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Bennett, John Cook (03 August 1804–05 August 1867), physician, religious leader, and entrepreneur, was born in Fair Haven, Bristol County, Massachusetts, the son of John Bennett, a shipowner, and Abigail Cook. At his father’s death in 1817, he moved with his mother to Ohio to stay with relatives. In 1825, after a three-year apprenticeship with a physician and an oral examination by an Ohio medical society, Bennett received his M.D. and a license to practice. That year he married Mary Barker; they had three children. There is no evidence supporting his claim to have attended Ohio University or McGill College in Montreal; he did, however, become a Freemason in 1826....

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Blackstone, William (05 March 1595–26 May 1675), Anglican clergyman, horticulturist, and first European settler in what is now Rhode Island, was born in Whickham, Durham, England, the son of John Blackstone, a wealthy landowner and poultryman, and Agnes Hawley. At Emmanuel College, Cambridge, Blackstone (sometimes Blackston or Blaxton) took his B.A. in 1617 and his M.A. in 1621. He at once took orders in the Church of England....

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Bryan, Hugh (1699–31 December 1753), planter, assemblyman, and evangelical Christian, was born near Beaufort in South Carolina, the son of Joseph Bryan, an Indian trader and farmer, and Janet Cochran. Bryan’s father was an early settler on South Carolina’s southern frontier, and it was there that Hugh Bryan spent most of his life. As a boy he was taken prisoner by Indians during the Yamasee War (1715) and was carried to St. Augustine, where he was eventually released. According to tradition, Bryan “met with a Bible among the ...

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Heathcote, Caleb (06 March 1666–01 March 1721), merchant, manor lord, and Anglican activist, was born in Derbyshire, England, the son of Gilbert Heathcote, a trader in hides and iron who served as mayor of Chesterfield, England, and Anne Dickens. While living in England Heathcote became a merchant specializing in trade with New York, where he settled in 1692 after the woman to whom he was betrothed fell in love with his brother Samuel and married him instead....

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Ivins, Anthony Woodward (16 September 1852–23 September 1934), businessman, rancher, and church leader, was born in Toms River, New Jersey, the son of Israel Ivins, a pioneer physician and farmer, and Anna Lowrie. Shortly after Ivins’s birth, his family converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). They moved west to the Salt Lake Valley, and in 1861 Israel Ivins was assigned by ...

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Other Day, John (1819?–30 October 1869), Christian farmer chief of the Wahpeton Dakotas, who became famous for leading white settlers to safety during the Dakota War of 1862, was born in southern Minnesota, the son of Scarlet Bird (Zitkadanduta), a war shaman. His mother’s name is not known. His Indian name was Anpetutokeca; he was also known as Good Sounding Voice, or Hotonhowaste....

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Penn, William (14 October 1644–30 July 1718), founder of Pennsylvania and eminent English Quaker, was born in London, England, the son of Sir William Penn, an admiral, and Margaret Jasper Vanderschuren, the daughter of a Rotterdam merchant. Penn was educated at Chigwell Free Grammar School, Essex, and Christ Church College, Oxford, where he studied from 1660 until 1662, when he was expelled for openly criticizing the Church of England. In an effort to prevent him from becoming a dissenter and to prepare him for the life of a gentleman, his father sent him to tour the Continent. In France the younger Penn studied Huguenot theology at L’Académie Protestante de Saumur. He returned to England in 1664 a more sophisticated man and the next year entered legal study at Lincoln’s Inn. He then assisted his father in business and military affairs. These activities required attendance at court, where he made acquaintances that would later prove useful, especially his friendship with Charles II’s brother, James, duke of York....

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William Penn. Print, c. 1897. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-106735).

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Perry, Edward (1630?–1695), farmer and Quaker leader, was born in England (parents and place unknown). Perry reached Sandwich, Massachusetts (then part of Plymouth Colony), by 1652 and took up land there. In 1654 he married Mary Freeman, the daughter of Edmund Freeman of Sandwich; the couple had nine children. Perry was punished for refusing to comply with the Plymouth Colony’s marriage regulations requiring that a magistrate preside over the wedding. The ceremony that Mary and Edward used apparently anticipated Quaker (Friends) marriage proceedings in which the couple exchanged vows publicly before witnesses, without the supervision of a minister or magistrate, after which all present signed the marriage certificate. When Quaker missionaries appeared in the colony in 1657, Perry was among the first to join their movement. While not as draconian in its persecution of Quakers as Massachusetts, Plymouth reacted negatively to their arrival by severely fining and disfranchising resident Quakers and expelling Quaker missionaries from the colony. Thus, Perry was fined and disfranchised and lost the chance for community leadership for over a decade, although he must have retained the respect of many town residents who defended their Quaker neighbors....

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Rosen, Joseph A. (15 February 1877–02 April 1949), agronomist and resettlement expert, was born in Moscow, Russia, and apparently raised 100 miles south in Tula. Nothing is known of his parents and early life. He once acknowledged being held in the Boutirka prison for two months at age fifteen for reading a book that said Czar Alexander was a drunkard. He attended Moscow University in 1894 but, because of anti-czarist activities, was exiled to Siberia for five years. Within six months Rosen escaped to Germany, where he supposedly enrolled at the University of Heidelberg to study philosophy and chemistry. He supported himself by writing for Russian journals....

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Strawbridge, Robert (?–1781), Methodist lay preacher and farmer, was born in Drumsna (Drummersnave), County Leitrim, Ireland, the son of Robert Strawbridge, a farmer (mother’s name unknown). Little is known of his childhood or of his life in Ireland. In the mid-nineteenth century, Irish Methodist historian William Crook located the Strawbridge farm near Drumsna, on a “gentle eminence” overlooking the Shannon, and from its appearance concluded that the family had “lived in considerable comfort, if not affluence” (pp. 150–51). During the mid-1750s, Methodist evangelists in the vicinity of Drumsna converted Lawrence Coughlan, later a pioneer of Methodism in Newfoundland. Coughlan was instrumental in converting Leonard Strawbridge, Robert’s brother, and probably influenced Robert’s conversion as well. It is also possible that Robert was present during at least one of John Wesley’s visits to Drumsna....

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Van Rensselaer, Nicholas (bap. 14 September 1636), Reformed church clergyman and fourth director of the patroonship of Rensselaerswijck, was born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the son of Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, a diamond merchant and first patroon of Rensselaerswijck, and Anna Van Welij. When Nicholas (originally Nicolaes) was seven his father died, and he was brought up largely in the care of his mother. In 1656 he entered the University of Leiden to study theology but shortly abandoned his studies. His mother then apprenticed him to Amsterdam spice merchant Servaes Auxbrebis. Van Rensselaer was unhappy in that position, and so his mother reapprenticed him to Amsterdam textile merchant William Brughman. He also left there after several weeks, claiming that God was calling him for the ministry....

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Washington, George Berry (25 December 1864–30 August 1928), planter and minister, was born in Arkansas. All that is known of his parents is that his father was born in Kentucky and his mother in South Carolina. It is not known if he was born a slave, and while no photographs of him are known to exist, he reportedly was very light complected. Nothing is known about his education; however, he was literate. In 1883 Washington married Ella Roselle at Marion, Crittenden County, Arkansas; the couple had two children. Apparently, his first wife died, and in 1897 Washington married Lula Wright. No children were born to his second marriage....

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Wood, James (12 November 1839–19 December 1925), Quaker leader and experimental farmer, was born in Mount Kisco, New York, the son of Stephen Wood and Phebe Underhill, farmers. The clan of fifty Wood and Underhill cousins had lived on neighboring farms or homes in Westchester County since about 1809. James Wood attended the Philadelphia Quakers’ Westtown School and then went to Haverford College. In 1866 he married a Philadelphia Quaker, Emily Hollingsworth Morris, with whom he would have three children. In 1870 they moved into “Braewold,” a Scottish-style stone house that was built to replace the one that had burned down a year before. The Woods’ oldest daughter, Ellen, a nurse, was engaged to Quaker reformer ...