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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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Brooks, Walter Henderson (30 August 1851–06 July 1945), clergyman, temperance leader, and poet, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Albert Royal Brooks and Lucy Goode, slaves. Brooks’s father was an enterprising slave who owned his own “snack house” and a livery business that brought him into contact with some of Virginia’s wealthiest citizens, including his wife’s owner, German consul Daniel Von Groning. Albert Brooks purchased his wife’s freedom in 1862 for $800. Still a slave, Walter Brooks at age seven was sold to the Turpin & Yarborough tobacco firm. He woefully recalled his time there, writing: “It was all I could do to perform the task assigned to my little hands. What I do remember is that I stood in mortal fear of ‘the consequences’ of failing to do what was required of me.” When the Richmond manufacturer fell victim to wartime economic decline, Brooks was allowed to reside with his mother and began working in hotels, boardinghouses, and restaurants. In his youth he acquired the doctrines that served as the foundation for his life’s work. He learned temperance from his pastor, the Reverend ...

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Corrothers, James David (02 July 1869–12 February 1917), journalist, poet, and clergyman, was born in Chain Lake Settlement, Cass County, Michigan, a colony first settled by fugitive slaves in the 1840s. His parents were James Richard Carruthers (spelling later changed by Corrothers), a black soldier in the Union army, and Maggie Churchman, of French and Madagascan descent, who died when Corrothers was born. Corrothers was legally adopted by his nonblack paternal grandfather, a pious and respected man of Cherokee and Scotch-Irish origins, who raised young Corrothers in relative poverty. They lived in several roughneck towns along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, where Corrothers attended school and became aware of racial hostility. In his boyhood family members introduced him to a rich vein of African-American folk tales that he would later draw upon for a number of his dialect sketches....

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Davies, Samuel (03 November 1723–04 February 1761), Presbyterian minister, author, and educator, was born in the Welsh Tract in Pencader Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware, the son of David Davies (whose family name appears also as David and Davis) and Martha Thomas, farmers. After his mother shifted her allegiance from the Baptists to the Presbyterians, Davies enrolled at the classical academy conducted by the Reverend Samuel Blair at Fagg’s Manor, Pennsylvania. Blair, one of America’s best teachers of the mid-eighteenth century, trained Davies thoroughly in the classics, initiated him into the experiential piety of revivalistic Calvinism, and prepared him for the Presbyterian ministry. Shortly after Davies finished his study with Blair, he was licensed by the New Side (or revivalistic) Presbytery of New Castle on 30 July 1746. Later that year he married Sarah Kirkpatrick, who died giving birth on 15 September 1747....

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Evans, Nathaniel (08 June 1742–29 October 1767), poet and Church of England missionary, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Edward Evans, a merchant, and his wife, whose name is unknown. Intended by his parents for a career as a merchant, Evans entered the new Academy of Philadelphia soon after its opening in 1751. There he came under the influence of its energetic and visionary provost, the Reverend ...

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Grant, Percy Stickney (13 May 1860–13 February 1927), Episcopal clergyman and poet, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Stephen Mason Grant and Annie Elizabeth Newhall Stickney. An 1883 graduate of Harvard University, he prepared for the ordained ministry at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from which he received his B.D. in 1886. He earned an M.A. from Harvard in the same year. Ordained a deacon (1886) and priest (1887), he served three Massachusetts congregations (Church of the Ascension, Fall River, 1886; St. Mark’s, Fall River, 1887–1893; Christ Church, Swansea, 1890–1893) before becoming rector of the Church of the Ascension in New York City (1893–1924)....

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Linn, John Blair (14 March 1777–30 August 1804), poet and clergyman, was born in Big Spring (now Newville), Pennsylvania, the eldest son among seven children of William Linn, pastor of the Presbyterian church there, and Rebecca Blair, the daughter of a theology professor at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University). In the course of a distinguished career William Linn became president of Washington College in Maryland in 1784 and was appointed co-pastor of the Collegiate Dutch Reformed Church in New York in November 1786, moving there with his family....

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Lowell, Robert Traill Spence (08 October 1816–12 September 1891), Episcopal priest, educator, and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of the Reverend Charles Lowell, a Unitarian minister, and Harriett Brackett Spence. He attended the Round Hill School, Northampton, Massachusetts, 1823–1828, where he studied with Joseph Green Cogswell, the founder of the school, and ...

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Merton, Thomas (31 January 1915–10 December 1968), Trappist monk and writer, was born in Prades, France, the son of Owen Merton, a New Zealand–born painter, and Ruth Jenkins, an American. In 1916 the family returned to the United States. Following Merton’s mother’s death of cancer in 1921, his father took him to Bermuda for a year and, after a return to New York, left for France where he enrolled Merton in the Lycée Ingres at Montauban in 1925. In 1928 Merton’s father moved to England to exhibit his paintings. Merton himself left Montauban to enter Oakham School. In 1931 Merton’s father died of a brain tumor while still resident in England. In 1933, thanks to a scholarship, Merton entered Clare College, Cambridge, where he remained until 1934....

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Morris, Robert (31 August 1818–31 July 1888), Masonic lecturer and poet, according to most biographers, including his son, was born near Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Robert Morris and Charlotte (maiden name unknown), teachers. However, the reliable twentieth-century Masonic historian Henry Wilson Coil in his ...

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Odell, Jonathan (25 September 1737–25 November 1818), Anglican clergyman, Loyalist, and poet, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of John Odell, a skilled carpenter, and Temperance Dickinson, the daughter of President Jonathan Dickinson of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University). Odell’s father provided in his will for a college education for his son. After graduating from the College of New Jersey in 1754, Odell conducted the college’s grammar school, receiving in payment two-thirds of the school’s proceeds. In 1756 he studied medicine and then joined a regiment of the British army, serving in the West Indies as an army surgeon. He received his A.M. from the College of New Jersey in 1757. During this period he decided to seek ordination as an Anglican clergyman, in spite of his family’s historic ties to the Congregationalist church. While in England studying for the ministry, he taught at James Elphinston’s Academy in Kensington and published his first poems. He met ...

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Rogers, Elymas Payson (10 February 1815–20 January 1861), clergyman, poet, and missionary, was born in Madison, Connecticut, the son of Abel Rogers and Chloe Ladue, farmers. His father, the son of an African slave who had survived a shipwreck off the coast of Connecticut, was raised as family by the Reverend Jonathan Todd, from whom he eventually inherited the farmland on which he made his living. In the early 1830s, Rogers left for Hartford, Connecticut, where he attended school and worked for his board in the home of a Major Caldwell. His first formal church affiliation was established in 1833 as a communicant of the Hartford Talcott Street congregation....

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Roseliep, Raymond (11 August 1917–06 December 1983), poet and Catholic priest, was born in Farley, Iowa, the son of John Albert Roseliep, a caterer, and Anna Elizabeth Anderson. When he was a child, Roseliep’s family moved to Dubuque, where he developed a lifelong love for the natural world while hiking about Dubuque’s hills. He also enjoyed drawing and painting. At Loras Academy his artistic interests evolved toward poetry....

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Rouquette, Adrien Emmanuel (26 February 1813–15 July 1887), Catholic priest and writer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Dominique Rouquette, a wine merchant, and Louise Cousin. His early life was spent largely in St. Tammany Parish, north of Lake Pontchartrain, where his mother’s family were landowners. Rouquette grew up speaking French, and in the pine woods around his house he developed an intimacy with the Choctaws and their lifestyle. His formal education began in 1821 at the Collège d’Orléans, but he did not prosper there. About three years later he was sent to Transylvania College in Kentucky, where he learned English, lived with Protestants, and acquired some Latin. Rouquette’s father having died by suicide in 1819 and his mother having died during his years in Kentucky, his maternal relatives sent him in 1828 to a small French school in Mantua, New Jersey, outside Philadelphia, in which city his older brother Dominique was to read law. A year later he left for the Collège Royal of Nantes in Brittany, France. After some years in Brittany Rouquette passed his baccalaureate examination....

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Ryan, Abram Joseph (05 February 1838–22 April 1886), Catholic priest and poet, was the son of Matthew Ryan and Mary Coughlin, who came to the United States from Ireland sometime during the decade after 1828. They lived in Norfolk, Virginia, for a short while, then moved to Hagerstown, Maryland. A variety of dates have been given for Ryan’s birth, and claims to his birthplace have been made for Norfolk and several towns in Ireland. Yet certain church records, the baptismal certificate in Hagerstown, and an 1859 letter in which he states his age as twenty-one, all seem to substantiate that Abram Ryan was born on 5 February 1838, in Hagerstown....

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Smith, Samuel Francis (21 October 1808–16 November 1895), editor, Baptist clergyman, and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Smith and Sarah Bryant. Young Smith was educated at both the Eliot School and the Boston Latin School, where he received the distinguished Franklin medal in 1825. At Harvard College, Smith became part of the famous class of 1829, which also included ...

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Sterling, James (1701–10 November 1763), Anglican minister and poet, was born in Downrass, King’s County, Ireland, the son of James Sterling, a captain in the British army, and Patience Hansard. He graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1720. His poetic drama, The Rival Generals...

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Tabb, John Banister (22 March 1845–19 November 1909), poet and Catholic priest, was born at “The Forest,” Amelia County, Virginia, the son of Thomas Yelverton Tabb, a gentleman, and Marianna Bertrand Archer. He studied with a private teacher, John L. Hood, until about 1859, when his eyesight problems put an end to his studies. Tabb’s poor eyesight also prevented him from joining the Confederate army, but he was appointed clerk to Captain ...

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Taylor, Edward (1642?–24 June 1729), poet and minister, was born in Sketchley, Leicestershire, England, the son of William Taylor, a farmer. His mother’s name is unknown. Born into a family of religious dissenters, Taylor taught school in Bagworth until he lost his post for refusing to subscribe to the 1662 Act of Uniformity. A fervent opponent of the Restoration and the Anglican church, he immigrated to New England in 1668 and enrolled at Harvard, where he was given the position of college butler in recognition of his advanced age and experience. A distinguished scholar, he was one of four students selected to offer declamations at his graduation in 1671. Although Taylor planned to stay on as a tutor, a delegation from Westfield, a village in the Connecticut Valley, asked him to be their minister. He soon left for Westfield but did not formally organize the church there until 1679, perhaps because of threats arising from Indian wars in the area and because he may have questioned whether his scholarly temperament suited him for ministering to a frontier village. In 1674 he married Elizabeth Fitch, daughter of the Reverend James Fitch of Norwich. She died in 1689, leaving him with their three surviving children. Three years later he married Ruth Wyllis; they had six children....

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van Dyke, Henry (10 November 1852–10 April 1933), Presbyterian minister, poet, and diplomat, was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry Jackson van Dyke, a prominent Presbyterian minister, and Henrietta Ashmead, the daughter of a notable Philadelphia attorney. Van Dyke studied at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn and attended Princeton College, where he wrote Princeton’s “Triangle Song,” received a B.A. in 1873, and earned an M.A. in 1876. The following year he graduated from Princeton Seminary and then studied at the University of Berlin for two years before being ordained a Presbyterian minister....