Sidney Rigdon was born of English and Irish stock on February 19, 1793, in St. Clair Township of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He was the second son of William and Nancy Rigdon. Sidney’s schooling was somewhat limited, as he was required to work on the family farm. Frontier families customarily educated only those children with remarkable ability or too sick to endure the harsh working conditions found on the farms. He mostly educated himself by reading the Bible, various history books, and grammar texts by the fireplace late at night. The Rigdon family were members of the Peter’s Creek Baptist Church during his childhood. Sidney was quite familiar with the requirements of a personal divine experience for church membership, and as he later admitted, “I made up one.”
As a young man, he suffered a head injury when his horse threw him and because he caught his foot in a stirrup, the horse dragged him some distance. He came away with a serious concussion which affected him the rest of his life. One writer reported that on two occasions he suffered temporary insanity.
Rigdon left the farm in late 1818 for a theological apprenticeship with Andrew Clark of the Providence Regular Baptist Church in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. It was at some point between May 1819 and March 1820 when he joined Adamson Bentley in his ministry at Warren, Ohio. While they labored together, Rigdon met Mrs. Bentley’s sister, Phebe Brooks. They became a couple and he married her on June 12, 1820.
Later that year Bentley and Rigdon came across a pamphlet recording the text of Alexander Campbell’s debate with Presbyterian John Walker. They both were so enamored with Campbell that during the next summer in 1821 they journeyed 85 miles to Buffaloe (now Bethany), Virginia just to speak with him. Their discussion ended up lasting all night long. Upon leaving the next morning Rigdon openly admitted that if he had taught one error from the pulpit within the last year he had taught a thousand.