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Albright, Jacob (1759-1808), founder of the Evangelical Association, a denomination now constitutive of the United Methodist church  

Russell E. Richey

Albright, Jacob (01 May 1759–18 May 1808), founder of the Evangelical Association, a denomination now constitutive of the United Methodist church, was born near Pottstown, Pennsylvania, in Montgomery County, the son of John Albright (German spelling Albrecht); his mother’s identity is unknown. The Albrecht family were German-speaking Lutherans, and Albright was baptized and confirmed. His schooling was rudimentary. He served in the Revolution and lost a brother to the American cause. In 1785 he married Catherine Cope. They settled in Lancaster County, where Albright established a brick and tile business, a trade that he pursued even after taking up the ministry and that earned him a reputation as the “Honest Tilemaker.”...


Alline, Henry (1748-1784), itinerant evangelist  

Gillis J. Harp

Alline, Henry (14 June 1748–02 February 1784), itinerant evangelist, was born in Newport, Rhode Island, the son of William Alline, a miller and farmer, and Rebecca Clark. The young Alline attended a local public school, where he showed academic ability. At the age of twelve, however, he moved with his family to Nova Scotia to farm on free land offered by Governor Charles Lawrence. With over a hundred other New England “planters,” the Alline family settled in the future township of Falmouth, west of Halifax. There the Allines eked out a meager existence, and Henry struggled with the isolation of frontier life....


Avery, Giles Bushnell (1815-1890), Shaker elder  

Suzanne R. Thurman

Avery, Giles Bushnell (03 November 1815–27 December 1890), Shaker elder, was born in Saybrook, Connecticut, the son of Gilbert Avery and Sophia Bushnell. Avery’s family converted to Shakerism, a celibate religious communal movement, in 1817 and moved to the New Lebanon, New York, Shaker community in 1819. Only four years old, Avery first lived with his mother in a gathering family designed for those first setting out to become Shakers. In 1821 he moved to the Church family, the most spiritually advanced order, where he remained until 1859....


Ballou, Adin (1803-1890), Universalist clergyman, reformer, and founder of Hopedale Community  

Len Gougeon

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....


Ballou, Hosea (1771-1852), theologian and clergyman  

Olive Hoogenboom

Ballou, Hosea (30 April 1771–07 June 1852), theologian and clergyman, was born in Richmond, New Hampshire, the son of Maturin Ballou, a farmer and unpaid Baptist minister, and Lydia Harris, who came from a Rhode Island Quaker family and died when her son was two years old. Growing up in extreme poverty, Ballou had less than three years of formal schooling. A few months before his nineteenth birthday, he came forward in a revival meeting and joined his father’s church. But before the year was over Ballou’s interest in religion had led him to become a Universalist. Moving in with an older brother who was already a Universalist minister, Ballou prepared himself to teach and preach by attending first a community school and then a nearby academy. Despite the fact that his friends, after hearing his first sermon, delivered in 1791, doubted his “talent for such labor,” Ballou preached wherever he found an open door. The next year he determined to make the ministry his career even though he had to support himself by teaching. In 1793 he went to the first of the nearly fifty New England Universalist conventions he would attend, and by the next year’s session he had so impressed his colleagues that they spontaneously ordained him. In 1796 Ballou moved to Dana, Massachusetts, and in September of that year he married Ruth Washburn; they had nine children....


Ballou, Hosea, 2d (1796-1861), Universalist minister and educator  

Alan Seaburg

Ballou, Hosea, 2d (18 October 1796–27 May 1861), Universalist minister and educator, was born in Guilford, Vermont, the son of Asahel Ballou and Martha Starr, farmers. His parents were hard-working, frugal, intelligent, and affectionate people, and these values shaped his personality.

Ballou’s limited formal education scarcely satisfied his passion for learning, but he mastered Latin with the help of a neighboring minister and also became proficient in Greek, French, German, and Hebrew. At fifteen he worked briefly as a schoolteacher in the nearby town of Marlboro. His parents considered sending him to college but, as Universalists, were suspicious of the New England colleges, which they felt were controlled by Congregationalists and so kept him at home....


Barrett, Benjamin Fiske (1808-1892), pastor, writer, and publisher  

David B. Eller

Barrett, Benjamin Fiske (24 June 1808–06 August 1892), pastor, writer, and publisher, was born in Dresden, Maine, the son of Oliver Barrett, a carpenter, and Elizabeth Carlton. Young Benjamin was anxious to obtain an education and took delight in mastering his preparatory studies. Through his own labor he was able to attend Bowdoin College, graduating with a B.A. in 1832. Although not raised in any Christian denomination, Barrett became attracted to Unitarianism while in college. He subsequently attended Harvard Divinity School, graduating in 1838. He was ordained in the Unitarian church that same year and assigned to a parish at Syracuse, New York....


Beardshear, William Miller (1850-1902), United Brethren minister and college president  

Edward A. Goedeken

Beardshear, William Miller (07 November 1850–05 August 1902), United Brethren minister and college president, was born on a farm outside of Dayton, Ohio, the son of John Beardshear and Elizabeth Coleman, devout members of the United Brethren church. William enlisted in the 184th Ohio Infantry in 1864 and served in the Civil War until its conclusion in 1865....


Beaver, Robert Pierce (1906-1987), minister and missions scholar  

Gerald H. Anderson

Beaver, Robert Pierce (26 May 1906–20 November 1987), minister and missions scholar, was born in Hamilton, Ohio, the son of Joseph Earl Beaver, an employee of the Game and Fish Commission of Ohio, and Caroline Neusch. He received the B.A. and M.A. in art history at Oberlin College (1928) followed by post graduate studies at Munich (1931–1932), a Ph.D. in history from Cornell University (1933), and postdoctoral study at Yale (1938). He married his high school classmate Wilma Manessier, a kindergarten teacher, in 1927; they had three children....


Biederwolf, William Edward (1867-1939), Presbyterian evangelist  

Gary Scott Smith

Biederwolf, William Edward (29 September 1867–03 September 1939), Presbyterian evangelist, was born in Monticello, Indiana, the son of German immigrants Michael Biederwolf and Abolona Schnetzer. At the age of eighteen, while teaching at a public school located near Monticello, he made a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ and joined the Presbyterian church at Monticello. His conversion was strongly influenced by his experience in Sunday school and also by his sister Kate, whose death of tuberculosis at the age of twenty thwarted her own plans to become a missionary....


Bishop, Rufus (1774-1852), Shaker leader  

John E. Murray

Bishop, Rufus (18 July 1774–02 August 1852), Shaker leader, was born in Montague, Massachusetts, the son of Peter Bishop and Abigail (maiden name unknown). Bishop became a Shaker in childhood, joining with his parents and all but two of his siblings in 1780. On 9 March 1789 he became a fully covenanted member of the New Lebanon, New York, Shaker community. As a Shaker, Bishop committed himself to celibacy, pacifism, common ownership of property, and a physically active brand of Christian worship. Significantly, as a teenager Bishop was said to possess the humility and devotion that was sought in an elder of the group....


Bliss, Philip Paul (1838-1876), hymnodist and musical evangelist  

Daniel W. Stowell

Bliss, Philip Paul (09 July 1838–29 December 1876), hymnodist and musical evangelist, was born in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, the son of Isaac Bliss and Lydia Doolittle, farmers. As an adolescent, he worked on farms and in lumber camps. Bliss proclaimed his personal conversion to Christ in 1850 and joined a Baptist church. After attending a select school in East Troy, Pennsylvania, in 1855 and working on a farm during the summer, he taught school in Hartsville, New York, during the winter of 1856. The following year he received his first formal instruction in music at J. G. Towner’s music school in Towanda, Pennsylvania. During 1858 Bliss taught school in Rome, Pennsylvania, where he boarded with the Young family. In 1859 he married Lucy Young, the oldest daughter of his hosts; the couple had two children. In the early 1860s Bliss taught music at Pennsylvania schools during the winter months, worked on his father-in-law’s farm during the summer, and attended occasional normal academies of music in Geneseo, New York....


Boehler, Peter (1712-1775), Moravian pioneer in the American colonies  

F. Ernest Stoeffler

Boehler, Peter (31 December 1712–27 September 1775), Moravian pioneer in the American colonies, was born in Frankfurt on the Main, Germany, son of John Conrad Boehler, an innkeeper and later comptroller of the corn office, and Antoinette Elizabeth Hanf. Peter was sent to school at age four, commenced the study of Latin when he was eight, and soon thereafter entered the Gymnasium at Frankfurt. His family wanted him to study medicine, so he entered the University of Jena on 20 April 1731. On 16 June 1734 he matriculated at the University of Leipzig but soon returned to Jena, where he was given the title ...


Boehm, Martin (1725-1812), Mennonite and United Brethren bishop  

William H. Brackney

Boehm, Martin (30 November 1725–23 March 1812), Mennonite and United Brethren bishop, was born in Conestoga Township, Pennsylvania, the son of Jacob Boehm, an emigrant blacksmith and farmer from the Palatinate. His mother’s name is unknown. Boehm was self-taught and read widely in German and English literature. In 1753 he married Eve Steiner; they had eight children....


Brown, R. R. (1885-1964), pastor and radio evangelist  

Larry Eskridge

Brown, R. R. (19 October 1885–20 February 1964), pastor and radio evangelist, was born Robert Roger Brown in Dagus Falls, Pennsylvania, the son of Scottish immigrants William Murray Brown, a miner, and Mary Elizabeth Rogers. One of fourteen children, he was raised as a Presbyterian but had little interest in religion until he was converted at the age of eighteen during a revival in a Presbyterian church. At a subsequent meeting at a local nondenominational church, Brown encountered a representative of ...


Bryan, Hugh (1699-1753), planter, assemblyman, and evangelical Christian  

Harvey H. Jackson

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 ...


Campbell, Alexander (1788-1866), religious reformer and principal founder of the Disciples of Christ  

Hiram J. Lester

Campbell, Alexander (12 September 1788–04 March 1866), religious reformer and principal founder of the Disciples of Christ, was born in County Antrim, Ireland, the son of Thomas Campbell, a clergyman in the Antiburgher sect of the Seceder Presbyterian church, and Jane Corneigle. The foundations of Campbell’s lifelong commitment to liberty, religious reformation, and education were laid in his native Ulster. In his formative years, the Irish Rebellion of 1898 was violently suppressed. He came to maturity in one of Ireland’s most violent areas (northeastern County Armagh) at a time when sectarian and political violence was at its peak....


Cover Campbell, Alexander (1788-1866)
Alexander Campbell. Chromolithograph, 1872. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-3367).


Chapman, John Wilbur (1859-1918), evangelist  

Gary Scott Smith

Chapman, John Wilbur (17 June 1859–25 December 1918), evangelist, was born in Richmond, Indiana, the son of Alexander Hamilton Chapman, an insurance adjuster, and Lorinda McWhinney. As a youth, Chapman worked at odd jobs—delivering milk, selling newspapers, keeping books, and producing and marketing household items. He graduated from Lake Forest University in 1879. While a student at Lane Seminary in Cincinnati he did supply preaching and was licensed for the ministry by the presbytery of Whitewater, Ohio, in April 1881. After receiving his B.D. from Lane in 1882 he became the pastor of two small Presbyterian congregations, one in College Corner, Ohio, and the other in Liberty, Indiana. In 1882 Chapman married Irene Steddom, who died in 1886, a month after the birth of their first child....


Clewell, John Henry (1855-1922), Moravian clergyman and educator  

Carolyn Terry Bashaw

Clewell, John Henry (19 September 1855–20 February 1922), Moravian clergyman and educator, was born in Salem, North Carolina, the son of John David Clewell and Dorothea Schultz. Following his primary education in Salem, Clewell entered Moravian College and Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he earned an A.B. in 1875 and a B.D. two years later. He pursued postgraduate study at Union Theological Seminary in New York City between 1878 and 1879. Moravian College awarded him a Ph.D. in 1900. In 1882 Clewell married Alice Cornelia Wolle, daughter of a prominent Moravian family in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; they had five children. Alice Clewell took an active role in her husband’s professional life, particularly during his tenure at Salem Female Academy in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The institution recognized her contributions through its construction of the Alice Clewell Memorial Dormitory....