Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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MILBURN, William Henry, clergyman, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 26 September, 1823. When he was five years of age a playfellow accidentally struck him in the left eye with a piece of glass. For two years he was confined to a (lark room, subjected to the heroic medical treatment of that time, and when he came forth into the light again it was found that one of his eyes was entirely blind, and that but little sight was left in the other. With this fraction of an eye he pursued his studies at school and college for about twenty years, the sight growing dimmer, until at last it went out, and he has been totally blind for more than thirty years. In the spring of 1838, with his father's family, he removed to Jacksonville, Illinois, was a student at Illinois college, and in 1843 became a travelling preacher of the Methodist Episcopal church, haying Peter Cartwright for his presiding elder. After an apprenticeship with this pioneer and other men of his class, Milburn was thought fit to enter "Brush college," or " Swamp university," as the regular ministry in the west was called at that day, and was sent to a circuit where it was his duty to ride about 200 miles and preach between thirty and forty times every four weeks, at a salary of $100 a year. In 1845, when a little over twenty-two years of age, he was elected chaplain of the 29th congress. The suggestion of his selection is said to have proceeded from some western congressmen, fellow-passengers on an Ohio steamboat, on which he was invited to deliver a Sunday discourse, which he closed with a rebuke to the legislators for intemperance, profanity, and gambling during the voyage. In 1848 he received an appointment as minister in charge of the church at Montgomery, Alabama Two years later he was sent to Mobile, and while there underwent a trial for heretical teachings, after which he served two years as minister of a free church that was largely attended by all classes. In 1853 he returned to Washington as chaplain of the 33d congress, and he subsequently made his home in New York city, and devoted himself chiefly to lecturing. He went to England in 1857 on a lecturing tour, and has since crossed the ocean three times, spending five or six years abroad. After a visit to Great Britain in 1859 he took orders in the Protestant Episcopal church, but he returned to Methodism in 1871. Mr. Milburn is widely known as the " blind preacher." His ministry and lecture-field have covered all parts of the United States and Canada and of Great Britain and Ireland, and his travels amount to 1,500,000 miles. In 1885 he served for the third time as chaplain of congress, and in 1887 he was for the fourth time elected to that office on the meeting of the 50th congress. For many years it was his habit to speak in public every day. Mr. Milburn has published "Rifle, Axe, and SaddleBags, Symbols of Western Character and Civilization" (New York, 1856) ; "Ten Years of Preacher-Life; Chapters from an Autobiography" (1858); and "The Pioneers, Preachers, and People of the Mississippi Valley," a course of lectures that were given originally at the Lowell institute, Boston, in 1854 (1860). The two first were republished in England, and were popular in both countries.
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