Evarts Bradford Kent was born in Benson, Vermont, on March 12, 1843, the son of Mary Abby Clark and Congregational minister Cephas Henry Kent. He had at least three siblings: Frances, William, and Abby. Kent attended the Castleton Seminary before entering Middlebury College in 1861. In 1864, he interrupted his collegiate studies to enlist with Company A of the 6th Vermont Infantry Regiment, with which he served until his discharge in February 1865. He then returned to Middlebury College, and graduated later that year.
After spending a year as a schoolteacher in Illinois, Kent studied divinity at the Auburn Theological Seminary (1866-1867) and Andover Theological Seminary (1867-1869). He received his divinity degree in 1869 and was ordained in 1871. Kent served as pastor for many Congregational churches throughout his career, which included positions in the following cities: Sterling, Massachusetts (1869-1870 and 1912-1915); Billerica, Massachusetts (1870-1871); Michigan City, Indiana (1871-1880); Chicago, Illinois (1880-1881); Atlanta, Georgia (1881-1889); Eldora, Iowa (1889-1898); Victor, Iowa (1898-1901); Dunlap, Iowa (1901-1905); Enosburg, Vermont (1905-1909); and Benson, Vermont (1909-1912). He married Helen M. Beckwith of Alstead, New Hampshire, on August 22, 1872, and they had four children: Ernest Beckwith, Grace Helen, Willys Peck, and Sterling Evarts. Ernest attended Iowa College (now Grinnell College) in Grinnell, Iowa, and Willys became a musician.