Cross, Edith Armstrong (1879–1960)

By Sabrina Riley

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Sabrina Riley was born in Auburn, New York and raised in Dowagiac, Michigan. She received a B.A. in history from Andrews University and an M.A. in information and libraries studies from the University of Michigan. Riley was a member of Andrews University’s library staff from 1998 to 2003, library director and college archivist at Union College from 2003 to 2016, and is presently a freelance researcher, author, and information professional.

 

Edith Ellen Armstrong,1 a Bible instructor in the Lake Union for close to four decades, was born August 30, 1879, in Hillsdale, Michigan, to Frank W. Armstrong and Addie S. Coon (1850-1933; 1857-1932). Frank Armstrong, a native of New York, did not accept the Adventist message until the early 1880s when he heard Ellen White preach in Jackson, Michigan.2 However, Addie Coon’s father, Warren Coon, who was born in New York and had moved to Ohio in 1833, joined the Millerites in 1843 after hearing Charles Fitch preach. In 1853, J. N. Loughborough introduced him to the Three Angels Messages and in 1862 he was persuaded to keep the seventh-day Sabbath.3

Ultimately both the Armstrongs and the Coons moved to Hillsdale, Michigan, where Frank and Addie married. The couple, with their children Howard, Edith, and Nina, moved to Battle Creek by the time Edith was old enough to attend Battle Creek College.

On October 15, 1900, Alonzo T. Jones officiated at the marriage of Edith Armstrong and William Niles Cross (1880-1954).4 William Cross was a skilled printer or pressman. For a brief time he was a foreman for the International Publishing Association in College View, Nebraska.5 Two sons were born to the Crosses, Carroll Niles (1903-1999)6 and Edwin Robert (1909-1968).7 But the marriage was evidently not a happy one for the Crosses, having returned to Michigan, divorced on October 27, 1916, for reasons cited as “extreme and repeated cruelty.”8 William Cross moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked for the Government Printing Office. He remarried and had a daughter.9 Edith Cross was hired by the West Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists to be a Bible instructor in 1916.10

At the time of their divorce, the Crosses were living in Grand Rapids with Frank and Addie Armstrong. Edith Cross continued this arrangement and her parents lived with her until they both died in 1933.11

At first, Cross served with summer tent meeting evangelistic teams in Grand Rapids as well as conducting a prison ministry in the same city. As part of the evangelistic teams it was her responsibility to make home visits and give Bible studies one-on-one or in small groups.12 In 1922, her ministry took her to Indiana. She worked primarily in South Bend and the northern Indiana region, which at the time was part of the West Michigan Conference.13

When the northern tier of Indiana counties was reassigned to the Indiana Conference, Cross’s employment changed to the Indiana Conference and she traveled throughout the northern half of the state including South Bend, Mishawaka, Granger, North Liberty,14 Rochester, Angola, LaGrange, Elkhart,15 and further south to Terre Haute,16 Kokomo,17 and Indianapolis. She carried a missionary license from 1917 to 194118 when she held both a missionary and Bible instructor credential for two years.19 Thereafter, she was classified as a “Bible instructor” or “credentialed Bible Instructor” until 1951.20

Cross’s name appears regularly in the Lake Union Herald–either in reports which include her work, or testimonies about her work that she wrote. The April 9, 1930 issue, for example, included Cross’s story of how the Holy Spirit, through her prayers, converted one of her Bible study students.21 She consistently gave credit to the Holy Spirit for the success of her work.

That same April, Ministry published an article by Cross, “The Connecting Link.”22 This article is a statement of her philosophy of the role of Bible instructor–an assistant to the pastor, a link between colporteur, radio ministry, and church member. In Cross’s experience, the Bible instructor becomes deeply acquainted with members as she visits their homes and studies the Bible with them over significant periods of time. She is a mentor to new and old members alike. In her writing, Cross comes across as warm and caring, someone who took the time to know and understand people.

It may never be known how many people joined the Adventist church because of Edith Cross’s long hours of work and travel, nor how many churches she helped plant. She was certainly instrumental in the establishment of the Rochester, Indiana, church.23 In other locations, her work appears to have grown existing churches. Following evangelistic meetings conducted by George Vandeman in Elkhart in 1938, sixteen people were baptized, and later that year Cross reported continuing to study with forty-one more.

Edith Cross was working in Indianapolis when she retired in 1953, after a thirty-seven-year career. When she moved to Maitland, Florida, in 1955, she continued to give Bible studies and became a founding member of the Apopka, Florida, church. Cross died in Orlando, Florida, on March 10, 1960.24

Sources

“Carroll N. Cross obituary.” Atlantic Union Gleaner, June 1999.

Cross, Edith. “South Bend, Ind.” Lake Union Herald, April 9, 1930.

Cross, Edith. “The Connecting Link.” Ministry, April 1, 1930.

Cross, Edith. “The Spirit That Will Finish the Message.” Lake Union Herald, August 8, 1939.

“Edith Ellen Armstrong Cross obituary.” ARH, April 28, 1960.

“Edith Ellen Armstrong Cross obituary.” Lake Union Herald, April 12, 1960.

“Edith Ellen Armstrong Cross obituary.” Southern Tidings, April 13, 1960.

“Edwin R. Cross obituary,” Lake Union Herald, April 2, 1968. “Frank W. Armstrong obituary.” ARH, August 17, 1933.

Haughey, A. G. “Warren Coon obituary.” ARH, March 10, 1903.

“Indiana: News Notes,” Lake Union Herald, August 3, 1943.

Lincoln, Nebraska, U. S. City Directories. Ancestry.com. Accessed November 1, 2019. https://www.ancestry.com.

McKee, W. H. “Grand Rapids Tent Meeting.” Lake Union Herald, September 5, 1917.

Michigan. Berrien County. 1930 United States Census. Digital images. Ancestry.com, November 3, 2019. https://www.ancestry.com.

Michigan. Divorce records. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing, Michigan. Ancestry.com. Accessed November 1, 2019. https://www.ancestry.com.

Michigan. Marriage Records. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics. Ancestry.com. Accessed November 1, 2019. https://www.ancestry.com.

“News Notes.” Lake Union Herald, November 7, 1923.

Piper, J. F. “Evangelistic Campaigns for the Summer.” Lake Union Herald, May 17, 1922.

Piper, J. F. “The Fieldwork in Michigan.” Lake Union Herald, June 22, 1921.

Piper, J. F. “A Visit Among the Tent Companies of West Michigan.” Lake Union Herald, July 21, 1920.

Piper, J. F. “Tent Companies.” Lake Union Herald, June 30, 1920.

Royer, D. K. “West Michigan Conference Camp Meeting.” Lake Union Herald, May 8, 1918.

Sanders, F. O. “Farewell to the Plymouth District.” Lake Union Herald, May 12, 1936.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1918-1951.

United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. Ancestry.com. Accessed November 1, 2019. https://www.ancestry.com.

Walker Edna L. “A Report.” Lake Union Herald, May 9, 1917.

Westworth, W. A. "Addie S. Armstrong obituary.” Lake Union Herald, January 24, 1933.

Westworth, William A. "Frank W. Armstrong obituary.” Lake Union Herald, February 28, 1933.

"William N. Cross obituary.” ARH, December 30, 1954.

"William N. Cross obituary.” Columbia Union Visitor, January 20, 1955.

Notes

  1. This biography is adapted from two prior articles written by the author: “Deep Diving in the Church Archives,” Family History Grapevine, May 16, 2017, accessed November 3, 2019, https://www.familyarchivist.net/post/2017/05/16/deep-diving-in-church-archives; and “A Spiritual Genealogy,” Outlook: News and Inspiration from Mid-America, March 30, 2017, accessed November 3, 2019, https://outlookmag.org/a-spiritual-genealogy/.

  2. “Frank W. Armstrong obituary,” ARH, August 17, 1933, 22; William A. Westworth, "Frank W. Armstrong obituary,” Lake Union Herald, February 28, 1933, 9; W. A. Westworth, "Addie S. Armstrong obituary,” Lake Union Herald, January 24, 1933, 6.

  3. A. G. Haughey, “Warren Coon obituary,” ARH, March 10, 1903, 23.

  4. Calhoun County, Michigan, Marriage Records, Record number 6493 (1900), William Niles Cross and Edith Ellen Armstrong, Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Ancestry.com, accessed November 1, 2019, https://www.ancestry.com; "William N. Cross obituary,” ARH, December 30, 1954, 23; "William N. Cross obituary,” Columbia Union Visitor, January 20, 1955, 10.

  5. Lincoln, Nebraska, U. S. City Directories, (1909), “Cross, William N.,” Ancestry.com, accessed November 1, 2019, https://www.ancestry.com.

  6. “Carroll N. Cross obituary,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, June 1999, 28.

  7. “Edwin R. Cross obituary,” Lake Union Herald, April 2, 1968, 15.

  8. Kent County, Michigan, Divorce Records, Record number 20400 (1916), William N. Cross and Edith A. Cross, Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing, Michigan, Ancestry.com, accessed November 1, 2019, https://www.ancestry.com.

  9. "William N. Cross obituary,” ARH, December 30, 1954, 23; "William N. Cross obituary,” Columbia Union Visitor, January 20, 1955, 10; United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, William Niles Cross, Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, Ancestry.com, accessed November 1, 2019, https://www.ancestry.com.

  10. “Edith Ellen Armstrong Cross obituary,” ARH, April 28, 1960, 24.

  11. “Frank W. Armstrong obituary,” ARH, August 17, 1933, 22; William A. Westworth, "Frank W. Armstrong obituary,” Lake Union Herald, February 28, 1933, 9; W. A. Westworth, "Addie S. Armstrong obituary,” Lake Union Herald, January 24, 1933, 6.

  12. W. H. McKee, “Grand Rapids Tent Meeting,” Lake Union Herald, September 5, 1917, 4-5; Edna L. Walker, “A Report,” Lake Union Herald, May 9, 1917, 9; D. K. Royer, “West Michigan Conference Camp Meeting,” Lake Union Herald, May 8, 1918, 5; J. F. Piper, “The Fieldwork in Michigan,” Lake Union Herald, June 22, 1921, 6-7; J. F. Piper, “A Visit Among the Tent Companies of West Michigan,” Lake Union Herald, July 21, 1920, 6; J. F. Piper, “Tent Companies,” Lake Union Herald, June 30, 1920, 6.

  13. J. F. Piper, “Evangelistic Campaigns for the Summer,” Lake Union Herald, May 17, 1922, 5.

  14. “News Notes,” Lake Union Herald, November 7, 1923, 4.

  15. Edith Cross, “The Spirit That Will Finish the Message,” Lake Union Herald, August 8, 1939, 5.

  16. “Indiana: Ingathering News,” Lake Union Herald, July 7, 1942, 5.

  17. “Indiana: News Notes,” Lake Union Herald, August 3, 1943, 6.

  18. “West Michigan Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1918), 58; “Indiana Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1941), 43.

  19. “Indiana Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1942), 34; “Indiana Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1943), 39.

  20. “Indiana Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1944), 39; “Indiana Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1951), 51.

  21. Edith Cross, “South Bend, Ind.,” Lake Union Herald, April 9, 1930, 10.

  22. Edith Cross, “The Connecting Link,” Ministry, April 1, 1930, 26-27.

  23. F. O. Sanders, “Farewell to the Plymouth District,” Lake Union Herald, May 12, 1936, 1.

  24. “Edith Ellen Armstrong Cross obituary.” ARH, April 28, 1960, 24; "Edith Ellen Armstrong Cross obituary," Lake Union Herald, April 12, 1960, 13; "Edith Ellen Armstrong Cross obituary," Southern Tidings, April 13, 1960, 21.

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Riley, Sabrina. "Cross, Edith Armstrong (1879–1960)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Accessed June 20, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8HX8.

Riley, Sabrina. "Cross, Edith Armstrong (1879–1960)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Date of access June 20, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8HX8.

Riley, Sabrina (2021, April 28). Cross, Edith Armstrong (1879–1960). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 20, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8HX8.