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Born in Poland, Maine, in 1829, Andrews converted in February 1843 and began to observe the seventh-day Sabbath in 1845. He met James and Ellen White in September 1849. In 1850 he began itinerant pastoral ministry and was ordained in 1853.
Andrews was a significant contributor in the development of Seventh-day Adventist theology. Among his more memorable achievements was applying the identity of the two-horned beast of Revelation to the United States of America. In 1859 he wrote the first edition of his most famous book, The History of the Sabbath and the First Day of the Week (Battle Creek, MI: Battle Creek Steam Press, 1859).
On Oct. 29, 1856, Andrews married Angeline Stevens (1824-1872) in Waukon, Iowa, where the Andrews and Stevens families had recently moved. In 1859 a conference in Battle Creek voted that Andrews should assist J. N. Loughborough with tent evangelism in Michigan. He returned the following year (1860) to Iowa. During this second period in Iowa his two children were born: Charles (b. 1857) and Mary (b. 1861). In June 1862 John left Waukon to conduct evangelistic meetings in New York where he helped to found the New York Conference. In February 1863 Angeline and their two children joined them in New York, and while there they had two more children both of whom died from tuberculosis.
In 1864 Andrews was chosen as the denominational representative to the Provost Marshall General in Washington, D.C., to secure recognition for the denomination as noncombatants. On May 14, 1867, Andrews was elected the third president of the General Conference (until May 18, 1869) after which he became editor of the Review and Herald (1869-1870). In 1872 Angeline died from a stroke after which John moved with his two children to South Lancaster, Massachusetts, where his children could stay with the Harris family.
Two years later he left with his two children, John and Mary, as the first official Seventh-day Adventist missionaries to Europe. They assisted in founding a publishing house in Switzerland and an Adventist periodical in French, Les Signes des Temps (1876). In 1878 Mary caught tuberculosis and died soon after receiving treatment at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Andrews died on Oct. 21, 1883 and is buried next to J. H. Waggoner in Basel, Switzerland. In 1960 Andrews University was named in his honor.
Adventist Pioneer Library, Ellen G. White Writings, Comprehensive Research Edition 2008,
“When men come in who would move one pin or pillar from the foundation which God has established by His Holy Spirit, let the aged men who were pioneers in our work speak plainly, and let those who are dead speak also, by the reprinting of their articles in our periodicals. Gather up the rays of divine light that God has given as He has led His people on step by step in the way of truth. This truth will stand the test of time and trial.” — Ellen G. White, Ms 62, 1905, The Retirement Years, 21.