Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 7 (1891-1892)


Ms 34, 1891

The Case of the Walling Children

Colorado Springs, Colorado

September 12, 1891

Portions of this manuscript are published in 4Bio 17.

Today a lawyer came into my tent and presented me with papers made out in behalf of W. B. Walling, suing me for twenty-five thousand dollars damages. He charges that I have alienated from him the affections of his daughters, Ida [Addie] and May. 7LtMs, Ms 34, 1891, par. 1

This charge I deny, and can bring the children themselves as witnesses to support my denial. Others also who have been members of my family can testify that they have heard nothing from my lips that would sustain this charge. 7LtMs, Ms 34, 1891, par. 2

Mr. Walling states that my late husband, Elder James White, and myself, the defendant, made the proposition to him concerning his two daughters, aged, he says, four and six years respectively, “To commit the said infant children to the custody of defendant and her said late husband, to be by them nourished, maintained, reared and educated during their infancy and tender years, and until plaintiff should demand custody of said infants; and then and there represented and promised to plaintiff, in substance, that if plaintiff would so commit the said infants to the custody of them two, they, the said defendant and her said late husband, should and would nourish, maintain, rear and educate the said infants during their infancy, or until plaintiff should demand custody of the said infants, and would be to the said infants as their own parents, and would on request of plaintiff restore said infants to plaintiff.” This statement I deny, and can bring witnesses to prove it incorrect. 7LtMs, Ms 34, 1891, par. 3

In 1873 my husband and I visited Colorado to see the restoration of his health and to prosecute our labors in editing and book-making. While we were living in a shanty owned by Miss Mary B. Clough, at a place known as Walling’s Mills, Mr. Walling brought to us from Denver his daughter Addie, aged five years, and said, “Aunt Ellen, I have brought my Addie, who is not in good health in Denver, to make you a visit of about three weeks.” We gladly welcomed the little one. Soon after this, Bert, a son of Mr. Walling, broke both his legs, and his mother was called from Denver to Nederland to care for him. I visited them in their affliction and saw the mother overtaxed, and the youngest girl, May, then three years old, crying and mourning after her. My heart was touched both for the mother and the child. I proposed to take little May home with me, and care for her until her brother recovered. The mother consented, and we drove to Walling’s Mills, I with the child in my arms. The children became attached to their Uncle White and their Aunt Ellen; they improved in health, and the father said nothing about ending their visit. The children were quite a care for us, but we loved them and obtained their confidence. 7LtMs, Ms 34, 1891, par. 4

The time was approaching when we must leave for California. Mr. Walling had proposed a trip to Middle Park, offering to act as our guide over the Snowy Range. Unexpectedly he came for us, having made all arrangements for a trip. We thought our care for the children would now cease. We left them with Mr. and Mrs. Lasley, who were employed by Mr. Walling to board the hands that worked in his sawmill. Our return trip was completed in a severe storm of wind, followed by rain. Some hours after reaching home we were greatly surprised when Mr. Walling came in with the two children wrapped up in blankets, and delivered them to us to be put to bed. 7LtMs, Ms 34, 1891, par. 5

We received from California a request for our immediate presence. Now we thought the children must go back to Denver. This greatly distressed Mr. Walling. I said to him, “Mr. Walling, you would not think of such a thing as those children going to California.” He replied, “I would be only too glad if this could be brought about,” but we were to leave at once, without time for any consideration or preparation. He said that the mother should not have the care of his children again. He had perfect confidence in our management of them, and he would pay all the expenses of their board and clothing if we would consent to take charge of them. Their mother, he said, had perfect confidence in us; she would know that with us they would be kindly cared for. He wished us to take the children and start at once, without waiting for her consent. To this proposition I answered, Never! It was then arranged that we should spend the night in Denver with Mr. and Mrs. Walling and the children. Mr. Walling had a previous conversation with his wife, of the character of which we knew nothing except his statement that she consented for the children to go with us. He had before stated to us that if we should not take the children, he would find places for them, separate or together, where the mother should never see them again. It was because of this statement that we consented, out of pity for the children, to take them for one year. We hoped that during that time the unhappy difficulties then existing between husband and wife would be adjusted, and the family would be reunited, the children forming the bond of union. 7LtMs, Ms 34, 1891, par. 6

The children had been taken to California, as had been arranged. During the year the mother kept reminding us that she must have them at the time specified; but Mr. Walling wrote, “Do not trust them to any one’s care but your own; their mother has spies in California, who will abduct the children if possible.” He declared that she should not have them, except over his dead body. We feared that a crisis was at hand, and we still kept the children. From California we transferred them to Battle Creek, Michigan, and as we were obliged to travel all over the country, we had them boarded. Finally we made our home in Battle Creek, Michigan, and had also a home in Oakland, California, my husband being president of a publishing house in each of these cities. He was also president of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists, and of our college at Battle Creek. His duties necessitated a great deal of travel. From time to time we would take the children with us, for we wanted them under our own care. 7LtMs, Ms 34, 1891, par. 7

On a visit to Colorado we talked to Mr. Walling in reference to the children. We wished him to take them, for they were so much care and expense to us. He assured us that if we would get them boarded, and get some suitable person to care for them, he would pay all expenses. This I have in a letter from him. But all he ever paid toward their support was twenty-five or thirty dollars, and that the first year. 7LtMs, Ms 34, 1891, par. 8

But the children were attached to us, and for this reason I was very reluctant to part with them, though Mr. Walling now owed us about sixteen hundred dollars for their board and clothing. Then, for the first and only time we proposed to care for the children till they were of age, if he would give them to us by a written agreement until their majority. I told him that we could not incur all the expense of rearing and educating them if he was to be at liberty to take them from us at any time, and place them under influences that would counteract all our labor. He refused to give us any papers that would secure to us the custody of the children. 7LtMs, Ms 34, 1891, par. 9

After returning to Battle Creek, we thought best to send the children back to their father. A Christian lady was going through to Colorado, and we wrote to him that we would send them by her. As I had written letter after letter to him which he said he had never received, I enclosed this one in a letter to a friend who knew Mr. Walling and requested that it be delivered directly to him. This letter he received, and he returned the reply, “Do not send my children here; for I have no one with whom I can trust them. I will bear the expense of their schooling and clothing.” But not a cent was received. I kept an account of their expenses until I became convinced that it would be useless. I had no confidence that he had intended to pay. So much for his statement that he gave his children into our custody by our earnest request or proposition. 7LtMs, Ms 34, 1891, par. 10

The charge of alienating his children from him is without the least foundation in truth. He accuses me of intercepting his letters to them. This is also wholly false. I have not, at any time or place, prevented his letters from coming to his children. I have said nothing to them disparaging their father, except to state that he had done nothing for their maintenance. In regard to his writing to us, we had told him that letters directed to the Pacific Press, Oakland, California, or Review and Herald, Battle Creek, Michigan, would be remailed to us; that they would receive our immediate attention, and that a response would be returned to him. I often enjoined on the children to write to their father. 7LtMs, Ms 34, 1891, par. 11

In August 1885, I went to Europe, and remained there two years. Up to this time Mr. Walling had made no demand for his children. Addie Walling then wished to learn a trade and chose to go into a printing office to set type and learn proofreading. We put her under the guardianship of trusted friends, and she there remained faithful and correct in her habits, making steady advancement. In 1887, before my return from Europe, Mr. Walling visited Oakland and held out flattering inducements to Addie if she would go with him to Colorado. He promised to accompany her back to Oakland as soon as January 1888. At this time her health was not good, and she agreed to go if she could get my consent. A telegram was sent to me at Basel, Switzerland, asking my advice whether she should go to Colorado. I did not answer. She was of age, and I thought could judge for herself. 7LtMs, Ms 34, 1891, par. 12

She went with her father; but he did not keep his promise. Different parties wrote to me that Addie was not happy, and it would be best for me to send for her. I wrote letter after letter to Mr. Walling and to Addie, but for some time could not obtain a word from either of them. Addie states that my letters did not come into her hand, but she had reason to believe that they had been received. I suffered extremely from suspense, and spent many sleepless nights planning what I could do for her to whom I had been a mother so many years. I wrote to her that I would send money to her if she would express to me her desire for it. There was no answer. I sent Elder Ings and his wife to visit her and pay her expenses back to California if she wished to return; but she told them she would wait to see if her father would not accompany her himself. 7LtMs, Ms 34, 1891, par. 13

Mr. Walling took his two children, Bert and Addie, into New Mexico, to a place where the Spanish language was spoken almost exclusively. He left them there, stating that he did not know when he should return. He paid Addie’s expenses for only a few weeks in advance, and she saw that she must do something for herself. She was in an English-speaking family and taught the children for her board. She had kept by her thirty dollars of her own earnings in Oakland; her brother knew that she had this money, and saying that he could not obtain work there, he borrowed all she had and left her alone in a strange land. After leaving, he wrote to her that she had better ask her Aunt Ellen for one hundred dollars that she might go back to her. She wrote, and I sent her forty dollars, which enabled her to come to me at Battle Creek. Her brother has never repaid the money he borrowed of her in March 1889. 7LtMs, Ms 34, 1891, par. 14

In 1887 May Walling was also urged by her father to accompany him to Colorado. She refused, and the friends in whose care I had intrusted her said they were answerable to me for her and would be unfaithful to their trust should they consent to her going. When I returned they said I could do as I thought best. I did not see May for some months after my return from Europe. When I sent for her to meet me at my residence at Healdsburg, California, she was within a few months of being eighteen years old, but she did not come to me until after her eighteenth birthday. She said to me that she would not be willing to go to her father. Mr. Walling told Addie that if the girls did not comply with his wishes, he would, for he could, make trouble for me. 7LtMs, Ms 34, 1891, par. 15

Mr. Walling has never presented to me a demand that his daughters should be returned to him. Just before May was eighteen, he sent me a telegram and letter forbidding me to make any engagement for her. I had, however, already made arrangements for her to enter a nurse’s training school. Here she would receive an education that would make her independent and enable her to earn her own living. She is now an efficient nurse, capable of making her own way anywhere. Addie is in good business in Battle Creek, earning ample wages. 7LtMs, Ms 34, 1891, par. 16