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Bentley, William (22 June 1759–29 December 1819), clergyman, scholar, and journalist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Joshua Bentley, a carpenter, and Elizabeth Paine, the daughter of a merchant. Bentley was raised in the home of William Paine, the prosperous grandfather for whom he was named, and he was educated at the Boston Latin School before entering Harvard College in 1773. After graduation in 1777, Bentley taught school. He returned to Harvard in 1780 as a tutor in Latin and Greek and prepared for the ministry. Ordained at the Second (East) Congregational parish in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1783, Bentley served in its pulpit until his death thirty-six years later....

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Browder, George Richard (11 January 1827–03 September 1886), Methodist preacher and diarist, was born near Olmstead in southern Logan County, Kentucky, the son of Robert Browder and Helen Walker, farmers. His father had migrated to Kentucky from Virginia in 1820 as a part of the westward surge following the War of 1812. Seven months after Browder’s birth, his mother died. In 1828 his father married Sarah L. Gilmer, who, by her godly life and faithful instruction in the catechism, exerted a profound influence on young Browder and prepared the way for his conversion at the nearby Ash Spring camp meeting in 1838. Browder attended neighborhood schools and the Male Academy in Clarksville, Tennessee....

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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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Henry David Thoreau. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ61-361).

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Thoreau, Henry David (12 July 1817–06 May 1862), author and naturalist, whose surname is pronounced “thorough,” was born in Concord, Massachusetts, the son of John Thoreau, a merchant and pencil manufacturer of French ancestry, and Cynthia Dunbar, of Scottish background. He was the only one of the famed Concord authors to be a native of the town. Although he was raised in genteel poverty, Thoreau attended Concord Academy, a private school where his parents hoped he would receive a better education than the public schools could offer. His parents also did much to encourage his youthful interest in natural history. A shy child, he often preferred to keep to himself rather than play with others....

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Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola

Wister, Sarah (20 July 1761–21 April 1804), Quaker diarist and poet, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the eldest child of Daniel Wister, merchant, and Lowry Jones. The Wister family was wealthy, and Sally, as she was called, was educated at the Quaker Girls School run by philanthropist ...