View All Photos

Cyrenius and Louisa Smith, 1870s.

Photo courtesy of Center for Adventist Research.

Smith, Cyrenius (1804–1874) and Mary Louisa (Sawyer) (1806–1881)

By Michael W. Campbell

×

Michael W. Campbell, Ph.D., is North American Division Archives, Statistics, and Research director. Previously, he was professor of church history and systematic theology at Southwestern Adventist University. An ordained minister, he pastored in Colorado and Kansas. He is assistant editor of The Ellen G. White Encyclopedia (Review and Herald, 2013) and currently is co-editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Seventh-day Adventism. He also taught at the Adventist International Institute for Advanced Studies (2013-18) and recently wrote the Pocket Dictionary for Understanding Adventism (Pacific Press, 2020).

First Published: December 5, 2022

Cyrenius and Mary Smith were early Sabbatarian Adventists converted by Joseph Bates. Cyrenius was a farmer and, later, worked as a carpenter.

Early Life and Conversion

Cyrenius was born March 25, 1804, in Windsor, Vermont. Mary Louisa Dodge Sawyer, known as Louisa, was born in Lynn, Massachusetts. Cyrenius joined the Christian [Restorationist] Church at age 15. In 1828, Cyrenius married Louisa.

They initially lived in Niagara, New York, before they settled near Jackson, Michigan, in the 1830s. During the 1840s, they accepted the Millerite message of Christ’s soon return. In 1849, Joseph Bates went west to Indiana. He had a dream that he should go to Michigan, which he did, arriving there on July 27, 1849. This small group of Advent believers in Jackson continued weekly meetings after the Great Disappointment, and most of the group accepted the seventh day Sabbath after Bates met with them and presented his beliefs. Only one family did not show up to the meeting with Bates, the Smith family, due to bad weather.1 Dan R. Palmer took Bates the next day to the home of Cyrenius who was “shocking hay.” Bates picked up a pitchfork to work alongside him “as he explained the Sabbath question.”2 This conversation led Cyrenius, too, to accept that the seventh day was the Sabbath. Together they formed the first Sabbatarian Adventist congregation in what was then dubbed “the West.”3

Supporting the Adventist Work

The Smith home soon became a center for early Sabbatarian Adventism. In 1851, J. N. Andrews stayed with the Smiths while he was writing a series of articles responding to O. R. L. Crozier who published a series of articles attacking their position on the Sabbath.4 That same year the Smiths sold their farm in Jackson for $3,500 in order to have sufficient funds to help the fledgling Sabbatarian Adventist cause.5 He worked shares on a farm and used the capital he accumulated to help support the fledgling cause.

Cyrenius joined Charles S. Glover, Dan Palmer, and John Preston Kellogg in putting up funds to purchase the very first Adventist evangelistic tent. Charles Glover left on a train east on May 23, 1854, for Rochester, New York, to purchase a tent from E. C. Williams.6 Later the same day, James and Ellen White narrowly avoided perishing in a train wreck going west on their way to a speaking appointment in Wisconsin. Ellen White felt impressed to move to the back of the train. After the wreck, James White found Abram Dodge who secured a team of horses to take them to the Cyrenius Smith home at two o’clock in the morning on May 24.7 They believed their lives had been providentially spared.8

In 1855, the Smiths joined their friends, Henry Lyon, J. P. Kellogg, and Dan Palmer, in inviting the Whites to relocate to Michigan. They believed that “the truth would gain adherents faster in the West than in the East.” 9 After negotiations with James White, they bought a piece of land in Battle Creek and a small one and one-half story wooden building, eighteen by twenty-four feet, was erected at the corner of Washington and West Main Streets.10 From 1855 to 1861, Cyrenius served as a member of the publishing committee for the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald. He afterward remained a member of the board of trustees for the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association and frequently participated in denominational meetings and committees. The Smith home in Battle Creek was a place where early ministers frequently visited. Their daughter, Hannah, recalled how their home was affectionately dubbed the “Pilgrims’ Tavern” due to their hospitality.11 When a church was first organized in Battle Creek, Cyrenius served as the “deacon.” He was one of the first church officers designated to serve a local church congregation in the denomination’s history.

Cyrenius and Louisa had nine children: William M. Smith (1828-1856), Caroline E. Smith (1830-1915), who later married Abram A. Dodge (1817-1892); Lorinda Smith (1832-1903), who married Daniel Carpenter (1824-1887); Martha L. Smith (1833-1920) who married John F. Byington (1832-1872) and then later remarried Seneca H. King (1834-1893); Asahel Smith (1838-1924); Asenath M. Smith (1840-1926) who married Robert M. Kilgore (1839-1912); Hannah L. Smith (1844-1935); and Mary L. Smith (1848-1921). The Smith children were well known for their singing ability.12

Demise

Cyrenius died from complications after he fell from a building at the age of 70 on June 13, 1874. Louisa passed away at age 75 on November 3, 1881.13 They are both buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek, Michigan.14

Sources

Corliss, J. O. “Experiences of Former Days—No. 12: Removal of the Printing Work to Michigan, and Its Results.” ARH, October 13, 1904.

Loughborough, J. N. “Early Experiences in the Publishing Work—No. 11.” ARH, October 1, 1908.

Loughborough, J. N. “Experiences in the Publishing Work—No. 13.” ARH, November 5, 1908.

Loughborough, J. N. “Interesting Item of History.” ARH, November 11, 1890.

Loughborough, J. N. “Recollections of the Past—No. 10.” ARH, January 27, 1885.

Loughborough, J. N. “Recollections of the Past—No. 11.” ARH, February 24, 1885.

Obituary. ARH, June 30, 1874.

Obituary. ARH, January 10, 1882.

Spalding, Arthur W. “Look Back a Hundred Years: The Advent Message in 1850.” ARH, August 24, 1950.

Notes

  1. J. N. Loughborough, “Interesting Item of History,” ARH, November 11, 1890, 695.

  2. “An Important Truth to Present to You,” The Church Officers’ Gazette, July 1938, 14.

  3. Arthur W. Spalding, “Look Back a Hundred Years: The Advent Message in 1850,” ARH, August 24, 1950, 26.

  4. J. N. Loughborough, “Experiences in the Publishing Work—No. 13,” ARH, November 5, 1908, 21.

  5. J. N. Loughborough, “Early Experiences in the Publishing Work—No. 11,” ARH, October 1, 1908, 21.

  6. J. N. Loughborough, “Recollections of the Past—No. 10,” ARH, January 27, 1885, 58.

  7. J. N. Loughborough, “Recollections of the Past—No. 11,” ARH, February 24, 1885, 122.

  8. William C. White, “Sketches and Memories of James and Ellen G. White: XIX. Healing, Encouragement, and Deliverance,” ARH, July 18, 1935, 8.

  9. J. O. Corliss, “Experiences of Former Days—No. 12: Removal of the Printing Work to Michigan, and Its Results,” ARH, October 13, 1904, 8.

  10. Ibid.

  11. “From Pioneers,” ARH, October 17, 1935, 21.

  12. Spalding, Origin and History, 225.

  13. Obituary. ARH, January 10, 1882, 30.

  14. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/15330830/cyrenius-smith and https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/15330831/mary-louisa-smith [accessed 11/26/22].

×

Campbell, Michael W. "Smith, Cyrenius (1804–1874) and Mary Louisa (Sawyer) (1806–1881)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. December 05, 2022. Accessed April 08, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BA6C.

Campbell, Michael W. "Smith, Cyrenius (1804–1874) and Mary Louisa (Sawyer) (1806–1881)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. December 05, 2022. Date of access April 08, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BA6C.

Campbell, Michael W. (2022, December 05). Smith, Cyrenius (1804–1874) and Mary Louisa (Sawyer) (1806–1881). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved April 08, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BA6C.