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Ballou, Adin (23 April 1803–05 August 1890), Universalist clergyman, reformer, and founder of Hopedale Community, was born in Cumberland, Rhode Island, the son of Ariel Ballou and Edilda Tower, farmers. A largely self-educated preacher, Ballou’s earliest religious experience was Calvinist in nature, and he later recalled the “very solemnizing effect” of the preaching he heard as a youth. At about age eleven, however, Ballou experienced a religious conversion, and a year later he was baptized into a Christian Connection church that emphasized a more enthusiastic and fundamentalist religiosity. Ballou developed a deep interest in religious matters over the next several years and eventually became a self-proclaimed preacher. At age eighteen, in the autumn of 1821, he was received into the fellowship of the Connecticut Christian Conference, a Christian Connection body. In 1822 he married Abigail Sayles; they had two children before Abigail died in 1829....

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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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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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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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Maffitt, John Newland (28 December 1794–28 May 1850), Methodist preacher, was born in Dublin, Ireland, to a middle-class family that belonged to the Church of Ireland, a branch of the Anglican church. Information about Maffitt’s family background and early life is decidedly spotty: his parents’ names are unknown, although we do know that his father died when Maffitt was twelve and that his mother shortly thereafter attempted to establish him in a mercantile establishment devoted to tailoring. One account claims he graduated from Trinity College. The teenage Maffitt indulged a love of reading novels and historical romances, however, until a conversion experience in a Methodist meeting at age eighteen or nineteen—accounts conflict on this score—convinced him to become a preacher. The Irish Methodist church did not recognize him as a licensed preacher, and his sporadic attempts at evangelical work both in and beyond Dublin were a mixed success at best. Even so, he displayed a highly melodramatic style, which would personify his later career in the United States. He married Ann Carnic at age twenty. They had seven children; the oldest son, ...

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Smith, Fred Burton (24 December 1865–04 September 1936), YMCA leader and reformer, was born in Lone Tree, Iowa, the son of Robert Ames Smith and Endora Dinwiddie, farmers. He briefly attended Hiatt’s Academy, Williams Business College, and the State University of Iowa, all in Iowa City, the last because he was recruited to play baseball. When his family moved to the Dakota Territory in 1882, his formal education ended. In 1886 Smith married Minnie (Mary) Agnes Colvin; they had five children....

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Smith, Gerald Lyman Kenneth (27 February 1898–15 April 1976), minister, publisher, and political crusader, was born in Pardeeville, Wisconsin, the son of Lyman Z. Smith, a farmer and traveling salesman, and Sarah Henthorn, a schoolteacher. Raised in poverty in small towns in Wisconsin, Smith graduated from Viroqua High School, where he won prizes for track and oratory....

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Tomlinson, A. J. (22 September 1865–02 October 1943), Pentecostal evangelist, cofounder of the Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee, and founder of the Church of God of Prophecy, was born Ambrose Jessup Tomlinson near Westfield, Indiana, the youngest child and only son of Milton Tomlinson (1820-1899), a farmer and road contractor, and Delilah Hiatt (1826-1909). Milton, a nonpracticing Quaker prominent in local business circles and active in the Republican Party, groomed his son for the largely secular world of small-town commerce and civic duty. A gifted student, A. J. graduated from Westfield's Union High School and later performed in the drama troupe of a local literary society. After graduation he, like his father, combined farming with enterprise, partnering with a friend to launch a well-drilling business....

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Willett, Herbert Lockwood (05 May 1864–28 March 1944), clergyman, orator, and biblical scholar, was born near Ionia, Michigan, the son of Gordon Arthur Willett, a farm machinery merchant, and Mary Elizabeth Yates, a schoolteacher serving as a nurse in the Union army. Formative in his choice of vocation were the memberships of both the Willett and Yates families in a Disciples of Christ congregation founded in the 1850s by evangelist Isaac Errett. Willett never attended public school. He studied under his mother’s tutelage, memorizing large portions of the Bible and poetry, an accomplishment that later lent distinction to his public and academic addresses. In 1883 his Disciples heritage prompted him to attend Bethany College in West Virginia, the school founded by the denominational leader ...