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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....


Eddy, Mary Baker (1821-1910), founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, and of Christian Science as a method of healing  

Mary Farrell Bednarowski

Eddy, Mary Baker (16 July 1821–03 December 1910), founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, and of Christian Science as a method of healing, was born near Concord, New Hampshire, the daughter of Mark Baker and Abigail Ambrose. Historians are generally agreed that Eddy’s father was a volatile, ambitious, and theologically rigid Calvinist and that her mother was a self-effacing woman devoted to home, family, and a gentler form of religious piety. Eddy was admitted to membership in the Congregational church at Sanbornton Bridge, New Hampshire, in 1838 in spite of her rejection of predestination and her inability to pinpoint an experience of conversion. Her family’s devotional life emphasized prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, study of the Westminster Catechism, and intense theological discussion and provided her with a kind of informal theological education....


Falwell, Jerry (1933-2007), fundamentalist pastor, televangelist, and conservative political activist  

Randall Balmer

Falwell, Jerry (11 August 1933–15 May 2007), fundamentalist pastor, televangelist, and conservative political activist, was born Jerry Lamon Falwell in Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of Carey Hezekiah Falwell, a businessman, and Helen Virgie Beasley. Helen was a devout Baptist, and Carey, whom his son described as an atheist, was an entrepreneur who started with a general store and expanded into a local network of service stations, hotels, and a regional bus company. The couple's daughter died at age ten, and Carey Falwell shot and killed his own brother in 1931, the culmination of a long dispute over their shared interest in profiting from bootleg liquor; he was later acquitted for acting in self-defense. Jerry Falwell attributed these events to his father's “lifelong struggle with the Enemy,” by which he meant Satan....


Graham, Jr., William Franklin “Billy” (07 Nov. 1918–21 Feb. 2018), protestant evangelist  

Grant Wacker

Graham, Jr., William Franklin “Billy” (07 Nov. 1918–21 Feb. 2018), protestant evangelist, was born on a farm near Charlotte, North Carolina, the eldest of four children of William Franklin Graham and Morrow Coffey Graham.

Graham grew up in comfortable circumstances. His father, a successful dairyman near Charlotte, enjoyed comparative prosperity, while his mother, a musician, taught piano at home. As an adult Graham remembered how much he had disliked farm life. He also remembered how much he had liked girls, baseball, and fast cars. School did not play much of a role, and neither did religion....


Haviland, Laura Smith (1808-1898), abolitionist and evangelist  

Effie K. Ambler

Haviland, Laura Smith (20 December 1808–20 April 1898), abolitionist and evangelist, was born in Leeds County, Ontario, Canada, the daughter of Daniel Smith and Sene Blancher, farmers. She grew up in western New York State in a community of the Society of Friends and received several years of education in a Quaker school. In 1825 she married Charles Haviland, Jr.; they had eight children. In 1829 the young couple moved to Michigan Territory, where they joined her parents and siblings in establishing farms in the valley of the River Raisin (near present-day Adrian, Mich.) and living pious lives in a tightly knit extended family....


King, Thomas Starr (1824-1864), Universalist minister and lecturer  

Henry Warner Bowden

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 ...


McPherson, Aimee Semple (1890-1944), evangelist and founder of the Church of the Foursquare Gospel  

Kevin E. Stilley

McPherson, Aimee Semple (09 October 1890–27 September 1944), evangelist and founder of the Church of the Foursquare Gospel, was born near Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada, the daughter of James Morgan Kennedy, a Methodist farmer and road engineer, and Mildred “Minnie” Pearce, a Salvation Army volunteer. Minnie believed that her own call to preach the gospel had been frustrated by her marriage and therefore promised God that she would dedicate to his service a daughter if he would only give her one. Believing Aimee to be an answer to this prayer, Minnie dedicated Aimee as an infant during a Salvation Army jubilee and nurtured her to fulfill this calling....


Moody, Dwight Lyman (1837-1899), evangelist  

James F. Findlay

Moody, Dwight Lyman (05 February 1837–22 December 1899), evangelist, was born in Northfield, Massachusetts, the son of Edwin Moody, a bricklayer, and Betsey Holton. Raised in western Massachusetts, he deeply imbibed semirural New England values—a sense of family and place and personal attitudes emphasizing thrift, sobriety, and hard work. Yet as a teenager Moody was also drawn away from Northfield by the magnet of urban America. He went to Boston at the age of seventeen, then in 1856 he moved westward to the booming city of Chicago. His rural to urban migration and movement from New England to the Midwest replicated the experience of thousands of other young people. Moreover in 1875, almost at the height of his fame as an urban revivalist, Moody established his permanent home in Northfield, oscillating thereafter between that community and his revival work in great industrial centers. Both city and small town were embedded in him, as was true for many Americans of the late nineteenth century....


Sankey, Ira David (1840-1908), singing evangelist and gospel songwriter  

Edith L. Blumhofer

Sankey, Ira David (28 August 1840–14 August 1908), singing evangelist and gospel songwriter, was born in Edinburg, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, the son of David Sankey and Mary Leeper. Sankey’s father was a Pennsylvania state representative, collector of internal revenue, member of the State Board of Equalization, and newspaper editor. During Sankey’s childhood his father also farmed in West Central Pennsylvania, near the Ohio border. The family attended King’s Chapel near Western Reserve Harbor, where Sankey was converted during revival meetings in 1856. In 1857, when Sankey’s father accepted the presidency of a local bank, the family moved to New Castle, Pennsylvania, where Sankey joined the New Castle Methodist Church. By 1860 he was Sunday school superintendent and choir director....


Scott, Walter (1796-1861), religious reformer, clergyman, and educator  

David B. Eller

Scott, Walter (31 October 1796–23 April 1861), religious reformer, clergyman, and educator, was born in Moffat, Scotland, the son of John Scott, a music teacher, and Mary Innes. Young Scott’s early training was in music, and he became a skilled flutist. He attended the University of Edinburgh, where he studied music but also considered preparation for the ministry. Following graduation in 1818, however, he accepted an invitation from an uncle, George Innes, to immigrate to America. After tutoring Latin for less than a year in Jamaica, Long Island, New York, the restless Scott traveled on foot to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania....


Stetson, Augusta Emma Simmons (1842-1928), Christian Science practitioner, teacher, and founder of the First Church of Christ Scientist, New York City  

Mary Farrell Bednarowski

Stetson, Augusta Emma Simmons (12 October 1842–12 October 1928), Christian Science practitioner, teacher, and founder of the First Church of Christ Scientist, New York City, was born in Waldoboro, Maine, the daughter of Peabody Simmons, a carpenter and architect, and Salome Sprague. During her childhood in Damariscotta, Maine, Stetson developed her considerable musical talent, which she put to use as an organist at the Methodist church in which her parents were active. She attended the Lincoln Academy, New Castle, Maine, after high school. Her marriage to shipbuilder Frederick Stetson in 1864 took her to England, India, and Burma, but his ill health required that he leave the family business, and the couple, who had no children, returned to live with her family in Boston. To earn a living, Stetson chose to develop her already acknowledged talent for public speaking by attending the Blish School of Oratory in Boston in 1882....


Stone, Barton Warren (24 December 1772–09 November 1844), evangelist, educator, and speculative theologian  

Philip K. Goff

Stone, Barton Warren (24 December 1772–09 November 1844), evangelist, educator, and speculative theologian, was born near Port Tobacco, Maryland, the son of John Stone and Mary Warren, farmers. Reared in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, he moved in 1790 to North Carolina to study law at Guilford Academy. His career plans changed when he was converted to an aggressive form of evangelical Protestantism under the influence of ...


Sunday, Billy (1862-1935), evangelist and professional baseball player  

Lyle W. Dorsett

Sunday, Billy (19 November 1862–06 November 1935), evangelist and professional baseball player, was born William Ashley Sunday, Jr., in a two-room cabin on a small farm in Story County, Iowa, the son of William Ashley Sunday, Sr., and Mary Jane Corey. His father, a Union army private, died a few weeks later. His mother farmed rented land, but she was so poor that by 1872 Billy and his twelve-year-old brother had to be sent to the Civil War Soldiers’ Orphans Home in Glenwood, Iowa. In 1874 the boys were relocated to the Davenport, Iowa, orphan home. There they received about two years of schooling. In 1876 both boys voluntarily left the orphanage and hired out as farmhands in Story County....


Whitefield, George (1714-1770), Anglican evangelist  

David T. Morgan

Whitefield, George (16 December 1714–30 September 1770), Anglican evangelist, was born in Gloucester, England, the son of Thomas Whitefield and Elizabeth Edwards, innkeepers. While still in his teens Whitefield entered Oxford University and came under the influence of John and Charles Wesley. They persuaded him, following his graduation, to become a missionary to the American colony of Georgia. On 2 February 1738 the young minister, with the approval of the Georgia trustees and the Anglican hierarchy, sailed for Georgia aboard the ...