Life Sketches of Ellen G. White


An Industrial Experiment

From the time the property came into full possession of the Australasian Union Conference, to the time of the opening of the school, there was much to be done. Land must be cleared, a swamp drained, an orchard planted, and buildings erected. For the accomplishment of this, a number of students were gathered,—sturdy young men who were glad to work six hours a day, and receive their board, and instruction in two studies. The school opened March 6, 1895, and continued thirty weeks. LS 357.2

For the accommodation of the twenty young men who entered into this work, an old hotel was rented in Cooranbong, and several tents were pitched beside this building. In April, Brother Metcalfe Hare, who had been chosen as treasurer and business manager of the school enterprise, moved his family to Cooranbong, and, desiring to be close to the work, pitched his tents near the sawmill and the site set apart for school buildings. For nearly two years the tent, covered with a galvanized iron roof, served as his habitation. LS 357.3

Many parents wishing to send their children to the school, thought it ought to be located near one of the large cities where many Seventh-day Adventists were living. They believed that thirty or forty acres of land not far from Sydney or Melbourne would be much better than a large tract of wild land near Newcastle. Others were opposed to the place because they thought the land was so poor that little would be gained in its cultivation. Mrs. White had a more encouraging view of the value of the land; and when the liberal gift of $5,000 by the friends from Africa made it possible to pay for the tract, she wrote: “I felt my heart bound with gratitude, when I knew that in the providence of God the land was in our possession; and I longed to shout the high praises of God for so favorable a situation.” LS 358.1

In July, 1895, Mrs. White determined to manifest her interest in the school enterprise and her confidence in the Avondale estate, by purchasing a piece of the land, and making Cooranbong her home. She selected sixty-six acres, and in a few weeks had a portion of her family living in tents on the tract, which she named “Sunnyside.” The erection of an eight-roomed cottage was begun; and as soon as a clearing could be made, land was plowed, and fruit trees were planted. Of this experience she wrote: LS 358.2

“When the foundation of the house was laid, preparations were made for the raising of fruit and vegetables. The Lord had shown me that the poverty which existed about Cooranbong need not be; for with industry the soil could be cultivated, and made to yield its treasure for the service of man.” LS 358.3

Mrs. White's unbounded enthusiasm regarding the improvement of the Avondale estate, did much to cheer and encourage others. She was particularly insistent that no time be lost by the school men in the planting of an orchard; and she greatly rejoiced when in October one thousand choice fruit trees were planted on a favorable piece of land occupied a year before by a thick forest of eucalyptus trees. LS 359.1

After the close of the industrial school in November, several months passed without material progress being made. The people felt very keenly the financial depression under which the colonies were still staggering. Criticism regarding the effort to build up a school in such a wild, out-of-the-way place, grew more and more general. Then came the unfavorable termination of a lawsuit into which the school had been dragged by the hasty action of its solicitor, which cost two thousand dollars, besides causing serious delay in the work. LS 359.2

What could be done? The work seemed to be at a standstill, with little prospect of more favorable conditions. The loss of two thousand dollars would have been very discouraging at any time, but at such a time as this it was most disheartening. LS 360.1