Francis Asbury was born in Hamstead Bridge, Staffordshire, England, to Methodist parents. He began preaching at age 18 and traveled to America in 1771. (He was the only Methodist minister to remain in America during the American Revolution.) In 1784 John Wesley called on Asbury and Thomas Coke to establish the Methodist Church in America. Under Asbury's leadership, the Methodist Church in America grew from 1,200 people to 214,000 members and 700 ordained preachers. Thus Asbury became known as the "Father of American Methodism".
In 1790 Asbury established Bethel Academy in central Kentucky. The Methodist school , the first of its kind west of the Allegheny Mountains, was located three and a half miles south of the present day town of Wilmore, Kentucky. This local connection, the fact that Bethel Academy was founded exactly one hundred years before, and most importantly the theological similarities, led to the Kentucky Holiness College being renamed Asbury College in 1891.
Francis Asbury is believed to have preached over 16,000 sermons and traveled over a quarter of a million miles as a circuit riding evangelist. Asbury died in Spotsylvania, Pennsylvania, and is buried at the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland.