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Adamski, George (17 April 1891–23 April 1965), lecturer and writer on occult subjects and on UFOs during the 1950s' flying saucer enthusiasm, lecturer and writer on occult subjects and on UFOs during the 1950s’ flying saucer enthusiasm, was born in Poland. His parents (names unknown) brought him to the United States when he was one or two. The family settled in Dunkirk, New York; their life was hard, and Adamski received little formal education. He joined the Thirteenth U.S. Cavalry Regiment in 1913 as an enlisted man, serving on the Mexican border, and was honorably discharged in 1916. On 25 December 1917 he married Mary A. Shimbersky (d. 1954). After leaving the army, Adamski worked as a painter in Yellowstone National Park, in a flour mill in Portland, Oregon, and by 1921 was working in a cement factory in California. He continued to live in California, reportedly supporting himself and his wife through a variety of jobs, including by the 1930s teaching and lecturing on occult subjects....

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Avery, Martha Gallison Moore (06 April 1851–08 August 1929), lecturer and lay Catholic preacher, was born in Steuben, Maine, the daughter of Albion King Paris Moore, a house builder, and Katharine Leighton. She was educated in the village public school and then in a private dame school. When Martha was thirteen years old her mother died and she went to live with her grandfather, Samuel Moore, who was active in local and state politics. This atmosphere may have contributed to Martha’s future political interest. As a young woman she carried on a millinery business in Ellsworth, Maine, where she joined a Unitarian congregation. It was there that she met Millard Avery, a fellow church member. They were married in March 1880; they had one daughter. In 1888 Avery and her daughter moved to Boston to be closer to her husband, who was working as a traveling salesman. That year she joined the newly organized First Nationalist Club of Boston and wrote articles for its publication, ...

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Chew, Ng Poon (28 April 1866–13 March 1931), clergyman and lecturer, was born in Guangdong Province, China, the son of Ng Yip and Wong Shee. His Chinese name was Wu P’ang-tsao. He was raised by his grandmother in a poor Chinese village. Hoping that he would become a Taoist priest, his grandmother sent him to a Taoist shrine, but the most significant event in the development of his personal dreams came about in 1879, when one of his uncles returned to China after spending eight years in California. The stories his uncle told, plus the inspiration provided by the sight of 800 Mexican dollars that his uncle had brought home, motivated Chew, like so many members of his generation in China, to go to the United States....

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Conwell, Russell Herman (15 February 1843–06 December 1925), lecturer and minister, was born in South Worthington, Massachusetts, the son of Martin Conwell and Miranda Wickham, farmers. Conwell attended Wilbraham (Wesleyan) Academy and Yale University before enlisting in the Union army in 1862. During the war he served as captain of two Massachusetts volunteer units guarding Union installations near New Bern, North Carolina. Although he was dismissed from the military after being charged with deserting his post during a Confederate attack, Conwell claimed to have later been reinstated into the army by General ...

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Cooke, George Willis (23 April 1848–30 April 1923), writer, lecturer, and Unitarian minister, was born in Comstock, Michigan, the son of Hiram Cooke and Susan Jane Earl, farmers. Although he gained wide recognition as a scholar, his formal education was limited. He studied briefly at Olivet College in Michigan, the Jefferson Liberal Institute in Wisconsin, and the Meadville Theological School in Pennsylvania without earning a degree. A voracious reader throughout his life, he was largely self-taught. On 20 June 1872 he was ordained as a Unitarian minister and later that same year married Lucy Nash of Rochester, Wisconsin; the couple had two children. During the next twenty-seven years he served churches in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; Grand Haven, Michigan; Indianapolis, Indiana; Dedham, Sharon, and Lexington, Massachusetts; and Dublin, New Hampshire, at the same time being actively engaged in writing and editorial work. Along with ...

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Dixon, Thomas (11 January 1864–03 April 1946), author, clergyman, and lecturer, was born Thomas Dixon Jr. near Shelby, North Carolina, the son of Thomas Dixon, a Baptist minister and farmer, and Amanda McAfee Dixon. Thomas, the third of five children, was born during the Civil War. The Dixon family, which had once been prosperous, was reduced to extreme poverty by the war's end in 1865, owing to the collapse of the Southern economy and the destruction of farmland. During the ensuing years of Reconstruction, as lawlessness stalked the South, the elder Dixon struggled to support his wife and children, and their humiliation and degradation led him, like many other formerly prosperous Southerners, to join the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan, a vigilante organization of white males that proclaimed the supremacy of the white race, had been founded in 1866 to restore honor to the South and to oppose social and political advancement by Negroes, as African Americans were then called. Both the senior Dixon and his brother, the favorite uncle of Thomas Dixon Jr., became leaders in the Klan, and young Thomas grew to adulthood revering the Klan and its teachings....

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Dods, John Bovee (26 September 1795–21 March 1872), amateur physician and popular author and lecturer on mesmerism and Spiritualism, was born Johannes Dods Bovee in the town of Florida in Montgomery County, New York, the son of Jacob Mathias Bovee, a farmer and merchant, and Jane Dods. After serving in the War of 1812, he took as his surname Dods, probably out of respect for the maternal uncle who cared for him after his father’s untimely death. Little is known about his early education, but his father’s will stipulated that he “be educated in wreading [ ...

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Ralph Waldo Emerson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98114).

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo (25 May 1803–27 April 1882), lecturer and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Emerson, a Congregational minister, and Ruth Haskins. Ralph was one of eight children. His father was a liberal, Concord-born minister of the First Church in Boston and active in the city’s intellectual and social life, being an editor of the ...

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Goldsmith, Joel Sol (10 March 1892–17 June 1964), writer and lecturer on spirituality, was born in New York City, the son of Sol Joel Goldsmith, a prosperous lace importer, and his wife (name not available). Both parents were nonpracticing Jews. As a young man, Goldsmith became interested in Christian Science through his acquaintance with a woman whose father was a Christian Science practitioner. After himself being healed, he believed, of a serious illness through Christian Science, Goldsmith became a practitioner in 1928. About 1930 he married Rose Robb. Increasingly successful in Christian Science, in 1933 he set up an office in Boston across the street from the Mother Church. In 1943 he moved briefly to Florida. His wife died the same year....

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Thomas Starr King. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109959).

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King, Thomas Starr (17 December 1824–04 March 1864), Universalist minister and lecturer, was born in New York City, the son of Thomas Farrington King, a Universalist minister, and Susan Starr. Since his father moved from one pastorate to another, young King spent most of his formative years in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Charlestown, Massachusetts. He had little formal schooling and even that was terminated when he was fifteen years old because his father died. Forced to work in support of the family, he was at times a clerk, a bookkeeper in a dry-goods store, an assistant teacher in a grammar school (1840), a principal at another (1842), and in 1843 a bookkeeper at Charlestown Naval Yard. Throughout this time King actively pursued intellectual maturation. A voracious reader, he absorbed information at a remarkable pace and took advantage of lectures offered in Cambridge or Boston. His vigorous mind and thirst for knowledge drew the attention of Unitarian clergy and social reformer ...

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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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Newman, Angelia French (04 December 1837–15 April 1910), church worker, reformer, and lecturer, was born Angelia Louise French Thurston in Montpelier, Vermont, the daughter of Daniel Sylvester Thurston, a farmer and tanner, and Matilda Benjamin. When “Angie,” as she was commonly known, was about age seven, her mother died. Her father remarried shortly thereafter. Angie attended the local academy and later briefly taught school until around 1852, when her family moved to Wisconsin. In 1856, soon after her eighteenth birthday, she married Frank Kilgore, the son of a Methodist minister from Madison. The marriage was childless, and he died within a year. She subsequently worked as a teacher at Central Public School in Madison and spent one term (1857–1858) at Lawrence University in Appleton. In 1859 she married David Newman, a dry goods merchant; they would have two children....

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Newton, Joseph Fort (21 July 1876–24 January 1950), Baptist, Universalist, and Episcopal minister, lecturer, and author, was born in Decatur, Texas, the son of Lee Newton, a Baptist minister and lawyer, and Sue Green Battle. Raised according to the rigid doctrinal standards and strict moral code in place among Texas Baptists at the turn of this century, much of Newton’s life was a pilgrimage in search of gentler, more open-ended religious insight. Largely self-educated, he learned classical languages and literature with his mother’s help, and in 1895 he was ordained a Baptist minister. Later that year he entered Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where his predilection for a liberalized religious perspective became more intensified. He read widely, learning more from poets and critical essayists than from the formal syllabus prescribed for divinity students. Newton searched for a faith that could satisfy the mind while it sanctified the heart. He grew increasingly dissatisfied with theological tenets that separated churches, and in 1897 he left both the seminary and the denomination because he found sectarian exclusiveness to be absurd and reactionary dogmas embarrassing....

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Spencer, Archibald (1698?–13 January 1760), Church of England minister and itinerant lecturer, first appears in historical records in the spring of 1743. Nothing is known of his parents or education. He joined Boston’s St. John’s Grand Lodge of Freemasons on 11 May 1743 and lectured on natural philosophy later that month. ...

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Watts, Alan Wilson (06 January 1915–16 November 1973), writer and lecturer on Eastern spirituality, was born in Chislehurst, Kent, England, the son of Laurence Wilson Watts, a middle-class businessman, and Emily Mary Buchan. He attended King’s College in Canterbury, but business reverses prevented his family from sending him to a university. Instead, Watts spent 1932 to 1938 in London working and reading voraciously on his own. His interest was increasingly drawn toward Eastern religions. He met Christmas Humphreys, leader of the Buddhist Society of Great Britain, and through him ...