Joseph Bates, one of the early pioneers of our church, was an early and enthusiastic adopter of truth. In addition to the Sabbath he was also an early adopter of a more healthful diet—vegetarianism. He was also an abolitionist who traveled into Maryland to free slaves.
From Arthur Spaulding's Captains of the Host
"Along with the message of the Sabbath from Preble's pen, the news of the little Sabbathkeeping company in the mountains of New Hampshire had filtered down to the tidewaters of Massachusetts. Joseph Bates felt an intense yearning to see and to talk with these disciples of the new-old faith. So he took the train and the stage, and then he took to foot; and at ten o'clock one night in May he knocked at the door of a darkened farmhouse (for farmers must sleep by night to work by day), and was welcomed in by Frederick Wheeler." Eleven-year-old George, who heard the knocking and the welcome, was fitfully wakened by his curiosity throughout the night, to hear his father and the stranger talking, talking till the dawn. Then the family met "dear Brother Bates," and after worship and breakfast George and the hired man were sent out to the fields while Elder Wheeler took his visitor over to Cyrus Farnsworth's.
By whatever way it was that led to the village set on the hill, they journeyed that morning, presumably by horse and buggy, to Washington. There one road turns left, to run along the west side of Millen Pond; another, an upland road, which passes the brick schoolhouse, would be somewhat more direct, and this they probably took. The present road, which runs close to the lake on the east side and which is a short cut, had not then been built. Perhaps, then, they rode yet two miles to Cyrus Farnsworth's. The house sits on a gentle hillside, sloping down to a meadow beside the pond. In front, on a not very expansive lawn, still stand two of the maple trees that mark the spot where the first Seventh-day Adventist conference was held. Whether more than the visitors and Cyrus were present is not known; but it would not surprise us to learn that Frederick Wheeler sent for William, who lived two and a half miles away, and perhaps for other brethren.
Joseph Bates was an eager Eliezer, who could not tarry on his Master's business. Having found what he came to seek, he declined the pressing hospitality of his friends, and hastened back." We feel even today the leaping joy of this apostle of the new faith as, eager and urgent, he bade good-by that noon to his brethren in the mountains; and the next morning, or perhaps the second, on the wooden bridge between New Bedford and Fair Haven, he answered the greeting of his neighbor and fellow Adventist, James Madison Monroe Hall, "Captain Bates, what is the news?" with the jubilant response, "The news is that the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord our God."—Arthur Spaulding, Captains of the Host, p. 111, 112
Joseph Bates (1792-1872) was one of the early, though “older” pioneers of the Millerite branch that eventually came to be called Seventh-day Adventists. In his early days he was a seaman. Later he became a sea captain. It was while traveling on one of his seafaring voyages that he read the Bible his wife had packed for him, became converted, and quickly became involved in a variety of reform movements, including founding a temperance society, advocating the separation of church and state, strongly supporting the abolition of slavery and becoming a champion of health reform—choosing to abstain from alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, and becoming vegetarian. He accepted the teachings of William Miller on the soon coming of Jesus in 1839 (At the time he was 47 in comparison to James White who would have been 18) Disappointed like so many Advent believers after October 22, 1844, he clung to his beliefs and found new understandings of the event. He later become an early adopter and promoter of the seventh-day Sabbath as a result of reading T. M. Preble’s pamphlet on the Sabbath. Desiring to broadly share his new understanding, Bates wrote several booklets on the Sabbath, and became known in the fledgling movement as the “apostle of the Sabbath." He died in 1872 in Battle Creek, Michigan and was buried in Monterey, Michigan (just a bit north of Allegan, Michigan).