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Jones, Abner (28 April 1772–29 May 1841), evangelist, founder and leader of the Christian Connection, was born on a farm in Royalston, Massachusetts, the son of Deacon Asa Jones and Dorcas Wade, both devout Separate Calvinist Baptists. In 1780 the family was among the first to inhabit the vicinity of Bridgewater, Vermont, a virtual wilderness in the upper Connecticut valley. Abner’s religious upbringing, the influence of itinerating Baptist revivalists, and the harsh, uncertain conditions of the frontier occasioned periodic bouts of gloom and spiritual torment. In his ...

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Smith, Elias (17 June 1769–29 June 1846), minister, religious journalist and polemicist, and botanical doctor, was born in Lyme, Connecticut, the son of Stephen Smith and Irene Ransom. Like many New England farm families in search of adequate land during this period, Stephen Smith and his family moved in 1782 to the Vermont frontier near Woodstock. As formal schooling was a luxury that few could afford, the adolescent Elias received an education largely through a course of self-study with the assistance of his uncle Elisha Ransom, a Baptist preacher in Woodstock. Smith began teaching in a local school at the age of nineteen, but he was preoccupied by spiritual matters that had begun with a vision of God followed by conversion in 1785. Smith was especially perplexed about baptism, which had been a point of contention in the family because his father was a Separate Baptist and his mother a Separate Congregationalist. He finally decided in 1789 to be baptized and join the Baptist church in Woodstock....