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Alline, Henry (14 June 1748–02 February 1784), itinerant evangelist, was born in Newport, Rhode Island, the son of William Alline, a miller and farmer, and Rebecca Clark. The young Alline attended a local public school, where he showed academic ability. At the age of twelve, however, he moved with his family to Nova Scotia to farm on free land offered by Governor Charles Lawrence. With over a hundred other New England “planters,” the Alline family settled in the future township of Falmouth, west of Halifax. There the Allines eked out a meager existence, and Henry struggled with the isolation of frontier life....

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Biederwolf, William Edward (29 September 1867–03 September 1939), Presbyterian evangelist, was born in Monticello, Indiana, the son of German immigrants Michael Biederwolf and Abolona Schnetzer. At the age of eighteen, while teaching at a public school located near Monticello, he made a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ and joined the Presbyterian church at Monticello. His conversion was strongly influenced by his experience in Sunday school and also by his sister Kate, whose death of tuberculosis at the age of twenty thwarted her own plans to become a missionary....

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Bliss, Philip Paul (09 July 1838–29 December 1876), hymnodist and musical evangelist, was born in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, the son of Isaac Bliss and Lydia Doolittle, farmers. As an adolescent, he worked on farms and in lumber camps. Bliss proclaimed his personal conversion to Christ in 1850 and joined a Baptist church. After attending a select school in East Troy, Pennsylvania, in 1855 and working on a farm during the summer, he taught school in Hartsville, New York, during the winter of 1856. The following year he received his first formal instruction in music at J. G. Towner’s music school in Towanda, Pennsylvania. During 1858 Bliss taught school in Rome, Pennsylvania, where he boarded with the Young family. In 1859 he married Lucy Young, the oldest daughter of his hosts; the couple had two children. In the early 1860s Bliss taught music at Pennsylvania schools during the winter months, worked on his father-in-law’s farm during the summer, and attended occasional normal academies of music in Geneseo, New York....

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Brown, R. R. (19 October 1885–20 February 1964), pastor and radio evangelist, was born Robert Roger Brown in Dagus Falls, Pennsylvania, the son of Scottish immigrants William Murray Brown, a miner, and Mary Elizabeth Rogers. One of fourteen children, he was raised as a Presbyterian but had little interest in religion until he was converted at the age of eighteen during a revival in a Presbyterian church. At a subsequent meeting at a local nondenominational church, Brown encountered a representative of ...

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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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Chapman, John Wilbur (17 June 1859–25 December 1918), evangelist, was born in Richmond, Indiana, the son of Alexander Hamilton Chapman, an insurance adjuster, and Lorinda McWhinney. As a youth, Chapman worked at odd jobs—delivering milk, selling newspapers, keeping books, and producing and marketing household items. He graduated from Lake Forest University in 1879. While a student at Lane Seminary in Cincinnati he did supply preaching and was licensed for the ministry by the presbytery of Whitewater, Ohio, in April 1881. After receiving his B.D. from Lane in 1882 he became the pastor of two small Presbyterian congregations, one in College Corner, Ohio, and the other in Liberty, Indiana. In 1882 Chapman married Irene Steddom, who died in 1886, a month after the birth of their first child....

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Croswell, Andrew (30 January 1709–12 April 1785), Congregational minister and revivalist, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the son of Caleb Croswell and Abigail Stimpson. He trained for the ministry at Harvard, receiving a B.A. in 1728 and an M.A. in 1731. He was called to the Second Church of Groton, Connecticut, in 1736, and there he was drawn into the emergent world of evangelical Protestantism. Revivals of religion had rippled down the Connecticut River valley in the mid-1730s from ...

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Davenport, James (1716–1757), revivalist and Presbyterian minister, was born in Stamford, Connecticut, the son of the Reverend John Davenport, a Congregationalist minister, and Elizabeth Morris Maltby. He graduated in 1732 from Yale College, where he was regarded as a prodigy. He was licensed to preach on 8 October 1735 and ordained to the ministry of the Congregational Church at Southold, Long Island, in 1738....

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Dixon, Amzi Clarence (06 July 1854–14 June 1925), minister and evangelist, was born in Shelby, North Carolina, the son of Thomas Dixon, a Baptist minister, and Amanda Elvira McAfee. Converted at one of his father’s revival meetings, Dixon determined as a youth to enter the ministry. After earning an A.B. at Wake Forest College in 1873, Dixon began his peripatetic pastoral career by serving two Baptist churches in Mount Olive and Bear Marsh, North Carolina, from 1874 to 1875; he was ordained in the latter church in 1875. Dixon studied for six months with ...

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Dow, Lorenzo (16 October 1777–02 February 1834), itinerant Methodist evangelist, was born in Coventry, Connecticut, the son of Humphrey Dean Dow and Tabitha Parker, poor farmers. Dow was raised by his parents according to the Calvinism of the established Congregationalist church in New England with its emphases on predestination and original sin. Dow emphatically rejected this Calvinism as a teenager when he heard itinerant Methodist evangelists who came through town to speak. Dow became convinced that one becomes a Christian through one’s own volition and by a conversion that results in a dramatic experience of salvation. Following a traumatic several years in which he received visions and dreams, experienced a severe bout with asthma, and contemplated committing suicide, Dow had his own conversion at the age of seventeen....

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Eddy, George Sherwood (19 January 1871–03 March 1961), lay evangelist and political activist, was born in Leavenworth, Kansas, the son of George Eddy, a prominent businessman and civic leader, and Margaret Norton. Of Puritan stock, Eddy’s forebears had come to Kansas to prevent it from becoming a slave state. Eddy studied civil engineering at Yale University, receiving a Ph.B. in 1891....

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Jerry Falwell preaches during his visit to the Canton Baptist Temple 20 Jan. 1990, in Canton, Ohio. Photograph by Scott Heckel, 1990. Associated Press

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Falwell, Jerry (11 August 1933–15 May 2007), fundamentalist pastor, televangelist, and conservative political activist, was born Jerry Lamon Falwell in Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of Carey Hezekiah Falwell, a businessman, and Helen Virgie Beasley. Helen was a devout Baptist, and Carey, whom his son described as an atheist, was an entrepreneur who started with a general store and expanded into a local network of service stations, hotels, and a regional bus company. The couple's daughter died at age ten, and Carey Falwell shot and killed his own brother in 1931, the culmination of a long dispute over their shared interest in profiting from bootleg liquor; he was later acquitted for acting in self-defense. Jerry Falwell attributed these events to his father's “lifelong struggle with the Enemy,” by which he meant Satan....

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Finney, Charles Grandison (29 August 1792–16 August 1875), evangelist and president of Oberlin College, was born in Warren, Connecticut, the son of Sylvester Finney and Rebecca Rice, farmers. The family moved to the town of Kirkland, Oneida County, New York, when he was two and in 1808 to Henderson, Jefferson County, near Lake Ontario. Finney attended common school and perhaps Hamilton-Oneida Academy in Clinton, and he taught school as an older teen in Henderson. At age twenty he enrolled at Warren Academy in Connecticut, decided against going on to Yale, and taught in New Jersey from 1814 to 1818, when he returned to Jefferson County to apprentice at law. Practicing in an Adams, New York, law firm and directing the local Presbyterian church choir, he began to study the Bible. Having grown up during the Second Great Awakening, Finney was aware of the strengths and weaknesses of every Protestant denomination’s evangelistic style. During an 1821 revival, at age twenty-nine, he experienced a religious crisis. He promised God, as he recalled in his ...

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Gillis, James Martin (12 November 1876–14 March 1957), evangelist and editor, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of James Gillis, a machinist, and Catherine Roche. Raised in a working-class Irish-American family, Gillis attended St. John’s Seminary at Brighton for the archdiocese of Boston from 1896 to 1898 and achieved a baccalaureate. He later joined the Paulist Fathers at St. Thomas College in Washington, D.C., and was ordained in New York City on 21 December 1901. He immediately matriculated to the Catholic University of America, where he earned an S.T.L. in historical theology in 1903....

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Goldstein, David (27 July 1870–30 June 1958), Catholic lay evangelist, was born in Spitalfields, Middlesex, England, the son of Isaac Goldstein, a cigarmaker, and Anna (maiden name unknown). When he was a little over a year old, his family joined the exodus of working-class Jewish immigrants to New York City, where he was educated in the Henry Street and Fifth Street public schools and at the Hebrew Free School and Spanish Jewish Synagogue. At age eleven he left school to help support his family, which by then included three other siblings. After two short stints working as a cash boy, Goldstein became a tobacco stripper and an active member of the Cigarmaker’s International Union. In his ...

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Grace, Charles Emmanuel (25 January 1881–12 January 1960), Boyfriend of the World, better known as Daddy Grace or Sweet Daddy Grace or by his self-proclaimed title, was one of the more flamboyant African-American religious personalities of the twentieth century. He was born, probably as Marceline Manoel da Graca, in Brava, Cape Verde Islands, of mixed Portuguese and African ancestry, the son of Manuel de Graca and Gertrude Lomba. In the charismatic church that he founded and headed, however, he managed to transcend race by declaring, “I am a colorless man. I am a colorless bishop. Sometimes I am black, sometimes white. I preach to all races.” Like many other Cape Verdeans, Grace immigrated to New Bedford, Massachusetts, around the turn of the century and worked there and on Cape Cod as a short-order cook, a salesman of sewing machines and patent medicines and a cranberry picker....

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Laura Smith Haviland. Courtesy of the National Afro-American Museum.

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Haviland, Laura Smith (20 December 1808–20 April 1898), abolitionist and evangelist, was born in Leeds County, Ontario, Canada, the daughter of Daniel Smith and Sene Blancher, farmers. She grew up in western New York State in a community of the Society of Friends and received several years of education in a Quaker school. In 1825 she married Charles Haviland, Jr.; they had eight children. In 1829 the young couple moved to Michigan Territory, where they joined her parents and siblings in establishing farms in the valley of the River Raisin (near present-day Adrian, Mich.) and living pious lives in a tightly knit extended family....

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Henkel, Paul (15 December 1754–17 November 1825), evangelist and cooper, was born in Rowan County, North Carolina, the son of Jacob Henkel and Barbara Teter (or Dieter). Little is known about his early life. He was confirmed in 1768 and spoke of having had a “jolly” youth, giving little thought to religion until he was a young man. In 1775 he served fifty-six days with a company of rangers in the revolutionary war....