Mendel Israel, second president of the New Zealand Tract Society, 1892-1893.

Photo courtesy of South Pacific Division Heritage Centre.

New Zealand Tract Society (1889–1918)

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.

First Published: January 29, 2020

The New Zealand Tract Society (NZTS) was a branch of the American-based International Tract Society with a constitution and by-laws modified to meet New Zealand’s legal code.1 Its chief purpose was to encourage the membership to sell, loan, and give away denominational tracts and periodicals.

Beginnings in Auckland

Elders Stephen N. Haskell, Mendel C. Israel, Arthur G. Daniells, and Robert Hare were instrumental in pioneering three groups of Seventh-day Adventist converts in Kaeo, Auckland, and Napier between 1885 and 1889.2 Each group engaged in mission work as a separate tract society until a series of three meetings took place in Auckland’s Mackelvie Street assembly hall from May 27 through May 31, 1889. During these meetings, the New Zealand Conference, Tract Society, and Sabbath School Association entities were established. Enos Morrison, an experienced book salesman from California, was present to guide the formation of the New Zealand Tract Society.3

The NZTS established a protocol in which the main office responded to inquiries from the public. After regular correspondence developed a relationship of trust, home visitations were arranged. Members were also trained to sell denominational books from door to door. There were already approximately ten colporteurs working in New Zealand. These came under the supervision of a field agent. It is impossible to quantify the number of converts won by tract and book distribution, but the anecdotal evidence suggests the number would be significant.

Church members pledged £140 to form a reserve fund for the society.4 First priority was the distribution of Good Health magazines and their placement in public libraries. Plans were laid to rent an office in Wellington as a central depot for book supplies and provide work space for a secretary to receive and dispatch all correspondence. Daniells was elected as the president of the NZTS.5

Removal to Wellington

The NZTS depot proposed in 1889, was first established in Buckle Street, Wellington.6 A few months later new premises were found at Bank’s Terrace.7 Mary Tuxford, a Napier church member, served as secretary. In her reports she gave totals for letters written, missionary visits, Bible readings, and the number of pages of books and tracts sold, loaned, and given away. In 1891, there were almost one hundred recorded members of the society.8

At the third annual session of the NZTS, held in Napier during April 1892, administration of the society experienced some changes and expansion. Tuxford remained as secretary, but was given the added duties of treasurer. Jessie Israel became her assistant. Mendel C. Israel was elected president of the society and James Harris, a colporteur, was chosen as vice-president and general agent. All members of the society were urged to diligently circulate denominational periodicals such as Bible Echo, Home Missionary, and American Sentinel.9

Twelve months later, at Napier in March/April 1893, the fourth session of the NZTS took place. Reports from colporteurs in the South Island were first mentioned and members were encouraged to distribute literature at railway stations.10 By this stage, membership had risen to 190 and offerings being received were for foreign missions, an orphan’s home, and special collections designated as “week of prayer” and “first-day”.11 These offerings were rarely featured in reports.

The fifth annual session of the NZTS was held in Wellington, November/December 1893. Membership stood at 267 in eight local societies. The colporteurs’ report was meager, with profits insufficient to meet expenses of the society due to most of colporteurs sailing to Melbourne to attend the St. Kilda Bible School. However, the report of work done in Wellington, supplying bound volumes of periodicals to the public library, the Sailor’s Home, and the Boy’s Institute was more successful. Tuxford had also posted literature to twenty-five isolated sheep graziers. Members of the NZTS were gratified to hear accounts of the missionary work done by the crew of the “Pitcairn,” then anchored in Wellington harbor.12

Most records of 1895 and 1896 are lost, particularly the proceedings of the sixth annual session in 1895. The seventh annual session was held in Napier, December 1896. In the meantime, about January 1895, the office and depot were transferred to 57 Tory Street, Wellington.13 The observation was made that during 1896 there were fewer colporteurs than in 1895, but sales had increased, providing a similar level of profits. These, however, were insufficient to prevent “financial embarrassments.” Administration was scaled back to only two individuals. Tuxford remained secretary and William Crothers became president and general agent for 1897.14

The eighth annual session met in Napier in late December 1897. Officers elected for 1897 were retained for 1898 with the addition of Elder Eugene W. Farnsworth as vice-president and J. Harry Camp as general agent. Members agreed for the office to temporarily act as a depot for health foods imported from Australia. Plans were made to erect their own NZTS building because the rent at Tory Street had become a burden.15 A few months later it was reported that the new building was being constructed at the corner of Taranaki and Jessie Streets. The lower level was designed to serve as NZTS office and depot. The upper level was designated a meeting hall for the Wellington church members.16

In July 1899, Tuxford left the NZTS to pursue nursing at the Sydney Sanitarium,17 a career change of short duration as in 1907 she was appointed correspondence secretary for the Southern Union Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.18 At the NZTS, she was replaced in November 1898 by Emma Steed. In 1889, Steed’s report included marketing of Caramel Cereal, promotion of the Bible Echo, the collection of donations for the Avondale School and the Christchurch Health Home, and the mailing of Week of Prayer readings and missionary letters to names supplied by colporteurs.19 Her tenure was brief. Steed, along with her husband, moved to Australia in September 1900 and Jessie Baker stepped in as secretary.20

Decline

In addition to Tuxford’s departure from the NZTS, 1898 marked another significant change for the society. In a meeting chaired by Vice-President W. E. Farnsworth on November 14, 1898, it was decided to make the tract society a department of the New Zealand Conference.21 This effectively eliminated the positions of president and vice-president, but retained the positions of agent and secretary. Henceforth, brief reports were given during the New Zealand Conference Sessions. For example, at the Conference Session in Christchurch in January 1901, the report mentioned a total of twenty-five local societies and the office promotion of the Bible Echo, Herald of Health and the Union Conference Record. A library of books was donated to the New Zealand 2nd Contingent departing for the Boer War. As of June 1900, the society held a deficit balance of £156.22

The number of colporteurs in the field continued to drop. During 1907-1908 the society sustained a loss of £330. The office at Taranaki Street was sold and a less expensive but larger property was purchased at Lower Hutt, away from the central business district.23 Losses persisted. The 1909 balance sheet revealed a £172 loss and in 1910 a £94 deficit was suffered.24 During the quadrennium, 1910-1914, some modest improvement was made with a gain of £500 pounds over four years.25 In 1915 New Zealand was divided into North and South Conferences. In mid-1916 the NZTS office moved to Ponsonby, Auckland, together with the North New Zealand Conference departments.26 The quadrennium ending in 1918 showed a small deficit for the Tract Society in the South Island27 and results for the North Island were a non-specific “financial loss.”28 First World War conditions were not conducive to progress. Similar debts were experienced in the tract societies in Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia.29

Instability in the work-force only added to the difficulties. In 1919, both North and South Conferences amalgamated the secretarial work of the tract societies by including the entities in their Home Missionary departments. The NZTS, in effect, ceased to exist but colporteurs continued to have leadership in the person of a field missionary secretary.30

List of Officers

Presidents and Agents: Arthur G. Daniells (1889-1892), Mendal Israel (1892-1893), G. T. Wilson (1894), William M. Crothers (1897-1898)

Vice-Presidents: Robert Hare (1889-1890), M. C. Israel (1890-1892), James Harris (1892-1893), Arthur Mountain (1894), Eugene W. Farnsworth (1897-1898)

Agents: J. Harry Camp (1898), (agents unknown between 1899 and 1903), Arthur Mountain (1904-1906),31 A. G. Mckenzie (1907-1908),32 John Chaney (1909),33 Arthur Hodgkison (1910-1912),34 Frank Rampton (1913-1914),35 Harold Josephs (1915),36 George Hansford (North Island 1916-1918),37 Benjamin Waldron (South Island 1916-1917),38 and John Thompson (South Island (1918).39

Secretaries: Mary H. Tuxford (1889-1898), Emma Steed (1898-1900), Jessie Baker (1900-1905), Jessie Johnstone (1906-1909),40 Irene Sharp (1910-1914),41 A. Hokin (1915),42 Gweneth Groube (North Island 1916-1917),43 and T. William Hammond (South Island 1916-1917).44

Sources

“Agents.” The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, May 1, 1891.

“Agents.” The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, December 1, 1891.

Cobb, S. M. “The Report of the New Zealand Conference.” Union Conference Record, September 7, 1908.

Cole, J. M. “New Zealand Conference.” Australasian Record, September 28, 1914.

Cormack, A. W. “Western Australian Conference.” Australasian Record, October 21, 1918.

Crothers, W. M. “The New Zealand Tract Society Proceedings.” The Bible Echo, February 8, 1897.

Daniells, A. G. “From New Zealand to Australia.” The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, May 1, 1891.

Daniells, A. G. “New Zealand Tract Society.” The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, June 1, 1892.

Daniells, A. G. “Organization of the New Zealand Tract Society.” The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, August 1, 1889.

Farnsworth, E. W. and E. M. Graham. “Annual Session of the New Zealand Tract Society.” Union Conference Record, December 15, 1898.

Farnsworth, E. W. New Zealand Tract Society.” Union Conference Record, January/February, 1898.

Graham, E. M. “New Zealand Tract Society.” Union Conference Record, February 1, 1901.

“Important Removal Notice.” Australasian Record, June 12, 1916.

Israel, M. C. “New Zealand.” The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, July 1, 1889.

Israel, M. C. “The New Zealand Tract Society.” The Bible Echo, May 15, 1893.

Israel, M. C. “The New Zealand Tract Society.” The Bible Echo, January 22, 1894.

Letts, F. H. “South New Zealand Conference.” Australasian Record, October 21, 1918.

“Mrs E. Steed and Two Daughters…” Union Conference Record, October 1, 1900.

“Orders.” The Bible Echo, January 4, 1897.

Pallant, J. “New Zealand Conference.” Union Conference Record, October 24, 1910.

Pascoe, W. H. “North New Zealand Conference.” Australasian Record, October 21, 1918.

“Second Meeting of the Conference.” Union Conference Record, July 12, 1899.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1890-1919.

“Sister M. H. Tuxford, Who is so Well Known…” Union Conference Record, October 21, 1907.

Steed, Emma. “New Zealand Tract Department.” Union Conference Record, October 1, 1899.

Tuxford, M. H. “The New Zealand Tract Society.” The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, December 1, 1891.

Tuxford, M. H. “The New Zealand Tract Society.” The Bible Echo, May 15, 1893.

Tuxford, M. H. “New Zealand Tract Society Building.” The Bible Echo, March 7, 1898.

Notes

  1. A. G. Daniells, “Organization of the New Zealand Tract Society,” The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, August 1, 1889, 236; Note: The full title of the international body was “The International Tract and Missionary Society” and occasionally the New Zealand branch was referred to as “The New Zealand Tract and Missionary Society.”

  2. A. G. Daniells, “From New Zealand to Australia,” The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times,” May 1, 1891, 140.

  3. A. G. Daniells, “Organization of the New Zealand Tract Society,” The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, August 1, 1889, 236.

  4. M. C. Israel, “New Zealand,” The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, July 1, 1889, 204.

  5. A. G. Daniells, “Organization of the New Zealand Tract Society, The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, August 1, 1889, 236.

  6. “Agents,” The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, May 1, 1891, 143.

  7. “Agents,” The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, December 1, 1891, 367.

  8. M. H. Tuxford, “The New Zealand Tract Society,” The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, December 1, 1891, 365.

  9. A. G. Daniells, “New Zealand Tract Society,” The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times,” June 1, 1892, 172-173.

  10. M. C. Israel, “The New Zealand Tract Society,” The Bible Echo, May 15, 1893, 157-157.

  11. M. H. Tuxford, “The New Zealand Tract Society,” The Bible Echo, May 15, 1893, 157.

  12. M. C. Israel, “The New Zealand Tract Society,” The Bible Echo, January 22, 1894, 22.

  13. “Orders,” The Bible Echo, January 4, 1897, 7.

  14. W. M. Crothers, “The New Zealand Tract Society Proceedings,” The Bible Echo, February 8, 1897, 44-45.

  15. E. W. Farnsworth, “New Zealand Tract Society,” Union Conference Record, January/February, 1898, 20.

  16. M. H. Tuxford, “New Zealand Tract Society Building,” The Bible Echo, March 7, 1898, 77.

  17. ”Second Meeting of the Conference,” Union Conference Record, July 12, 1899, 10-14.

  18. “Sister M.H. Tuxford, who is so well known…” Union Conference Record, October 21, 1907, 7.

  19. Emma Steed, “New Zealand Tract Department,” Union Conference Record, October 1, 1899, 5.

  20. “Mrs. E. Steed and Two Daughters…” Union Conference Record, October 1, 1900, 15.

  21. E. W. Farnsworth and E. M. Graham, “Annual Session of the New Zealand Tract Society,” Union Conference Record, December 15, 1898, 2.

  22. E. M. Graham, “New Zealand Tract Society,” Union Conference Record, February 1, 1901, 10.

  23. S. M. Cobb, “The Report of the New Zealand Conference,” Union Conference Record, September 7, 1908, 8-9.

  24. J. Pallant, “New Zealand Conference,” Union Conference Record, October 24, 1910, 7-9.

  25. J. M. Cole, “New Zealand Conference,” Australasian Record, September 28, 1914, 31-33.

  26. “Important Removal Notice,” Australasian Record, June 12, 1916, 8.

  27. F. H. Letts, “South New Zealand Conference,” Australasian Record, October 21, 1918, 42-44.

  28. W. H. Pascoe, “North New Zealand Conference,” Australasian Record, October 21, 1918, 41-42.

  29. E.g., A. W. Cormack, “Western Australian Conference,” Union Conference Record, October 21, 1918, 47-49.

  30. “North New Zealand Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1920), 192-193; “South New Zealand Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1920), 194-195.

  31. “New Zealand Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1904), 56.

  32. “New Zealand Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1907), 73.

  33. “New Zealand Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1909), 96.

  34. “New Zealand Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1910), 94.

  35. “New Zealand Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1913), 89.

  36. “New Zealand Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1915), 136.

  37. “North New Zealand Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1916), 134.

  38. “South New Zealand Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1916), 136.

  39. “South New Zealand Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1918)), 146.

  40. “New Zealand Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1907), 73.

  41. “New Zealand Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1910), 94.

  42. “New Zealand Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1915), 136.

  43. “North New Zealand Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1916), 134.

  44. “South New Zealand Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1916), 136.

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Hook, Milton. "New Zealand Tract Society (1889–1918)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed June 18, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=E817.

Hook, Milton. "New Zealand Tract Society (1889–1918)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=E817.

Hook, Milton (2020, January 29). New Zealand Tract Society (1889–1918). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=E817.