A Place Called Oakwood


Oakwood Timeline

The Early Years: 1891-1915

This chronological outline of key events pertaining to Oakwood covers the 25-year period from 1891 to 1915, the year of Ellen White's death (July 16, 1915). PCO vi.1


Ellen White delivers historic address “Our Duty to the Colored People” to the General Conference session in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1891 in which she urges the church to develop the work in the South. PCO vi.2


Edson White reads Our Duty to the Colored Peoplefor the first time in tract form and dedicates his life to the black work in the South. PCO vi.3


Edson White and Will Palmer via the Morning Starsteamship begin to educate and evangelize Southern Blacks and found mission schools that later became feeder schools for Oakwood. PCO vi.4


Premier black SDA pioneer Charles M. Kinney recommends the Beasley estate as the site for Oakwood. PCO vi.5

Southern Missionary Society, devoted to working for Blacks in the South, is begun, headed by Edson White. This organization is the precursor to the Southern Union Conference and was a strong supporter of Oakwood. PCO vi.6

Ellen White encourages General Conference leaders to move forward with the Oakwood School. PCO vi.7

Autumn 1895

The General Conference sends Ole A. Olsen, George A. Irwin, and Harmon Lindsay to assess the Beasley estate. PCO vi.8

January 23, 1896

The Huntsville property is purchased by the General Conference. PCO vi.9

April 3, 1896

Solon Jacobs arrives to become the first principal of the Oakwood Industrial School. PCO vi.10

November 16, 1896

Oakwood Industrial School opens. PCO vi.11

Boys’ dormitory opens. PCO vi.12


Henry H. Shaw becomes principal of Oakwood. PCO vi.13


Chapel/Study Hall built. PCO vi.14

Benjamin E. Nicola begins as principal. PCO vi.15

Colporteur work begun in earnest by Oakwood students. PCO vi.16


Oakwood's agricultural sales pay all of school's expenses and net a profit. PCO vi.17


West Hall is finished. PCO vi.18


Name changed to Oakwood Manual Training School. PCO vii.1

Fred R. Rogers becomes principal. PCO vii.2

Summer institutes and workshops begin at Oakwood. PCO vii.3

Lottie Blake, the first Black Seventh-day Adventist MD, joins the Oakwood teaching staff as the first Black teacher and the first with a doctorate. PCO vii.4

Louis Sheafe and William Brandon are the first blacks to sit on the Oakwood School Board. PCO vii.5

Late June 1904*

Ellen White's first visit to Oakwood; she delivers two addresses to the Oakwood student body.* PCO vii.6


G.H. Baber starts as principal. PCO vii.7

“Sunnyside” (a teacher's cottage) completed. PCO vii.8

“Hilltop” (a faculty cottage) completed. PCO vii.9

“Oaklawn” (principal's housing) completed. PCO vii.10

Print shop completed. PCO vii.11


Walter J. Blake assumes principal position. Oakwood fire: Chapel Hall burns to the ground. PCO vii.12


Butler Hall erected. PCO vii.13


Oakwood's first graduates. PCO vii.14

Sanitarium building finished. PCO vii.15

Late April: Ellen White visits Oakwood again. PCO vii.16

Summer 1910

Oakwood sanitarium opens. PCO vii.17


Oakwood orphanage opens. PCO vii.18

Clarence Boyd begins as principal. PCO vii.19

Dining hall finished. PCO vii.20


Oakwood graduates first ministerial student. PCO vii.21

“The Pines” (a teacher's apartment building) is erected. PCO vii.22


Henderson Hall (women's dormitory) is built. PCO vii.23


New laundry built. PCO viii.1

Barn and silo added. PCO viii.2

Ellen White dies. PCO viii.3

*Note on Ellen White's Oakwood Visits

There is considerable conjecture and debate as to how many times Ellen White visited Oakwood. There are two speeches five years apart (June 21, 1904, and April 19, 1909) that were transcribed and have been preserved. Mrs. White also wrote of these two visits in her diary and personal correspondence. If Mrs. White made additional visits to Oakwood other than in 1904 and 1909, there is no extant record or document to support those visits. Therefore, any other visits to Oakwood by Mrs. White than on these two dates can only be presumed until further evidence is discovered. PCO viii.4

Ellen White returned to the United States from Australia in 1900. The 1904 and 1909 visits took place when she traveled across the country from Elmshaven, her home a few miles from the town of St. Helena (70 miles north of San Francisco) to Battle Creek, Michigan, and Washington, DC, center of the growing Adventist Church. PCO viii.5

These trips coincide with the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopediareference that states: PCO viii.6

“Her journeys across the continent between 1901 and 1909 often took her through the South, where the work of the church was slowly developing. An appeal from her pen in 1891, followed in 1895 and 1896 by articles published in the Review and Heraldurging educational and evangelistic endeavors for the neglected black race, sparked a work in which her own son, James Edson White, took an active part. She was keenly interested in the development of missionary endeavors geared for most effective results in white and black communities, and sent the workers in this field many messages of counsel and encouragement. She lent strong support to the establishment of Oakwood College, in Huntsville, Alabama, for black young people, and the Nashville Agricultural and Normal Institute, near Madison, Tennessee, a privately operated training center for mature white young people. The work of the church in the South was of deep concern to her through the remaining years of her life.” [Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, Second Revised Edition M-Z, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Hagerstown, MD 21740, pp. 879-880.] PCO viii.7