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Abernathy, Ralph David (11 March 1926–17 April 1990), civil rights leader and minister, was born David Abernathy in Linden, Alabama, the son of William L. Abernathy and Louivery Valentine Bell, farmers. A sister’s favorite professor was the inspiration for the nickname “Ralph David,” and although Abernathy never made a legal change, the name remained with him from age twelve....

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Alcott, A. Bronson (29 November 1799–04 March 1888), Transcendentalist and reformer, was born Amos Bronson Alcox in Wolcott, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Chatfield Alcox and Anna Bronson, farmers. Farming the rocky Connecticut soil was not lucrative, and Alcott worked hard with his parents to help support seven younger siblings, thereby limiting his opportunities for a formal education. He attended the local district school until age ten, but thereafter his intellectual growth largely depended on his own reading and discussions with friends of a similar scholarly bent, the first being his cousin William Andrus Alcott. William later attended Yale College and established a career as a physician and popular author of health manuals, but continuing poverty prevented Bronson from obtaining a college education. At age fifteen he, like many of his young Connecticut contemporaries, began peddling small manufactured goods, first in Massachusetts and New York, then in Virginia and the Carolinas....

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Arnett, Benjamin William (06 March 1838–09 October 1906), African-American religious, educational, and political leader, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel G. Arnett and Mary Louisa (maiden name unknown). Arnett was a man of “mixed Irish, Indian, Scots, and African ancestry” (Wright, p. 79). He was educated in a one-room schoolhouse in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Arnett worked as a longshoreman along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and briefly as a hotel waiter. His career as a longshoreman and waiter ended abruptly when a cancerous tumor necessitated amputation of his left leg in 1858. He turned to teaching and was granted a teaching certificate on 19 December 1863. At that time, he was the only African-American schoolteacher licensed in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. For ten months during the academic year 1884–1885, Arnett served as a school principal in Washington, D.C. He returned to Brownsville in 1885, teaching there until 1887. Although largely self-educated, he attended classes at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. A man of many interests, he was an occasional lecturer in ethics and psychology at the Payne Theological Seminary at Wilberforce University, served as a historian of the AME church, was a trustee of the Archaeological and Historical Society of Ohio, served as a member of the Executive Committee of the National Sociological Society, and was statistical secretary of the Ecumenical Conference of Methodism for the western section from 1891 to 1901....

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Asbury, Francis (20 August 1745–31 March 1816), missionary, bishop, and founder of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was born in Staffordshire, England, the son of Joseph Asbury and Elizabeth Rogers, farmers. His parents encouraged him early in his education, and he was reading the Bible by the age of seven. At twelve, however, he dropped out of school after being harshly treated by the schoolmaster and never returned to formal education....

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Baraga, Frederic (29 June 1797–19 January 1868), first Roman Catholic bishop of Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, was born Irenaeus Frederic Baraga at the castle of Mala vas, on the hereditary estate of his mother, near the village of Dobrnic in Slovenia in the Austrian province of Carniola, the son of John Nepomuc Baraga and Maria Katharine Josefa de Jencic, farmers. Educated in the provincial capital of Ljubljana, Baraga went to Vienna to study law in 1816 and there came under the influence of the Redemptorist priest Clement Maria Hofbauer. Having decided to become a priest, Baraga renounced his claim to the family lands in favor of his brother-in-law and was ordained for the diocese of Ljubljana in 1823. A popular preacher and confessor, he compiled a prayer book in Slovenian that was in use throughout the nineteenth century....

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Barnes, Albert (01 December 1798–24 December 1870), Presbyterian pastor, was born in Rome, New York, the son of Rufus Barnes and Anna Frisby (also spelled Frisbie), farmers. After attending Fairfield Academy in Connecticut, Barnes entered the senior class at Hamilton College. His reading of Thomas Chalmer’s entry on the “Evidences of Christianity” in ...

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Becker, Abraham Jacob (25 February 1872–15 January 1953), and Magdalena Hergert Becker (04 August 1878–07 July 1938), missionaries, were born in Russia and Kansas, respectively. Abraham Becker was born in Wohldemfuerst, Kuban, Russia, the son of Jacob P. Becker, a farmer and minister and a founder of the Mennonite Brethren branch of the Mennonite Church, and Margaretha Wiens Becker. Magdalena Becker was born Magdalena Hergert in Hillsboro, Kansas, the daughter of Wilhelm and Magdalena Hergert, farmers. The Jacob Becker family emigrated to America in 1875 and settled in central Kansas among other Germans from Russia. In 1893 Abraham Becker claimed a homestead in the Cherokee Outlet of Oklahoma, near Fairview. The following year the Hergert family moved to Fairview....

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See Becker, Abraham Jacob

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Beecher, Lyman (12 October 1775–10 January 1863), Protestant clergyman, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of David Beecher, a blacksmith, and Esther Lyman. On his mother’s death within days of his birth, Lyman was sent to the Guilford, Connecticut, farm of a maternal aunt. Catharine and Lot Benton became his foster parents; David Beecher proved to be a distant and disparaging father....

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Blackburn, Gideon (27 August 1772–23 August 1838), Presbyterian minister and missionary to Indians, was born in Augusta County, Virginia, the son of Robert Blackburn, a farmer. (His mother’s name is not known.) Raised by his grandfather and then his uncle, Blackburn was fifteen years old when he became a Presbyterian, joining the church so dear to many of his Scotch-Irish predecessors. After rudimentary schooling, he migrated to eastern Tennessee and studied theology at the home of Robert Henderson. In 1792 the Abingdon Presbytery granted him a license to preach. His first pastorate centered on Fort Craig, later named Maryville, where Blackburn often accompanied soldiers in their efforts to forestall marauding Indians. He was not content to work in only one place, and so he ranged the countryside within a fifty-mile radius to organize new churches and preaching stations among the settlers. Blackburn was noted for carrying a loaded rifle along with his Bible as he sought to extend what he considered the blessings of civilization and religion in frontier regions. In 1793 he married Grizzel Blackburn, a second or third cousin, and they produced eleven children....

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Burns, Anthony (31 May 1829?–27 July 1862), fugitive slave and pastor, was born in Stafford County, Virginia; his parents (names unknown) were slaves of the Suttle family. Burns’s father had died during his infancy. Influenced by his devout mother, he converted to the Baptist faith and later became an unofficial preacher to other slaves. Burns’s owner, Charles F. Suttle, farmed in Stafford until 1852, when he moved to Alexandria to become a commission merchant. Suttle prospered and sufficiently distinguished himself that both communities elected him to various offices....

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Burr, Aaron (04 January 1716–24 September 1757), Presbyterian minister and college founder, was born in Upper Meadows, Fairfield, Connecticut, the son of Daniel Burr, a prosperous farmer, and his wife Elizabeth. (By the Old Style form of dating, his year of birth was 1715.) After graduating from Yale College in 1735, he remained in New Haven to study theology, during which time he was caught up in the colonial revival of religion known as the Great Awakening. With several other Yale classmates, Burr underwent a moving personal conversion and also came under the influence of the most capable defender of the Awakening, ...

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Cabrini, Frances Xavier (15 July 1850–22 December 1917), educator and founder, was born Maria Francesca Cabrini in Saint’ Angelo Lodigiano, Italy, the daughter of Agostino Cabrini and Stella Oldini, farmers. Cabrini’s early life was greatly influenced by the political and religious disputes of her day. The drive for Italian unification, ...

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Campbell, Alexander (12 September 1788–04 March 1866), religious reformer and principal founder of the Disciples of Christ, was born in County Antrim, Ireland, the son of Thomas Campbell, a clergyman in the Antiburgher sect of the Seceder Presbyterian church, and Jane Corneigle. The foundations of Campbell’s lifelong commitment to liberty, religious reformation, and education were laid in his native Ulster. In his formative years, the Irish Rebellion of 1898 was violently suppressed. He came to maturity in one of Ireland’s most violent areas (northeastern County Armagh) at a time when sectarian and political violence was at its peak....

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Cartwright, Peter (01 September 1785–25 September 1872), Methodist clergyman, was born in Amherst County, Virginia, the son of Peter Cartwright and Christiana Garvin Wilcox, poor farmers of English descent. In 1791 the family moved to Lincoln County and then to Logan County, Kentucky, where Cartwright attended camp meetings. In 1801 he experienced a conversion and joined his mother’s Methodist society. Within a year he received a license as a Methodist exhorter to assist preachers in worship. When his parents moved again, he organized a Methodist circuit in Livingston County. The next year he felt called to preach and in 1804 joined the Western Annual Conference, being appointed by Bishop ...

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Cattell, William Cassady (30 August 1827–11 February 1898), clergyman and college president, was born in Salem, New Jersey, the son of Thomas Ware Cattell, a merchant and banker, and Keziah Gilmore. Cattell received his early education at local schools and also studied under a brother in Virginia for two years. He returned home to enter the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), from which he graduated with an A.B. in 1848. After spending a year teaching in Goochland County, Virginia, he again returned to New Jersey, entering the Princeton Theological Seminary, where he completed his studies in 1852. Cattell remained in Princeton for the following academic year and undertook special Oriental studies with Professor ...

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Chase, Philander (14 December 1775–20 September 1852), Episcopal bishop, was born in Cornish, New Hampshire, the son of farmer and town founder Dudley Chase and Allace Corbett. During his student days at Dartmouth College, at a time of religious ferment, Chase was stirred by the Book of Common Prayer and convinced by the arguments put forth in the tract ...

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Clark, Joshua Reuben, Jr. (01 September 1871–06 October 1961), diplomat and church leader, was born near Grantsville, Utah, the eldest of the ten children of Joshua Reuben Clark, Sr., and Mary Louisa Woolley, Mormon farmers. Although the family was poor, Clark showed great promise early on and was encouraged to pursue an education. He graduated from the University of Utah in 1898 and went on to Columbia University Law School in 1903. While there he came to the attention of both ...

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Comey, Dennis J. (26 May 1896–14 October 1987), Roman Catholic clergyman and labor arbitrator, was born Dennis Joseph Comey in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Dennis Joseph Comey, an iron worker at the Baldwin Locomotive Works, and Catherine Veronica Reagan Comey; the parents had been farmers who emigrated from Timoleague, County Cork, Ireland. The oldest of thirteen children, he excelled in studies and athletics at St. Joseph's College Preparatory School in Philadelphia. On 30 July 1914 he entered the Society of Jesus at St. Andrew-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, New York, and continued his classical studies. He earned his A.B. (1920), M.A. (1921), and Ph.D. (1929) in philosophy from Woodstock College, Maryland; he first taught Latin at Boston College High School (1921–1922) and then Latin, Greek, Spanish, and rhetoric at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. (1922–1925). He pursued theological studies at Woodstock College, where he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest on 20 June 1928. A year's concentration on ascetical theology at St. Beuno's College, Wales, preceded his solemn profession of his Jesuit vows in Rome, Italy, on 15 August 1931. In 1931 the Gregorian University in Rome named him a doctor of theology and in 1932 ...

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Corrigan, Michael Augustine (13 August 1839–05 May 1902), third Catholic archbishop of New York, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Mary English and Thomas Corrigan, a prosperous wholesale grocer and real estate dealer who emigrated from Ireland in 1829. By the 1850s he had become one of the wealthiest Catholics in Newark, enabling his son Michael to attend private schools in Newark and Wilmington, Delaware. In 1855 Michael matriculated at Mount St. Mary’s College at Emmitsburg, Maryland, and graduated in 1859. From 1857 to 1858, in the middle of his college career, the Corrigans sent him on a grand tour of Europe to broaden his experience and cultural education. After he decided to study for the priesthood, Newark’s bishop ...