The American frontier was generally the westernmost edge of a settlement and typically more free-spirited than in the East because of its lack of social and political institutions. The idea that the frontier provided the core defining quality of the United States was elaborated by the historian Frederick Jackson Turner , who built his Frontier Thesis in 1893 around this notion. Subsequently, the frontier has also been described as the point of contact between two cultures, where contact led to exchanges that affected both cultures. 
It was bad enough that this myth entered the public perception thanks to Irving’s wide readership. But it became worse when it acquired the veneer of scholarship, so it could be used as a club with which to bash Christianity. The main propagandists for this cause were the notorious 19 th century anti-Christian bigots John William Draper (1811–1882) and Andrew Dickson White (1832–1918). Draper, a fine chemist and photographer—first president of the American Chemical Society—but a lousy historian, wrote History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874) as a poorly informed polemic against the Church. White was a disgruntled ex-Episcopalian and the founder of Cornell University as the first explicitly secular university in the United States. He also published the two-volume work History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896).