Goodloe Harper Bell was born on April 7, 1832, just 12 years prior to the Great Disappointment in 1844, although he was not associated with the Adventist believers at the time. He was the eldest of 12 children.
“At the age of nineteen he entered upon his chosen lifework,—that of teaching,—which he followed in a larger or smaller way until the day of his death. The study in which he most delighted was that of nature; and often he would go many miles to find one specimen of plant or flower that he had set his heart on critically examining.”–The General Conference Daily Bulletin, February 23, 1899
“His first religious affiliations were with the Baptists; but having occasion to visit the Battle Creek Sanitarium for his health, he studied the views of the Seventh-day Adventists, and true to his conceptions of duty, he openly espoused their principles, and soon came into prominence among them.” –Ibid
“He had not been there long before he accepted the faith of Seventh-day Adventists. For the sake of his health he worked out on the grounds and in the garden. Elder and Mrs. White lived then on the corner of Washington and Champion streets, just below the sanitarium. Their two sons, Edson and Willie, like all boys, ranged outside the family fence, and became acquainted with the patient gardener. They found him sympathetic to boy problems, and helpful when they brought their school tasks to him. So they begged their father to have Mr. Bell be their teacher.” –Footprints of the Pioneers, by Arthur Spalding, p 193
“In the end Professor Bell did, with the encouragement of James White and other parents, start a private school.” –Footprints of the Pioneers, by Arthur Spalding, p 193
This first school for Seventh-day Adventist children was located on the first floor of the old Review and Herald building in Battle Creek, Michigan. He and his family lived on the second floor. “As a teacher Bell was regarded as somewhat of a genius. He had a concept of Christian education far in advance of his time.” –The Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, by LeRoy Froom, vol. 4, p. 1132
Goodloe Bell was the first teacher at the Seventh-day Adventist School and he was the co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist School System. Ellen G. White was a great supporter of this new school system. Along with her two sons, Edson and Willie, the Kellogg brothers, William and John Harvey also were some of the first students. “Professor Bell’s friendliness and his love for juniors helped in founding a Christian college later.” –Advent Pioneers Biographical Sketches and Pictures, from the E.G. White Estate, p. 7
While teaching he had other responsibilities also such as editing the Youth’s Instructor. He had a passion for helping children and young people. In 1869 he was made the superintendent of the Battle Creek School and he also served as General Conference Treasurer for one year, from March 1870 to February 1871. He was also one of the directors of the Health Institute.
Mr. Bell was such a hard and dedicated worker with many talents that on December 10, 1871, Ellen White was given a vision in which she saw “Bell in connection with the cause and work of God in Battle Creek.” It is not surprising that Ellen White wrote that “more was expected of Bro. Bell than can reasonably be of any one man” –Testimony to the Church at Battle Creek, p. 8
One of a teacher’s most difficult challenges from all time has been to keep the children disciplined when they do not get support from parents and students. Things were no different in the early stages of the SDA education system. Although, Professor Bell was friendly, he was also a strong disciplinarian, which brought both approval and criticism from parents and students. Ellen White wrote: “It is true his style is in marked contrast with the generality of teachers. But it is this kind of teaching that is needed, that will give stability to the character. The lack on the part of some of the parents to sustain Bro. Bell made his work doubly hard.” –Ibid. “That was the way Professor Bell was. Strict and stern. Sometimes overly so. But he got results and somehow the students loved him. It took that kind of a person to run a school back in the 1860’s. And that was the kind of a person Professor Bell was.” –Advent Pioneers Biographical Sketches and Pictures, from the E.G. White Estate, p. 7
However, Ellen White also had counselled Brother Bell for trying too hard in his own strength: “Bro. Bell did not realize that he was depending more upon system to bring up the church of God to the right position and in working order, than to the influence of the Spirit of God upon the heart. He trusted too much to his own ability.” –Testimony to the Church at Battle Creek, p. 8
Brother Bell became discouraged and in 1872 left Battle Creek. However, Ellen White recognized his talents and his calling in life and encouraged him to return to teach in the school that coming year. It did not take him long to respond and on June 3, 1872, the school opened on the second story of the old Review and Herald building with twelve students. This school was a success from the beginning, and in December 1874 it outgrew its facility and was moved to the newly erected Battle Creek College. Brother Sydney Brownsberger was the president and Brother Bell was the head of the English Department.
In 1881, a new president took over, Alexander McLearn. Brother Bell and Brother McLearn did not always get along as far as discipline was concerned. Brother McLearn wanted to relax the rules a little. Brother Bell ended up leaving the school in 1882.
Ellen White was a strong supporter of Bell and his desire to maintain appropriate discipline. Brother Bell then went to South Lancaster, Massachusetts, where he opened a new Seventh-day Adventist secondary school that same year.
In his later years, Bell also started the first church correspondence school for those unable to attend the church schools and did not want to attend public schools.
“He might have lived to a ripe old age had it not been that in 1899, in his 67th year, while riding in a carriage drawn by his spirited horse, he had an accident and was killed. Thousands of people mourned the passing of this beloved teacher.” –Advent Pioneers Biographical Sketches and Pictures, from the E.G. White Estate, p. 6
“Professor Bell was perhaps the most clear-sighted educator the denomination has ever known. He believed thoroughly in the system of Christian education which Mrs. White, divinely inspired, had already presented, . . . The Bible as the foundation, agriculture as the A, B, and C, literature conformed to Christian ideals, science and revelation harmonized, the training of Christian workers the great aim-would that our educational concepts today were as clear and single-minded as his.” –Footprints of the Pioneers, by Arthur Spalding, p. 16
Today, just like our early Adventist Pioneers, the Seventh-day Adventist Church Reform has church schools in many countries around the world. Instead of a correspondence school, however, an online school has been established, Orion Christian Academy. Through these schools, children and young people obtain a solid education based on Biblical truth to give them a firm foundation on which to establish their faith. To learn more about the work of the Education Department, Orion Christian Academy, homeschooling, or to ask any questions, contact the Education Department leader, Margie Seely ([email protected]).