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Allen, Richard (14 February 1760–26 March 1831), American Methodist preacher and founder of the African Methodist Episcopal church, was born into slavery to parents who were the property of Benjamin Chew of Philadelphia. He and his parents and three additional children were sold in 1777 to Stokely Sturgis, who lived near Dover, Delaware. There he attended Methodist preaching and experienced a spiritual awakening. Allen, his older brother, and a sister were retained by Sturgis, but his parents and younger siblings were sold. Through the ministry of Freeborn Garretson, a Methodist itinerant, Sturgis was converted to Methodism and became convinced that slavery was wrong. Subsequently Allen and his brother were permitted to work to purchase their freedom, which they did in 1780. The next six years he worked as a wagon driver, woodcutter, and bricklayer while serving as a Methodist preacher to both blacks and whites in towns and rural areas in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. At one point Bishop ...

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Andrew, James Osgood (03 May 1794–02 March 1871), Methodist Episcopal bishop, was born in Wilkes County, Georgia, the son of the Reverend John Andrew and Mary Cosby. In 1789 John Andrew became the first native Georgian to enter the itinerant ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church. James was educated in country schools and through his own personal reading. About 1809, Andrew recalled, he “attended a camp meeting and was powerfully awakened.” Shortly thereafter he became a member of the Asbury Chapel on the Broad River Circuit. In 1812 he was licensed to preach and admitted on trial to the South Carolina Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church....

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Benjamin W. Arnett. Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society.

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Arnett, Benjamin William (06 March 1838–09 October 1906), African-American religious, educational, and political leader, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel G. Arnett and Mary Louisa (maiden name unknown). Arnett was a man of “mixed Irish, Indian, Scots, and African ancestry” (Wright, p. 79). He was educated in a one-room schoolhouse in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Arnett worked as a longshoreman along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and briefly as a hotel waiter. His career as a longshoreman and waiter ended abruptly when a cancerous tumor necessitated amputation of his left leg in 1858. He turned to teaching and was granted a teaching certificate on 19 December 1863. At that time, he was the only African-American schoolteacher licensed in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. For ten months during the academic year 1884–1885, Arnett served as a school principal in Washington, D.C. He returned to Brownsville in 1885, teaching there until 1887. Although largely self-educated, he attended classes at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. A man of many interests, he was an occasional lecturer in ethics and psychology at the Payne Theological Seminary at Wilberforce University, served as a historian of the AME church, was a trustee of the Archaeological and Historical Society of Ohio, served as a member of the Executive Committee of the National Sociological Society, and was statistical secretary of the Ecumenical Conference of Methodism for the western section from 1891 to 1901....

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Francis Asbury. From an engraving by Benjamin Tanner. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-6153).

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Asbury, Francis (20 August 1745–31 March 1816), missionary, bishop, and founder of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was born in Staffordshire, England, the son of Joseph Asbury and Elizabeth Rogers, farmers. His parents encouraged him early in his education, and he was reading the Bible by the age of seven. At twelve, however, he dropped out of school after being harshly treated by the schoolmaster and never returned to formal education....

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Baker, Osmon Cleander (30 July 1812–20 December 1871), Methodist educator and bishop, was born in Marlow, New Hampshire, the son of Isaac Baker and Abigail Kidder. At the age of fifteen he began his studies at Wilbraham Academy in Massachusetts. Wilbur Fisk, the first major Methodist theologian to receive notice outside of the denomination, was the principal of the school, which Methodists had founded a decade earlier. While a student there in 1828, Baker was converted, joined the church, and was licensed to exhort. In 1830 he entered the first class at Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut, where Fisk, the first president, continued to have a profound effect on the young student. After Baker had spent three years at Wesleyan, ill health forced him to withdraw from the university....

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Bascom, Henry Bidleman (27 May 1796–08 September 1850), Methodist bishop and educator, was born in Hancock, New York, the son of Alpheus Bascom and Hannah Bidleman Houk. Poverty kept the family on the move in search of better living conditions, first in western New York, then northern Kentucky, and finally (1813) in southern Ohio. Young Bascom received some formal schooling until he was twelve years old, but penury forestalled further studies. He joined the Methodists at the age of fifteen, and two years later, in 1813, the Ohio Annual conference of the Methodist church licensed him to preach. During that year he was also admitted as preacher on trial and appointed to the Brush Creek Circuit where his newly settled parental home was situated. Bascom’s gifts of imagination and powerful expression were quickly recognized as he filled various preaching circuits in Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky over the next decade. His travels to as many as thirty preaching places per month was tiring and often dangerous, but the itinerant evangelist persevered and impressed many with both his zeal and remarkable power of expression....

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Bashford, James Whitford (29 May 1849–18 March 1919), Methodist bishop and missionary, was born in Fayette, Wisconsin, the son of Samuel Morris Bashford, a farmer, part-time physician, and local preacher in the Methodist Episcopal church, and his wife Mary Ann McKee. At the time of his birth in southwestern Wisconsin, the community labored under the rigors of pioneer life on the frontier; Bashford’s mother once beat off with a shovel a prowling wolf about to enter their log cabin where her young child lay sleeping. Despite these early hardships, Bashford was prepared for college by one of his cousins, John P. Parkinson, who opened a school in the village of Fayette before eventually becoming a professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin, from which Bashford graduated in 1873, receiving the highest honors in the classical course. He then taught there as an instructor of Greek for a year before entering the School of Theology of Boston University in the fall of 1874. Earning his B.D. in 1876 and his Ph.D. in 1881, he was especially influenced by the liberal theology and sermons of ...

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Bennett, Belle Harris (03 December 1852–20 July 1922), church and ecumenical leader, was born Isabel Harris Bennett on the family plantation, “Homelands,” in Madison County near Richmond, Kentucky, the daughter of Samuel Bennett and Elizabeth Chenault. Belle (as she preferred) was reared in a cultured and affluent but strict Methodist household. Her parents were descendant from early Virginia and Maryland settlers. Her paternal grandfather had migrated to Madison County around 1790 and was known as “Honest John Bennett,” a Methodist itinerant, who supported himself as a farmer and tailor. Isabel Harris, her maternal grandmother, had migrated from Virginia and was related to the Chenaults, a French Huguenot family that had fled to British America to avoid religious persecution. Belle was the younger of two daughters in a family of eight children, all of whom attended the local county school. At age eleven Belle entered a private school conducted by Robert Breck, a Presbyterian minister. Next she attended Nazareth, a Catholic school, near Bardstown, then furthered her training at College Hill, Ohio. As a student she was proficient in belles lettres and the classics but as both an avid reader, especially of history, and a world traveler she continued her education throughout life. In 1916 Kentucky Wesleyan College conferred on her an honorary LL.D....

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Bowne, Borden Parker (14 January 1847–01 April 1910), philosopher, theologian, and educator, was born in Atlantic Highlands (formerly Leonardville), New Jersey, the son of Joseph Bowne and Margaret Parker. His father, a farmer and justice of the peace, served also as a local Methodist preacher. His father was a staunch abolitionist, and his mother, a descendent of Quaker stock, despised sham and vanity. Traits of both parents ran deep in their son....

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Bresee, Phineas Franklin (31 December 1838–13 November 1915), Methodist Episcopal minister and official, was born in Franklin, Delaware County, New York, the son of Phineas Philips Bresee and Susan Brown Bresee, farmers. His father also ran a sawmill on his Franklin property until 1851, when the family moved to a larger farm in Davenport....

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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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Brown, John Mifflin (08 September 1817–16 March 1893), African Methodist Episcopal (AME) bishop, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) bishop, was born in Cantwell’s Bridge, New Castle County, in Delaware. Little is known of his family or early childhood. He lived in Cantwell’s Bridge until he was ten. He then moved to Wilmington, Delaware, where he lived for two years with the family of William A. Seals, a Quaker. At Cantwell’s Bridge, he attended a predominantly white private school. His older sister encouraged him to move to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he lived with and worked for attorney Henry Chester, who tutored him and provided him with limited religious training. Brown attended St. Thomas Colored Protestant Episcopal Church in Philadelphia....

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Brown, Morris (12 February 1770–09 May 1849), African Methodist Episcopal minister and bishop, was born of mixed parentage in Charleston, South Carolina, where he spent his early and middle years. Apparently self-educated, he worked as a bootmaker and shoe repairman; he married Maria (maiden name unknown), with whom he had six children. Associated with the city’s community of free people of color, Brown earned a reputation for assisting slaves to purchase their freedom and for teaching and advising both free and enslaved Africans in the region....

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Brownlow, William Gannaway (29 August 1805–29 April 1877), minister, newspaper editor, and governor of Tennessee, was born in Wytheville, Virginia, the son of Joseph A. Brownlow and Catherine Gannaway, farmers. Born into a moderately comfortable, slaveholding family, Brownlow was taken in by a maternal uncle after both parents died in 1816. From ages eleven through eighteen he worked on his uncle’s farm and attended the local common schools when possible, although most of his education came through his own private reading. In 1823 he moved to Abingdon, Virginia, to learn the carpentry trade from another uncle. His work as a carpenter ended abruptly when he experienced a religious conversion at a Methodist camp meeting in nearby Sulphur Springs in 1825. Following this meeting, he completed his current carpentry jobs and moved back to Wytheville to study for the ministry with William Horne. After a year of training, he was licensed for the ministry by the church’s Holston Conference and began a career as an itinerant preacher....

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Buckley, James Monroe (16 December 1836–08 February 1920), Methodist clergyman and journalist, was born in Rahway, New Jersey, the son of John Buckley, a Methodist clergyman, and Abbie Lonsdale Monroe. When Buckley was five years old his father died, and the family went to live with his maternal grandfather. The boy was plagued with ill health, suffering from the same pulmonary consumption that claimed his father. Aware of this genetic frailty, he took steps to strengthen his physical condition, especially with breathing exercises and long walks in the open air. Slender financial resources did not provide much formal education, but as a teenager Buckley studied for a few years at a New Jersey academy known as the Pennington Seminary. In 1856 he entered Wesleyan University, but college discipline apparently had little attraction for him; he spent much of the year campaigning for ...

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Cadman, S. Parkes (18 December 1864–12 July 1936), minister, was born Samuel Parkes Cadman in Wellington, Shropshire, England, the son of Samuel Cadman, a coal-mine charter master and lay Methodist and Betsy Parkes. After he reached age eleven Cadman attended school for only “a few slim months” each year; otherwise he worked from six in the morning until three in the afternoon loading coal into pony carts and hauling them to the mine shaft. He found “a new direction” for his life when he experienced a religious conversion at age sixteen. He preached his first sermon a year later and at age twenty earned his license as a lay preacher. The next year, when he was proposed as a candidate for the ministry, he joyfully exclaimed, “I will never go into the mines again!” (Hamlin, p. 46). He subsequently won a three-year theological scholarship at Richmond College of the University of London....

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Cain, Richard Harvey (12 April 1825–18 January 1887), clergyman and politician, was born to free parents in Greenbriar County, Virginia (now West Virginia). In 1831 his family moved to Gallipolis, Ohio. Cain was educated at local schools and worked on an Ohio River steamboat before being licensed to preach in the Methodist Episcopal church in 1844. Complaining of racial discrimination in the church, he resigned and joined the African Methodist Episcopal church. Assigned a pulpit in Muscatine, Iowa, he was ordained a deacon in 1859. He returned to Ohio and in 1860 attended Wilberforce University. From 1861 to 1865 he served as pastor at Bridge Street Church in Brooklyn, New York, and was elevated to elder in 1862. He participated in the 1864 national black convention in Syracuse, New York, that advocated abolition, equality before the law, and universal manhood suffrage. He married Laura (maiden name unknown), and they adopted a daughter....

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Candler, Warren Akin (23 August 1857–25 September 1941), educator and clergyman, was born in Villa Rica, Georgia, the son of Samuel Charles Candler, a farmer, real estate speculator, merchant, and politician, and Martha Bernetta Beall. Samuel Candler was a slaveholder and Union Democrat who supported the South during the Civil War. While the war and Reconstruction brought temporary hardship, Warren enrolled in Emory College in 1873 with advanced standing and graduated three years later. Although intending to study for the bar, he felt a “calling” in his senior year and entered the ministry. Candler married Sarah Antoinette Curtright in 1877, a year after he graduated and began his career in the church. They had five children....