The Jenks Collection of Adventual Materials: A Short History, by Dr. Moses C. Crouse, Curator of the Jenks Collection, 1978-1985, and Professor Emeritus of Religion

Joshua V. Himes, a few years after the Millerite Movement
William Miller's leather trunk, which came to the collection containing many original Miller letters, sermons, and other papers.

Dr. Jenks, president of Aurora College from 1911 to 1933, had a keen historical sense. He knew that books, records, and papers enabled men to supplement their memories, discern their roots, and ascertain meaningful relationships. This awareness prompted him to preserve a wide selection of materials relating to the Millerite Movement of the 1840s and of significant literature concerning the several Adventist bodies that developed after the dream of those early Millerites met disappointment, or was interpreted in a different manner.

The approach Dr. Jenks took in gathering the material in this research collection can be deduced from his correspondence and diaries. We know that Dr. Jenks got William Miller's trunk from the "World's Crisis" office in Boston. This trunk had been carried by Miller to many speaking engagements throughout the eastern part of the United States during the years of his active ministry and contained over 800 letters, written to him, or by him. (They were composed from 1812 through the mid-19th century.)

The trunk had been sent by J. V. Himes from his last home in South Dakota to J. M. Orrock, the last editor of "The Advent Herald", a newspaper started by Himes in 1840, which ceased publication in 1899. What we don't know is how the trunk passed from the office of "The Herald" to that of "The Crisis", how Jenks learned of its existence, or when he brought it back to Illinois. Luckily for the Jenks Collection, the letters and manuscripts were still intact and came with the trunk to Aurora College (now Aurora University).

How and why were the Miller letters and manuscripts collected? We know that Sylvester Bliss, an editorial colleague of Himes, used them when he wrote the Memoirs of William Miller, published by Himes in 1853 and which he, himself, had originally intended to write. It seems likely that Himes had gathered those materials for that purpose. Reasonable conjecture suggests that hundreds of valuable books and pamphlets from the mid-19th century were given to Mendota College of Mendota, IL, the institution which under the leadership of Dr. Jenks moved to Aurora, IL, and became Aurora College in 1912. Adventists, both those in the ministry and of the laity, doubtless deposited books, tracts, papers, and photographs in that library so that those students might be more informed and better educated.

William Miller in the 1840s.

The Jenks Collection holds some extremely valuable books relating to the history of prophetic interpretation and the theological discussion of the nature and destiny of man. Some of these go back into the 17th and 18th centuries. Among them are:

  • "The Controversy Concerning an Intermediate State," Archdeacon Francis Blackburne, 1765.
  • "Daniel", Hugh Broughton, 1607.
  • "Prophetic Commentary on the Revelation of St. John", Charles Daubuz, 1720.
  • "The History of the Sabbath", Peter Heylyn, 1636.
  • "Considerations on the Theory of Religion", Bishop Edmund Law, 1774.
  • "Exposition...of the Prophet Daniel", Henry More, 1681.
  • "Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John", Sir Isaac Newton, 1733.
  • "Man Wholly Mortal", Richard Overton, 1655.
  • "Annals of the World", Archbishop James Ussher, 1658.
  • "Works of Bishop Thomas Goodwin", 1683.
  • "Works of Joseph Mede", 1677.

Were these books purchased for the Mendota College library? Did members of the faculty give such treasures, along with other books, to the college? It is doubtless this sort of thing did happen. On the other hand, the historical acumen and watchful eye of Dr. Jenks was, without doubt, responsible for securing materials of this sort for his research library. Nevertheless, it seems improbable that Dr. Jenks collected all of these materials. The validity of this hypothesis is supported by entries in his diary, such as that of January 16, 1945, where he remarks on the discovery of two charts in the collection, each about 100 years old, and one going back to the 1854 time period.

Just how did this man go about securing these materials? The diaries provide some answers. One entry mentions appealing to Mrs. G. L. Young for materials from her late husband's library. There is an inquiry of Mrs. E. D. Mansfield for clues to the location of early issues of "The Voice of the West" and "The Advent Christian Times". Again, he writes to the children of alumni concerning materials that had belonged to their parents. For instance, he appealed to Mattie Burr concerning papers of her father, Frank Burr; to George M. concerning the holdings of his father, William R. Mitchell. On another occasion he drove a considerable distance out of his way to call upon Everett Dick and get from him a copy of his doctoral dissertation. Similarly, he approached men in responsible places for data relating to their work. In November, 1929, he asked Warren Tenney for relevant materials from the office of the Advent Christian Publication Association. Another entry in his diary reports his spending time in the office of "The World's Crisis" seeking historical materials. He did the same with others, especially minister-publishers like Benjamin Corliss.

How much material did Jenks buy? We do not know. If we depended entirely upon his diaries, we would conclude that his purchases were infrequent, although a few are reported. We know that when he traveled from one coast to the other preaching and giving Bible studies, he frequently mentioned his research library. There are a dozen or more entries in his diaries concerning a "penny collection" for his library even during the Great Depression. In 1934, and again in 1940, he bought steel cabinets in which to store the more valuable and fragile items. The second cabinet was bought on January 20, and he noted that the payment was made out of his penny collection fund.

This is not the place to indicate the full scope and nature of his collecting activity, but a few landmarks may be noted: his diary reveals that on December 24, 1930, he secured bound copies of "The Advent Herald", "The Midnight Cry", and "The Morning Watch". On July 24, 1934, he received bound copies of "The Advent Herald" and "The Signs of the Times". Other volumes of the Times were secured on September 28, 1941. Anyone familiar with early Adventism knows that such acquisitions were of great help and significance for the collection. Of similar importance for understanding the development of the Advent Christian people in the Midwest was the gift by Hope Pollard Hufford of a complete set of " Our Hope and Life in Christ" from her father's library. A list of materials gathered in this manner reads like an honor roll, not only of Advent Christian personalities, but of authors and preachers from all branches of Adventism.

Jenks was not only a collector, but sought in many ways to ensure the availability of this material to the world of scholarship. Some of the books were catalogued and many of the tracts were sorted and arranged alphabetically. He welcomed help. When A. H. Kearney moved into this area he enlisted his aid on some of the historical questions relating to the collection. Not infrequently, notations in his diaries mention a need for help in classifying these materials. He remarks about the help he received from his eldest daughter, Miriam, on some biographical work. Her husband, Dean Stanley H. Perry, also was helpful. On occasion, students were employed to work under his direction. Thus he sought to make his collection a significant research library, and scholars came. Some were young men working on graduate problems, among them Everett Dick and Wilbur Murra. Others were authors of considerable distinction such as Francis D. Nichol, Leroy E. Froom, and Professor Sidney Mead from the University of Chicago. It was the latter who helped Jenks make arrangements for the original microfilming of the Miller Correspondence by the Photoduplication Department of the University of Chicago Library.

After the death of Jenks in 1951, work in the research collection continued. The concern of Ethel Tapper, then head librarian, resulted in the provision of a suitable place for the Jenks Memorial Collection of Adventual Materials in the Phillips Library when it was constructed in 1961. This was a great asset to the collection. Doris K. Colby, for several years associate librarian, and later head librarian, gave a portion of her time to the care and development of this portion of the library. She did much work, not only in arrangement and research, but with the help of alert field workers, faculty members and friends of then Aurora College, she had the privilege of receiving and arranging much additional material. Notable among these were missionary items: journals, correspondence of missionaries such as Z. Charles Beals, Sarah K. Taylor, and memorabilia from the Spence family in India, from W.I. Edwards, Joseph Wharton, and Bertha Cassidy. The periodical holdings in general were greatly enriched. The Advent Christian Publication Society sent the files of " The Young Pilgrim" and of "The World's Crisis", and the Life and Advent Union sent a century-long file of "The Herald of Life" and many other materials of historical interest. From Connecticut came much of the file of "The Watch Tower", and from the Southern region, the major portion of the issues of "The Present Truth Messenger" plus important office records. Likewise a nearly complete file of the western regional paper, "The Messiah's Advocate", was given to the collection.

Supplementing those major gifts were the thoughtful, significant gifts of books, tracts, charts, records of churches, camp meetings, and conferences, diaries of various personalities, photographs, theses, and artifacts of absorbing interest. Then through cooperative endeavor much of the collection was microfilmed: the Millerite materials by University Microfilms International, and later works by the American Theological Library Association. This was a tremendous boon, for it not only protects the collection from fire and vandalism, but makes it available to a vastly greater circle of students of this segment of American religion. Witness the impact of the 112 page Bibliographical Essay included in Edwin S. Gaustad (ed.), "The Rise of Adventism", which while presenting a valuable inventory of the holdings of a half-dozen collections, lists the major holdings of the Jenks Memorial Collection prior to 1872. Shortly after his retirement as professor of religion, Moses C. Crouse was named in 1978 as curator of the collection. He was able to effect some changes, continue organization and classification of materials, and be of help to interested scholars. Thus new areas of research were pursued and groundwork was laid to assist a committee of the Advent Christian General Conference of America to produce a history of the denomination. Jenks' dream for these materials continued to be realized. The collection was begun by a man of vision; it has grown and developed through the interest and helpfulness of a large group of interested and committed people. You, too, are invited to have a share in its continued growth and service.

June 12, 1980
Dr. Moses C. Crouse, Curator (1978-1985)