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William Crothers

Photo courtesy of Ellen G. White Estate, Inc.

Crothers, William M. D. (1867–1915) and Mary Hannah Charlton (Tuxford) (1847–1925)

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: November 2, 2021

William and Mary Charlton Crothers gave leadership to various lines of publishing and editorial work, serving in the United States, New Zealand, and Australia, and Jamaica, West Indies.

Early Life

William M. D. Crothers was born on April 24, 1867, at Pierson in Montcalm County, central Michigan, to George and Mary Elizabeth (Joseph) Crothers. His father was a farmer originally from Pennsylvania. William was the second of six children. His siblings were named Mary, Oliver, Alonzo, Daisy and Pearl.

The 1880 United States Census located the family farm on the south side of Pierson at Sand Lake.1 A little later the family moved further south to Grand Rapids where they attended the Seventh-day Adventist Church. William was a member of that church when, as a young man, he began his denominational career.2

Literature Ministry in Michigan

Canvassing books rather than academic studies was William’s chosen employment path with the Seventh-day Adventist church. He proved to be a successful salesman and at the age of twenty-three, in 1890, he was placed in charge of a team of book sellers in a sub-division of the Michigan Conference.3 These responsibilities did not preclude him from other roles, such as assisting in an evangelistic campaign in the rural community of Carlton Center, southeast of Grand Rapids, January 1891.4 In the same year he was elected to be the state agent or supervisor of all the book-sellers in Michigan.5 This involved one-on-one instruction for trainees in addition to group instruction at periodic institutes.6 Crothers was transferred to the Missouri Conference in 18937 but later that year General Conference officials appointed him to be the general agent for the canvassing work in New Zealand.

New Zealand Tract Society Leadership

Crothers arrived in New Zealand in time for the December 1893 series of New Zealand Tract Society meetings. He was appointed as one of three directors of the organization, specifically to train a corps of canvassers to sell books and magazine subscriptions. With his involvement in the Tract Society he became acquainted with Mary Tuxford, the secretary-treasurer of the enterprise, who later became his wife.8 Five experienced canvassers had transferred from Australia to New Zealand and three other experienced local sellers formed the initial group that Crothers supervised.9 His first training institute was held at Napier in 1894.10 Later in the year he sailed to Australia to train a class of seventeen potential canvassers at the close of the Ashfield camp meeting in Sydney.11

Returning to New Zealand, Crothers resumed his leadership role among the canvassers. Soon after he was ordained to the gospel ministry and was elected as secretary of the New Zealand Conference.12 In this capacity he responded in 1896 to individuals at Westport in the South Island who expressed an interest in the church after reading literature circulated by canvassers. He organized a company of eight believers in Westport13 and on a second visit in mid-1897 he held meetings with them and eleven were baptized.14

Crothers was a New Zealand delegate at the Australasian Union Conference Session at Stanmore camp meeting, Sydney, in October 1897.15 Returning to New Zealand he suffered a severe illness and could not be present at the December 28 annual meeting of the Tract Society but he was re-elected its president.16 However, it was soon after that meeting that he took a furlough back home in Michigan. He had served four years in New Zealand.

When the mission schooner “Pitcairn” departed San Francisco on January 23, 1899, William Crothers was aboard, expecting to return to his work in New Zealand. A stopover at Pitcairn Island lasted three weeks, William reporting his experience in buoyant spirits. They sailed on to Fiji via Tahiti,17 the Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga, re-supplying mission stations en route. At Fiji the vessel turned for home after five months at sea and William found another ship to complete his journey.

Health Crisis and Service in Australia

In early 1900, though, Crothers underwent treatment at Summer Hill Sanitarium in Sydney. Ellen White visited and found him there in a distressed state of mind. She wrote that he was “improving in health” but constantly “testing his temperature and feeling his pulse as though his life would cease.” She named no particular disease but her description of his irrational behaviour suggests shattered emotions or something psychosomatic.18 The cause may lie in a further letter White wrote a few months later in which she reprimanded three ministers who had recently snubbed Crothers, effectively making it difficult for him to secure work in Australia.19 Additionally, it is reasonable to assume that William’s acquaintance with Mary Tuxford in New Zealand had already grown into friendship and he was frustrated because the church culture of the time frowned on a woman getting a divorce and remarrying. Their age difference was possibly another reason for peer rejection.

Mary Hannah (Charlton) Tuxford was born about 1847 (less reliable sources differ).20 She was, therefore, approximately twenty years older than William. When she was about eighteen years of age she had married Franklin Tuxford in Napier, New Zealand.21 They had a child in 186622 who died in infancy.23 Mary became estranged from her husband and supported herself in church employment. She had transferred from New Zealand to Australia to begin work in March 1899 as matron at the Summer Hill Sanitarium.24 Twelve months later White found William at the same institution in distress.

Ellen White’s compassion for William and her reprimand on his behalf brought immediate remedies. Crothers was elected to be the treasurer of the short-lived Australasian Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association Council, a director of the Sydney Sanitarium (still in its planning stage), a member of the Herald of Health committee and a director of the Avondale Press.25 He would reside at Cooranbong where the Avondale Press was located and spend most of his time promoting their periodicals such as Herald of Health26 and Joyful Tidings.27 He urged canvassers to gain subscriptions for the literature or distribute it gratis. As a doorstep salesman his writing style was loquacious. One of his published promotional articles contained a sentence with ten clauses and 121 words.28 Ellen White advised him not to be “prosy” and to “make your sentences short.”29

Marriage and Ministry in the South

Twelve months into his promotional work Crothers was elected in 1901 to be the general agent for the New South Wales Tract Society with offices in Sydney where Mary was also located.30 In late 1903 or early 1904, both Mary and William travelled to America. William located in Grand Rapids, Michigan,31 where he lived with his recently widowed mother in and worked in the West Michigan Conference.32 In 1907 he transferred to the Southern Union Conference and assisted with an evangelistic effort in Cherokee, Alabama.33

On arrival in America Mary had initially stayed in the home of friends Arthur Daniells and his wife, Mary, in Washington, D.C.,34 before finding work as preceptress and matron at Washington Training College (now Washington Adventist University) when it opened in 1904. She worked there for three years. When she learned that her estranged husband had died in New Zealand in January 1907 she moved closer to William, serving as a departmental secretary (director) – first for the Missions Department and later the Young People’s Department – for the Southern Union Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. The following year, 1908, she and William finally married after waiting fifteen frustrating years.35

For six years, 1908 through 1913, William served as a chaplain at the Nashville Sanitarium.36 In addition to her departmental leadership, Mary did editorial work for the Southern Union Conference news periodical Report of Progress.37

From Nashville to Montego Bay and Final Rest

In 1914 the Crothers were appointed as missionaries to Jamaica, William being granted honorary ministerial credentials. In the first year they served the small inland church at Riversdale38 and then transferred in 1915 to the north coast at Montego Bay.39

On September 26, 1915, William became seriously ill and sank into a coma. He passed away at his home on October 2 and was laid to rest in the Wesleyan Cemetery at Montego Bay. He was only forty-eight years of age. His obituary made mention of a little known book he had written titled Scriptural Evidences.40

Mary returned to Michigan and eventually accepted an appointment as secretary of the Sabbath School Department in the Alberta Conference with offices in Calgary.41 She fulfilled this role for approximately three years and then transferred to take the position of preceptress in the Kellogg School of Physical Education, Battle Creek, Michigan. After suffering a heart collapse she passed away on October 7, 1925. She rests in Oak Hill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.42

Sources

“As many of the readers of Report…” Report of Progress: Southern Union Conference, March 3, 1908.

Australasian Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association Committee Minutes. Sydney Adventist Hospital Archives, Wahroonga, New South Wales. Shelf Records. Document: “Australasian Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association Committee Minutes, 1898-1901.”

Benjamin, A. T. “Elder Wm. M. Crothers.” ARH, December 2, 1915.

Buck, J[ohn] B. “Monterey.” West Michigan Herald, January 18, 1905.

Colcord, W[illard] A. “New South Wales Conference.” Union Conference Record, October 1, 1901.

C[orliss], J[ohn] O. “The Close of the Ashfield, N.S.W., Camp Meeting.” Bible Echo, November 19, 1894.

Crothers, M[ary] H. “Report of the Sabbath School Depart., Alberta Conference.” Western Canadian Tidings, July 19, 1917.

Crothers, W[illiam] M. “Joyful Tidings.” Union Conference Record, November 1, 1900.

Crothers, W[illiam] M. “News from the ‘Pitcairn.’” ARH, June 13, 1899.

Crothers, W[illiam] M. “New Zealand Tract Society.” Bible Echo, November 22, 1897.

Crothers, W[illiam] M. “Pitcairn Island.” Bible Echo, October 9, 1899.

Crothers, W[illiam] M. “The Avondale Health Retreat.” Union Conference Record, December 1, 1900.

Crothers, W[illiam] M. “The Herald of Health.” Union Conference Record, November 1, 1900.

Crothers, W[illiam] M. “The Lord Keeps His Promises.” Bible Echo, January 25, 1897.

Crothers, W[iliam] M. “Westport, New Zealand.” Bible Echo, July 12, 1897.

Daniells, A[rthur] G. “Australasian Union Conference.” Union Conference Record, January/ February 1898.

District of Hawkes Bay. Marriage Certificates. Government of New Zealand Internal Affairs Department. Births, Deaths and Marriages Records, Wellington, New Zealand.

Farnsworth, E[ugene] W. “Australasian Union Conference Council.” Union Conference Record, October 1, 1900.

Farnsworth, E[ugene] W. “New Zealand Tract Society.” Union Conference Record, January/February 1898.

“Franklin Tuxford.” FamilySearch, Intellectual Reserve, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.familysearch.org/tree/find/name?search=1&gender=male&self=franklin%7Ctuxford%7C0%7C0.

Hyatt, W[illiam] S. “Missouri Conference Proceedings.” ARH, October 24, 1893.

Israel, M[endel] C. “The New Zealand Tract Society.” Bible Echo, January 22, 1894.

Lamson, J[ustus] G. “Mary Hannah (Carlton) (sic) Crothers.” Western Canadian Tidings, October 27, 1925.

Manous, Arthur L. “A Tent Effort at Cherokee, S.C.” Report of Progress: Southern Union Conference, November 19, 1907.

“Mary Hannah Charlton.” Durham Records Online: Search Census and Church Records, March 2020. Retrieved from https://www.durhamrecordsonline.com/SearchResults.php.

Morse, G[eorge] W. “Canvasser’Institute at Lapeer, Michigan.” ARH, May 8, 1892.

Olsen, O[le] A. “Michigan Tract Society Proceedings.” ARH, November 18, 1890.

Olsen, O[le] A. “Meeting at Carlton Centre, Mich.” ARH, February 3, 1891.

Olsen, O[le] A. “Meetings in Michigan.” ARH, April 28, 1891.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1908-1915.

“Sister Tuxford is in Washington, D.C….” Union Conference Record, April 1, 1904.

White, Ellen G. to [anon.]. March 1900, Letter 142, 1900, Ellen G. White Estate.

White, Ellen G. to [Eugene W.] Farnsworth, et al. October 30, 1900, Letter 138, 1900. Ellen G. White Estate.

White, Ellen G. to [William M.] Crothers. October 30, 1900, Letter 137, 1900. Ellen G. White Estate.

White, Ellen G. to [William M.] Crothers. August 23, 1903, Letter 191, 1903. Ellen G. White Estate.

“William M.D. Crothers,” FamilySearch, Intellectual Reserve, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.familysearch.org/tree/find/name?search=1&gender=male&birth=Michigan%2CUnitedStates%7C1865-1870%7C0&self=williamm.%7Crothers%7C0%7C0.

Wilson, G[eorge] T. “New Zealand.” Bible Echo, April 16, 1894.

Wilson, G[eorge] T. “New Zealand Notice.” Bible Echo, March 12, 1894.

Notes

  1. “William M.D. Crothers,” FamilySearch, Intellectual Reserve, 2020, accessed April 2, 2020, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/find/name?search=1&gender=male&birth=Michigan%2CUnitedStates%7C1865-1870%7C0&self=williamm.%7Ccrothers%7C0%7C0.

  2. A.T. Benjamin, “Elder Wm. M. Crothers,” ARH, December 2, 1915, 22.

  3. O[le] A. Olsen, “Michigan Tract Society Proceedings,” ARH, November 18, 1890, 717.

  4. O[le] A. Olsen, “Meeting at Carlton Centre, Mich.,” ARH, February 3, 1891, 75.

  5. O[le] A. Olsen, “Meetings in Michigan,” ARH, April 28, 1891, 268.

  6. G[eorge] W. Morse, “Canvassers’ Institute at Lapeer, Michigan,” ARH, May 3, 1892, 285.

  7. W[illiam] S. Hyatt, “Missouri Conference Proceedings,” ARH, October 24, 1893, 672-673.

  8. M[endel] C. Israel, “The New Zealand Tract Society,” Bible Echo, January 22, 1894, 22.

  9. G[eorge] T. Wilson, “New Zealand Notice,” Bible Echo, March 12, 1894, 80.

  10. G[eorge] T. Wilson, “New Zealand,” Bible Echo, April 16, 1894, 80.

  11. J[ohn] O. C[orliss], “The Close of the Ashfield, N.S.W. Camp Meeting,” Bible Echo, November 19, 1894, 353-354.

  12. A.T. Benjamin, “Elder Wm. M. Crothers,” ARH, December 2, 1915, 22.

  13. W[illiam] M. Crothers, “The Lord Keeps His Promises,” Bible Echo, January 25, 1897, 29; W[iliam M. Crothers, “Pitcairn Island,” Bible Echo, October 9, 1899, 333.

  14. W[illiam] M. Crothers, “Westport, New Zealand,” Bible Echo, July 12, 1897, 219.

  15. A[rthur] G. Daniells, “Australasian Union Conference,” Union Conference Record, January/February 1898, [1]-3.

  16. E[ugene] W. Farnsworth, “New Zealand Tract Society,” Union Conference Record, January/February 1898, 20.

  17. W[illiam] M. Crothers, “News from the ‘Pitcairn,’” ARH, June 13, 1899, 379.

  18. Ellen G. White to [anon.]. March 1900, Letter 142, 1900, Ellen G. White Estate.

  19. Ellen G. White to [Eugene W.] Farnsworth, et al., October 30, 1900, Letter 138, 1900, Ellen G. White Estate.

  20. “Mary Hannah Charlton,” Durham Records Online: Search Census and Church Records, March 2020, accessed March 8, 2020, https://www.durhamrecordsonline.com/SearchResults.php

  21. District of Hawkes Bay, Certificate of Marriage no. 6479 (1865), Government of New Zealand Internal Affairs Department, Births, Deaths and Marriages Records, Wellington, New Zealand.

  22. District of Hawkes Bay, Certificate of Birth no. 8771 (1866), Government of New Zealand Internal Affairs Department, Births, Deaths and Marriages Records, Wellington, New Zealand.

  23. “Franklin Tuxford,” FamilySearch, Intellectul Reserve, 2020, accessed April 2, 2020, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/find/name?search=1&gender=male&self=franklin%7Ctuxford%7C0%7C0.

  24. Australasian Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association Committee Minutes, Sydney Adventist Hospital Archives, Wahroonga, New South Wales, Shelf Records. Document: “Australasian Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association Committee Minutes, December 29, 1898.”

  25. E[ugene] W. Farnsworth, “Australasian Union Conference Council,” Union Conference Record, October 1, 1900, 12.

  26. W[illiam] M. Crothers, “The Herald of Health,” Union Conference Record, November 1, 1900, 9.

  27. W[illiam] M. Crothers, “Joyful Tidings,” Union Conference Record, November 1, 1900, 16.

  28. W[illiam] M. Crothers, “The Avondale Health Retreat,” Union Conference Record, December 1, 1900, 14.

  29. Ellen G. White to [William M.] Crothers, October 30, 1900, Letter 137, 1900, Ellen G. White Estate.

  30. W[illard] A. Colcord, “New South Wales Conference,” Union Conference Record, October 1, 1901, 8.

  31. Ellen G. White to [William M.] Crothers, August 23, 1903, Letter 191, 1903, Ellen G. White Estate.

  32. J[ohn] B. Buck, “Monterey,” West Michigan Herald, January 18, 1905, 2.

  33. Arthur L. Manous, “A Tent Effort at Cherokee, S.C.,” Report of Progress: Southern Union Conference, November 19, 1907, 84.

  34. “Sister Tuxford is in Washington, D.C….” Union Conference Record, April 1, 1904, 7.

  35. J[ustus] G. Lamson, “Mary Hannah (Carlton) (sic) Crothers,” Western Canadian Tidings, October 27, 1925, 3.

  36. Ibid.; “Ministerial Directory,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1913), 210.

  37. “As many of the readers of Report…” Report of Progress: Southern Union Conference, March 3, 1908, 44.

  38. “Ministerial Directory,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1914), 212.

  39. “Jamaica Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1915), 151-152.

  40. A.T. Benjamin, “Elder Wm. M. Crothers,” ARH, December 2, 1915, 22.

  41. E.g., M[ary] H. Crothers, “Report of the Sabbath School Dept., Alberta Conference,” Western Canadian Tidings, July 19, 1917, 4.

  42. J[ustus] G. Lamson, “Mary Hannah (Carlton) (sic) Crothers, Western Canadian Tidings, October 27, 1925, 3.

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Hook, Milton. "Crothers, William M. D. (1867–1915) and Mary Hannah Charlton (Tuxford) (1847–1925)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 02, 2021. Accessed December 02, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=3ICA.

Hook, Milton. "Crothers, William M. D. (1867–1915) and Mary Hannah Charlton (Tuxford) (1847–1925)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 02, 2021. Date of access December 02, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=3ICA.

Hook, Milton (2021, November 02). Crothers, William M. D. (1867–1915) and Mary Hannah Charlton (Tuxford) (1847–1925). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved December 02, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=3ICA.