Thirty years after the Millerite “Great Disappointment” of October 22, 1844, Isaac C. Wellcome published the first general history of the movement that had promoted the belief that the Second Advent of Jesus would take place on that date. By 1874 the Adventist had developed into several separate groups, among then the Evangelical Adventist, the Advent Christians, The Church of God, and the Seventh-day Adventists.

Each group claimed to be the legitimate heir of William Miller and his teachings. Wellcome belonged to the Advent Christian branch and wrote his work not only to maintain memory of the Millerite movement, but also to demonstrate that the Advent Christians continued the original Millerite faith while, among competing groups, the Seventh-day Adventists had their origins in fanaticism and existed outside the recognized boundaries of Adventism.

Part history and part apologetics, Wellcome’s History of the Second Advent Message nonetheless has become recognized as an important source of information about early Adventism that also give insight into the movement’s self-understanding as it sought to define and preserve itself in the wake of bitter disappointment.