The Ellen G. White Letters and Manuscripts: Volume 1


BELDEN, Stephen T. (1829-1906) and (first wife) Sarah B. (c. 1823-1868) and (second wife) Charlotte (c. 1830-1897?) and (third wife) Melvina (Lavina) (c. 1831-1928)

Stephen Belden was a son of Seventh-day Adventist pioneer Albert Belden of Connecticut. His first wife, Sarah B. Harmon, was an older sister of Ellen White's. Stephen and Sarah Belden both came from the Millerite movement and began to keep the Sabbath in 1847 and 1848, respectively. They were married by James White in 1851, after which Stephen Belden worked for the Review and Herald publishing house at various locations until 1862 and again for some time during the 1870s. 1EGWLM 791.1

In 1868, while the Belden family was living in Connecticut, Sarah died of tuberculosis at age 45, leaving five children aged between 6 and 11. Soon thereafter Stephen married Charlotte Alley, who had assisted in the household for a number of years, and in 1871 or 1872 the family moved back to Battle Creek, where Stephen Belden resumed work at the Review and Herald. However, catastrophe struck when Charlotte became insane because of complications following measles. In 1873 the Belden children were taken from Charlotte. “Charlotte is raving over the children's going to Potterville,” Ellen White wrote in her diary, adding that she “felt sad and cried … [at] the sad state of that family.” Apparently by 1877 Charlotte Belden was a patient at the Michigan Asylum for the Insane in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Writing from California, Ellen requested that “someone [go] to Kalamazoo and see if Charlotte Belden is there and her condition.” A letter from Stephen Belden in 1879 tells of Charlotte's attempts to leave the asylum. According to another source, she ended her days in the Hospital for the Insane in Middletown, Connecticut, in 1897. 1EGWLM 791.2

Through the years Ellen and James White provided financial and other practical help to Stephen Belden and his children, as indicated in a number of places in Ellen White's correspondence and diaries. A particularly difficult situation arose sometime in the 1880s when Stephen Belden decided to divorce Charlotte and marry Melvina (Lavina) Devereux. According to William C. White, some church members considered this a serious moral breach and called for church discipline. Ellen White is not known to have commented in writing, although her son William later maintained that she called on people to “let them alone.” Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the case, Ellen White continued to be caring and helpful to the Beldens. In the early 1890s she invited them to join her team in Australia. Stephen “does the purchasing for us and helps us in many ways,” Ellen related in 1894, impressed with his abilities as “carpenter, blacksmith, agriculturist, etc.” In late 1894 the Beldens relocated to Norfolk Island as missionaries. During their closing years there, as they faced illness and economic hardship, Ellen White made arrangements for their financial support. 1EGWLM 791.3

See: Obituary: “Stephen T. Belden,” Australian Union Conference Record, Dec. 3, 1906, p. 8; obituary: “Sarah B. Belden,” Review, Dec. 22, 1868, p. 286; obituary: “Mrs. S. T. Belden,” Review, Dec. 13, 1928, p. 22; 1870 U.S. Federal Census, “Charlotte Belden,” Connecticut, Hartford County, Berlin, p. 33; 1880 U.S. Federal Census, “Stephen T. Belden” and “Lavina Devereux,” Minnesota, Blue Earth County, Mapleton, p. 20; 1880 U.S. Federal Census, “S. T. Belden” and “C. A. Belden,” Minnesota, Murray County, Cameron, p. 6; James White, “To the Trustees of the Publishing Association,” July 6, 1873; F. E. Belden to W. C. White, Mar. 14, 1937; S. T. Belden to W. C. White, Mar. 5, 1877; W. C. White to W. D. Frazee, Feb. 21, 1927; EGWEnc, s.v. “Stephen T. Belden”; Ellen G. White, Ms 7, 1873 (May 27); Lt 34, 1877 (Nov. 4); Lt 26, 1894 (Nov. 22); Lt 46, 1894 (May 17). 1EGWLM 791.4