Grave of William Bland.

Photo courtesy of Danelia. Source: Find a Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/123760161/william-thomas-bland

Bland, William Thomas (1862–1953)

By Christian A. Teal

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Christian A. Teal is a senior at Southern Adventist University, Collegedale, Tennessee, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Near Eastern Archaeology and History. He hails from the Pacific Northwest and is an avid explorer of history and theology. 

First Published: August 24, 2020

William Thomas Bland was the chief administrator of several Seventh-day Adventist academies and colleges.

William Thomas Bland was born January 16, 1862 in Paradise, Illinois to Seth T. Bland (1832-1913) and Mary Elizabeth Bland (1840-1925).1 The couple had married little more than a year prior on December 5, 1860 in Coles County, Illinois.2 Shortly after the birth of his son, Seth enlisted in the 123rd Regiment, Illinois Infantry Company D along with his brothers Thornton and Samuel.3 However, he was discharged with disability on April 2, 1863.4 William grew up in Young America Township, Edgar County, Illinois and parts of Coles County, and probably attended local schools. He had three siblings: Lilly (1863-1954), Rosa (1864-1892), and Allen L. Bland (1867-1912).5 The family lived and farmed in East Oakland for an unknown period of time.6 William studied in Danville, Indiana and trained to become a public-school teacher. Sometime during his youth, he was converted to Adventism.7

William Bland initially taught for five years in public schools and taught college in a subsequent year at Albion, Illinois.8 In 1889, at age 27, he was invited to Battle Creek College to teach in the department of English language and literature, where he taught for several years. In 1890 he married Flora L. Cook (1865-1926). Together they had three children: Cecelia F. Bland (1891-1988), Harold T. Bland (1894-1976), and Maurice W. Bland (1905-). Bland served as president of Battle Creek from 1892 to1893.

After the closure of the Mount Vernon Sanitarium in 1891, Ellen White, the end time prophetic voice for the Seventh-day Adventist Church and an important pioneer of this movement, urged the building be converted into a school in keeping with her visions that schools should be started in Ohio.9 In 1893, William Bland became the first principal of Mount Vernon Academy in Ohio. During his time here, Bland's daughter Cecilia was born in 1891 as was his son Harold in 1894. Meanwhile, in 1892 a small Adventist school had been started in Graysville, Tennessee. After the construction of the administrative building, the school was renamed Graysville Academy.10 After a number of the academy staff and church members had been arrested on the grounds of Sunday violation, the General Conference took over management of the school, placing Bland as principal in 1896. He arrived at Graysville on July 4, 1896 where he was voted into the Graysville Church and was soon voted as the pastor, despite not having any previous pastoral experience. In 1897, he was also ordained as first elder of the church, while Flora served as a deaconess.11 Bland was given dual responsibility as principal of Graysville and Huntsville Academies, where he helped found a school for black youths.12

However, he did not hold this position long, and in 1898 became the fifth president of Union College.13 The family moved to Grant, Lancaster County, Nebraska shortly after or during April of 1898.14 During his tenure, the Practical Educator, the first Union College newspaper was started, for whom he served as editor. College View became renowned for its peanut growing projects, being named “Peanut Hill”.15 In later years, Bland would recall these years as trying times for the college. In a celebration of Union College’s Founder’s Day in 1912 he said, “I wish to assure you that I am deeply interested in the welfare and in the prosperity of Union College. I went out there at a time when it was passing through some 'stormy times,' when it seemed that it was doomed to go under, and I felt that I was giving to it the best efforts of my life."16 Despite the difficulties, he returned the college to a solid foundation.17 In 1901 he filled the position of acting General Conference treasurer when the General Conference was moved from Battle Creek to Washington, D.C. In this position he assisted in the establishment of Washington Missionary College, the forerunner of modern Washington Adventist University, along with Amos P. Needham, George B. Thompson, Judson S. Washburn, and A. G. Daniells.18

Bland returned to Alton, Illinois as principal of Fox River Academy before retiring from teaching and moving to Hamilton County, Tennessee by c. 1910. Here he worked as an employer in the process of manufacturing machinery.19 He participated in Founder’s Day for Union College in 1912, and Flora contributed some articles to the Review and Herald in December of 1917.20 His father passed away in 1914, followed five years later by his mother in 1925 and Flora in 1926.21 By 1938, he retired to live with his daughter at Huntingdon Beach, Orange County, California. He lived there until his death on August 11, 1953, at age 91.22

William Thomas Bland’s contribution was a boost to the early foundation and organization of the Seventh-day Adventist school system, now one of the largest Christian school systems in the world. He played a role at crucial points in time for Graysville (today Southern Adventist University), Union College, and Washington Missionary College (today Washington Adventist University).

Sources

Ancestry.com. Illinois, U.S., Compiled Marriages, 1851-1900. Provo, UT, U.S.A.: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=7857&h=49087&tid=&pid=&queryId=517933a0148f6c0c3a0d6ea413d4c368&usePUB=true&_phsrc=zZy61&_phstart=successSource.

Brigadier General Reece, J. N. Report of the Adjutant General of Illinois: Volume VI. Springfield, Illinois: Journal Company, Printers and Binders, 1900.

Dick, Everett and George Gibson. Union College: Light upon the Hill. Lincoln, Neb.: Union College, Alumni Association, 2004.

Bland, Flora L. “A Present Hour Opportunity.” ARH. December 6, 1917.

­­­Bland, Flora L. “Work for All.” ARH. December 20, 1917.

Daniells, A. G. “Washington Training College.” ARH, August 4, 1904.

Find A Grave. “Allen L. Bland.” Accessed April 6, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/156936886/rosa-bland.

­­­Find A Grave. “Flora L. Bland,” Accessed April 6, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/119098828/flora-l.-bland.

Find A Grave. “Lilly Bland Woodford.” Accessed April 6, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/123969031/lilly-woodford.

Find A Grave. “Mary Elizabeth Bland.” Accessed April 6, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/196217434/mary-elizabeth-bland.

Find A Grave. “Rosa Bland.” Accessed April 6, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/156936886/rosa-bland.

Find A Grave. “Seth T. Bland.” Accessed April 6, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/156930945/seth-t.-bland.

Find A Grave. “William Thomas Bland.” Accessed March 22, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/123760161/william-thomas-bland.

Graysville Church Minutes. Graysville Church Board, Graysville, Tennessee.

“History.” Southern Adventist University. Accessed March 22, 2021. https://www.southern.edu/about/history-and-mission/history.html.

Riley, Sabrina. "Bates, Mary Ellen (Cook) (1869–1939)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Accessed March 22, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9IC7.

Swain, Craig. “Graysville Academy.” The Historical Marker Database. January 24, 2020. Accessed March 22, 2021. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=26018.

The Clock Tower. April 16, 1976. Accessed March 22, 2021. https://adventistdigitallibrary.org/adl-423365/clock-tower-april-16-1976?solr_nav%5Bid%5D=b572c0f2f652eb3fc41a&solr_nav%5Bpage%5D=0&solr_nav%5Boffset%5D=1.

“Union College Founders’ Day.” The Educational Messenger, July 1, 1912.

U.S. Census Bureau. Population Density, 1910. Prepared by Ancestry.com. Accessed April 28, 2021.

U.S. Census Bureau. Population Density, 1880. Prepared by Ancestry.com. Accessed April 28, 2021.

“William Thomas Bland Obituary.” ARH, September 17, 1953.

“120 Years of History.” Mount Vernon Academy Archives, May 11, 2015. Accessed March 22, 2021. https://web.archive.org/web/20150511103141/http://www.mvacademy.org/services-view/school-history/.

Notes

  1. Find A Grave, “William Thomas Bland,” accessed March 22, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/123760161/william-thomas-bland.

  2. Ancestry.com, Illinois, U.S., Compiled Marriages, 1851-1900 (Provo, UT, U.S.A.: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005), https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=7857&h=49087&tid=&pid=&queryId=517933a0148f6c0c3a0d6ea413d4c368&usePUB=true&_phsrc=zZy61&_phstart=successSource.

  3. Brigadier General J. N. Reece, Report of the Adjutant General of Illinois: Volume VI (Springfield, Illinois: Journal Company, Printers and Binders, 1900), 402.

  4. https://archive.org/details/reportofadjutant06illi1/page/402/mode/1up?view=theater.

  5. Find A Grave, “Lilly Bland Woodford,” Accessed April 6, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/123969031/lilly-woodford; “Rosa Bland,” Accessed April 6, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/156936886/rosa-bland; “Allen L. Bland,” Accessed April 6, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/156936886/rosa-bland.

  6.  Enumeration District: 049 (Census Place: East Oakland, Coles, Illinois; Roll, 1880: 18272A.

  7. “William Thomas Bland Obituary,” ARH, September 17, 1953. https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Periodicals/RH/RH19530917-V130-38.pdf.

  8. Everett Dick and George Gibson, Union College: Light upon the Hill (Lincoln, Neb.: Union College, Alumni Association, 2004), 165.

  9. “120 Years of History,” Mount Vernon Academy Archives, May 11, 2015, accessed March 22, 2021. https://web.archive.org/web/20150511103141/http://www.mvacademy.org/services-view/school-history/.

  10. “History,” Southern Adventist University, accessed March 22, 2021. https://www.southern.edu/about/history-and-mission/history.html; Craig Swain, “Graysville Academy,” The Historical Marker Database, January 24, 2020, accessed March 22, 2021, https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=26018.

  11. Graysville Church Minutes, July 4, 1896, Graysville Church Board, Graysville, Tennessee.

  12. Dick and Gibson, 165.

  13. The Clock Tower, April 16, 1976, accessed March 22, 2021. https://adventistdigitallibrary.org/adl-423365/clock-tower-april-16-1976?solr_nav%5Bid%5D=b572c0f2f652eb3fc41a&solr_nav%5Bpage%5D=0&solr_nav%5Boffset%5D=1.

  14. “Graysville Church Minutes,” April 1898, Graysville Church Board, Graysville, Tennessee.

  15. Dick and Gibson, 165.

  16. “Union College Founders’ Day,” The Educational Messenger, July 1, 1912, 8.

  17. “Union College Founders’ Day,” The Educational Messenger, 3.

  18. A. G. Daniells, “Washington Training College,” ARH, August 4, 1904, 6.

  19. U.S. Census Bureau. Population Density, 1910, Prepared by Ancestry.com (accessed April 28, 2021).

  20. Flora L. Bland, “A Present Hour Opportunity,” ARH, December 6, 1917, 13; “Work for All,” ARH, December 20, 1917, 12.

  21. Find A Grave, “Seth T. Bland.” accessed April 6, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/156930945/seth-t.-bland; “Flora L. Bland,” accessed April 6, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/119098828/flora-l.-bland.

  22. Find A Grave, “William Thomas Bland.”

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Teal, Christian A. "Bland, William Thomas (1862–1953)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. August 24, 2020. Accessed June 13, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=88ZV.

Teal, Christian A. "Bland, William Thomas (1862–1953)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. August 24, 2020. Date of access June 13, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=88ZV.

Teal, Christian A. (2020, August 24). Bland, William Thomas (1862–1953). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 13, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=88ZV.