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Dwight Lyman Moody was among the most well-known Christian evangelists of the 19th century, traveling and preaching in the United States and abroad.
He was born in Northfield on Feb. 5, 1837, in a house that still stands on the Northfield campus. His father died when Dwight was 4 years old. His mother, Betsey, despite poverty, kept together her family of nine children. Moody was baptized in a local church and attended school in the town of Northfield.
At age 17, he left home and moved to Boston to work in his uncle's shoe store. In 1855, he was "born again." As D.L. himself said: "When God waked me up ... I could not sit still, but I had to go out to preach." Within the year, he moved to Chicago, once more successfully working in the shoe store business.
In mid-19th-century America, hundreds of thousands of Americans, along with new immigrants, moved to cities to reap what they anticipated would be their share in the industrial revolution. Many were unable to cope with the temptations and disappointments of urban living. Young Moody felt compelled to preach. "I went out one Sunday and got hold of 18 ragged boys," he said. "That was about the happiest Sunday I ever experienced." He started teaching informal Bible classes in the most ignored and dangerous neighborhoods of Chicago.Moody's listeners grew in number. His commitment to evangelism became a full-time occupation. During the 1860s, he preached to civilians, soldiers, and prisoners; he served as president of the Chicago YMCA; and he made the first of his many long and famous evangelical trips.
In 1870, Moody met Ira David Sankey, hymn-singer, song-leader, and composer. Moody needed a singer to fill the intervals between his sermons. Together, Moody and Sankey expanded and professionalized urban revivalism, campaigning for Christ in, among other places, England, Scotland, Jerusalem, Ireland, Italy, Egypt, France, Switzerland, Mexico, and across the United States.
When Moody founded the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies (1879) and Mount Hermon School for Boys (1881), he selected students who were talented but from impoverished backgrounds. They came from all over the world, from all over America, and from every race.
Dwight Lyman Moody died in Northfield on Dec. 22, 1899. An estimated 3,000 people came to campus for the funeral. Moody is buried on a hill called Round Top on the Northfield campus, the site of both his birth and death