could be obtained from eye witnesses of this work, there is great reason to believe, that it was principally terror and fear which induced members to join those societies; for this work began and ended with the earthquakes, in these counties; and the whole strain of preaching by the Baptists and Methodists was, that the end of all things was at hand, and if the people were not baptized, or did not join society, there was no hope for them.” Some real conversions had occurred, they conceded, but “many, who joined their societies during the earthquakes, have already left them.”
Certainly that is a useful insight into the often temporary nature of the conversion experience. They also made comments that revealed their attitudes towards their rivals in the field. “From the manner in which these [domestic missions] are conducted," they wrote, "it is evident that but a small portion of the destitute parts of our country are visited by intelligent and correct missionaries; and that many evils result, or at least that the good is not effected which might be. . .” Their vision is for their kind of missionaries to stay longer in each place. To leave too soon "only opens a door for preachers of different denominations [Baptists, Methodists, New Lights, Halcyons] to creep in, and propagate their peculiar sentiments.” A report on Baptists said: “The preachers of this denomination are generally illiterate; few are possessed of good common English learning, and there are also some, that can neither read the Scriptures, nor write their name.” Too much attention was paid to feelings by these preachers, they believed -- a common view among the establishment churches whose authority was being questioned and overruled by those who chose to follow these more accessible and forgiving theologies.
As for the settlers inhabiting these frontiers, Mills and Schermerhorn were appalled by their polluting ways: “It would be highly desirable in a missionary view to find a tribe uncontaminated by the vices of the whites, and where the iniquitous trade by his treachery has never learnt the Indian to deceive or by his persuasion to get drunk.”