[Born : 01 - 06 - 1929]

Joseph Crane Hartzell (1 June 1842 6 September 1929) was an American Missionary Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church who served in the United States and in Africa.

Joseph Crane Hartzell

Early life and family

Joseph was born of Methodist parents on a farm near Moline, Illinois. He was converted to the Christian faith as a boy. In 1863 he rescued four men from drowning in Lake Michigan, being honored by the City of Evanston, Illinois for his heroism. In 1869 Joseph married Miss Jennie Culver of Chicago.

Joseph earned his own education, entering upon an eleven years' course of study at the age of sixteen. He earned a B.D. degree in 1868 from Garrett Biblical Institute. Prior to this, he had received a B.A. degree from Illinois Wesleyan University. Illinois Wesleyan and Allegheny College both granted him the honorary degree of D.D. in 1875. He taught school for a period of time in the early and mid-1860s, before entering the ministry.

Ordained ministry

The Rev. Hartzell entered the Central Illinois Annual Conference in the fall of 1866, being appointed Pastor of Pekin and Bloomington. In February 1870 he transferred to the Louisiana Annual Conference of the M.E. Church. He served for three years at Ames Chapel (later the St. Charles Avenue Methodist Church) in New Orleans. This was the only Methodist church in New Orleans to remain with the northern branch of the Church after the division over slavery in 1844. During the next nine years, Rev. Hartzell served as the Presiding Elder of various districts in the Louisiana Conference. For several years he also was a prominent member of the New Orleans School Board.

In 1873 Rev. Hartzell began publication of The Southwestern Christian Advocate, which he carried as a private enterprise until its adoption as an official paper of the M.E. Church by the 1876 General Conference. He was editor of this paper until February 1881, when he resigned to become the Assistant Secretary of the Freedmen's Aid Society. At the 1998 General Conference he was elected Corresponding Secretary of the Freedmen's Aid and Southern Education Society, to which office he was re-elected by the 1892 General Conference.

Episcopal ministry

When the retirement of Bishop William Taylor made necessary a successor, the 1896 General Conference elected Dr. Hartzell Missionary Bishop for Africa. For the next four years, Bishop Hartzell traveled 70,000 miles (110,000 km) performing the duties of his office. He presided over four Annual Sessions of the Liberia Annual Conference. On 9 July 1897 he organized the Congo Mission Conference. He also laid the foundations of the Mission in New and Old Umtali in Mashonaland. He received, as donations from the British South Africa Company, valuable lots in New Umtali. These came with appropriations of funds for the maintenance of a school among Europeans, and a tract of several thousand acres with twelve buildings (worth over $100,000 at that time) at Old Umtali, for the establishment of an industrial Mission.

Bishop Hartzell held the first sessions of the East Central Africa and West Central Africa Mission Conferences, where were each formed in 1901 from the Congo Mission Conference. He dedicated the St. Andrew's M.E. Church 20 September 1903, the first Methodist Episcopal Church erected for the use of white people in Africa. In the spring of 1910, Bishop Hartzell organized the American Mission in North Africa.

For his service in Africa Bishop Hartzell was made a Knight Commander of the Order for the Redemption of Africa by the Republic of Liberia. He retired at the 1916 General Conference.

Bishop Hartzell died 6 September 1929 as a result of injuries sustained during a robbery at his home in Blue Ash, Ohio. He was 87. He was buried in Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago. Hartzell Hall at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana is named in his honor. Hartzell United Methodist Church, in Cincinnati, Ohio is also named in his honor. Located only a few miles (2.5) from Bishop Hartzell's home in Blue Ash, the church maintains a number of artifacts related to the Bishop's life as donated by his family.

Source: Hartzell