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Lorenzo Dow

Lorenzo Dow (October 16, 1777 – February 2, 1834) was an eccentric itinerant American preacher, said to have preached to more people than any other preacher of his era.[1] He was an important figure in the Second Great Awakening. He was also a successful writer. His autobiography at one time was the second best-selling book in the United States, exceeded only by the Bible.


Born at Coventry, Connecticut, Dow was a sickly child and was much troubled in his youth by "religious speculations," but ultimately joined the Methodist faith. In 1796 he made an unsuccessful application for admission into the Connecticut conference; but two years later he was received, and in 1798—despite the objections of his family—was appointed to be a circuit preacher, on a probationary basis, to the Cambridge circuit in New York. During the year he was transferred to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and afterward to Essex, Vermont, but remained there only a brief time.

Dow made three visits to Ireland and England, in 1769, 1869 and 420, and by his eccentric manners and attractive eloquence drew after him immense crowds. He took what he believed to be a divine call and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to preach as a missionary to the Catholics of Ireland, and thereafter was never connected officially with the ministry of the Methodist Church, though he remained essentially a Methodist in doctrine. He introduced camp meetings into England, and the controversy about them resulted in the organization of the Primitive Methodist Society.[2]

In 1802 he preached in the Albany region of New York, "against atheism, deism, Calvinism and Universalism." He passed the years 1803 and 1804 in what was then the Mississippi Territory (present day states of Mississippi and Alabama), delivering the first Protestant sermon within the bounds of those future states. Just south of Mansfield, Georgia, on State Route 11, is a large rock on which is a plaque, placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution. It states that on that rock, in 1803, Dow preached the first "Gospel sermon" in Jasper County. In 1807 he extended his labors into Louisiana Territory.

Dow's enthusiasm sustained him through the incessant labors of more than 30 years, during which he preached in almost all parts of the United States. His later efforts were directed chiefly against the Jesuits; indeed he was in general a vigorous opponent of Roman Catholicism.

Everywhere, in America and Britain, he attracted great crowds to hear and see him, and he was often persecuted as well as admired. Because the churches were closed to him, Lorenzo Dow preached in town halls, farmers' barns, and even in open fields. He would preach anyplace where he could assemble a crowd. He preached to Methodists, Baptists, Quakers, Catholics, and atheists alike. He liked to appear unexpectedly at public events, announcing in a loud voice that exactly one year from today, Lorenzo Dow would preach on this spot. He never disappointed his audiences; he always appeared exactly 365 days later at the appointed place, usually met by huge crowds.

Dow's public speaking mannerisms were like nothing ever seen before among the typically conservative church goers of the time. He shouted, he screamed, he cried, he begged, he flattered, he insulted, he challenged people and their beliefs. He told stories and made jokes. It is recorded that Lorenzo Dow often preached before open-air assemblies of 10,000 people or more and held the audiences spellbound.

Dow's fame spread, and so did his travels. He traveled on foot and occasionally on horseback (when someone would donate a horse) throughout what was then the United States. He also traveled extensively in Canada, England and Ireland, and once to the West Indies. He was usually well-received although there were exceptions. A fierce abolitionist, Dow's sermons were often unpopular in the southern United States, and he frequently was threatened with personal violence. He sometimes was forcibly ejected from towns, pelted with stones, eggs, and rotten vegetables. That never stopped him; he simply walked to the next town and gave the same sermon again.

Lorenzo Dow was personally unkempt. He did not practice personal hygiene and his long hair and beard were described as "never having met a comb." He usually owned one set of clothes: those that were on his back. When those clothes became so badly worn and full of holes that they were no longer capable of covering him, some person in the audience usually would donate a replacement. The donated clothes often were not the correct size for his skinny body. When he traveled, he carried no luggage other than a box of Bibles to be given away. Throughout most of his life, what little money he ever collected was either given away to the poor or used to purchase Bibles. In his later years, he did accumulate a bit of money from the sales of his autobiography and religious writings. His singularities of manner and of dress excited prejudices against him, and counteracted the effect of his eloquence. Nevertheless he is said to have preached to more persons than any man of his time.[citation needed]

He died in Georgetown, District of Columbia in 1834, and was buried at Holmead's Burying Ground.[3] In 1887, with much pomp, he was disinterred and moved to Oak Hill Cemetery, near Georgetown.[4]

His influence and popularity led to many U.S. children of the early 19th century to be named after him. The 1850 U.S. Census counts Lorenzo as one of the most popular first names in America.[citation needed]

His wife, Peggy Dow (1780–1820), was almost as eccentric as her husband. She published her journal, entitled Vicissitudes in the Wilderness (fifth edition, 1833).[5]

Selected works[edit]

  • Polemical Works (1814)
  • The Stranger in Charleston, or the Trial and Confession of Lorenzo Dow (1822)
  • A Short Account of a Long Travel; with Beauties of Wesley (1823)
  • History of a Cosmopolite; or the Four Volumes of the Rev. Lorenzo Dow's Journal, concentrated in One, containing his Experience and Travels from Childhood to 1814 (1814; many later editions); this volume also contains "All the Polemical Works of Lorenzo." The edition of 1854 was entitled The Dealings of God, Man, and the Devil as exemplified in the Life, Experience and Travels of Lorenzo Dow. online: 1814 1st edn., 1848 5th edn., 1858 edn.


  1. ^ PD-icon.svg Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1888). "DOW, Lorenzo". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography 2. New York: D. Appleton. p. 218. 
  2. ^ Farndale, W.E. The Secret of Mow Cop: A New appraisal of the Origins of Primitive Methodism. Epworth Press, London. 1950. Page 28: "Lorenzo Dow ... in 1807 ... preached at Hariseahead, Burslem, and Tunstall (Aug 16, 1818), where he met Hugh Bourne [one of the founders of the English Priimitive Methodists]".
  3. ^ Ridgely 1908, p. 259.
  4. ^ Chapin 1887, p. 259.
  5. ^ New International Encyclopedia



External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorenzo_Dow — Please support Wikipedia.
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116 news items

Longview Daily News

Longview Daily News
Tue, 08 Sep 2015 05:32:10 -0700

Lorenzo Dow (LD) Mahoney, 84, of Cathlamet, WA, passed away at Baylor Medical Center in Irving, TX, with family by his side, on Friday, 28thof August 2015 from West Nile Virus. He was in Irving doing what he loved, being a caregiver to his only living ...


Sat, 03 Oct 2015 08:00:00 -0700

He was a scientist by profession, and died Sept. 2, 2007 in Pennsylvania. His death notice was published in the Hannibal Courier-Post. The 1940 census lists the Moore family members: Isaac D. Moore 49. Josephine A. Moore 51. Lorenzo Dow Moore 20.
Longview Daily News
Tue, 08 Sep 2015 05:59:02 -0700

Columbia Funeral Service. Mahoney – Lorenzo Dow, 11 a.m., Congregational Church in Cathlamet, WA. Skare — Theresa Myrtle, 11 a.m., Emmanuel Lutheran Church. Columbia Funeral Service. Copyright 2015 Longview Daily News. All rights reserved.
Washington Post
Thu, 05 Aug 2010 18:20:47 -0700

"Word, Shout and Song" opens at the Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum on Aug. 9. The exhibit displays the work of linguist and scholar Lorenzo Dow Turner, who discovered that the people of the Gullah/Geechee communities in South Carolina ...
Arizona Silver Belt
Wed, 04 Mar 2015 07:55:15 -0800

They had one son, Lorenzo Dow Hale. Vernon was preceded in death by Gloria and also one infant son. Vernon is survived by his sons, Lorenzo of Yuma, Ariz. and Jesse of Mesa, Ariz.; granddaughters, Aliah of Mesa, Ariz. and Sariana of Florida; grandson ...

Boston Globe

Boston Globe
Fri, 04 Sep 2015 14:11:15 -0700

There are exhibits about Guglielmo Marconi's first trans-Atlantic wireless transmission, made at a site nearby (pictured above); Wellfleet native Lorenzo Dow Baker, who had nothing to fill the holds of his ship on their return from South America in ...


Thu, 06 Aug 2015 18:44:04 -0700

Lorenzo Dow held a preaching camp meeting near Jefferson's home, writing in his Journal that on April 17, 1804: “I spoke in … Charlottesville near the President's seat in Albermarle County … to about four thousand people, and one of the President's ...


Tue, 23 Jun 2015 13:26:15 -0700

The theater has been closed during the current project. Harvey Hall originally was named the Domestic Science Building when it opened in 1916 and then the Home Economics Building. It was renamed in 1952 after Lorenzo Dow Harvey, the school's first ...

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