After a year in the University of Glasgow he came to America in 1809 to join his father in Washington, Pa., and in 1811 settled at Bethany, in what later became West Virginia. Both father and son broke with the Presbyterian Church in 1812, adopting baptism by immersion at this time, and together embarked on a program of reform. This program was designed to end sectarian divisions and to unite Christians by granting them liberty in all matters of opinion and by prescribing no other conditions of fellowship than those which were applied in the primitive church.
Alexander Campbell soon assumed the leadership of this movement. He founded, edited, and published a magazine, the Christian Baptist (1823-1830), while he was associated with the Baptists, but when the movement which he led became a separate religious body, the Disciples of Christ, in 1830, he began publication of the Millennial Harbinger, which continued until 1870 and under his editorship until 1863. Campbell was for 20 years the president of Bethany College, which he founded in 1840. Before his death on Mar. 4, 1866, in Bethany, the religious movement which he initiated had attained a membership of more than 300,000.