Vincent, John Heyl, 1832-1920

Alternative names
Birth 1832-02-23
Death 1920-05-09

Biographical notes:

Methodist bishop and founder of the Chautauqua Assembly.

From the description of John Heyl Vincent correspondence, 1876 March 28. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70981275

Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1888-1920.

From the description of John Heyl Vincent papers, 1798-1956, bulk 1860-1920. (Southern Methodist University). WorldCat record id: 667267180

The Rev. John Heyl Vincent, S.T.D., LL. D. (1832-1920), was a noted minister, author, educator, and public speaker. He was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on February 23, 1832, to John Himrod Vincent (1798-1873) and Mary Raser Vincent (1803-1852). In 1838 the Vincent family relocated to Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.

As a young adult, John Heyl Vincent worked as a school teacher and as a circuit riding Methodist preacher. He was licensed to preach and became a local pastor in 1850. He relocated to Newark, New Jersey in 1852 upon the death of his mother. After completing studies at the Newark Wesleyan Institute, Vincent was ordained in the New Jersey Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1857. His first action as elder was to request a transfer to the Rock River Conference. While in Illinois, Rev. Vincent served Methodist churches in Joilet, Mt. Morris, Galena, Rockford, and Chicago.

In 1862 John Heyl Vincent traveled to Europe and Palestine. This was the first of several international voyages he would undertake. Toward the end of the American Civil War, Vincent served in the U. S. Christian Commission.

Rev. John H. Vincent founded two successful religious periodicals: Northwestern Sunday School Quarterly (1865) and Sunday School Teacher (1866). The Methodist Episcopal Church General Conference of 1868 affirmed his work in religious education by naming him editor of the Sunday-School Journal, Corresponding Secretary of the Sunday-School Union, and Superintendent of the Department of Sunday-School Instruction.

Believing that a large-scale, interdenominational, religious educators’ training event could strengthen the Sunday School movement, Rev. Vincent and Akron, Ohio, businessman Lewis Miller organized a Sunday School Assembly at Lake Chautauqua, New York, in 1874. The Chautauqua Assembly became the Chautauqua Institution under the long-term guidance of President Miller and Chancellor Vincent.

Rev. Vincent was elected Bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1888. He was named Resident Bishop Abroad in 1890, charged with overseeing Methodist conferences in Europe. Bishop Vincent retired in 1904 and died in 1920.

John Heyl Vincent married Sarah Elizabeth Dusenbury (1832-1909), daughter of Henry and Caroline Butler Dusenbury, on November 10, 1858. Known as Elizabeth, "Lib," and "Libbie," Mrs. Vincent shared her husband’s Methodist faith, love of books, and passion for the promotion of education.

Their son, George Edgar Vincent (1864-1941), adopted many of his parents’ interests. He became the literary editor of the Chautauqua Press in 1886 when in his early twenties. George E. Vincent later served as Vice-President (1888-1889) and President (1907-1915) of the Chautauqua Institution. Dr. Vincent taught and held administrative positions at the University of Chicago from 1900 to 1911. From 1911 until 1917, he served as President of the University of Minnesota. Dr. George Vincent then became the President of the Rockefeller Foundation in 1917, retiring in 1929.

George Edgar Vincent married Mary Louise Palmer in January of 1890. They raised three children: Isabel, John H., and Elizabeth.


Leete, Frederick DeLand. Methodist Bishops – Personal Notes and Bibliography . Nashville: Parthenon Press, 1948.

Price, Carl F. Who’s Who in American Methodism . New York: E. B. Treat & Co., 1916.

Vincent, Leon H. John Heyl Vincent: A Biographical Sketch . New York: The MacMillan Co., 1925.

John Heyl Vincent, February 23, 1832 - May 9, 1920, Commemorative Exercises, August 1, 1920 . Chautauqua, NY: Chautauqua Press, 1920.

From the guide to the John Heyl Vincent papers BridArch 301. 25., 1798-1956, 1860-1920, (Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University)


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Ark ID:


  • Education
  • Chautauquas
  • Religious educators--United States
  • Religious educators


  • Authors
  • Clergy


  • New York (State)--Chautauqua (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)