William Stevens Balch (April 13, 1806-December 25, 1887), a celebrated Universalist preacher, was also an evangelist, a denominational organizer, journalist, politician, teacher, and historian. Proud of his impartiality, he stood apart from Universalist factions. Having mentored many students for the ministry, he promoted formal theological education and was a founder ofSt. Lawrence University.
Born in Andover, Vermont, William was the second son of Joel and Betsy Stevens Balch. Betsy died of tuberculosis when her son was 3 years old. Though of modest means, Joel Balch, a farmer, was a man of local consequence who represented his town in the state legislature. William worked diligently on the farm, attended school a few weeks in the winter, and read eagerly the books available to him.