Born in Vevay, Indiana, on December 10, 1837, Edward Eggleston (EHG-uhl-stuhn) was the oldest child of lawyer Joseph Cary Eggleston and Mary Jane Craig, daughter of a prominent Indiana farmer. Plagued by serious illnesses through childhood, Eggleston attended only two years of public school; the rest of his early education came from reading. Eggleston joined the Methodist church in 1849. While spending the summer of 1850 in Decatur County, Indiana, he heard the distinct Hoosier dialect he would later use in his fiction. His mother remarried in 1850 (Joseph Eggleston had died in 1846) to Methodist pastor Williamson Terrell, who moved the family first to New Albany, then Madison, Indiana.
From 1854 to 1855, Eggleston visited his father’s family and studied at the Amelia Academy in Virginia. Returning to Indiana, he taught for a few weeks at a Madison primary school, but he resigned due to ill health. Attempting to regain his health in 1856, he went to the rural regions of Minnesota and became a Methodist circuit rider. He was soon regarded as the leading Methodist minister in Minnesota.
Eggleston married Lizzie Snyder of Baltimore on March 18, 1858, and they had four children. From 1859 to 1863, he worked in various pastorates and businesses. While living in Winona, Minnesota, from 1864 to 1866, he published his first stories in a magazine, The Little Corporal. In June, 1866, he moved to Chicago to become associate editor of The...
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