Charles L. Boyd Taking Adventism to the Puget Sound

When Isaac Van Horn, the Northwest’s first Adventist minister, left the region the denominational leaders asked Charles L. Boyd to take his place as president of the North Pacific Conference with its five churches and 123 members. Boyd was previously president of the Nebraska Conference until his transfer to the Northwest.

During his first year, Boyd visited the five churches in the Willamette Valley, held evangelistic meetings and organized the first Adventist church in Portland, and spent several months in the Puget Sound. He was the first Adventist minister to visit the Puget Sound and during this stay organized a church in Renton and a Sabbath School in Lynden.

Following the evangelistic meetings in Portland, the members built a church on a leased lot. Boyd urged them to lease the lot for ten years instead of buying it because Jesus was coming soon. Ten years later in 1893 the congregation lost the building when the owner refused to renew the lease. The members were disappointed but rallied to put up another building where the congregation became known as the Portland Central Church.

In 1882, two ministers from other denominations joined the North Pacific Conference. Unfortunately, they were rushed into ministry within several months. Within a year they were pulling the sympathies of the members and a young ministerial assistant away from Boyd as well as promoting the teachings of the Marion party, a dissident group from Iowa.

The situation in the other Northwestern conference, Upper Columbia, was also critical. So the California Conference sent John O. Corliss to assist the two discouraged presidents, but he too met with strong resistance. Next a delegation of six ministers and Ellen G. White traveled from California to the Northwest to deal with the crisis. At both camp meetings, the delegation experienced a bitter struggle but succeeded in resolving the problems. Describing these camp meetings, Ellen G. White wrote, “The work in this conference (North Pacific Conference) was of the same character as the work above (Upper Columbia Conference), only more so. We had one of the hardest battles we ever had to engage in,” (Letter, Ellen G. White to Uriah Smith, June 27, 1884).

Following the camp meetings, the two ministers from the other denominations were removed from membership and the young ministerial assistant sent to Healdsburg College in California to take some classes. With the problems resolved, the North Pacific Conference refocused on their mission and grew rapidly. In the next five years the membership increased from 160 to 627 and the number of churches from seven to 26.

In the summer of 1886, Boyd along with William Potter returned to the Puget Sound region. In the four years since Boyd’s first visit to the region, Seattle had grown from around 10,000 to 42,800. During the summer and early autumn they conducted two series of evangelistic meetings, organized a church and held a camp meeting in Seattle. The next summer, H. W. Reed and J. A. Burden conducted tent meetings in Tacoma and organized a church.

In early 1887, the General Conference sent the Boyd and Dores A. Robinson families to South Africa. They were the denomination’s first missionaries to that continent.