The Ablest Man in Our Ranks:

John Nevins Andrews

Part 1

A Band of Indians crept silently to the edge of the woods and waited patiently for the man and his sons to come to the cornfield. That cornfield had been hard won from the stony ground around Tauton, Massachusetts, the rocks dug out, foot after foot, and neatly stacked to form a wall marking the field. A little after daylight, Ezra Andrews and four of his sons came into their view, muskets in one hand and hoes in the other.

They stacked their guns against the stone wall and began hoeing the long rows of corn. There hadn’t been an Indian attack in many months and Ezra wasn’t too worried as they began their work. Perhaps the lack of visible Indian activity accounted for the fact that the men thoughtlessly let the distance widen between themselves and their muskets. But, the Indians, painted for battle, were watching carefully. Suddenly, with loud screams and war whoops, the warriors rushed from the woods, cutting off the White men’s access to the muskets. Not being able to reach their guns, Ezra and his sons ran toward the woods and tired to defend themselves by pulling up small trees and using them as weapons. But five men and a few small tree trunks were no match for Indians on the warpath. The arrows and tomahawks found their marks, and one by one the Andrews men were massacred.

Mrs. Edwards heard the war cry, the screams and shouts. Rushing to the door, she watched in helpless horror as her husband and four of her sons were slain in their cornfield. She had little doubt that the Indians would make a rush on the house and kill the rest of the family. However, as she waited limp with shock and fear, sounds of the attack faded away, and a deadly quiet settled upon the cornfield and the adjacent woods. Within her sight and hearing not an animal nor a bird stirred.

A long period of silence persuaded her that the Indians had gone. Her heart pounded wildly as she went out to the field, hoping against hope that at least one of her men was alive. But not one had survived.

Eight members of the Ezra Andrews family had gathered around the table that morning, planning their day as they ate their hearty breakfast of fried potatoes, biscuits and gravy, cornmeal mush and wild turkey. Now only three remained—Eliza Andrews, her daughter Mary, and her youngest son Henry, who had the good fortune to be sick that day and had not gone into the field with his father and brothers. Numb with shock, Eliza, Mary and Henry somehow managed to dig graves and bury their dead.

Henry Andrews grew to be a tall, strong young man, married a beautiful young woman and fathered a large family of sons. One of those descendents, David Andrews and his friend John Nevins, served together in George Washington’s army during the American Revolution.

Many years later, Edward, a grandson of David Andrews, married Sarah, a granddaughter of John Nevins. They had a son, who they named John Nevins Andrews, after his great-grandfather.

Unfortunately, John Andrews did not have very good health, and had to drop out of school at an early age, but from then on, he taught himself. Wherever you saw him, he was carrying a book with him, and whenever he had even a minute, he would open it and absorb even a sentence.

When he was 13 he accepted Jesus as his Saviour, and avidly read the Bible, at the same time, teaching himself to read it in Greek, Latin and Hebrew. He even learned to read the Bible in seven languages.

With all his “brain power” John was not perfect. He lived for a time with his Uncle and Aunt and went to a Mr. Grover’s school. Aunt Peris was impressed with John, but said she found him “clumsy and bungling at chores and not very neat.” But..she said, “He does have first rate common sense.” His uncle tried to persuade John to go to college and become a lawyer. He even hoped he might become a congressman, and offered to pay all his educational expenses. John told his Uncle Charles he would think about it, but he really was not interested. John had one love..Jesus Christ, and his desire was for others to know Him, too. So, after all, he had to tell his uncle that although he appreciated his kind offer, he had a higher commitment. Of course, his uncle disapproved of his decision, and did not understand. He soon returned home.

The Edwards family attended some lectures where they heard of the soon return of Jesus. Each night, Father Andrews carefully checked all the scriptures given during the latest sermon. The texts agreed with what the minister was saying, and soon he and his family accepted this new teaching and became Millerites. There was much prejudice against those who were preaching and believing the soon return of Jesus, and the Andrews family experienced ridicule and sarcasm because of it.

One evening soon after they had accepted the Millerite message, John was taking an elderly friend, Mr. Davis, to the meeting. Suddenly, a group of rough young men stood directly in front of them, blocking their way, and one of them threatened to beat Mr. Davis with his whip. John stepped in front of his friend and told the ruffian, “The Bible tells us that we are to carry each other’s burdens. If you are going to whip Mr. Davis, you must whip me too.” This surprised the man, not knowing what to think of the courage of this young boy, and looking ashamed, he told them to go on in, muttering that “It’s too bad to whip a mere boy.”

After the Great Disappointment of October 22, 1844, the Andrews family helped another family by the name of Stowell who had sold everything they had to help tell others about Jesus’ expected soon coming. While there, the 17-year-old daughter, Marian, received a tract by T.M. Preble about the seventh-day Sabbath. Marian read it and believed it, and shared it with her brother Oswald. They looked up the scriptures, and were convinced it was true, and as best as they knew, they kept the next Sabbath.

Oswald took the tract to John, asking him to read it. John was shocked! Could this be true? He immediately began looking up the texts, comparing scripture with scripture, and the more he studied, the more convinced he became of the truths in Preble’s tract.

It was not long until both the Andrews and the Stowell families were keeping the seventh-day Sabbath. Soon seven other families in Paris, Maine, had joined them, including the family of Cyprian Stevens. The future wives of J. N. Andrews and Uriah Smith were daughters from that family.

In 1849, in a meeting in Paris, Maine, John Nevins Andrews made his decision that he must preach the news of the seventh-day Sabbath and that Jesus was coming soon. Not only did he preach, but he wrote many articles for the new church paper, the Advent Review and Sabbath Hearld.

Taken and compiled from

Adventist Pioneers

Submitted by Dorothy Dunbar