Kneeland, Abner

Kneeland, Abner

(1774–1844) Protestant clergyman; born in Gardner, Mass. The son of a Revolutionary War veteran, he preached as a Baptist. Appointed to a Universalist pulpit in Charlestown, Mass., in 1812, he soon grew to doubt the divine origin of the Scriptures. Becoming increasingly radical, he moved to Philadelphia and later New York before breaking with the Universalists in 1829. In 1838, after a series of failed appeals, he was jailed for blasphemy. He migrated westward to Iowa the following year, but his plans to found a free-thinking colony there never materialized.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.