Annie Rebekah Smith

1828 - 1855

Annie Rebekah Smith was one of the best-known hymn writers in the formative years of what would become the Seventh-day Adventist Church. A gifted writer who contributed several articles and poems to the early church's primary magazines, she is represented by ten hymns in the 1941 Church Hymnal and three in the 1985 Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.

Annie was born in West Wilton, New Hampshire, on March 16, 1928, one of four children who survived infancy and the only daughter of Samuel Keyes and Rebekah Spaulding Smith. She joined the Baptist Church at age ten, but when her mother and youngest brother, Uriah, became convinced that the Second Advent of Christ would occur October 22, 1844, a message sounded by William Miller, they became members of one of the groups collectively known as the Millerites.

When this did not happen, she pursued studies at the Charleston Female Seminary in Massachusetts, a school which offered studies in English, art, music, and languages. Although she planned to become a teacher in French and painting, the onset of an eye problem in 1850, in her sixth and final term at the CFS, prevented that. Because of her vision she declined an offer to teach in a seminary in Hancock, a great disappointment for her. She instead briefly became an agent for and contributor to a monthly magazine, "The Ladies' Wreath," in New York City, one of her first efforts in public writing.

In 1851, with the encouragement of her mother, she attended meetings being held by Joseph Bates in Boston and accepted the Seventh-day Sabbath message, joining what would later become the Seventh-day Adventist Church. At that time she sent  a poem, "Fear not Little Flock," to the Advent Review, first issued in 1850, which led to an immediate invitation from editor James White for her to assist him as copy editor. She declined because of her vision but was told to come anyway. Her vision problem miraculously cleared shortly after she arrived, following an anointing and prayer. She held the position until the time of her death three years later..

As demanding as he was, when White was away he entrusted the editorship of the AR to her. She contributed over forty articles and poems to the AR and another publication, the Youth's Instructor, first issued in 1852, in those three years.

In November1952, she returned home to be with her father, who had become ill. After his death in the following month, she and Uriah were invited to take charge of an academy in Mount Vernon, New Hampshire, at a substantial salary.  She declined, preferring to return to the AR, without salary, where she felt her efforts could directly spread the message.

Annie first developed symptoms of tuberculosis in 1854, following prolonged exposure to inclement weather and contact with two persons related to James White's siblings, Nathaniel and Anna, and another person with the disease all of whom were working at the AR office. She returned to her childhood home on November 7, 1854, where her mother and brother Samuel cared for her until her death eight months later, on July 26, 1855, at age 27.

Her mother (Rebekah Smith) provided a detailed account of her final illness In a published work, "Poems: with a Sketch of the Life and Experience of Annie R. Smith, Manchester, New Hampshire, John B. Clarke, Printer, 1871). This was an important source for detail in this biographical sketch.

Smith was attracted to John Nevins Andrews and was heartbroken when he became interested in someone else. Ellen White believed that Annie's disappointment at that turn of events led to her death shortly after, as evidenced in a letter White wrote to Andrews that cautioned him to follow through with his marriage to the other woman since "Annie's disappointment cost her her life." The Review noted that the cause of death was tuberculosis.

Ten of her hymns were used in the 1941 Church Hymnal. Adventist tradition, speculation which lacks validation, holds that the first verse of one of 1941 hymns, "The Blessed Hope," refers to Joseph Bates and the second to James White. The three hymns using her poetry that were retained in the 1985 hymnal include "How Far from Home?" No. 439; " I Saw One Weary," No.441; and "Long Upon the Mountains, Weary," No. 447.


Sources: Rebekah Smith, Poems: With a Sketch of the Life and Experience of Annie R. Smith, (Manchester, New Hampshire, John B. Clarke), 1871; Ron Graybill, "Annie Smith, Her Life and Love," Review and Herald, 1 April 1976, 4-7 ( A detailed account of her life); Robert G. Wearner, "Dying Young," Adventist Review, 16 October 1997, 12,13; Christopher Ederesinghe, Singing as We Journey, 69,70; Wayne H. Hooper and Edward E. White, Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, 1988, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 14, 437-38.