Born in a rural Pennsylvania town, Frank Bartleman (1871-1936) grew up on his fathers farm. His first job was to work the plow, though he suffered from relatively poor health all his life. He left home when he was seventeen and was converted in 1893, at the age of twenty-two, in the Grace Baptist Church of Philadelphia. Bartlemans desire to preach led him to enter full-time ministry the following summer. He was ordained by the Temple Baptist Church. Although he had the opportunity to be put through college and to one day have a paying position as a pastor, he chose instead "a humble walk of poverty and suffering," working in the streets and slums.
In 1897, the young minister left the Baptist ministry. He joined with the Holiness Movement and spent some time with the Salvation Army, the Wesleyan Methodists, and the Peniel Missions. He rarely stayed at one address or in one church for very long. Bartlemans wandering lifestyle had a tendency to depress him, even to the point where he contemplated suicide in 1899. Yet he was not entirely despondent, for in 1900 he married Anna Ladd, the matron of a school for fallen girls in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Soon after he was married, Bartleman joined the Wesleyan Methodists and was assigned to a pastorate in Corry, Pennsylvania. Yet this ended up being a bad experience for him, as the church was far from moving toward an emotional and expressive Holiness religion, which was Bartlemans spiritual focus. Bartleman headed west toward California, with his wife and the first of their four children, Esther, in tow.
In 1904, when the Bartlemans reached California, Frank was appointed as director of the Peniel Mission, a Holiness rescue mission in the heart of Sacramento. From there he tried to reenter the church pastoral ministry, but when this failed, he had to turn to odd jobs in order to keep his family alive. By December, he and his family had headed to Los Angeles, where hardship and tragedy awaited them. In January, Esther died, throwing Bartleman into a spell of grief; this loss, however, ultimately caused him to strengthen his commitment to ministry.
Throughout 1905, Bartleman worked largely with the Holiness churches in Los Angeles but was always on the lookout for the latest work of God. This led him to the Methodist and Baptist churches in the area, especially those connected with the revival occurring in Wales. For a time, Bartleman supported the New Testament Church, pastored by Joseph Smale. He also attended the mission at Azusa Street and established another at Eighth and Maple Streets. Bartlemans wandering lifestyle as a young man had prepared him for following Gods work throughout his life, for he preached as a traveling evangelist for forty-three years.
Bartlemans more than 550 articles, 100 tracts, and six books served as a complete and reliable record of the revival at Azusa Street and throughout Los Angeles from 1905 through 1911. Bartlemans reports were published and republished for Holiness papers around the nation, and his reputation grew as a man who had a passion for increased unity and spiritual renewal among Pentecostals.
Frank Bartleman died on August 23, 1936, and is buried in Burbank, California.