A. J. Haysmer, pioneer missionary in the Caribbean islands, also gave early leadership to the General Conference department organized to foster Adventist work among Black Americans, and served as president of three conferences in the United States and Canada.
Education and Early Career in Battle Creek
Albert James Haysmer was born on May 12, 1861, at Fenwick, Michigan, to James and Anna Maria Staines Haysmer. His known siblings were sisters Sarah (b. 1856), Mary Jane (b. 1859), Josephine (b. 1863), Fern (b. 1870) and Lottie (b. 1877).1 Albert was raised on a farm. His parents became Seventh-day Adventists when he was a youngster and he was baptized with them by Alfred O. Burrill.2
In 1880 Albert began work at the Battle Creek Sanitarium and was part of the first class of nurses trained there. He remained at the sanitarium after graduating, working in the men’s hydrotherapy department until 1887.3 He married Sarah (known as Sadie) Amelia Crandall in Battle Creek on March 17, 1883.4 After only three and a half years of marriage, Sadie died of tuberculosis on September 3, 1886, and was interred in the local Oak Hill Cemetery.5
With a view toward gospel ministry, Haysmer took two years of studies at Battle Creek College, 1886-1888. During this time he met and married Dora Van Deusen Wellman at Adrian, Michigan, on April 11, 1888.6 Dora was the widow of Dolphus Wellman and was associated with him in evangelistic work in Arkansas when he died in 1884. She then returned to her home state of Michigan to do Bible work and teach school.7 They named their first child, Sadie, after Albert’s first wife, but the child died as an infant with spinal problems on October 10, 1889.8 Their second child, born 1891, was named Elam Dolphus after Dora’s father and her deceased husband.9
Pioneering Work in the Caribbean
In the Fall of 1888 Haysmer began evangelism in the Michigan Conference and continued for almost five years. He was ordained at Battle Creek in May 1893 by Uriah Smith and John Corliss just prior to taking up his assignment to mission work on the island of Jamaica, where the Adventist presence was miniscule.10
On his first Sabbath in Jamaica, Haysmer met with five believers in the capital, Kingston. Three years later a report of progress stated there were 160 baptized members on the island and the broader community of Sabbath-keepers numbered approximately 300. The main congregations were located at Kingston and nearby Spanish Town.11 A group of canvassers activated considerable interest and tent evangelism soon raised companies of believers at Trinity Ville, Golden Grove in the east and Waterloo in the mountains.12 Pockets of interest arose in nearby islands. Haysmer was designated as the superintendent of the new West Indies Mission. Visitation by inter-island steamer took him away to nurture small groups in Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, Trinidad, St. Vincent, Antigua and St. Thomas.13 Dora Haysmer conducted services at home base when her husband was ministering elsewhere.14
Mission efforts in the West Indies prospered to the point where new organization became warranted. In the early Spring of 1903 the Jamaica Mission (as it became known by 1901) became the Jamaica Conference. At the same time the British and Dutch Guiana, Lesser Antilles, and Trinidad missions were organized into the East Caribbean Conference, with A. J. Haysmer as president and Dora V. [Mrs. A. J.] Haysmer as Sabbath School secretary. The conference had six organized churches and a total membership of 260, with Venezuela designated as a mission field of the conference.15 The change in nomenclature was significant: as “conferences” the church members formed the governing constituency; as “missions” they had been directly under General Conference management. In 1904 both Haysmers were re-elected to their positions in the East Caribbean Conference.16
Building Up the North American Black Work
Having done much to establish Seventh-day Adventist work in the Caribbean Basin on a solid foundation, the Haysmers, after 12 years, returned to their homeland in 1905. A. J. Haysmer was called to the presidency of the Alabama Conference, at that early stage an entity of 18 churches and 314 baptized members. The conference’s two primary schools were mission schools for Black students.17 The Oakwood Manual Training School opened for Black youth in Huntsville in 1896 was also located in conference territory. Haysmer served on the board of the Oakwood school, where a number of students were from the Caribbean, and some graduates would find their way into service in the Caribbean as ministers, school teachers, nurses and office workers.18
Until 1909 the Southern Missionary Society was the primary agency for Adventist mission among Black Americans. With that work beginning to expand beyond the South, the General Conference established the North American Negro Department in 1909 to promote and coordinate the work nationwide. Haysmer became, for all practical purposes, the first secretary (director) of the department in late November 1909. He replaced J. W. Christian, who was initially appointed to the position but hardly began before health problems made it impossible for him to continue.19
Haysmer led the department from Nashville, Tennessee, until 1912 when he became chair of the Oakwood Manual Training School board and moved the department’s address to Huntsville. In his report at the 1913 General Conference session, Haysmer reported that during his three and a half years at the head of the North American Negro Department, significant improvements had been made to the Oakwood school. Evangelistic efforts had raised up several new churches and membership total for congregations under the department’s auspices had more than doubled from about 900 to 2,414. The work force had increased to 24 ordained ministers and 11 ministerial licentiates, 29 school teachers and 55 canvassers.20
Final Labors in the Caribbean, Canada, and United States
At the 1913 session the General Conference endorsed a call for Haysmer to serve as president of the West Indian Union Conference (organized 1906). The union’s territory included Central America, the Caribbean islands and the northern countries of South America. Its headquarters were located at Riversdale, in the interior of Jamaica, a region familiar to Haysmer because it was where he first began work in the Caribbean two decades earlier.21
After five years of leadership over a large territory that included most of what later became the Inter-American Division, Haysmer accepted the presidency of the Alberta Conference, Canada, in 1918. Dora Haysmer served with him as the Home Missions secretary.22 Two years later, Haysmer transferred to the presidency of the Minnesota Conference. After six years in that responsibility, he served as the conference’s Home Missions secretary for four years, and then as a pastor until his retirement in 1937.23
After retirement, Albert and Dora moved to Stoneham, Massachusetts, to be near their second son, Dr. Clyde Albert Haysmer (b. 1897), a physician at New England Sanitarium and Hospital. A. J. Haysmer remained active as pastor of the Stoneham church and later as local elder of the New England Sanitarium church at nearby Melrose. He passed away at Melrose on February 2, 1950.24 Dora V. Haysmer passed away on June 29, 1951.25
“Albert James Haysmer.” FamilySearch. Accessed May 9, 2021. https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/968M-L4W.
“Albert James Haysmer.” Find A Grave. Memorial ID no. 144140583, March 24, 2015. accessed May 12, 2021, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/144140583/albert-james-haysmer.
Albert James Haysmer. Secretariat Missionary Files, RG 21, Record 114928. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Archives, Silver Spring, MD (GCA).
“Albert James Haysmer obituary.” ARH, March 30, 1950
“Dora Van Deusen Haysmer.” Find A Grave. Memorial ID no. 14410596, March 24, 2015. Accessed May 12, 2021, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/144140596/dora-haysmer.
Enoch, George F. “The East Caribbean Conference.” ARH, August 4, 1904.
General Conference Committee, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Online Archives. Accessed May 30, 2021. https://www.documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/Forms/AllItems.aspx.
Haysmer, A. J. “Demerara, Trinidad, St. Vincent, and Antigua.” ARH, September 23, 1902.
Haysmer, A. J. “Jamaica.” ARH, October 5, 1897.
Haysmer, A. J. “North American Negro Department.” ARH, June 19, 1913.
Haysmer, A. J. “Porto Rico.” ARH, April 1, 1902.
Haysmer, [Dora V.]. “St. Thomas and St. Vincent.” ARH, November 18, 1902.
Hutchins, A. S. “Sadie A. Haysmer.” ARH, October 12, 1886.
“In the absence of Elder A.J. Haysmer . . . .” ARH, May 13, 1902.
Richardson, F. I. “Jamaica.” ARH, May 26, 1896.
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Online Archives. https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/Forms/AllItems.aspx.
Warren, Luther. “Sadie Elnora Haysmer.” ARH, January 28, 1890.
“Albert James Haysmer,” Find A Grave, Memorial ID no. 144140583, March 24, 2015, accessed May 12, 2021, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/144140583/albert-james-haysmer.↩
Albert James Haysmer, Biographical Information Blank, August 20, 1914, GCA, Secretariat Missionary Files, RG 21, Record 114928.↩
Ibid; “Albert James Haysmer obituary,” ARH, March 30, 1950, 20.↩
“Albert James Haysmer,” FamilySearch, accessed May 9, 2021, https://familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/K694-HRY.↩
A.S. Hutchins, “Sadie A. Haysmer obituary,” ARH, October 12, 1886, 639.↩
“Dora Van Deusen Haysmer,” Find A Grave, Memorial ID no. 14410596, March 24, 2015, accessed May 12, 2021, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/144140596/dora-haysmer.↩
Dora Van Deusen Haysmer Biographical Information Blank, August 20, 1914, GCA, Secretariat Missionary Files, RG 21, Record 114928.↩
Luther Warren, “Sadie Elnora Haysmer,” ARH, January 28, 1890, 62.↩
“Dora Van Deusen Haysmer,” Find A Grave.↩
Albert James Haysmer Biographical Information Blank, August 20, 1914, GCA, Record 114928.↩
F.I. Richardson, “Jamaica,” ARH, May 26, 1896, 332.↩
A.J. Haysmer, “Jamaica,” ARH, October 5, 1897, 635.↩
A.J. Haysmer, “Porto Rico,” ARH, April 1, 1902, 202; A. J. Haysmer, “Demerara, Trinidad, St. Vincent, and Antigua,” ARH, September 23, 1902, 16; [Dora V.] Haysmer, “St. Thomas and St. Vincent,” ARH, November 18, 1902, 16.↩
“In the absence of Elder A.J. Haysmer . . . ,” ARH, May 13, 1902, 19.↩
“East Caribbean Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1904.↩
George F. Enoch, “The East Caribbean Conference,” ARH, August 4, 1904, 12-13.↩
“Alabama Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1906.↩
A.J. Haysmer, “North American Negro Department,” ARH, June 19, 1913, 17-19.↩
General Conference Committee, November 29, 1909. General Conference Archives, accessed May 30, 2021, https://www.documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/Forms/AllItems.aspx.↩
A.J. Haysmer, “North American Negro Department.”↩
“Thirty-fifth Meeting,” 1913 General Conference, ARH, June 19, 1913, 12; “West Indian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1914.↩
“Alberta Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1919.↩
“Albert James Haysmer obituary”; “Minnesota Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1921 and 1927.↩
“Albert James Haysmer obituary.”↩
“Necrology,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1952.↩