Charles L. Boyd was an evangelist, conference leader, and pioneering missionary to South Africa.
Charles L. Boyd was born in 1843 in Lyme, Grafton County, New Hampshire, the second of eight children of Hoyt Boyd and Mary (McKeon) Boyd. Although Charles married twice, the name of his first wife is unknown. As a young evangelist in his twenties, Boyd held tent meetings throughout the state of Nebraska in the 1870s, where he faced opposition from Methodist, United Brethren, and Presbyterian ministers who debated with him concerning Sabbath/Sunday issues. Ever optimistic, however, he liked to use the phrase “there is gold here” whenever he found interested listeners.1 Boyd was particularly successful in persuading attendees to “sign the covenant” (agreeing to keep the seventh-day Sabbath). Wherever he went, he established small companies of believers, organized Sabbath schools and prayer meetings, and trained church leaders.
In 1878 he was elected the first president of the newly established Nebraska Conference and served for four years (1878-1882). During his tenure, he organized local Missionary Volunteer societies and encouraged members to subscribe to the new magazine, The Signs of the Times. In addition to his administrative duties, he occasionally held evangelistic meetings, as in March 1882 when he preached on “Prophecies Fulfilled and Unfulfilled” in the Congregational Church in Red Cloud, Nebraska.
In 1882 Boyd was elected president of the North Pacific Conference (Oregon and Washington) where he served for four years (1882-1886). He also became president of that Conference’s Tract and Missionary Society.
In 1884, Charles married Maude Sisley (1851-1837), a Bible instructor, colporteur, and missionary who had emigrated from England to Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1867. Although they had children, their names are not known. Maude was elected secretary of the North Pacific Conference Tract and Missionary Society.
Together, Charles and Maude pioneered Adventism in Oregon and Washington for several years. In 1884 Boyd convened the Pacific Coast Council, attended by Ellen White (1827-1915), W. C. White (1854-1937), J. H. Waggoner (1820-1889), J. N. Loughborough (1832-1924), Sydney Brownsberger (1845-1930), William Ings (1835-1897), and J. O. Corliss (1845-1923), to make plans for an expanded work on the West Coast. In 1886, despite facing “decided opposition” from the clergy, he organized two Adventist churches and Sabbath schools, one with thirty members and the other with twelve members in Seattle, Washington Territory.
At the General Conference session in Battle Creek, Michigan, on November 30, 1886, the Boyds and Robinsons were asked to go to South Africa. In early 1887, however, the Boyds attended the Fifth European Adventist Council in Moss, Norway, which included thirteen European delegates and four American delegates, Boyd, S. N. Haskell (1833-1922), Dores A. Robinson (1848-1899), and J. H. Waggoner (1820-1889), to consider plans for promoting the educational and colporteur work on the continent.
Work in South Africa
After this Council in Norway, Charles and Maude Boyd left for South Africa with Dores A. Robinson and his wife Edna and two colporteurs, George Burleigh and R. S. Anthony. They arrived in Cape Town in July 1887. Charles held evangelistic meetings while Maude assisted him as a Bible worker, primarily among the white Boer (Afrikaner) population in the Transvaal and Natal. Charles built the first Adventist chapel in Africa at Beaconsfield. Their labors often caused “a spirit of love, union, and harmony” to prevail.2 Charles assisted at the ordination of Peter Wessels (1856-1933), an Adventist multi-millionaire philanthropist, who received a ministerial license.
The Boyds remained in South Africa until 1891 when Charles’ failing health forced them to return to the United States. For the next seven years they worked together in the Tennessee River Conference (Kentucky and Tennessee), holding tent meetings, doing dark county evangelism (preaching in areas with no Adventist members), organizing churches, and assisting at camp meetings in Nashville. In 1895 Charles was elected president of the Tennessee River Tract Society, in which position he boosted subscriptions to the Signs of the Times and the American Sentinel (predecessor to Liberty magazine).
Despite failing health during the summer of 1897, Charles established a church school at Trezevant and a Sabbath school in Hoffasville, Tennessee, and held a baptismal service at Bowling Green, Kentucky, before taking the train for Battle Creek to seek treatment at the Sanitarium. A week later, however, he returned to Kentucky to hold three series of tent meetings with C. G. and Nellie Lowry with over 100 people attending. During the summer of 1898, while Charles and Maude were holding tent meetings in Asheville, North Carolina, he caught typhoid fever. He died on July 2, 1898, at 48 years of age and was buried in Riverside Cemetery in Asheville.
Charles Boyd contributed to the Church in three main areas. First, he was a successful tent evangelist in Nebraska, Washington, Oregon, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Second, he and Maude, with Dores and Edna Robinson, pioneered the work among the Boers in South Africa in the 1880s. Finally, Charles served as an effective conference administrator in Nebraska and the Northwest.
“Boyd, Charles L.” Denis Fortin and Jerry Moon, eds. The Ellen G. White Encyclopedia. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association. 2013
Boyd, Charles L. “Furnas Co., Nebraska.” Review and Herald, February 21, 1878.
Boyd, Charles L. “General Conference Proceedings.” Review and Herald, November 30, 1886.
Boyd, Charles L. “Lecture on the Prophecies.” The Red Cloud Chief, Red Cloud, Nebraska, March 9, 1882.
Boyd, Charles L. “Nebraska.” Review and Herald, January 15, 1880.
Boyd, Charles L. “Nebraska.” Review and Herald, July 24, 1879.
Boyd, Charles L. “Nebraska.” Review and Herald, July 26, 1877.
Boyd, Charles L. “Nebraska.” Review and Herald, November 17, 1874.
Boyd, Charles L. “Nebraska.” Review and Herald, October 3, 1878.
Boyd, Charles L. “North Pacific Conference.” Review and Herald, July 6, 1886.
Boyd, Charles L. “North Pacific Conference.” Review and Herald, September 7, 1886.
Boyd, Charles L. “North Pacific T. & M. Society.” Review and Herald, July 31, 1883.
“Boyd, Charles L.” Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. Second Revised Edition, A-L. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association. 1996.
Boyd, Charles L. “South Africa.” Review and Herald, July 15, 1890.
Boyd, Charles L. “Tennessee River Camp-Meeting.” Review and Herald, August 29, 1893.
Boyd, Charles L. “Tennessee River Camp-Meeting.” Review and Herald, September 17, 1895.
Boyd, Charles L. “Tennessee River Conference.” Review and Herald, August 3, 1897.
Boyd, Charles L. “Tennessee River Tract Proceedings.” Review and Herald, November 5, 1895.
Boyd, Charles L. “Tennessee.” Review and Herald, July 23, 1895.
Boyd, Charles L. “The Sabbath.” The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, Nebraska, March 6, 1887.
Boyd, Charles L. “Washington Territory.” Review and Herald, September 21, 1886.
Lowry, C. G. and Nellie G. “Kentucky.” Review and Herald, August 10, 1897.
Smith, Uriah. “Charles L. Boyd.” Review and Herald, July 12, 1898.
Spalding, Arthur W. Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, Volume 2. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1962.
White, Arthur L. Ellen G. White: The Lonely Years. Volume 3: 1876-1891. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1984.