The Cyclopædia of American Biography/Hartzell, Joseph Crane

The Cyclopædia of American Biography  (1918) 
James E. Homans, editor
Hartzell, Joseph Crane

HARTZELL, Joseph Crane, Methodist Episcopal missionary bishop for Africa, b. in Moline, Ill., 1 June, 1842, son of Michael Bash and Nancy (Worman) Hartzell. In William Penn's time four Hartzells emigrated to Pennsylvania from Germany and became the founders of the family in America, from every branch of which come distinguished churchmen, lawyers, soldiers, and social and political reformers. Young Hartzell felt his “call” to preach the gospel at an early age. A farmer boy, he left his father's home when seventeen years of age, to educate himself for the Christian ministry, for eleven years pursuing his ambition with untiring industry, and relying wholly upon his own exertions for financial support. In 1868 he completed a classical college course in the Illinois Wesleyan University, receiving the degree of A.B.; and, in the same year, a full course in theology at the Garrett Biblical Institute, Evanston, Ill., graduating with the degree of B.D. In 1863, while a student in Evanston, he rescued, in the face of grave danger, four survivors of a schooner wreck near the shore of Lake Michigan. No boat could live in the waves, it was said, and no person could live in the frigid water, but young Hartzell had been accustomed to practice swimming in the breakers after storms as a part of his physical exercises. In recognition of this heroic feat, the citizens of Evanston presented him with a full set of the New American Cyclopedia, and subsequently Congress took cognizance of his splendid service. He was ordained for the Methodist ministry in 1866, and his first pastoral charge was at Pekin, Ill. In February, 1870, he was transferred to New Orleans and for three years was pastor of St. Charles Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church in that city. For nine succeeding years he was superintendent of church, educational, and editorial work in New Orleans, and largely directed the evangelistic and educational work of his church throughout the Southwest. In 1873 he founded the Southwestern “Christian Advocate,” which later was made and still is an official organ of the church, a weekly publication of extensive influence. The twelve years from 1870 to 1882 covered a most important period in the reconstruction era throughout the South. Necessarily Dr. Hartzell was brought into prominent relations with leading men, both in politics and in church life throughout the North and South, and his opinions and judgments were often sought as to policies and methods. As the representative of the forward movement of the Methodist Episcopal Church after the war, in the establishment of churches and schools among both white people and the lately enfranchised negroes, in a territory which other churches claimed as their own, and which had been active in sustaining the Southern Confederacy, he was at once the target for severe criticism, on the one hand, while on the other hand, as his influence increased, he was accepted more and more as the wise and trusted leader of a far-reaching work. He was never partisan in politics, frank in his loyalty to the government of the United States, and believed that to the freedman should be extended the opportunity for church, school, and remunerative employment. His editorials were models in expression of clear and definite conviction as to the duties of government — state and national — and of the church to all the people, irrespective of section or race. During frequent journeys throughout the Southern section, and once a year through the North, his addresses upon the racial, educational, and church problems of the South attracted wide attention. For eeveral years a member of the public school board in the city of New Orleans, he assisted in the organization of the city schools under modern methods. He was the administrator of large funds, placed at his disposal each year from missionary and other benevolent organizations of his church, and the remarkable and permanent development of church membership, properties, and institutions of learning, attested the wisdom of administration. In 1882-87 he was made assistant secretary of the educational work of his church for the entire South, and chief secretary until May, 1896. This made him the executive officer and superintendent of forty-five institutions of learning, twenty-two of them being among the white people, and twenty-three among the blacks. Among the latter there were eight schools of collegiate grade, several of them having other departments; there are two theological schools. In three medical schools (one white and two colored), more than two thousand have been trained in medicine. Altogether many thousands of both races were trained as teachers, ministers, lawyers, physicians, and in various forms of industry, about 12,000 being annually in attendance. While he was secretary, more than $2,000,000 was distributed, and the properties grew to a value of over $2,500,000. Dr. Hartzell was a delegate from Louisiana to the general quadrennial conferences of his church in 1876, 1880, 1884, 1888, 1892, and that of 1896, which elected him missionary bishop for Africa. As a constructive legislator his influence during these twenty-four years in the chief councils of the church was often manifest in securing the passing of important measures. The bishop entered upon his duties in Africa at an opportune time for large development in general missionary lines. The continent had been divided up; means of communication were everywhere extended, money and workers for missions were increasing and methods of administration improving. At the end of twenty years work has been greatly enlarged and strengthened in Liberia, in Portuguese East Africa, in Rhodesia; also among the Mohammedans in Algeria and Tunisia. In Angola on the west coast, a line of missions has been extended 800 miles into the interior. In 1909 he made a call for a special thank-offering of $300,000. President Roosevelt inaugurated the movement in Washington with his last address as President, in January, and when President Taft made the final address in December, over $330,000 had been raised. Bishop Hartzell advocates securing large areas of land at strategic centers, teaching the natives industries, the work of medical missionaries, and in co-operation with the national authorities in the development of good citizenship. The governments at London, Berlin, Paris, and Lisbon, and many colonial officers in Africa, have shown their appreciation of this attitude, and granted special concessions of lands and co-operation. At one time when a crisis arose with Germany over Liberia, in which Bishop Hartzell is especially interested, he was made the republic's special envoy to the United States and England, and, as the result of consultations with President McKinley and Lord Salisbury, a joint diplomatic note was addressed to Germany which settled the difficulty. The republic made the bishop a knight commander of the Order for the Redemption of Africa, in recognition for this important service. Bishop Hartzell has received degrees as follows: A.M., Illinois Western University, 1871; D.D., Allegheny College and Illinois Wesleyan University, 1878; LL.D., Grant University and Hedding College, 1890. He was married in Chicago, Ill., November, 1869, to Jane, daughter of John Breese and Margaret Culver. They have had four sons and one daughter, of whom three sons survive: Dr. Joseph Culver, Rev. Dr. Morton Culver, and Robert Culver Hartzell.

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