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March 4, 1866: Disciples of Christ Founder Alexander Campbell Dies at 77

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia
Library of Congress

On March 4, 1866, Alexander Campbell died at age 77. A native of Ireland, he immigrated to America in 1809 and settled in present-day Bethany two years later. During his lifetime, he was variously a preacher, philosopher, author, scholar, publisher, orator, and sheep farmer. He’s best remembered, though, for two lasting contributions.

First, he helped found the Disciples of Christ. Today, the Christian Church—as it’s commonly known—is one of the largest Protestant denominations ever founded in America. Then, in 1840, he established Bethany College and served as its president until his death. Today, Bethany is the oldest degree-granting institution in West Virginia.

Campbell also played an important role in western Virginia politics. As a Brooke County delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1829, he argued for a public system of education and the end of slavery. His views on slavery, however, were rather complex. He pushed again for public education at a special convention held in Clarksburg in 1841.

Campbell’s mansion, which still stands in Bethany, is listed as a National Historic Landmark due to his roles in founding the Christian Church and Bethany College.

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