J. N. Loughborough
President of the temporary California SDA organization (1870-1873);
president of the California Conference (1873-1878, 1887-1890)
John Norton Loughborough was born in Victor, New York, on Jan. 26, 1832. He became a Christian at an early age, and began preaching for First-day Adventists when he was 16. He was introduced to the Three Angels’ Messages by J. N. Andrews in September, 1852, at meetings in Rochester, New York, and was immediately convinced of the seventh-day Sabbath. Devoting himself to preaching, he was ordained at Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 18, 1854, by James White and M. E. Cornell.
In 1856 he became discouraged by the enormous challenges of those days and decided to go to Waukon, Iowa, to farm. James and Ellen White traveled there by horse and sleigh to encourage him. The Whites persuaded Loughborough to return to the ministry, and he never wavered again – no matter how difficult the tasks were.
For the next several years, Loughborough conducted evangelistic work in Pennsylvania, New York and the Midwest. He took an interest in selling Adventist literature and helped pioneer the concept of selling printed material in conjunction with evangelism meetings. He then served as president of the Michigan Conference (1865-1868) and treasurer of the General Conference (1868-1869).
While still a preacher for the First Day Advent Church, Loughborough married Mary J. Walker in Rochester (1851). Together they had three children, all born in Battle Creek, Michigan — a son, Delmer, and twin girls, one of whom died at birth. Tragically, Mary also died in childbirth (1867). Mother and daughter were buried together.
In 1868 Loughborough and D. T. Bourdeau were sent by the General Conference to pioneer the Adventist work in California. Loughborough had been thinking of California for several months, based on a number of dreams he had received showing him making the journey to California by ship. Thus, at the General Conference session in Battle Creek, when James White asked if anyone might be willing to go west, Loughborough stood and said he was willing. Bourdeau joined him. Just prior to boarding the ship in New York, Loughborough married Margaret Newman, with Bourdeau performing the ceremony.
The Bourdeaus and Loughboroughs sailed from New York on June 24, 1868, bound for California, via Panama, arriving in San Francisco on July 18. They began their work with tent meetings in Petaluma, resulting in 20 converts. Meetings in other nearby towns quickly followed. By 1869, there was a desire to begin organizing the believers, and so a temporary California state organization of Adventists was put in place with about 75 known believers. Bourdeau was elected to serve as president and Loughborough as treasurer, along with J. F. Wood as secretary. When Bourdeau left California (1870) for work in Wisconsin and Illinois, Loughborough took over as president.
The California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists was officially formed in 1873, comprising seven churches and 238 members; tithe was $2,151.51. Loughborough was selected to serve as the first president, with offices in Oakland. Soon afterward, he also functioned as president of the newly formed Pacific Press Publishing Association (1875), also located in Oakland. It was during this time that his second wife, Margaret (Maggie) passed away. In 1877, he married his third wife, Anna Driscol, who was secretary and treasurer of the publishing house; James White officiated at the ceremony.
In 1878, Loughborough, as president of the Nevada Association, baptized the first three believers in that state . That same year he was sent by the General Conference to open the formal SDA work in England. During his five years there, 37 people were baptized and a church was established in Southampton. He returned to the United States in 1883 and traveled on behalf of the General Conference in the North Pacific Region, serving for a time as president of the Upper Columbia Conference (1884-1885).
Returning to the Bay Area in 1887, he was once again elected to serve as president of the California Conference, remaining in that capacity until 1890. From there, he went on to serve as the president of two more conferences – Nebraska and Illinois.
In the following years, Loughborough did a great deal of traveling to churches and camp meetings, telling stories of many of the things he had seen God do for His people through the years. He witnessed Ellen White in public vision more often than any other person, with the exception of her husband, James. Late in his life he claimed to have witnessed more than 50 public visions. Shortly after 1900, the Loughboroughs moved to Mountain View. Anna died there in 1907.
A widower once again, Loughborough made a world tour in 1908, at the age of 76, traveling through Europe, Africa, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand. During this extended journey he traveled some 30,000 miles by water and 6,000 miles by land, attending 500 meetings and preaching 352 times. Soon after the end of this trip, he retired from active ministry, settling in Lodi to be near his daughter. He continued serving the church through occasional trips to camp meetings, institutions and General Conference sessions.
Due to failing health, Loughborough moved to St. Helena Sanitarium where he remained until he passed away on April 7, 1924, at age 92. A. G. Daniells, General Conference secretary, and M. C. Wilcox conducted the funeral service at the St. Helena church, after which he was buried in the St. Helena cemetery.
During his life, Loughborough was a prolific author. Some of his books include: Hand Book of Health; or a Brief Treatise on Physiology and Hygiene (1868); The Rise and Progress of Seventh-day Adventists (1892), which was the first denominational history (revised in 1905 as The Great Second Advent Movement); The Prophetic Gift in the Gospel Church (1901); and The Church, Its Organization, Order, and Discipline (1907), which served for many years as the forerunner of the SDA Church Manual. He wrote extensively for The Youth’s Instructor, Review and Herald, Signs of the Times, Pacific Health Journal (of which he was editor for a time), Bible Training School and Pacific Union Recorder.
1. Portrait of J. N. Loughborough
2. Adventist pioneers: S.N. Haskell, J.N. Loughborough, G.I. Butler.
3. British Mission House, Ravenswood, Shirley Road, Southampton, England, about 1882. J.N. Loughborough is seated in the front row on the right. (Source: The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, September 18, 1924, page 17)
4. Loughborough four years before he died in California. (Source: The Youth's Instructor, August 8, 1944, Page 4)
The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Vol. 101, No. 16, June 19, 1924 (obituary of J. N. Loughborough)
The Ellen G. White Estate, Inc. Website
Historical Dictionary of Seventh-day Adventists, Gary Land
Heartwarming Stories of Adventist Pioneers, Norma J. Colllins
Lighter of Gospel Fires, Ella M. Robinson
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