Henry Alline was born on 14 June 1748 in Newport, Rhode Island, the son of William Alline and Rebecca Clark. In 1760 when Henry was twelve, his parents joined several thousand New England residents who migrated north to Nova Scotia. With this move, his formal schooling came to an end. The Alline family, including eight children, was part of a large group from Rhode Island and Connecticut which settled in Falmouth Township near Windsor, Nova Scotia, on the shore of Minas Basin. Although the religious affiliation among the migrants included Quaker, Scottish Presbyterian, and a few Baptists, the great majority of the settlers were Congregationalists, and Henry Alline's parents were adherents of this church.
Early in his life Henry displayed an obsession with personal salvation and eternity, and began both wide and intensive reading of theological works. While this program of self education proved to be enlightening, he began to realize that it had brought him no closer to salvation. It was not until 26 March 1775 that he felt the power of a conversion experience, and with it a call to preach the gospel. However, three obstacles stood in his way: He lacked a formal higher education; there was much uncertainty because of the war; and family obligations, because of his aging parents, curtailed his activities. In spite of these constraints, he began preaching in the Falmouth area in April of 1776, and as time went on, he traveled further afield. His career as an evangelist spanned exactly the years of the American Revolution.
From 1779 until 1783, he visited the Minas Basin area, Annapolis Valley, the St. John River settlements of Gagetown and Maugerville, the Sackville-Amherst area,Yarmouth, and the Nova Scotia coastal communities as far as Liverpool. His greatest success occurred among the New England emigrants of the 1760s who had come to rural and frontier Nova Scotia.
Henry Alline died of consumption in early 1784 in North Hampton, New Hampshire, while on a missionary journey to New England that had begun in the fall of 1783. Alline travelled throughout rural Nova Scotia by canoe, horseback, snowshoe, and on foot. His religious meetings were usually held in homes and barns rather than in church buildings where his sermons were delivered without notes. He encouraged prayer and the singing of hymns and wrote many hymns himself. Alline is remembered in the Maritimes as a powerful evangelist and hymnist of the nineteenth century whose personal impact on the lives of ordinary people was profound, and whose legacy continues to this day.