His Early Years
Urbanus E. Bender was born May 25, 1877, at Lexington, Nebraska. In 1878 his father, Thomas Jefferson Bender, bought a quarter section (160 acres) of land from the railroad, in West Blue, Fillmore County, Nebraska, and he traveled in a covered wagon taking his wife, four small children, baby Urbanus, a bony cow, a Chester White sow and a sod-buster walking plow. In 1893 Urb became a Seventh-day Adventist. His father did not object, although he couldn’t see it himself, but one day when Urb came home and went out on Sunday to hitch up the horses, his father came out of the house and said, “Nothing doing! You don’t have to work on your Sabbath, I won’t interfere there, but my horses are not going to work on my Sabbath! They need their day of rest too” (S. E. A., 2014).
Years of Ministry
Urbanus attended Union College, then began canvassing and helping with tent meetings throughout Nebraska in 1898. In 1901, hearing of the need for workers in Arkansas, he and another young man from Nebraska, Volney Brockway Watts, offered to come and work without pay for a year, supporting themselves by selling books. During the summer of 1901 Bender and Watts worked in Batesville, where camp meeting was held that year. As a result, by September Batesville had a church and a new building which was dedicated March 9, 1902 (Field, 1902). Returning home at the end of the summer, Urbanus courted Nana Emma Rothwell and they were married December 31, 1902 (Marriages, 2018). In 1904, Bender was ordained (Record, 1904a) at the seventeenth annual conference session and elected as the conference president (Record, 1904b).
In January 1907 the Arkansas conference released Elder Bender so he and his wife could sail to the West Indies for him to take up the presidency of the West Indian Union (Review, 1907). They arrived at the Union headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica, on January 12, 1907 (Consular, 1917), and two days later Kingston experienced a terrible earthquake. Many buildings were destroyed or so badly damaged they had to be rebuilt, including the Seventh-day Adventist church and the building housing the Union conference offices. Thousands flocked to a tent the Adventists set up to provide shelter and medical care. Appeals were sent to America for funds to help rebuild the church and Union office as well as to meet the needs of the many who had lost everything (Watchman, 1907). The Benders came to Booneville, Arkansas, where their son, Thomas William, was born February 24, 1909 (Ancestry, 2019). Returning to Jamaica, they continued the Adventist work there until June 15, 1913 (Consular, 1917). In 1913 the call had been made for Elder Bender to serve as the president of the Montana conference (Gleaner, 1913). It was in Bozeman, Montana, that the Benders daughter, Montana June, was born June 29, 1916. In 1917 the Benders sailed to South Africa, arriving on February 2 (Review, 1917). There Elder Bender would supervise the new Rhodesian Union Mission until 1926. The Benders sailed from Cape Town on November 12, 1926, to return to the United States. What surprised Elder Bender was the great increase in the number of automobiles since they had left (Bender, 1927).
Through the remaining years before he retired, Elder Urbanus Bender taught at Oakwood Junior College in Huntsville, Alabama; Mt. Pisgah Academy at Candler, North Carolina; and Fletcher Academy at Fletcher, North Carolina. The Benders went to Battle Creek when Elder Bender retired around 1940, then made their home in Coalmont, Tennessee, where Elder Bender died on June 1, 1959 (Worker, 1959).
(1904b, Aug. 22). Southwestern Union Record, p. 2.
(1904a, Aug. 29). Ibid., p. 2.
(1907, Jan. 17). Review and Herald, p. 24.
(1907, Mar. 1). Caribbean Watchman, pp. 1-26.
(1913, Jun. 19). North Pacific Union Gleaner, p. 6.
(1917, Feb. 22). Review and Herald, p. 24.
(1959, Aug 19). Southern Union Worker, p. 14.
Ancestry.com. (2013). U.S., Consular Registration Certificates, 1907-1918. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.
Ancestry Family Trees. (2019, Sep. 14). Urbanus E. Bender. Retrieved from ancestry.com.
A., S. E. (2014, Nov. 23). The Life Story of Thomas Jefferson Bender 1846–1939. Written by a niece of Urbanus Bender.
Beeler, Charles R. (1996). A History of Seventh-day Adventists in Arkansas and Louisiana 1888-1996.Keene: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, pp. 44, 45.
Bender, U. (1927, May 15). African Division Outlook, p. 5.
Field, A. D. (1901, Oct. 15). Review and Herald, p. 675.
Field, A. E. (1902, Feb. 25). Ibid., p. 122.
(2018, Nov. 28). Nebraska Marriages, 1855-1995. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society. Retrieved from FamilySearch.org.