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Pastor and Mrs. George C. Tenny with Ivers and Ruth. Tenny was the first President of the Australian Conference when it was organized in 1888.

From the Record, May 13, 1968

Tenney, George Cyrus (1847–1921)

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.

George C. Tenney was an American minister, educator, and author who served as editor of the Bible Echo and Signs of the Times in Australia from 1888 to 1892, and, after returning to the United States, filled editorial roles with the Review and Herald and other periodicals.

Early Life and Education

Born on August 24, 1847 in Liberty Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania, George Cyrus Tenney 1 was the fifth of Alpheus and Charlotte (Starkweather) Tenney’s eleven children. George’s siblings were: Minerva or “Minnie” (b.1838), Harriet Ellis (b. 1840), Emily Electra (b.1941), Laura Delphine (b.1844), Charles Silas (b.1849), Edwin Elsworth (b.1851), Mary Janette (b.1854), Ellie (b.1855), Martha Calista (b.1856) and John Ellis (b.1861).2 The 1855 New York State Census records the family as having moved to Chenango, Broome County, New York State, where Alpheus worked as a miller.3

According to his obituary, George graduated from an unnamed “special preparatory college” in 1876.4 He married Elsie Louisa Shepard at Beaver Dam, Dodge County, Wisconsin, in May 1876.5

Evangelistic Ministry in the Upper Midwest

Tenney entered evangelistic ministry directly after his graduation and marriage, assisting Henry Decker in a tent effort at Tomah, Wisconsin, in 1876.6 George and Elsie’s first child, Ivers Albert, was born at Beaver Dam, Wisconsin on November 22, 1877.7 Tenney and Decker were the two Wisconsin delegates at the March 1878 General Conference session in Battle Creek.8 Later in that same year Tenney was first referred to as an ordained minister.9 In a report of his work in November 1879, Tenney spoke of a tent series he conducted in New Lisbon, the building of a church at Stephens Point and his organization of health and temperance clubs at Loyal and Poi Sippi.10 His nomination to a General Conference committee in 1884 to assist in compiling a new church hymnal suggests that his judgement was well regarded.11

After a few years in Wisconsin, Tenney began to feel that it would be beneficial for him to move on to a new field of work. The Red River valley of North Dakota was among the possibilities that interested him. European settlers, scattered Seventh-day Adventists among them, were pioneering the rich farm lands and asking for a minister to visit and evangelize. The General Conference Committee sent him to pioneer the work there in the summer of 1884, giving him latitude in finding the best way forward. Initially, he made his home at Casselton12 but soon found nearby Fargo already had a small concentration of members. By the end of the year he had organized the Fargo group into a church and established a tract and missionary society. Branch societies were formed at Watson and Larimore where more members were found. Before returning to Wisconsin, Tenney arranged for some canvassers to seed the area with literature.13 It was the beginning of an extensive Adventist presence in the territory.

Following his successful foray into North Dakota, Tenney was elected president of the Minnesota Conference, a role he held for three years, 1885 through 1887.14 The Tenney’s daughter, Ruth, was born in Minnesota in 1885.15

Editor and Administrator in Australia

After accepting appointment to mission service in Australia in 1888, Tenney spent the early part of the year at Pacific Press, Oakland, California, learning editing protocols needed for his assignment to edit the Bible Echo and Signs of the Times in Melbourne, Victoria.16

The Tenney family sailed from San Francisco on June 2, 1888.17 On July 14 Tenney preached for the first time in Australia18 and a few weeks later a meeting was held to organize the Australian Conference at which he was elected president. He was also chosen to be the vice-president of the Australian Tract Society.19 These positions he held, together with his editorial role, until late 1892.

World Traveller and Author

Well into 1893 George Tenney’s name remained in the masthead of the Bible Echo but it was his assistant, Eliza Burnham, who was carrying the work for Tenney had embarked on extended world travel late in 1892.20 He first attended the 1893 General Conference session in Battle Creek, rendering a report from the Australian Conference. It was a shallow report, padded with much geographical and demographic information but offering no financial summary or details about the tract society efforts. His most telling admission was, “I have never had much time to visit a great deal among the churches, or to hold a course of meetings.”21

After the session Tenney continued his “extended tour.” He accompanied O.E. Olsen, General Conference president, in traveling through Europe, before re-joining his family in Battle Creek towards the end of 1893.22 Articles about his journey appeared regularly in the Bible Echo and were published as a book under the title Journeys by Land and Sea: A Visit to Five Continents.23 It was first sold by canvassers and then revised and re-issued in 1904 with the title Travels by Land and Sea. It was advertised as a volume for church schools because it contained “much profitable information in connection with their geography study.”24

Battle Creek, Then Australia Again

For five years, 1894 through 1898, Tenney was part of the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald editorial staff in addition to teaching some English and Bible classes at Battle Creek College. For much of that time, 1895 to 1897, he served with Uriah Smith as co-editor of the Review.25 Towards the end of 1898 he was assigned to Australia once more.

George and Elsie Tenney, together with their two teenage children, arrived in Sydney on December 14, 1898.26 Tenney was placed in charge of the Queensland Mission which, while under his supervision, was formed into the Queensland Conference in October 1899. He was elected as its first president.27 He was only in this role for twelve months when he was transferred south to Sydney, New South Wales, to engage in ministerial assistance in the various churches and camp meetings.28 In 1901 Tenney was elected vice-president of the New South Wales Conference.29 Once again, he served in this capacity for only twelve months before being transferred to New Zealand late in 1902.30 He arrived at his appointment but within weeks was returning to America, a development unannounced in the church periodical.

Kellogg Associate

Tenney found work as a chaplain at the Battle Creek Sanitarium and remained with the institution when it became independent of the church in 1908. He also edited Dr. John Kellogg’s periodical titled Medical Missionary. Tenney’s daughter, Ruth, taught in the nursing school at the Sanitarium. His son, Ivers, was an artist and bookbinder who suffered with a duodenal ulcer for many years and died with bronchial pneumonia in 1920.31

On Sabbath afternoon, September 24, 1921, George and Elsie visited Ivers’ grave in Oak Hill Cemetery, Battle Creek, taking Ivers’ son, George Jr., with them. They exited the cemetery along Newalk Avenue to board a street car on East Main Street when George was run down by a heavy truck and passed away soon after.32 He was laid to rest in the same Oak Hill Cemetery.33 Later, Elsie moved to Pasadena, California, to be with daughter Ruth and son-in-law Ralph Devault. She passed away on August 5, 1936.34

Sources

“Alpheus Tenney.” FamilySearch.org, Intellectual Reserve, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/KHPD-CBM.

B[urnham], E[liza] J. “Melbourne.” Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, August 1888.

B[utler], G[eorge] I. “A New and Important Field.” ARH, July 15, 1884.

B[utler], G[eorge] I. “The New Hymn Book.” ARH, December 9, 1884.

“By Land and Sea.” ARH, February 4, 1904.

Chenango. Broome County. 1855 New York State Census. Digital images. FamilySearch.org. Accessed April 8, 2020, https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K63J-KJR.

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

Daniells, A[rthur] G. “Organization of the Queensland Conference.” Union Conference Record, December 1, 1899.

Decker, H[enry] W. and Geo[rge] C. Tenney. “Wisconsin Tent - No.1.” ARH, August 31, 1876.

“Distribution of Labour.” Union Conference Record, October 1, 1900.

District of California, Death Certificates. Government of the District of California Department of Public Health, Sacramento, California.

“Eld. G.C. Tenney, of Battle Creek, appoints…” ARH, November 28, 1878.

“From papers just received from America…” Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, November 1, 1893.

“George C. Tenney.” FamilySearch.org, Intellectual Reserve, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/LHGL-SSM.

“George C. Tenney.” Find A Grave Memorial 15432021. Retrieved from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/15432021.

“George C. Tenney obituary.” ARH, December 22, 1921.

Haskell, S[tephen] N. “Business Proceedings.” ARH, March 7, 1878.

“Important Announcements.” Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, December 15, 1892.

“Ivers Albert Tenney.” Find A Grave Memorial 15432019. Retrieved from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/15432019/ivers-albert-tenney.

“Notes of Travel.” Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, July 1, 1893.

“On the 14th of December, Pastor G.C. Tenney…” Union Conference Record, December 15, 1898.

“Organisation in Australia.” Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, October 1888.

“Pastor G.C. Tenney has received a call…” Union Conference Record, January 1, 1903.

“Proceedings of the Minnesota Conference.” ARH, July 28, 1885.

Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. 2nd rev. edition. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1996. S.v. “Tenney, George Cidus.”

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Battle Creek, Mich.: Review and Herald Publishing House, 1886-1894.

Tenney, G[eorge] C. Journeys by Land and Sea: A Visit to Five Continents. Chicago, Ill.: International Tract Society, 1895.

Tenney, G[eorge] C. “North Dakota.” ARH, December 23, 1884.

Tenney, G[eorge] C. “The Australian Field.” General Conference Daily Bulletin, February 7-8, 1893.

Tenney, G[eorge] C. “Wisconsin.” ARH, November 6, 1879.

“The gratifying intelligence has been received…” Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, July 1888.

Notes

  1. “George C. Tenney,” Find A Grave Memorial 15432021, accessed April 26, 2020, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/15432021. Note: Variants for the middle name of George Cyrus Tenney are “Cidus” and “Cydus.”

  2. “Alpheus Tenney,” FamilySearch.org,Intellectual Reserve, 2020, accessed April 26, 2020, https://familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/KHPD-CBM.

  3. 1855 New York State Census, Broome County, Chenango, digital image, “Tenney, Alpheus,” FamilySearch.org, accessed April 8, 2020, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K63J-KJR.

  4. “George C. Tenney obituary,” ARH, December 22, 1921, 29.

  5. “George C. Tenney,” Find A Grave.

  6. H[enry] W. Decker and Geo[rge] C. Tenney, “Wisconsin Tent-No.1,” ARH, August 31, 1876, 78.

  7. “Ivers Albert Tenney,” Find A Grave Memorial 15432019, accessed April 26, 2020, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/15432019/ivers-albert-tenney.

  8. S[tephen] N. Haskell, “Business Proceedings,” ARH, March 7, 1878, 77.

  9. “Eld. G.C. Tenney, of Battle Creek, appoints…” ARH, November 28, 1878, 176.

  10. G[eorge] C. Tenney, “Wisconsin,” ARH, November 6, 1879, 158.

  11. G[eorge] I. B[utler,” The New Hymn Book,” ARH, December 9, 1884, 777.

  12. G[eorge] I. B[utler], “A New and Important Field,” ARH, July 15, 1884, 456.

  13. G[eorge] C. Tenney, “North Dakota,” ARH, December 23, 1884, 812.

  14. “Proceedings of the Minnesota Conference,” ARH, July 28, 1885, 476; “Minnesota,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Battle Creek, Mich.: Review and Herald, 1887), 15.

  15. “George C. Tenney,” FamilySearch.org, Intellectual Reserve, 2020, accessed April 8, 2020 https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/LHGL-SSM.

  16. “Minnesota,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Battle Creek, Mich.: Review and Herald, 1888), 5.

  17. “The gratifying intelligence has been received…” Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, July 1888, 112.

  18. E[liza] J. B[urnham], “Melbourne,” Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, August 1888, 124.

  19. “Organisation in Australia,” Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, October 1888, 152.

  20. “Important Announcements,” Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, December 15, 1892, 384.

  21. G[eorge] C. Tenney, “The Australian Field,” General Conference Daily Bulletin, February 7-8, 1893, 191-194.

  22. “From papers just received from America…” Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, November 1, 1893, 352.

  23. G[eorge] C. Tenney, Journeys by Land and Sea: A Visit to Five Continents (Chicago, Ill.: International Tract Society, 1895); “Notes of Travel,” Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, July 1, 1893, 216.

  24. “By Land and Sea,” ARH, February 4, 1904, 2.

  25. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, 2nd rev. edition (1996), s.v. “Tenney, George Cidus.”

    E.g., “Battle Creek College,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Battle Creek, Mich.: General Conference Association of Seventh-day Adventists, 1894), 44,47.

  26. “On the 14th of December, Pastor G.C. Tenney…” Union Conference Record, December 15, 1898, 124.

  27. A[rthur] G. Daniells, “Organization of the Queensland Conference,” Union Conference Record, December 1, 1899, 12-13.

  28. “Distribution of Labour,” Union Conference Record, October 1, 1900, 12.

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

  30. “Pastor G.C. Tenney has received a call…” Union Conference Record, January 1, 1903, 8.

  31. “Ivers Albert Tenney,” Find A Grave.

  32. Ibid.

  33. “George C. Tenney,” Find A Grave.

  34. District of California, Certificate of Death no.7879 (1936), Government of the District of California Department of Public Health, Sacramento, California.

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Hook, Milton. "Tenney, George Cyrus (1847–1921)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Accessed June 18, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AA9S.

Hook, Milton. "Tenney, George Cyrus (1847–1921)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Date of access June 18, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AA9S.

Hook, Milton (2021, April 28). Tenney, George Cyrus (1847–1921). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 18, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AA9S.