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Henry and Mary Hill

Photo courtesy of Milton Hook.

Hill, Henry Appleton (1885–1980) and Mary Alice (Gillis) (1886–1967)

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: January 29, 2020

Henry Hill was a pioneer minister and missionary in Australia and Polynesia. Henry and Mary spent 13 years in French Polynesia and the Cook Islands. He was then president of the North New South Wales Conference and the Queensland Conference before taking up ministerial duties until his retirement in 1936.

Early Life

Henry Appleton Hill was born in South Australia on May 28, 1885.1 Like many others in the hard times of the 1890s his family gravitated to the gold rushes in Western Australia, taking up farming 100 miles inland from Perth when they found no gold.2

At eighteen years of age Henry became a Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) through the influence of an Adventist colporteur, Fairlie Masters, who sold Henry’s mother a book to be presented to him on his seventeenth birthday in 1902. Pastor L Finster travelled from Perth to deliver the book, and, soon after, started Bible studies in the home.3 Henry attended the Avondale School for Christian Workers for the first half of the school year, 1905.4 During the first six months of 1907 he tried his hand as a colporteur with some success, selling Home Hand Book in Western Australia in the towns along the South Western Railway line as far south as Bunbury.5 He then returned to farming until August 1910 when he started selling Desire of Ages in the Perth suburbs along the Midland Railway line, beginning at Bayswater.6 In the first months of 1911, he sold the same book in the southern Perth suburb of Jandakot.7

Henry transferred to Queensland in mid-1911 to sell Practical Guide to Health.8 Within a year he had married Mary Alice Gillis who had been born in Sydney, New south Wales on March 23, 1886.9 She held the responsibility for the Sabbath School and Young People’s departments in the Queensland Conference. Elder George Hubbard conducted the service on July 16, 1912, in the home of James Branford, conference leader of the colporteurs.10 Four children were to be born into the home: Muriel Ann, born July 1, 1912 in Roma, Queensland; Alma Tetuanui, born April 13, 1916 in Raiatea, Society Islands; Austin Frederick Appleton, born August 8, 1917 in Raiatea, Society Islands and Henry Joseph, better known as Harry, born March 25, 1926 in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.11

Overseas Mission Service

For a brief period Hill engaged in Bible work in the Queensland Conference12 before being appointed to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. In 1913 Henry and Mary located at the mission station on the western side of Rarotonga at Aorangi, but the centre of Adventist activity was on the southern edge at Titikaveka. The mission superintendent admitted he wanted to sell the property at Aorangi.13 The only reason for the Hills to be there was to guard against vandalism of the buildings. For this reason Henry did not publish any reports of his uneventful term on Rarotonga.

At the 1914 Quadrennial Session of the Australasian Union Conference, the Hills were understandably transferred to the Society Islands (modern French Polynesia) where they played a more productive role.14 Towards the end of 1914, they rented a cottage in the village of Afareaitu on Moorea Island and began to learn the Tahitian language. A road ran the full circle around the island so Henry purchased a horse and trap for transport.15 He also arranged for a large tent to be sent from Australia because he planned some evangelistic crusades. This was possibly the first time tent evangelism was tried in the Pacific Islands.16 He conducted his first meetings at Vaiere village and later at Afareaitu.17

In 1916 Henry and Mary were transferred to pioneer Tahaa Island with a local assistant.18 They used Patio village on the north coast as their headquarters and established a small group of believers.19

The influenza epidemic of 1919 devastated the Society Islands, wiping out about a quarter of the population. Some church members lost their lives. Henry was fortunate not to be affected by the plague. Mary and their three little children, Muriel, Alma and Austin were stricken but recovered.20 Soon after the family returned to Moorea Island for another three-year term before sailing back to Australia for their furlough.21

While in Australia Henry was ordained on October 14, 1922, at the Stanmore camp meeting in Sydney.22 Soon after, in 1923, the Cook Islands Mission was formed as a separate entity to the Society Islands Mission. He was then appointed as the superintendent of the Cook Islands Mission23 for a four-year term until the twelfth session of the Australasian Union Conference in 1926. In his report he spoke of the difficulties for evangelism in the Cook Islands and the agitation from other mission bodies to enforce Sunday observance, a move that eventually was unsuccessful.24

Back in Australia

In 1926 Henry was elected to be president of the North New South Wales Conference located at Newcastle.25 He served for three years in that capacity and then another three years as president of the Queensland Conference.26 Then in 1933 he transferred to the Victorian Conference for ministerial work27 and after that to the South New South Wales Conference for similar duties.28 Finally in 1936 he found he had to retire because of ill health.29

Mary died on May 29, 1967.30 Despite his ill health in 1936, Henry lived to be ninety-five, passing away on June 19, 1980, in the Charles Harrison Memorial Home at Cooranbong, NSW.31

Retrospect

Despite Henry’s persistence for many years in difficult circumstances, and his success as evangelist and leader, his term of mission service illustrated an unproductive characteristic of much of the methodological approach to mission in the early years of the twentieth century. Having become familiar with the inhabitants of Moorea Island, he was transferred to Tahaa Island in the belief it was likely to be a more productive field. Then, having learned much of the Tahitian language he was transferred to the Cook Islands. For most who endured similar relocation, it was not the choice of the missionaries themselves. Three to six years seemed to be the maximum length of service in any one locality, with few exceptions. In contrast, missionaries of other denominations remained at their stations much longer, sometimes for life, preserving what they learned with good results.

Sources

Avondale School Register, 1892-1906. Avondale College Archives, Cooranbong, NSW. Box 1487. Document: "Avondale School Register, 1892-1906."

“Brother Hill reports…” Australasian Record, June 11, 1917.

“Brother R.R. Gooding…” Australasian Record, March 17, 1919.

“Distribution of Labour.” Australasian Record, October 12, 1914.

“Eastern Polynesian and the Cook Islands.” Australasian Record, October 18, 1926.

“From Moorea, Society Islands…” Australasian Record, August 9, 1915.

Hill, H[enry] A. “Moorea, Society Islands.” Australasian Record, January 18, 1915.

Hill, H[enry] A. “Moorea, Society Islands.” Australasian Record, May 24, 1915.

Hill, H[enry] A. “Moorea, Society Islands.” Australasian Record, May 17, 1920.

Hill, H[enry] A. “Cook Islands Mission.” Australasian Record, October 4, 1926.

Hill, H[enry] A. "After Seventy Years," Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, April 10, 1972.

Keith, J[ohn] B. “Henry Appleton Hill obituary.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, August 18, 1980.

Lyndon, F[rank] E. “Society Islands – No.1.” The Missionary Leader, October, 1915.

Lyndon, F[rank] E. “Society Islands.” Australasian Record, February 28. 1916.

Lyndon, F[rank] E. “Eastern Polynesian Mission Field.” Australasian Record, February 19, 1917.

“Monthly Summary of Australasian Canvassing Work.” Union Conference Record, March 4, 1907.

“Monthly Summary of Australasian Canvassing Work.” Union Conference Record, October 3, 1910.

“Monthly Summary of Australasian Canvassing Work.” Australasian Record, January 2, 1911.

“Monthly Summary of Australasian Canvassing Work.” Australasian Record, September 4, 1911.

“Monthly Summary of Australasian Canvassing Work.” Australasian Record, May 6, 1912.

“On Tuesday, July 16…” Australasian Record, August 5, 1912.

“Pastor Sterling writes from Rarotonga…” Australasian Record, December 21, 1914.

“Sabbath, October 14…” Australasian Record, November 20, 1922.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association. Years 1912–1936. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.

Sterling, Geo[rge T]. “Cook Islands.” Australasian Record, September 28, 1914.

“The workers in the North N.S.W. Conference…” Australasian Record, December 13, 1926.

“We have now gone to Tahaa…” Australasian Record, October 23, 1916.

Henry Appleton Hill Work Service Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Wahroonga, NSW. Work Service Records. Folder: Henry Appleton Hill. Document: "Henry Appleton Hill Work Service Records."

“Writing from Rarotonga…” Australasian Record, December 14, 1914.

Notes

  1. Henry Appleton Hill Work Service Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Wahroonga, NSW. Work Service Records. Folder: Henry Appleton Hill. Document: "Henry Appleton Hill."

  2. H[enry] A Hill, "After Seventy Years," Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, April 10, 1972, 7.

  3. Ibid.

  4. Avondale School Register, 1892-1906, Avondale College Archives, Cooranbong, NSW. Box 1487. Document: "Avondale School Register, 1892-1906."

  5. "Monthly Summary of Australasian Canvassing Work," Union Conference Record, March 4, 1907, 5.

  6. "Monthly Summary of Australasian Canvassing Work," Union Conference Record, October 3, 1910, 6.

  7. "Monthly Summary of Australasian Canvassing Work," Australasian Record, January 2, 1911, 6.

  8. "Monthly Summary of Australasian Canvassing Work," Australasian Record, September 4, 1911, 4.

  9. Henry Appleton Hill Work Service Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Wahroonga, NSW. Work Service Records. Folder: “Henry Appleton Hill,” Document: "Biographical Information Blank."

  10. "On Tuesday, July 16..." Australasian Record, August 5, 1912, 8.

  11. Henry Appleton Hill Work Service Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Wahroonga, NSW. Work Service Records. Folder: “Henry Appleton Hill,” Document: "Biographical Information Blank."

  12. "Queensland Conference," Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1913), 90.

  13. Geo[rge T] Sterling, "Cook Islands," Australasian Record, September 28, 1914, 39-40.

  14. "Distribution of Labour," Australasian Record, October 12, 1914, 18-19.

  15. F[rank] E Lyndon, "Society Islands, No.1," The Missionary Leader, October 1915, 12-14.

  16. H[enry] A Hill, "Moorea, Society Islands," Australasian Record, May 24, 1915, 4-5.

  17. "From Moorea, Society Islands..." Australasian Record, August 9, 1915, 8.

  18. "We have now gone to Tahaa..." Australasian Record, October 23, 1916, 8.

  19. "Brother Hill reports..." Australasian Record, June 11, 1917, 8.

  20. "Brother R.R. Gooding..." Australasian Record, March 17, 1919, 8.

  21. H[enry] A Hill, "Moorea, Society Islands," Australasian Record, May 17, 1920, 4.

  22. ”Sabbath, October 14..." Australasian Record, November 20, 1922, 8.

  23. "Cook Islands Mission," Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1924), 175.

  24. H[enry] A Hill, "Cook Islands Mission," Australasian Record, October 4, 1926, 11-12.

  25. "The workers in the North NSW Conference..." Australasian Record, December 13, 1926, 8.

  26. "Queensland Conference," Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1930), 125.

  27. "Victorian Conference," Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1934), 70.

  28. "South New South Wales," Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1936), 72.

  29. J[ohn] B Keith, "Henry Appleton Hill," Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, August 18, 1980, 14.

  30. Henry Appleton Hill Work Service Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Wahroonga, NSW. Work Service Records. Folder: Henry Appleton Hill. Document: "Hill, Pastor H. A. Monthly Rates [Sustentation]."

  31. J[ohn] B Keith, "Henry Appleton Hill obituary," Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, August 18, 1980, 14.

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Hook, Milton. "Hill, Henry Appleton (1885–1980) and Mary Alice (Gillis) (1886–1967)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed February 27, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=77XC.

Hook, Milton. "Hill, Henry Appleton (1885–1980) and Mary Alice (Gillis) (1886–1967)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access February 27, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=77XC.

Hook, Milton (2020, January 29). Hill, Henry Appleton (1885–1980) and Mary Alice (Gillis) (1886–1967). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved February 27, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=77XC.