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Watson, Charles Henry (1877–1962)

by W. J. Breen

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Charles Henry Watson (1877-1962), administrator and pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, was born on 8 October 1877 near Yambuk, Victoria, one of twelve children of Henry Greaves Watson, a native-born labourer, and his English wife Sarah Jane, née Pettingill. Henry later became a woolclasser and ran a small store; Charles followed his father into the wool-buying business. On 23 March 1898 at St Peter's Church, Yambuk, he married with Anglican rites Elizabeth Mary Shanks, a neighbour and childhood friend. Although brought up in the Church of England, in 1902 Charles and Elizabeth became Seventh Day Adventists. In order to study for the ministry he moved with his family in 1907 to Avondale School for Christian Workers, Newcastle, New South Wales.

Following his ordination on 14 September 1912, Brother Watson was called to Queensland and immediately elected president of the Queensland conference. Moving to Sydney, he became vice-president (1914) and president (1915) of the Australasian Union Conference of Seventh Day Adventists. Deeply interested in missionary work, he furthered programmes designed to promote his faith among Australian Aborigines and South Pacific islanders. He visited the United States of America in 1918 to attend the S.D.A. General Conference at San Francisco. In 1920, when the Australasian Conference Association Ltd was established as a legal holding body for the Church, he became its general manager. During this time he helped to reorganize the Adventist health food operations and developed the successful Sanitarium Health Food Co: its profits were used to advance the work of the Church, especially the Adventist school system in Australia.

A talented administrator, Watson was elected vice-president and associate treasurer of the S.D.A. General Conference in 1922. For the next four years he was attached to headquarters near Washington, D.C., and travelled throughout the world on Church business. In 1926 he returned to Australia and resumed the presidency of the Australasian Union Conference. Recalled to the United States in 1930 to serve as president of the S.D.A. General Conference, he was the only non-American to hold that position. The Depression had dramatically reduced Church income and Watson was obliged to prune expenditure ruthlessly. By 1936 he was able to report that the Church was operating on a balanced budget and that there had also been considerable growth in Seventh Day Adventism both at home and in the mission fields.

Pastor Watson came back to Sydney in 1936 and resumed his work in the Church as president of the Australasian Conference (1936-38) and of the Australasian Division (from 1938). He retired to Turramurra in 1944. Survived by his wife, two daughters and two sons, he died at Wahroonga on 24 December 1962 and was buried in Northern Suburbs cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • D. F. Neufeld et al (eds), Seventh Day Adventist Encyclopedia, vol 10 (Washington, DC, 1966)
  • D. A. Ochs, The Past and the Presidents (Nashville, Tennessee, USA, 1974)
  • R. W. Schwarz, Light Bearers to the Remnant (Mountain View, California, USA, 1979)
  • G. Land (ed), Adventism in America (Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, 1986)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 13 Oct 1922, 2 Aug 1934, 26 Dec 1962
  • Review and Herald (Washington, DC), 31 Jan 1963.

Citation details

W. J. Breen, 'Watson, Charles Henry (1877–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 22 May 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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