Upstate New York was the "Burned-Over District", a zone of intense religious and reform activity typified by revivalist Charles Grandison Finney.
Two denominations emerged: the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Benevolent reform movements (establishing Sunday Schools, and orphanages), temperance groups (abolishing the consumption of alcohol), antislavery societies, and women's rights activists also found enthusiastic supporters in upstate New York between 1825 and 1860. Social experiments in communal living appeared in utopian communities at Oneida and Skaneateles; the best known are the Shaker villages near Albany. Historian Alice Felt Tyler called it a "ferment of reform."
At the same time, upstate New York was at the cutting edge of the transportation revolution, the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, and even the urban revolution. Turnpikes, canals, and railroads connected eastern cities with western markets. Especially important was the route from Albany to Buffalo, connected with the Seneca Turnpike (1803), Erie Canal (1825), and New York Central Railroad (1853). In agriculture, New York's farmland, much of it former Haudenosaunee homeland, was some of the most productive in the nation. The Genesee country, from the Finger Lakes west, became known as the breadbasket of the nation for its extraordinary grain production. At key sites (such at Troy-Cohoes, the Sauquoit Creek west of Utica, Oswego, Seneca Falls, and Rochester), rapid-flowing rivers offered power for major industrial sites. In terms of urban growth, cities in New York State, along with those in the rest of the country, grew more rapidly between 1820 and 1860 than in any other period in U.S. history.
Following these expanding economic opportunities, people (including African Americans as well as European Americans of many different backgrounds) poured into upstate New York. They came from several different culture hearthsâ€”New England Yankees, Dutch and Yorkers from eastern New York, Germans and Scots Irish from Pennsylvania, and immigrants from England and Ireland. Upstate New York State became a place where people of many different backgrounds moved rapidly into the same area and created a volatile combination of voices and dramatic new movements.