Prelude to a biography of Crozier

By Fernand Fisel


Owen Russell Loomis Crozier’s [1] father Archibald was born in 1791 in New Paltz, Ulster, Ireland. He came to the U.S. in 1802 with his parents and his brother William who was born in the same town in 1787. Archibald Crozier lived near Albany, N.Y, and later in Conway, Mass where the Loomises lived, met Nancy Loomis and married her. His brother Ambrose who settled in Cuba, N.Y may have come separately. Archibald Crozier was the cousin of George Crozier who left his home in Glasgow, Scotland in 1801 to come to the United States. George, then only 18, was accompanied by his parents, Adam Crosier and Isabella Renwick. Archibal Crozier as well as his brothers Ambrose and William were Adam’s nephews. Owen’s grandfather was one of four brothers who came from the British Isles, some from Ireland and some from Scotland, but only his brothers Adam and William are known by name. Archibald settled at Hall, in the town of Seneca in Ontario County and is the ancestor of the numerous Croziers who resided in Ontario County through the 19th century. The other three settled in Boston, in Cleveland, and in the south of the United States.

Owen was born on February 2nd, 1820, two years after his sister Nancy Amelia born in Geneva, Ontario Co.. He is not quite sure of his birthplace, whether it was in Geneva or Chapinville, Ontario County, New York. His first name was that of his mother’s favorite Methodist preacher. Russell Loomis was his maternal grandfather’s name. His grandmother was Lydia Rice born in 1771. His mother Nancy Loomis died when he was only two years old, shortly after the birth of his brother Archibald in 1822. His father, a rugged, hardworking cooper (barrel maker) drowned in Lake Ontario barely three weeks after his mother’s death. He always remembered the influence of his mother’s Christian devotion and lived by her convictions. Left as an orphan at such a young age he was raised by the Thatchers, a North Canandaigua family to whom he was bound by legal indenture in his third year. He would discover his relatives about 25 years later. This was for him a “lifting of the cloud.” Adam Crozier, born in 1823 was the first he found. His father George was a cousin of Owen’s father. From then on a large collection of relatives reappeared, including his brother Archibald. That winter in 1847, Owen was teaching school in north Canandaigua and had to ask permission to close school to pay his visit to his brother’s family. The visit was very happy. In spite of the sadness of those years without a relative, Crozier found in them his self-reliance and his trust in human nature.

Stephen Thatcher, a respectable farmer had adopted him to take the place of Simon, his youngest son who had recently died. The farm was spacious, prosperous and well equipped. Owen had his shores and responsibilities to fulfill. He was also taught solid religious values.

Stephen Thatcher may have been a descendant of Daniel Thatcher, founder of the first Religious Society of Lima in 1795. The young man was occasionally disciplined but always with fairness and consideration. He only attended school three months per winter for ten or eleven years, showing good learning aptitude. The farm and business could not be neglected and He had to devote time to it. He learned to enjoy farming and its attendant skills, and long remained a dedicated farmer even when his religious duties absorbed his time in his mature years.

In 1834, before he turned fourteen, “father Thatcher” took him to a blacksmith living a mile away, to be apprenticed in the trade. On this new farm lived ten children, Mr. Furman, his wife and his widowed mother. Methodists like the Thatchers, they were progressive, intelligent and industrious. Owen took a liking to them and found fascination in the novelty of their ideas.

That first winter, he went to school. At sixteen he was converted and baptized into the Methodist church. He then kept a copy of the New Testament in his pocket at all times, to read it when he had a chance. He became independently studious, coveting the knowledge of history, geography and grammar. This interest led him to meet Dr Dayton, a neighboring physician who invited him to visit twice a week to be tutored. He even offered financial help for seminary study in the future. In 1838, the Furman family moved to Hopewell Center where the pressures of politics, town offices and extra property prevented the blacksmith from teaching him his trade. The adolescent threatened to flee, but remained one more year in deference to Mrs. Furman, her kindnesses, and her sick children. But by the end of the year, when the family was absent, he started west with a few things tied in a kerchief. He walked thirty miles, stopping at Deacon Sparks who agreed to pay him for haying, harvest and burning charcoal.

It was at Dr, David Day Dayton’s home, the following winter that he began to think seriously about his education. He was about eighteen. The physician offered him room and board for doing chores, and sent him to school in the Benham district, west of Hopewell Center. That summer he attended Genesee Wesleyan Seminary in Lima. The school had been founded in 1830 by the Genesee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. It prepared students for College entrance. In 1840 he taught school in Gorham, but quit after a month and a half to return to Lima that winter. He taught again in East Avon for five months in 184l with high praise from the County Superintendent. He was back in Lima the following summer, but in May 1842 the Seminary’s first building burnt down. Owen was a member of the Young Men’s debating society that met regularly in the town hall of Lima, but a professor Seger turned them down in favor of the Amphictyonic Society. The young men considered it unfair and withdrew to meet at the Geneseo Academy. In his 2lst year he taught again in Lima, returning to the Academy for a full load of studies.

In the winter of 1842, a Mr. Johnson came to Geneseo to lecture on the imminence of the Second Coming of Christ, but Crozier, taken by his studies and his responsibilities as a class leader and superintendent of Sunday school, gave little attention to this subject. But by mid-summer he had become seriously involved in the matter. He had become convinced of the imminence of the advent by deeper study of the prophecies, and of the “signs of the times.” In fact he had lost all ambition to complete his education, so urgent was the new priority. Dayton, a Congregationalist, urged him to accept the free education that a church might offer him to prepare him for the ministry. Owen could not resign himself to preach the settled faith of a church that would be responsible for his education. He sought a freedom of investigation that no traditional church would allow. “But you can’t live religion out of a church,” retorted Dayton. Competition for the young man’s services was evident among Congregationalists, Methodists and Wesleyan. He finally accepted the Wesleyan’s offer, as they opposed episcopacy as well as slavery. They immediately voted him an unexpected license to preach without special education, and launched him on the Hopewell circuit. When they offered him horse and saddle, he declined. He just would not be bought.

Having spent five years (1836-1841) in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and one as a licensed preacher in the Wesleyan, he turned critical of all church party loyalty and of the overlyintellectual outlook of their ministers. Yet he admitted that withdrawing from the Wesleyan Church was “the hardest cross he ever had to bear.” Fortunately, on the day he was to withdraw, another member, George Dunkle, had made the same decision, which gave him the courage to act. In the fall of 1843, Crozier was immersed in baptism at 23 years old (he had only been sprinkled at sixteen). E. R. Pinney, pastor of the Baptist Church of Seneca Falls, baptized him in the lake. Immediately, the urgency of warning the world sent him to lecture on the Second Advent. He was able to start his ministry by enlisting the help of Dr. F. B Hahn, a physician who presided over the Canandaigua village-corporation. The Baptist Church refused to offer its hall to the young preacher. This was not to improve his negative opinion of the official churches. His critical letter to the Midnight Cry of May 1844 revealed his state of mind at a time when the Millerites had realized the inevitability of “coming out of Babylon” to preach their alarming message. He stigmatized eloquently the church ministers’ eloquence:

“The exalted popularity, ease, wealth and pride of the nominal church, the form of godliness but practical denial of the power, the great and constant ‘learning’ [of the clergy] without ability ‘to come to the knowledge of the truth,’ their corruptness of mind and reprobacy concerning the truth;… the nonendurance of sound doctrine [i.e. Millerism] the leaping of teachers ‘after their own lust’ to please their ‘itching ears’ with flattery and scholastic eloquence; and mockers walking after their own ungodly lusts.”[2]

A young contemporary, B. T. Roberts, who studied at the Lima Seminary in 1844, shortly after Crozier, made less stinging comments on the professors, but felt that they were cold and “formal,”[3] and feared the loss of his first love under their tutelage. “Learning was good, but salvation was better.”

Crozier was later allowed to lecture in the Canandaigua schoolhouse through Hahn’s influence. The Doctor’s family and others were converted. They planned a Camp Meeting for August 1844 on Hahn’s farm grounds. He and his wife were baptized in the Lake on that occasion. The zeal and intelligence of the young preacher soon became known on his circuit of Port-Gibson-Canandaigua-Rochester. When he came to Port-Gibson, he would make his home with Hiram Edson, whose poignant narrative of the 1844 Disappointment is well known. No account of Crozier’s experience of the 1843 or 1844 disappointments is yet known, but the pathos of Luther Boutelle, Henri B. Bear, and Hiram Edson’s [4] narratives may well apply to the believers in Western New York. Crozier’s first letters to periodicals[5] show that like Edson’s,[6] he was seeking a solution based on a new time setting for the Second Advent. Crozier must have become used to a long succession of disappointments, since he continued setting times for the Advent for several years. Two dates, one in the spring and one in the fall were the favored expectations because of a typology based on the Jewish festivals of Passover and the Day of Atonement. This had become a common practice among those Adventists who insisted that “definite time” was an essential part of their appeal to the “Little flock.” Some were convinced that time setting would prolong the threatened existence of the Adventist movement, by reawakening the zeal of the believers.[7]

Crozier’s writing career started about five months after the 1844 disappointment and developed prodigiously. His bibliography lists about 60 items from 1845 to 1854,[8] and more unknown sources may increase this output. His letters and articles appear in most of the periodicals of minority Millerites after the fateful date of 1844. He edited two of his own periodicals, the Day-Dawn” from March 26 1845 to Sept. 17, 1847, and later the “Children’s Friend.” After several trial balloons in various papers, beginning with the first issue of the “Day Dawn” published by the printer of the Daily Messenger he published his major study of the “Sanctuary,” titled “The Law of Moses” in a forty page “Extra” of the Day Star on February 7, 1846, edited in Cincinnati by Enoch Jacobs. The importance of this study comes from its role in one of the central beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[9] He published studies on the subject of biblical immortality in pamphlet forms and others yet undiscovered. No known book seem to have come from his pen.

From 1845 on the young preacher gradually turned into a debater, a lay theologian, and an editor. His youthful membership in a debating society served him well in the controversies of the post-Millerite period. His intermittent education contributed to his skills as an editor,[10] and his practical gifts as a farmer and fruit grower enabled him to survive in a profession that is not always remunerative. His late biographical narrative sums up his education as follows:

  • Two years at Lima Seminary (probably 1840-42)
  • Two years at the Geneseo Academy (1842 – Fall of 1843)
  • Two years at the University of Rochester (1851-54 with a year’s leave)

It is in controversies with seasoned theologians like Charles Beecher, one of the brothers of famed Harriet Beecher Stowe, that Crozier may have felt the deficiencies of his linguistic education. Beecher was at the time (1847) pastor of the Second Presbyterian church in Fort Wayne, Ind. He had graduated from Bowdoin College and studied theology in his father’s Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. The letter he addressed to Crozier contested one of his theological positions and required a seasoned knowledge of the Hebrew language.[11] Crozier was reduced to consulting other qualified students or using various English translations, various concordances and inadequate lexica to find answers to Beecher’s objections. The young preacher found himself in the same predicament when delicate matters of Greek exegesis were involved in his interpretations of New Testament passages. Although his studies in the University of Rochester may have remedied the situation, as it was an institution in which religion played a major role, it is not clear whether his studies included biblical languages. What is known is the financial straits in which he lived during his studies. A history of the University incidentally refers to Crozier’s difficulty in paying the $40.00 annual tuition required:

One student who had been employed six hours daily to defray expenses requested Permission to quit for a time, so that he might take a job as a lecturer “with the Diorama of the Holy Land at $l0.00 a week and expenses.” As soon as he saved enough money he intended to resume his studies.[12]

It is remarkable that Crozier at the age of 86 wrote to his learned daughter-in-law, Mabel Bostworth Crozier: “I want you to help me a little in Greek studying the New Testament.”[13] She had returned to the University Michigan to obtain a Master’s degree in Semitics and New Testament Greek on one of her returns to the U.S. from India where she and her husband Dr Gallen Greenfield Crozier were missionaries. She was a pioneer biblical translator.

Unfortunately, we have no record of Crozier’s studies in Lima, in Geneseo Academy, or in Rochester. It seems that the years of study at the University followed or were concomitant with his position at the “Harbinger and Advocate.” Did the discussions with Beecher, the memory of Dr Dayton’s vision, or Joseph Marsh’s encouragement revive his youthful thirst for knowledge? This is quite probable, for Crozier’s early theological efforts had not exactly met his contemporaries or Marsh’s approval.[14] By 1853 he had then renounced “all the ‘wild schemes and foolish theories’ which had plagued Adventists since 1843.”[15] In 1853 he wrote to Joseph Turner, one of former editors of the “Hope of Israel” who was no less guilty of the same attitude: “And how many times have many, if not all of us, been obliged to give up what we had too hastily embraced!” [16] This openness to change as a result of deeper study was a unique quality that few of the surviving Adventists, including Marsh himself, have demonstrated. In his late autobiography, Crozier summed up the years 1842-1852 as a period in which he “dug through the theological maize that holds the Christian Church in confused bondage.” While in Rochester, Crozier became an officer of the “Evangelical Society,” its secretary and promoter. That Society, according to Marsh, was not “an ecclesiastical, but a business organization,” for he frowned on any new creed or church organization.[17] Marsh had refused participation in the Albany Conference of 1845 which attempted to reunite the Millerites. Nevertheless, Crozier proved to be a constructive organizer of the various geographical branches of the “Age to Come” Adventists. In 1858 he was appointed evangelist and secretary at the Michigan Conference organized by the same group. Then, there was still cooperation between Advent Christians who stressed conditional immortality, and those who stressed an “Age to Come” in which a second chance might still be available for believers after the Advent and during the thousand year Millenial Reign of Christ on earth.

Crozier, single till 33, was married to Maria Polly Alger, of Honeoye, Ontario Co. on July 10, 1853 by Elder C. F. Sweet, at the house of Elijah Wetmore in Springwater.[18] She had attended school in Rochester and was a graduate of McGrawville College. She was a writer for the “Advent Harbinger” and the “Children’s Friend,” when Crozier began his associate editorship of the same paper in 1847. They further met at her parents’ home and at the Judsons, a ministerial family where she had boarded while in school. She was an accomplished writer, an assiduous correspondent, and kept diaries throughout her life. Many of her poems were published in contemporary journals such as The Sybill, The Household Advocate, and The Morning Star. She was a serious student of History and Literature even while caring for her large family. The couple moved to Michigan by railroad in 1854 and lived on father John Alger’s farm for a year. By spring 1855 they moved to a 40 acre property which they cleared and farmed, while at the same time teaching in the district school in winter and summer1854-55. In the fall of 1855 John Ball hired Owen and Polly to teach in a school in Grand Rapids, on the corner of Division and East Bridge streets, where they continued for two winters. They were recognized as the first teachers of the first public school in that city. Crozier meanwhile preached Sundays at the Jamestown center in Georgetown. He also wrote for the “Harbinger” (later “Restitution”) and other religious periodicals. He organized a church State conference in Burlington, Calhoun Co. in 1856, whose meetings continued every quarter. The church to which Crozier belonged refused to adopt a name in order to avoid “sectism.” Each congregation was identified by its location. It was “the church,” (at such a place). Here the influence of Joseph Marsh was evident. Crozier organized the Michigan Church Conference to unite these churches, and became prominent in its deliberations and its committees.

Before the Civil War, Crozier became a radical abolitionist and one of the founders of the Republican party in Kent County. He favored the abolition of slavery as a war measure. He became editor of the “Grand Rapids Eagle” (later “Grand Rapids Herald”). Although militantly active, he never sought political office. But some of his descendents did. When he started talking about enlisting for the war, Polly recommended that younger men without children go first. Owen was elected delegate to the Cleveland Mass Convention of the party, and named chairman of the Committee on resolutions in the Kent County Republican Convention. Later Crozier favored prohibition and woman suffrage.

In 1861 Crozier went to work for A. L. Chubb who owned an Agricultural Implements Business on Canal Street in Grand Rapids and became his associate. Later he founded the city’s largest hardware firm, which his sons ran when they were of age. Following the war Crozier moved to Jamestown, Mich where he was elected Drain Commissioner of Ottawa Co. There he drained several thousands of acres of swamp land and purchased several hundred acres himself. Crozier drew the plans for a school house built in Jamestown in 1874. It was said to be the best district school in Ottawa Co. Crozier also organized the Mayhew Teachers Association which met frequently in Paris, Wyoming and Grand Rapids townships. He was in touch with the foremost educators of his day. The Ottawa County Atlas for 1876 lists Crozier as a superintendent of schools, farmer and gardener from Hudsonville, Jamestown Township.

Owen continued preaching in various neighboring counties and in Canada, and writing on the subjects of evolution and conditional immortality among others. By 1880 the family moved to Ann Arbor, one mile east of the University of Michigan to ensure their children a university education. Eleven children had been born to them, eight sons and three daughters. Three had died in infancy. The Crozier letters to their children often stressed the value of a solid education, encouraged perseverance in study without imposing a particular direction, evaluated their epistolary style, and provided for them in spite of severe financial limitations. They sent five boys and two girls to the University of Michigan. This was not without result, for they became professors, city officials, judges, bankers, medical missionary doctors, or married clergymen and political figures. They spread out through the country and some served in far distant lands.

For their 50th wedding anniversary, party invitations to two receptions in their honor were sent to family and friends. They were held at the home of his son Ernest and Ella Crozier’s home at 416 Crescent street in Grand Rapids. A photograph of the event shows Owen and Maria at the head of a long table occupied by about 25 guests. Maria died at 78 on January 1912. Owen was in failing health for the last 15 years of his life and died in his home 205 Lafayette Avenue in Grand Rapids, in September 1912. His obituary appeared in the “Grand Rapids Herald” of September 16, 1912.

Crozier was a sincere and devout Christian who treated people with tact and generosity, even if they disagreed with him. He was willing to listen to various opinions, even hostile ones. He learned through criticism when there was plenty of it in the reactions of his contemporaries. After his brief association with Adventists who could not admit that William Miller’s time calculations had been erroneous, and “shut the door” of the parable of the virgins to the world, his career as a lay theologian and evangelist found renewed zeal for the salvation of all who would listen. Unfortunately, the Christians he served were hopelessly divided as a result of the failure of multiple solutions devised to explain the Disappointment of 1844. All the new “tests” and “doctrines” calculated to distinguish “my” religion from “yours,” could only encourage the sectarianism then rampant. Crozier may have criticized this exclusiveness, but did not solve it. Little information is available about the last years of his life, but it is hoped that new sources may shed light on that period. Considering his life in 1903, he remarked: “My eighty three years, though busy have been fairly easy on me. I am happy in the kindness of my children and many other friends.”[19] Maria died at 78 on January 1912. Owen had been in failing health for the last fifteen years of his life. He died in his home 205 Lafayette Avenue in Grand Rapids, on his 93rd birthday on September 15 of the same year. His obituary in the “Grand Rapids Herald” of September 16 list his fruitful career as “Editor, Minister, Missionary, Educator, Merchant, and Politician of Note.”

Fernand Fisel, Professor Emeritus, Indiana University of Penna.


[1] Owen Crozier’s autobiography, published on Thursday, 11/22/1923 in the Ontario Daily Messenger of Canandaigua, NY, Vol. 126, No. 126, pp.17-24, is an invaluable source of information covering his life, genealogy and his theological evolution. We intend to deal with the latter in a more extensive study. Complete genealogical charts starting with the Croziers of Scotland and Ireland and including some living descendants is found in Fernand Fisel, Ancestry and Family of Owen Russell Loomis Crozier, Descendants of O. R. L. Crozier, and Ancestry and Family of Maria Polly Alger (spouse of ORL Crozier) 2006, unpublished.

[2] O. R. L. Crosier, “The Great Day of the Lord is Near,” The Midnight Cry, Vol. VI, No. 18 (whole Num No 123), p. 250, col. 1-2. April 27, 1844 (from Learned Corners, N.Y.). (quoted in David L Rowe, “A New Perspective on the Burned-Over District: The Millerites in Upstate New York” Church History.

[3] C. H Zahniser, The Earnest Christian – The Life and Works of B. T. Roberts, (July 1868) p. 6 ( Meth/Earnest/Ec_01.htm).

[4] Appendix, “The Disappointment Remembered,” in The Disappointed, Ronald D. Numbers and Jonathan Butler, eds. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1987, pp 210-25. Edson’s narrative only suffers from its late composition, many years after the event, but its poignancy well illustrates the mood of the time.

[5] O. R. L. Crozier, “Esdras Explains the Time in Daniel,” The Voice of Truth and Glad Tidings, 3/19/45, p.43, & “Prophetic Day and Hour,” op.cit. 4/9/45, p.15.

[6] Hiram Edson, “Letter from Bro. Edson,” The Jubilee Standard, Vol.I, No 13, 5/29/1845, pp90-91.

[7] Cf. Damsteegt, Gerard, “Early Adventist Time Settings and their Implications for Today,” Journal of the Adventist Theological society, April l, 1993. and

[8] Fernand Fisel, Bibliography of the Writings of O. R. L. Crozier, unpublished study 2004.

[9] No one has yet undertaken an objective critique of the exegesis of this study in the light of contemporary criticism.

[10] In 1847 he went to assist Joseph Marsh in editing the Harbinger and Advocate.

[11] Crosier, “To Charles Beecher,” The Bible Advocate, Vol. IV, No5 pp. 34-35 This is also the letter in which he announced the suspension of his Day-Dawn with the 9/17/1847 issue.

[12] A. J. May, University of Rochester History, Ch 6 (A Critical Decade) 1969-1977 page ix, footnote 29: Otis H Robinson Account Book, Rhees Library Archives. J. H. James to A. C. Kendrick, March 3, 1851, O. R. L. Crozier’s letter to the University of Rochester Faculty, October 31, 1851, Kendrick Papers

[13] Letter from Crozier dated February 8, 1906 in Julia Crozier McCleary, compiler, Owen and Maria Crozier, Victorian Settlers of Michigan, January 2002, p. 698.

[14] See Marsh’s ‘Remarks on the above,’ following Crozier’s “Springwater Affair” in The Voice of Truth and Glad Tidings, October 21, 1845, p. 505; and Marsh’s ‘Note’ following Crozier’s “Prophetic Day and Hour,” in ibid. April 9, 1845, p. 15.

[15] David T Arthur, “Come out of Babylon,” A Study of Millerite Separatism and Denominationalism, Ph.D Diss. University of Rochester 1970, pp.312.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid. p.356.

[18] From this point on in the bibliography, I am highly indebted to the laborious editing of the correspondence and diaries of the Croziers compiled by Julia Crozier McCleary, op. cit. which covers the years 1854-19l2, and to her gracious sharing of personal information. I also have a personal debt of gratitude to Deborah Jones Henderson, a great-granddaughter of Owen R. L. Crozier, for the personal communications which amplified my preliminary reconstruction.

[19] The Daily Messenger, op.cit. p 19



Related Information on Crosier

Crosier renounces the "shut door"

Crosier letter to Canright

Robert K. Sanders, Founder and Editor of Truth or Fables, 1997–2012
Life Assurance Ministries assumed ownership of Truth or Fables in 2012
© 2016 Life Assurance Ministries. All rights reserved.