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Ashmun, Jehudi (21 April 1794–25 August 1828), colonial agent and missionary in West Africa, was born in Champlain, New York, the son of Samuel Ashmun, a justice of the peace, and Parthenia (maiden name unknown). An intensely devout Christian from the age of sixteen, Ashmun studied theology and classics at Vermont’s Middlebury College and the University of Vermont in Burlington. Following his graduation from the latter in 1816, he was appointed principal and instructor at the Maine Charity School, a Congregationalist college in Hampden, Maine. In 1818 he married Catherine Gray; it is not known if they had any children....

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Clarke, John (08 October 1609–20 April 1676), Baptist preacher and colonial agent, was born in Westhorpe, Suffolk, the son of Thomas Clarke, a man of unknown occupation and middling rank, and Rose Keridge. John Clarke had some college education (possibly at Cambridge) and some medical training (possibly at Leyden). He studied Hebrew. While still in England he married Elizabeth Harges, daughter of John Harges, lord of the manor of Wreslingworth, Bedfordshire. They had no children....

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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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Hooker, Thomas (07 July 1586–07 July 1647), Puritan minister, an architect of the New England Way, and a founder of Hartford, Connecticut, was born in Marfield, a village in Leicestershire, England, the son of Thomas Hooker, a steward for the Digby family, and his wife, whose name is unknown. He probably attended the grammar school that had been endowed by Sir Wolstan Dixie in nearby Market Bosworth, since at Cambridge he held a Dixie Fellowship, restricted to relatives of Sir Wolstan or graduates of his school. Before going to Cambridge, he may have taught school briefly in Birstall, Leicestershire. He matriculated at Queens College, Cambridge, in 1604, although he soon transferred to Emmanuel College, which had already acquired a reputation for the Puritan sympathies of its members. He received his B.A. in 1608 and his M.A. in 1611. He subsequently served as lecturer and catechist at Emmanuel College until 1618. As a fellow at Emmanuel he experienced a spiritual rebirth that validated his career as a Puritan minister and provided the substance for many of his popular sermons that were collected and published during his lifetime. He apparently preached at Emmanuel a series of sermons on the nature of the conversion experience....

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Krol, Bastiaen Janszen (1595–1674), representative of the Dutch Reformed church (first colonial "comforter of the sick") and colonial administrator in New Netherland, representative of the Dutch Reformed church (first colonial “comforter of the sick”) and colonial administrator in New Netherland, was born in Harlingen in the province of Friesland, the Netherlands, the son of Jans Krol and Annetjen Egberts. Bastiaen Krol had little formal education. He was employed in the fabric industry as a plush or velours worker when in 1615 he married Annetjen Stoffelsdocter, with whom he had three children. Krol signed his marriage certificate with a cross, suggesting he was unable to write his name at this time....

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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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Peters, Richard (1704?–10 July 1776), clergyman and colonial official, was born in Liverpool, England, the son of Ralph Peters, a lawyer and local official, and Esther Preeson. He attended Westminster School, where he is said to have finished before turning fifteen. While there he married, apparently a servant where he lodged. His parents then sent him to Leyden, where he spent three years in further study. After his return, he acceded to his father’s wishes that he study the law at the Inner Temple, although his personal predilections tended toward the ministry. After five years at the Inner Temple, Peters prepared for the priesthood, and in 1730 he was ordained deacon. He became a priest the following year. In 1731 he also began further study at Wadham College, Oxford. At the age of twenty-eight he was appointed to Lytham Chapel in the diocese of Chester. Peters, believing that his first wife was dead, in 1734 married a woman with the surname of Stanley, with whom he had a child who died in infancy. Six months after their marriage Peters’s first wife reappeared, and in the ensuing scandal, in 1735 Peters left England for Pennsylvania....

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Pierson, Abraham (1609–09 August 1678), colonial minister, missionary, leader of Branford, Connecticut, and cofounder of Newark, New Jersey, was born in Yorkshire, England. Nothing is known about his parents or his youth. He prepared for the ministry at Trinity College, Cambridge University, graduated in 1632, and was subsequently ordained as pastor at Newark, Nottinghamshire, before emigrating to America in 1639 or 1640. Pierson settled in Southampton, Long Island, which at the time was part of the Connecticut Colony. However, he preferred the religious climate of the New Haven Colony, which required prospective church members to present evidence of spiritual conversion and undertake a public profession of faith. Consequently, sometime after 1643 he, his wife, Abigail (Wheelwright), and their children crossed Long Island Sound to the New Haven Colony, which, under the influence of Puritan divine ...

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Shippen, Edward (1639– August 1712), merchant, religious martyr, and political leader, was born in Yorkshire, England, the son of William Shippen, a prominent landholder, and Mary Nunnes (or Nuns). Although his older brother earned degrees at Oxford and became an Anglican clergyman, Edward in 1668 emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts, a wilderness town of about 3,500. In 1671 he married Elizabeth Lybrand; they had eight children during their seventeen years together. Not long after he joined an artillery company, Shippen converted to his wife’s faith and became a member of the Society of Friends....

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Weld, Thomas (bap. 15 July 1595), Puritan divine and agent of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was born in Sudbury, Suffolk, England, the son of Edmund Weld, a dealer in fabrics, and Amy Brewster. His surname is also spelled Welde. He graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, with a B.A. in 1613 and an M.A. in 1618. On 2 March 1618 he was ordained a minister at Peterborough and appointed vicar in Haverhill, Suffolk. In 1624 he became vicar in Terling, Essex....

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Roger Williams. From a charcoal drawing by H. Halit. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-94043).

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Williams, Roger (1603?–1683), clergyman and founder of Rhode Island, was born in London, England, the son of James Williams, a merchant, and Alice Pemberton. His precise birth date is unknown, and his own references to his age throughout his lifetime are contradictory. During his teens, Williams experienced a spiritual awakening that moved him to join the ranks of Puritan dissenters who were voicing opposition to the ecclesiastical policies of the Church of England and King James I; his religious fervor, however, caused a falling out with his father, a stalwart supporter of the Anglican church....