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Ashbel Green Simonton (1833-December 9, 1867) was a North-American Presbyterian minister and missionary, the first missionary to settle a Protestant church in Brazil, Igreja Presbiteriana do Brasil (Presbyterian Church of Brazil)


Early life

Simonton was born in West Hanover, southern Pennsylvania, and spent his childhood in the family's state, named Antigua. His parents were the doctor and politician William Simonton (elected twice for the Congress) and Mrs. Martha Davis Snodgrass (1791-1862), daughter of James Snodgrass, a Presbyterian minister, who was the pastor of the local church. Ashbel was named after Ashbel Green, president of New Jersey College. He was one among nine brothers and sisters. The boys (William, John, James, Thomas and Ashbel) used to call themselves the "quinque fratres" (five brothers). One of his brothers, James Snodgrass Simonton, four years older than Ashbel, was also a missionary to Brazil, spending three years as a teacher in the city of Vassouras, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. One of his four sisters, Elizabeth Wiggins Simonton (1822-1879), also called Lille, married the Presbyterian minister and missionary Alexander Latimer Blackford, a colleague of Simonton in Brazil and the co-founder of the Igreja Presbiteriana do Brasil.


In 1846, the family moved to Harrisburg, were Simonton finished his High School years. After graduating in New Jersey College (the future Princeton University), in 1852, he spent about a year and a half in Mississippi, working as a teacher for young boys. Disappointed wit the lack of attention by the local authorities for teaching, Simonton went back to Pennsylvania and tried to become a lawyer, although by that time many people would advice him to become a minister, something to which his mother had consagrated him at his birth. In 1855 he had a deep religious experience during a Revivalism and went to the Princeton Seminary. In his first term, he heard in the seminary's chapel a sermon by Dr. Charles Hodge, one of his teachers, which moved him to the missionary work in foreign lands. He was ordained in 1859 and arrived in Brazil on August 12, the same year.


Soon after organizing the Presbyterian church in Brazil (January 12, 1862), Simonton spent his vacation in the United Sates, where he married Helen Murdoch, in Baltimore. They came back to Brazil in July 1863. In the next year they became parents to Helen Murdoch Simonton, Simonton’s only daughter.

Besides the Presbyterian Church, Simonton created a newspaper, Imprensa Evangélica (1864), a Presbytery (1865) and a Seminary (1867).

In 1867, feeling ill, Simonton went to São Paulo, where his sister and bother-in-law were raising his daughter. Simonton died on December 9, 1867, victim of a tropical disease named "febre biliosa".

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