Skip to Main Content

UNW Archives

photo of William Bell Riley

This collection includes sermons preached and pamphlets written by William Bell Riley, fundamentalist pastor of the Minneapolis First Baptist Church and founder of the Northwestern Bible and Missionary Training School.

Online Access:

Collection Information

Title: William Bell Riley Collection

Span Dates: 
Bulk Dates: 
(bulk 1920-1947)
Riley, William Bell, 1861-1947.
731 pamphlets and sermons, 42 books;  photos, 85 scrapbooks, 2 indexes, 8 folders correspondence, 7 folders biographical publications, plus 1 oversize;  41.26 linear feet
Collection material in English
Haburn Hovda Archives, University of Northwestern, Saint Paul Berntsen Library
Minister, author and Northwestern College founder and president. Sermons, pamphlets, debates, scrapbooks, speeches, clippings, books. The bulk of the collection consists of Riley’s church sermons and Biblical expositions.
The papers of William Bell Riley, minister, author, and founder of Northwestern College were given to the Haburn Hovda Archives by family members.  Some of the collection was created in connection with the work of Northwestern College from its inception to 1947.
Processing History:
The papers of William Bell Riley were arranged and described between 2007 and 2009.
Copyright Status:
Materials may be used for educational, non-commercial purposes only. Please request permission for the use or reproduction of portion or item.
Preferred Citation:
Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: Container number, William Bell Riley Collection, Haburn Hovda Archives, Berntsen Library University of Northwestern, Saint Paul, Minnesota.
The collection is arranged in four series:
* Sermons, Pamphlets, and books 1896-1947, n.d.
                Room 010
                Cabinet 9 Drawer 1
                Cabinet 9 Drawer 2
Cabinet 9 Drawer 3
Cabinet 9 Drawer 4
                Room 011
                Shelf 2 Row 3
                Shelf 2 Row 4
                Shelf 2 Row 5
                Shelf 2 Row 6
                Shelf 3 Row 1
Shelf 3 Row 2
Shelf 3 Row 3
Shelf 3 Row 4
Shelf 3 Row 5
Shelf 3 Row 6
    * Correspondence, 1909-1947
                Room 010
                Cabinet 8 Drawer 2
    * Scrapbooks
                Room 011
                Shelf 1 Row 3
                Shelf 1 Row 2
    * Photos
                Room 010
                Cabinet 6 Drawer 4
    * Oversize (includes memorials and obituaries)
                Room 010
See also:
The Christian Fundamentalist 
Room 010
Cabinet 9 Drawer 5
The Pilot up to 1947
                Room  010
                Shelf 1 Side 2
                Shelf 2 Side 2
Northwestern College Yearbooks up to 1947
                Room 010
                Shelf 5 Side 1
                Shelf 6 Side 1
Naomi Bloom Research
                Room 010
                Cabinet 6 Drawer 1        
Short Histories
         NW Bible Conference
         Riley, Dr William Bell
Riley Published
School Opens 1902
Riley, Dr. William Bell 1938-1947
Riley Dr. William Bell 1948

Scope and Biographical Notes

Scope and Content Note:
The papers of William Bell Riley (1861-1947) span the years ca. 189?- 1947, with the majority of the papers concerning his ministry.
The first and largest series in the Riley Collection (29.51 linear feet) consists of sermons and pamphlets representing the bulk of his pastoral career, 1890-1947.  These sermons and expositions concern general Christian living and touch on monumental topics of that era, including; evolution, communism, and the World Wars.  The format of these resources varies.  Some are handwritten, some typed with handwritten notes, and some are published as pamphlets or in collected works. 
The second series, the Correspondence series (.58 linear feet), 1909-1947, contains letters exchanged between Riley and professional friends and acquaintances.  The materials concern, largely; speaking engagements, the Baptist Bible Union, the Northern Baptist Bible Union, the Christian Fundamentals Association and the First Baptist Church of Minneapolis.
The third series, the scrapbooks of William Bell Riley (10.75 linear feet), contain clippings of interest.  Many articles saved became material for future sermons and debates.  All 85 scrapbooks, in very poor condition, are indexed in 2 accompanying notebooks using Riley’s personal classification system.
The fourth series, the photos of William Bell riley (.42 linear feet) contains images of Riley from youth until adulthood and are both formal and candid.  All items are in black and white.  No negatives.
Biographical Notes on the life of William Bell Riley
1861       Born, Green County, Indiana on March 22nd
1878       Made a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ, August
1879       Began Valparasio Normal School in Valparasio, Indiana
1881       Began courses at Hanover College, Indiana
1883       Installed as pastor of the First Baptist Church at Carrolton, Kentucky
1885       Graduated with a degree of Artium Baccalaureatus on June 3, 1885
1888       Installed as pastor of the Tabernacle Church of New Albany, Indiana, June
1888       Graduated from Louisville Seminary
1890       Married Lillian Howard, December 31
1891       Installed as pastor in Bloomington, Illinois church
1892       First child Arthur Howard born, December 2
1893       Installed as pastor of Chicago’s Calvary Baptist Church, January 1
1894       Second child Mason Hewitt born, March 16
1895       Third child Herbert Wilde born (killed in hunting accident at 19)
1897       Installed as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Minneapolis, March 1
1901       Fourth child Eunice born October 14
1902       Northwestern Bible and Missionary School opens its doors
1904       Fifth child William B.  born November 29
1906       Sixth child John Branson born December 26
1919       Founded World Christian Fundamentals Association, an interdenominational organization
1919       World Conference on Christian Fundamentals May 25 to June 1
1923       Co-founded the Anti-Evolution League and the Baptist Bible Union
1930       Resigns from World Christian Fundamentals Association
1931       Mrs. Lillian Riley, wife, passes away, August 10
1933       Married Marie Acomb, September 1
1935       Northwestern Theological Seminary opens its doors
1942       Retired as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Minneapolis
1944       Northwestern Schools becomes the single name for the institution, which now includes: the Bible School, the Theological Seminary and the four-year College of Liberal Arts.
1947       Dr. Riley passes away at age 86, December 5.