Henry Crowell: Developing Our Business as We Consult with God by Sandra Somers

Most of us don’t know the name of the Ohio resident Henry Crowell (1855-1943), but we do know one of his legacies.

At age 17, Henry Crowell was dying of tuberculosis. After hearing a message from D.L. Moody challenging his listeners to think big, he knew the message was directed to him. But how? He didn’t have Moody’s speaking ability. So, he decided to use his wealth to support the work of men like Moody, promising to give God the glory.

His father, a man of faith, had died of tuberculosis when Henry was nine, leaving a huge inheritance from his shoe manufacturing business. Immediately after the funeral, Henry gave his life to the Lord. But later, he contracted tuberculosis. As his condition grew more critical, doctors knew that to recover, he needed to live outdoors in a sunnier and warmer climate.

Crowell moved to the Western States, where he gradually regained his health. While still in his early twenties, he bought a farm in the Dakotas, an area recently opened to settlers. A year later, he sold it at a profit and bought another, larger tract. His uncle advised him to buy 300 Percheron draft horses to enhance the settlers’ farming practices. He shipped the horses in a special train that advertised his horses on huge billboards, and his business soared.  

But that was a year of drought, and Crowell’s farm produced little wheat. When he received a good offer to sell both his farm and horse business, he jumped at this opportunity. He was 25 years old.

Fully recovered now, he returned home to Cleveland and consulted with the Lord for his next venture. His uncle advised him to purchase a mill owned by the Quakers, and he devised new strategies to transform oats from horse food to breakfast cereal for humans. He knew that oats, customarily sold in large barrels on the floors of general stores, would be more accessible—and attractive—in sanitary boxes on store shelves.

During the nation’s financial crisis and depression of 1893, Crowell advertised his “Quaker Oats, the World’s Breakfast” to homemakers as a cheaper nutritious alternative to beef. As a result, he helped change the eating habits of North Americans. Today, Quaker Oats is prominent on the world’s grocery stores, and Crowell’s marketing strategies are still revolutionary more than a century later.

As a successful business man, he and his wife shared their faith, and many came to faith in Jesus, including a number of corporate giants. Later, they established a family trust, donating nearly 70 percent of their earnings to charitable organizations, especially to Moody Bible Institute, where he was Board chairman for 40 years. As a lasting legacy, Moody Bible Institute named one of its buildings the Henry Crowell Hall.

In whatever he did, Crowell sought to please and honour God. He became one of America’s most respected Christian businessmen in the early 20th century.

Crowell’s vision, decisive action, and faith challenge us today to use our assets to elevate Jesus. Most of us don’t have Crowell’s wealth, but his principles can be a model to develop the business side of our writing.

  • Take time to list your business assets and abilities. Maybe you feel you haven’t amassed much, but you do have experience. When you reawaken these skills and abilities, you will become alert to opportunities to develop creativity and take appropriate actions.
  • He invites you to engage with Him in the specific design tailored to your personality, giftings, and experiences. He can elevate you to unthought-of vistas as you become co-creators, working in partnership with Him.
  • Venture out with diligence to create new ways of advertising your books, songs, and other products. Daily consult with God as you develop ideas, inspiration, and creativity. Commit yourself and today’s needs to the Lord. Surrender your fears, ideas, and plans, and place everything in God’s hands for His supernatural intervention.
  • As in Crowell’s experience, others who have walked the same path are available to advise you: coaches, webinars, tutorials, conferences. Take advantage of these opportunities to learn and grow. 
  • Invest in both other writers and your readers. As your vision grows beyond your computer and your pen, you’ll influence tens, hundreds, maybe thousands, to come to faith in Jesus. Pray into that vision to encourage and strengthen them and give them hope to live as His fully devoted followers. 
  • Ensure that your first priority, like Crowell’s, is to live a life pleasing to God.


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1 comment

  1. Tracy Krauss says:

    Thank you for this fascinating piece, Sandi. There is much to be learned!

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