Arkansas Conference President, 1894-1896
His Early Years
Judson Barclay Beckner was born on February 6, 1851, in Laporte, Indiana. He moved to Pleasant Hill, Missouri, around 1873, where he married Margaret Thornton. The Beckner’s had four children, Clara Lee in 1875, George Thornton in 1879, Harry Stewart in 1883, and Robert Arnold in 1886 (Ancestry, 2017). Judson was a public school teacher in Pleasant Hill. In 1884 a couple of Seventh-day Adventist preachers used his school house to hold meetings. When they asked who would keep the seventh day Sabbath, not one person said they would. Judson studied a whole year and decided to be baptized and become a Sabbath keeper. He was baptized in the Missouri River in 1887 when his oldest son, George, was eight years old (Beckner-Farnsworth, 1990).
Back L to R: George, Judson; Front L to R: Harry, Margaret, Robert.
Years of Ministry
Six months later Judson left school teaching and became a minister in Missouri. In 1894 the General Conference recommended that Judson go to Arkansas, which he did on May 10, 1894 (Beckner, 1894). That year at the 1894 conference session in Fayetteville he was elected as the president of the Arkansas Conference. He was reelected in 1895, and in 1896 when J. A. Holbrook was elected as the Arkansas Conference president, the Beckners moved to Texas to serve (Review, 1895).
In 1901, Judson with his wife, went to Jamaica, British West Indies, where he labored most faithfully as president until the year 1907, when he went to British Guiana, South America, to serve as president there. According to one of his granddaughters, Judson was the first white man to contact the people later known as the Davis Indians. Here his stay was short, as his once robust health gave way to an attack of malaria while pushing his bike on the mountain paths, forcing him to go to Trinidad to recuperate. There, as president of the South Caribbean Conference, he labored in spite of failing strength, until 1913, when he returned to the United States.
His Final Years
After three years of declining strength, Judson died of heart failure on May 9, 1916, at the home of his son George (Durrant, 1916), a feather duster manufacturer in Athol, Massachusetts (Ancestry, 2011). Judson was sixty-five years old. The Beckner’s children became missionaries in foreign fields: George and his wife, Mary, went to the South Seas, Harry and his wife, Kizzie, went to South Africa, Robert and Ethel went to India and Burma where three of their four children were born, and Clara, who was married to Dr. Otis, went with her husband to Santo Domingo, British West Indies (Durrant, 1916). Their children and grandchildren included a Bible worker for 50 years, two ordained ministers, a teacher, two doctors and three nurses, and many others all studying and working for God. So the meetings in 1884 in Judson’s school house that seemingly had no converts, actually had far-reaching results that only God knows (Beckner-Farnsworth, 1990).
(1895, Sep. 17). Review and Herald, p. 604.
(1957, Jan. 21). Atlantic Union Gleaner, p. 6.
Ancestry.com. (2011). U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.
Ancestry Family Trees. (2017, Jan. 31). Judson Barclay Beckner. Retrieved from ancestry.com.
Beckner-Farnsworth, Annamary. (1990, Jun. 3). Letter to the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference.
Beckner, J. B. (1894, Jun. 12). Review and Herald, pp. 380, 381.
Durrant, A. N. (1916, Jul. 13). Ibid., p. 21.