His Early Years
Joseph Madison Rees was born December 17, 1844, in Tennessee (Ancestry, 2019). At the age of eleven years he was left an orphan. This sad experience was turned to good advantage in the development of those qualities of perseverance and strength which were characteristic of his later life. In 1862 he enlisted as a member of Company G, of the Eighty-ninth Indiana Regiment. He served most creditably as a soldier, and was mustered out at the close of the war, in 1865 (W., 1909).
Years of Ministry
Joseph married Melvina Seward on June 28, 1866. She was a Sabbath keeper and her faith deeply interested her husband. The following year through faithful study and the prayers and example of his wife, Joseph became a Seventh-day Adventist. He felt called to proclaim the gospel so he closed his prosperous business as a merchant and in 1877 he began to preach. In 1878, he was ordained a minister in the Indiana Conference. He worked in Indiana until 1886, when he was sent by the General Conference to take charge of the North Carolina Mission field. The following year he was invited to accept the presidency of the Tennessee Conference. He remained there until the fall of 1889, when on account of his wife’s failing health, he returned to Indiana where her father lived. Elder Rees continued in public evangelism until he became president of the Arkansas Conference from 1893-1894. From the years 1895 to 1906, he served as president in the conferences of Oklahoma, Colorado, Missouri, and Southern Illinois. In January 1906, he voluntarily retired from his official labors, feeling that his own health, as well as his wife’s, demanded it. Returning to his old home conference, he again became a worker in Indiana (W., 1909).
His retirement did not last long, however. In the fall of 1907 he responded to the urgent appeal to become the president of the West Virginia Conference, which position he held at the time of his sudden death on April 8, 1909, at the age of sixty-five. Rees had recently returned to his conference work from the Washington Sanitarium where he had successfully passed through a serious surgical operation. The day before his death he had brought his wife to the Sanitarium for treatment. The next day he went to Washington, D. C. to transact some business. Standing on the street-car tracks at the corner of First Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, he stepped aside to avoid an approaching car. In so doing he was struck by a car coming from the opposite direction, and hurled violently against the car he was seeking to avoid. The collision resulted in the breaking of three ribs, a severe fracture of the skull, and other injuries (Review, 1909). Cards found on him served as identification, and Dr. D. H. Kress, superintendent of the Washington Sanitarium, responded to a call from the authorities. Rees died three hours after the accident, not having recovered consciousness (Butler, 1909). The funeral for Elder Rees was held in Washington, D. C., then his body was taken back to Kokomo, Indiana, for burial (Ancestry, 2019).
(1909, Apr. 15). Review and Herald, p. 24.
Ancestry Family Trees. (2019, Aug. 15). Joseph Madison Rees. Retrieved from ancestry.com.
Butler, Mrs. S. M. (1909, Apr. 14). Columbia Union Visitor, p. 8.
W., F. M. (1909, Apr. 22). Review and Herald, p. 16.