Grace Amadon

1872 - 1945

Grace Amadon, pianist and organist, was gifted in many areas. During her career as a musician, teacher, and scientist, she was praised for her achievements as a student, success as a teacher in a number of subjects, expertise as a bacteriologist, and research in the area of astronomy.

Amadon was born on February 24, 1872, in Battle Creek Michigan, one of two daughters born to Martha Byington and George W. Amadon, who also raised an adopted son. Her mother was the older daughter of John Byington, first president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and his second wife Catherine (Newton). Her father was a key person in the early years of the Review and Herald Publishing Association, then headquartered in Battle Creek, during a time of turmoil for the church.

She attended Battle Creek College, where she distinguished herself in music, the study of Greek and Latin, and the sciences. The president of the college at that time described her as the "ablest" Greek and Latin student ever to graduate from BCC. Music teacher Edwin Barnes was so impressed with her ability on the piano and organ that he used her as his assistant in teaching and endorsed her serving as organist at the Battle Creek Tabernacle.

At age 21, Amadon was invited by the mission board to teach music, mathematics, Greek, and Latin at Claremont Union College in Cape Town, South Africa, now Helderberg College in Somerset West. She quickly established a reputation for teaching excellence and maintaining high standards in music and academics.

Six years later, she returned to the U.S., where she oversaw the church school at Battle Creek for three years. In 1903 Amadon moved to Chicago, where she worked as a bacteriologist, taught pathology and other sciences in a college, and drew illustrations for prominent medical books.

Near the end of her stay there, she started studying medicine, but moved to St. Joseph, Michigan, to care for her father, who had fallen ill.1 Initially, she commuted to Chicago by ferry across Lake Michigan, while also doing work in a laboratory in St. Joseph. An article in the local paper describing a visit to the lab by a state bacteriologist in 1911, reported the following:

Dr. Spoor declared he was most agreeably surprised on visiting this city to find an excellent laboratory and an excellent technician. As a matter of fact the work done for St. Joseph by Miss Grace Amadon has brought praise from every state health officer and health official who has visited the city.2

After her father's death in 1913, she cared for her mother for the next 25 years, until her death at age 102.

At that time, Amadon was invited to join a special research committee sponsored by the General Conference. Her work in astronomy was done with such thoroughness and brilliance that an astronomer at the United States Naval Conservatory praised her work as a "distinct contribution" in that field. Her work led to articles published in several journals.

She also wrote articles about her father, other persons, and different aspects of early Adventism for the church's primary magazine, the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald. Amadon died on May 22, 1945, at age 73 after a brief illness, and was buried next to her parents in Battle Creek.

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1 Letter from Martha Amadon to W. C. White between February and July 1911: "You will see by this date where we are. To tell you all our reasons for being here would take a long time. One good reason is Grace, with me, thought her father ought to have a change from the ever-strenuous atmosphere of Battle Creek. Fifty-six years on the old battlefield was long enough.

We thought—and he is—nearly a worn-out Christian soldier. It seemed best to seek a little more quiet place, at least for a time. Then Grace’s work is in Chicago and yet in her father’s state of health we needed her so much. Here in St. Joe on the shores of Lake Michigan, she can go to Chicago for fifty cents on the boat, and arrange her work and return for the same. In Battle Creek, it took towards seven dollars to do it."

2 1911 News article, "Council Puts Final OK on Repair Work," included with a letter from George Amadon to W. C. White

Sources: Obituary, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, June, 21, 1945, pg. 20;, a primary source for this article, was written by LeRoy E. Froom; A.T. Robinson, "Claremont, South Africa, Union College," The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, January 21, 1896, pg. 41; Grace Amadon, "George W. Amadon," The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, July 6, 1944, pgs. 9, 10; Clifton L. Taylor, "As the Days of a Tree," (Martha Byington Amadon), The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, August 30, 1956, 25; Information provided by Sylvia Byington Nosworthy, Professor of English, Walla Walla University, based on her research on the Byington family, source of excerpts from letters included in the endnotes.