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Beissel, Johann Conrad (01 March 1692–06 July 1768), religious leader, was born in Eberbach, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, the son of Matthias Beissel, a baker, and Anna (maiden name unknown). He was baptized George Konrad Beissel. His alcoholic father died two months before his birth; his mother died when he was eight or nine. Conrad Beissel was raised by his older brothers and sisters. Possibly because of recent French depredation of the area where they lived, his family was very poor. Conrad was undernourished and remained comparatively small. According to tradition, he performed remarkably well during his brief attendance at his parish school. Nevertheless, he was largely self-educated. While still a youth, Beissel was apprenticed to a master baker, who also was a capable fiddler who taught Beissel to play the violin. Beissel became a popular performer and played at weddings, country dances, and other joyful occasions. He enjoyed the notoriety and attention, especially from women....

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Bennet, Sanford Fillmore (21 June 1836–11 June 1898), physician and writer of popular verses and hymn texts, was born in Eden, New York, the son of Robert Bennet and Sally Kent. After spending his early years in New York, Bennet moved with his family to Lake County, Illinois. By the age of eighteen Bennet was teaching school in Wauconda, Illinois. In 1858 he entered the University of Michigan but did not complete a degree there, deciding instead to accept a position as the head of the Richmond, Illinois school district. After his marriage to Gertrude Crosby Johonnatt, Bennet moved to Elkhorn, Wisconsin, where he became co-owner and editor of the ...

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Bradbury, William Batchelder (06 October 1816–07 January 1868), music teacher, composer, and publisher, was born in York County, Maine, the son of David Bradbury and Sophia Chase. When Bradbury was fourteen years old the family moved to Boston, where William began the study of harmony and decided to become a professional musician. He attended the Boston Academy of Music, sang in ...

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Brown, Phoebe Hinsdale (01 May 1783–10 August 1861), hymnist and religious writer, was born in Canaan, New York, the daughter of George Hinsdale (profession unrecorded) and Phoebe Allen. Brown’s father died ten months after she was born, and her mother died shortly before her eighth birthday. Brown and her sister Lydia spent the year after their mother’s death in the home of their maternal grandparents in Norwich, Connecticut, where Brown’s grandmother treated her kindly and instructed her in reading and religion. During this period Brown demonstrated her piety, her aptitude for learning, and her desire for education by reading the Bible through three times. From the ages of nine to eighteen, however, Brown lived with her married sister Chloe and Chloe’s tyrannical and brutish husband William Noyes, Jr., in Claverack, New York. Brown was miserable during these years not only because William Noyes overworked her and treated her like a servant, but also because he forbade her to attend church and to read books....

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Campbell, Lucie E. (1885–03 January 1963), gospel composer and teacher, was born in Duck Hill, Mississippi, the daughter of Burrell Campbell, a railroad worker, and Isabella Wilkerson. Her mother was widowed several months after Lucie’s birth, and the family soon moved from Carroll County to Memphis, the nearest major city. Lucie and her many siblings struggled to survive on their mother’s meager wages, which she earned by washing and ironing clothing. Given the family’s insubstantial income, it could afford a musical education for only one child: Lucie’s older sister Lora. Lucie eventually learned to play piano, however, through her own persistence, a gifted ear for music, and a little help from Lora....

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Clayton, William (17 July 1814–04 December 1879), chronicler of early Mormonism, pioneer, and musician, was born in Penwortham, England, the son of Thomas Clayton, a schoolteacher, and Ann Critchley. He was schooled by his father and learned to play both the piano and the violin. While employed as a clerk in a Preston textile factory, he listened to the preaching of ...

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Crosby, Fanny (24 March 1820–12 February 1915), poet and author of gospel hymn texts, was born Frances Jane Crosby in Putnam County, New York, the daughter of John Crosby and Mercy Crosby, farmers. (Her mother’s maiden name and married name were the same.) At the age of six weeks, she developed an eye infection, for which a man falsely claiming to be a physician prescribed the application of hot poultices; the tragic result was permanent blindness. That same year her father died, and her mother went to work as a maid. Fanny was first sent to live with her grandmother, and later with a Mrs. Hawley, who realized the child’s precociousness and set her to memorizing much of the Bible. Within two years, Fanny had committed the entire Pentateuch (complete with genealogies), most of the poetic books, and the four Gospels to memory....

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Fletcher, Bridget Richardson (23 April 1726–08 June 1770), hymnist and religious poet, was born in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, the daughter of Zachary and Sarah Richardson. Although little is known about Fletcher’s childhood, her parents were probably farmers, as Middlesex County was largely an agricultural region and Fletcher herself writes in Hymn 2 that she did not spring from a prophet’s line, but “only of an herdsman.” Whether or not Fletcher had any formal education is uncertain. Her ability to read and write should be noted, however, since only 40 percent of women were literate during this period, and schools frequently did not admit female students. On 15 February 1745, she married Timothy Fletcher, Jr., of Westford, Massachusetts, a small community adjoining Chelmsford. She probably lived the rest of her life in this town, as the title page of her volume of hymns indicates that she is “late of Wesford [ ...

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Hatfield, Edwin Francis (09 January 1807–22 September 1883), Presbyterian pastor, writer, hymnologist, and national church official, was born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, the son of Oliver S. Hatfield and Jane Mann. Young Hatfield made his public profession of faith on 25 March 1827 at New York City’s Central Presbyterian Church. He graduated from Middlebury College in 1829. He studied theology at Andover Theological Seminary from 1829 to 1831, and on 6 October 1831 the Third Presbytery of New York licensed him to preach. Hatfield served as assistant to Barnabas Kind in Rockaway, New Jersey, from October 1831 to February 1832, and assisted Asa R. Hillyer in Orange, New Jersey, from March to September 1832. The Third Presbytery of New York ordained Hatfield on 14 May 1832, and he served as pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri, from October 1832 to February 1835. In July 1835 he became the second pastor of New York’s Seventh Presbyterian Church; he was formally installed on 2 March 1836 and served there until February 1856. During his 21-year tenure he became known as a “preacher of deep spiritual earnestness and power,” and more than 2,200 new members joined his congregation. He was released from duties at Seventh Church on 4 February 1856 and installed 13 February as pastor of New York City’s North Presbyterian Church, where he served until poor health forced his early retirement in October 1863....

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Mason, Lowell (08 January 1792–11 August 1872), music educator and composer, was born in Medfield, Massachusetts, the son of Johnson Mason, a businessman, and Catherine Hartshorn. Mason was educated in Medfield schools and singing schools, where he learned to read music. He took an active interest in music and at age sixteen conducted his church choir. Largely self-taught, he played many instruments and as a teenager led a local band. Nonetheless, he intended to become a businessman and not a musician, as he saw no future for himself in music, which offered little opportunity for a livelihood....

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Oatman, Johnson, Jr. (21 April 1856–25 September 1922), gospel hymn writer, was born near Medford, New Jersey, the son of Johnson Oatman, a merchant, and Rachel Ann Cline. Educated at Herbert’s Academy, Vincetown, and the New Jersey Collegiate Institute, Bordentown, he was licensed and ordained as a local preacher in the Methodist Episcopal church but never held a pastorate. He married Wilhelmina Ried in 1878; they had three children. After working for many years with his father in Lumberton, New Jersey, he became associated with a life-insurance company in Mount Holly, New Jersey. In failing health in 1893, he retired to the seaside resort community of Ocean Grove, New Jersey. A “stronghold of Methodist Victorianism,” Ocean Grove was a permanent site of carefully-regulated summer camp meetings patronized by urban middle-class evangelical Protestants in search of rest, wholesome recreation, and spiritual renewal (Jones, p. 33)....

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Sears, Edmund Hamilton (06 April 1810–16 January 1876), clergyman, author, and hymn writer, was born in Sandisfield, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph Hamilton and Lucy Smith, farmers. A shy and fragile boy, Sears soon found that the harsh realities of agricultural life prevented him from regularly attending school. At sixteen he briefly enrolled for several months at Westfield (Massachusetts) Academy, and a few years later he met the entrance requirements for Union College in Schenectady, New York. A diligent student, he completed his bachelor’s degree in three years, graduating in 1834....

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Swan, Timothy (23 July 1758–23 July 1842), hat maker and composer, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, the son of William Swan, a goldsmith, and Levina Keyes. By age eleven he was apprenticed to a merchant in nearby Marlborough then moved to Groton, Massachusetts, to assist his brother in the same business. There he attended a singing school for three weeks in 1774. This experience, some fife instruction during a brief army stint in Cambridge later that year, and an article on music that he read in the 1797 ...

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Thompson, Will Lamartine (07 November 1847–20 September 1909), composer and publisher, was born in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, the son of Josiah Thompson and Sarah Jackman. His father was self-educated and worked for a time as a clerk on the wharf in Pittsburgh. He became a successful merchant and, about the time of Will’s birth, moved to East Liverpool, Ohio, where he established the mercantile firm of J. Thompson and Company. Three of his sons, including Will, were to be partners in the firm, and Will also served on the board of directors of the East Liverpool Bank, which his father established in 1873. The Thompson family was highly regarded in the East Liverpool area, and Josiah Thompson was elected to the fifty-eighth (1868), fifty-ninth (1870), and sixtieth (1872) sessions of the Ohio legislature....

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Woodbury, Isaac Baker (23 October 1819–26 October 1858), composer and music educator, was born in Beverly, Massachusetts, the son of Isaac Woodberry, a merchant and justice of the peace, and Nancy Baker. From an early age Woodbury preferred this spelling of the family name. His forebears, in Massachusetts since 1624, were solidly yeoman and middle class. In 1828 his father died, and his mother managed the property and took in boarders to support her eight children. In 1832 Woodbury was sent to Boston where, contrary to his mother’s wishes, he studied music under ...