Manuscript Releases, vol. 8 [Nos. 526-663]

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MR No. 568—Materials Relating to the Establishment of the Avondale School

Last Wednesday we left Granville for Dora Creek. We were two hours and a half coming seventy-nine miles. We accomplished the journey very comfortably. Brother MacKensey, whom we met at the cars, came on with us. I am writing by the light of a candle set in a tin candlestick, and placed on a tall tin box in my folding chair. We did not think of taking lamps with us; but by this morning's experience in writing before daylight, they would have been of excellent service to us. We found a good dinner waiting for us, and all seemed to eat as if they relished the food. After dinner we went to the riverside, and Brethren Starr, MacKensey, and Collins seated themselves in one boat, Brethren Daniells, McCullagh, and Reekie in a still larger boat, and Willie White, Emily Campbell, and myself in another. We rode several miles upon the water. Though the stream is called Dora Creek, yet it has the appearance of a river, for it is a wide, deep stream. It is somewhat salty, but loses its saltiness as it borders the place which we are investigating. It required two rowers to pull the boat upstream. I should judge this is no creek, but a deep, narrow river, and the water is beautiful. 8MR 133.1

I did considerable walking yesterday in going from the station to the house, which is occupied by Brother and Sister Lawrence recently from Battle Creek. After dinner I walked to the water to take the boat. The boat ride was very enjoyable, though the rowers had to change hands to rest each other. On our way we passed several houses upon farms of about forty acres of land. Some of the places are for sale, but are altogether too high in price. From one settlement several small children were at the water's edge, and as there is no beach, they could easily fall from the high bank into very deep water, where only an experienced swimmer could save them from drowning. 8MR 133.2

When we landed on the ground to be explored, we found a blue-gum tree about one hundred feet long lying on the ground. There was a fire in the center, and the smoke came out of the forked ends, and the main trunk, which ... formed three chimneys. Several feet of one fork was a burning mass of glowing coals. The day before Willie and Brother Reekie had taken their dinner at this place and had kindled a fire in a knot of wood and it had been burning ever since. There was no danger of setting the woods on fire, and it was a pretty sight. Willie, Emily, and I rested here for a little while, but the rest of the party took their shovels and went on to examine portions of the land that they had not yet passed over. The place where we tarried had a very nice grade. It was a ridge, not abrupt, but slightly elevated. Around us were immense trees that had been cut down and parts were taken out which could be used. I thought, if one of these trees could lie in our dooryard at Granville, we should not need to question as to where our fuel would come from; for we would have an abundance for a long time. 8MR 134.1

We looked at a piece of swampy land. It did not look to be more than ten acres, but they say it covers about fifteen acres of ground. This objectionable feature may be a blessing in disguise, for it is three feet above the level of the river, and by employing the right methods it could be drained, and thus become the most valuable piece of land in the whole tract. The Creek, as they call it, bounds the tract on two sides. Willie prepared me a comfortable seat with my cushions on a large log and then he walked a short distance to see the river on the other side of the tract of land. I had an opportunity to meditate and pray. We are much pleased with this place as a location for the school. 8MR 134.2

The clearing of the land does not appear to be as formidable a task as we supposed. Some spaces are already cleared, some spaces have nothing on them but charred underbrush, with a few large monarchs of the forest still standing. There are trees of smaller growth which are as straight as an arrow. I cannot for a moment entertain the idea that land which can produce such large trees can be of a poor quality. I am sure that were the pains taken with this land, as is customary to take with land in Michigan, it would be in every way as productive. If the people in this country would take the same pains in cultivating as in America, they would be able to grow as excellent fruit, grains, and vegetables as are raised there. If they would put forth the same effort, they might take the wild land in hand, and plough and sow it with grass seed for grazing cattle. 8MR 135.1

While sitting on the log, my mind was actively planning what could be done. The swamp land could be used for cultivating cranberries, alfalfa might be sown to feed the cows, and some kinds of vegetables could be grown. I could see nothing discouraging in prospect of taking the land. 8MR 135.2

But our party returned, and broke up my future faith-prospecting. They gathered up my pillows, and we moved on our way back, as far as it would be prudent for me to walk. Again we halted and a seat was made for me to rest awhile, and we did some more talking and planning. Again we moved on, and did not pause till we reached the burning tree. They rolled over a large log, and a seat was made for me, where I could sit on my spring cushion and lean against a tree. I was facing a large, cheerful fire that was made by the burning tree. After I was comfortably settled, Willie went in search of lemons, which grew on the trees bordering the fence which bounded the farm. He brought back some nice specimens, and said he had picked the best there were. The rest were too green to eat. There are oranges growing wild, planted by someone years ago, but left uncultivated, which will yield a good crop without cultivation. We reluctantly gathered up our wraps and pillows and made our way toward the boat where the company that had been prospecting joined us. 8MR 135.3

They came from their investigation with a much more favorable impression than they had hitherto received. They had found some excellent land, the best they had seen, and they thought it was a favorable spot for the location of the school. They had found a creek of fresh water, cold and sweet, the best they had ever tasted. On the whole the day of prospecting had made them much more favorable to the place than they had hitherto been. 8MR 136.1

While I was riding in the boat, the words of this Scripture were in my mind: “But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them. Children, have ye any meat? They answered Him, No. And He said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.” (John 21:4-6.) I was impressed with the fact that these words symbolized our adventures and experiences in seeking a location for our school. We needed our faith strengthened, in order that we might cast our nets on the right side of the ship, which was the faith side, and we should be successful in seeing advantages in the very things which looked, at first sight, forbidding. 8MR 136.2

Night was drawing on, and we were again placed in our position in the boat, and were soon returning from our tour of inspection by the light of the stars. Everything about the place had impressed me favorably, except the fact that we were far from the great thoroughfares of travel, and therefore would not have an opportunity of letting our light shine amid the moral darkness that covers our large cities like the pall of death. This seems [to be] the only objection that presents itself to my mind. But then, it would not be advisable to establish our school in any of our large cities. In the first place we have but little money and could not afford to purchase high-priced land; and in the second place there would be many temptations in such a locality that would be likely to lead the youth to become demoralized, and it is best to be far away from the cities. This is not so far from the city, but that the light can shine forth in clear, bright rays. There are souls perishing everywhere for the truth of God, and the light must shine in the highways and the byways. 8MR 137.1

We desire to have our school so located that the students shall have plenty of opportunity to exercise their physical powers, as well as to exercise their mental abilities. We desire that every facility may be afforded for educating and training the students to use their muscles as well as their brains, that we may have well developed men and women who are sound in body and mind, and who have a good spiritual understanding. 8MR 137.2

We are much pleased with the climate. It seems to be even and very pleasant. The weather here at present could not be better. Yesterday was a beautiful day, and last night was a beautiful night. This morning the sky is cloudless, the atmosphere cool and bracing. It is healthful and invigorating in the locality where we think of locating the school. The owners of the property offer us fifteen hundred acres of land, good and poor mingled, for $4,500. This is, I consider, a rare opportunity, and in the providence of God offered to us, and we ought to have the land. Much of it is poor and cannot be cultivated. 8MR 137.3

I have seen the committee since writing the foregoing page, and I understand that the decision has been made to purchase this property as soon as we can possibly do so. Of course, we cannot do this without means, and we have none. God in His great goodness provided means for us to make connection with our necessities, but human judgment and ideas cut off the channel which would have done something towards relieving our difficulty, and would have furnished us means to have made the first payment. But we will trust in God and try not to be discouraged because human judgment interposed between the channel and us. The means has been diverted, and consequently we are left without the money, which we so much needed. 8MR 138.1

May 22. We were presented with a list of household necessities; but not one of us had money with which to supply the want. Brother Belden said he was two months behind at the grocery store, and he did not want to run the bill any longer. We were very thankful to borrow a couple of pounds, which enabled Elder Starr, Emily, and myself to come to this place and meet Willie and the committee. We cannot see why it is that our brethren at any time lay their hands upon the ark to steady it, as though the God of heaven could not manage His own work in His own time and in His own way. We are not able to see as yet how we can obtain money to make even the first payment on this place, but the Lord can do all things, and we will not distrust Him. 8MR 138.2

Oh Lord, increase our faith, I was praying in the night season. I thought we were upon an island, and I saw a man who seemed much pleased, holding out a pocketbook to us, and saying, Help is coming. He was waiting for a boat. Then some person we could not quite discern in the long distance reached out his hand and took the pocketbook and put it in his inside coat pocket, and the hand which had held the pocketbook was stretched out to us empty. This dream caused me great disappointment, and I groaned aloud. I awoke and could sleep no more. This was about one o'clock in the morning. 8MR 139.1

On Thursday morning, May 24, we all prepared to get in the rowboat and go again to the tract of land for a further investigation. Before starting we had a most solemn season of prayer. My heart was drawn out in earnest prayer for the Lord to guide us in judgment. He alone could indicate to us what was His holy will. The discussion of this day meant much to every one of us, for it would be settled whether or not the school should be located in this place. I also felt most earnestly for Brother McCullagh who has been quite feeble, and prayed that the blessing of God might rest upon him. Our hearts were melted with the softening, subduing influence of the Spirit of God. We did believe that we received the things we asked of the Lord. All present seemed deeply moved and several earnest prayers went up to the throne of grace. My faith increased, and I knew the Lord would teach us and lead us, and this He did do. 8MR 139.2

There was perfect unity in making the decision to purchase the fifteen hundred acres of land at the price of $4,500. Our investigations on Thursday confirmed every one of us in the belief that we had done the will of God in deciding to accept the land for the location of our school.—Letter 82, 1894, pp. 2-8. (To J. E. and Emma White, May 1, 1894.) 8MR 139.3

I know not where we shall go, whether we shall leave Australia in 1895 or not. If we are to go to Africa, we would prefer to be there while you are there. If you have any word to say to us in regard to our coming, please send [it]. We want to weigh every question concerning the work here, and the work in Africa, in the scales of the sanctuary. In every department and stage of the work, we want to see the divine similitude. 8MR 140.1

It has been only within a few weeks that we have failed to have peace and assurance concerning our duty to remain in Australia. But within a few days I have been thrown into great perplexity. As yet I have not responded to the many calls that have been made in the many letters I have received from Africa. I have seriously questioned as to whether it was my duty to remain here during the rest of my lifetime, or to go to America, or to Africa. It is not a pleasant thought to me to think of entering a new country. The remark has been made in regard to certain land, that it is a hungry land, requiring enriching. 8MR 140.2

I thought that Australia through and through is a hungry, spoiled land through the mismanagement of men. A dearth of means stares us in the face, and yet the General Conference saw fit to cut down my wages two dollars a week, and to cut down Willie's wages one dollar a week. I have not withheld my means, but used money everywhere, in every place where there has been a need for it. My house-keeping expenses run up to a hundred and fifty dollars per month, and this does not include the expense for horse and carriage, clothing, wood, and light. You may see that there is a constant outgo. 8MR 140.3

I gave $1,000 at the last campmeeting to buy land for the location of the school, and paid my tithe, and this was considerably more than my whole year's wages. Besides this I have helped the poor, invested in churches, contributed to campmeeting expenses in New Zealand and Australia, and during the years 1893 and 1894, I have expended $2,000 in this field, and hungry Australia is still to be fed, and must be fed. 8MR 141.1

Much more money must be expended than has been expended for the last three years. I have expended the $1,200 you loaned me. The additional $300 you have just sent, has come to hand, and hungry Australia can swallow [that] at one bite, and yet cry out for more. I now wish that others would come in and use their means to advance the work in Australia, while I go to regions beyond, that have already been worked. 8MR 141.2

If God would have me go to Africa, He will strengthen me for the journey. We have offered many prayers to God for His guidance, and I believe He has heard these prayers, and answered them. But I do not choose to go to another renewal of a state of perplexity and uncertainty similar to what I have experienced here. I do not choose another experience in which I shall have to answer a call for time, strength and money to begin a new work. Willie must not have any more of this brain-taxing kind of labor he has had here. 8MR 141.3

I cannot work unless I work in faith, and I am studying duty. I am listening for marching orders. In reference to the $1,500 you have loaned me, $1,200 of which I have already consumed, I would say that at any time you would want the whole or any portion of it, let me know, and you shall have it as soon as it can be obtained from America. I thank you sincerely for your loan. We have put it out to the exchangers, and in the great day when God reckons with His servants, I believe you will receive back the goods you have entrusted to me, with both principal and interest. 8MR 141.4

In one of the letters sent to you in the last mail, I mentioned that we had had a most precious season of prayer while at Dora Creek for Brother McCullagh. The Lord graciously heard our prayers, and the inflammation left his throat and lungs, and he was healed. He has been improving ever since, and the Lord has sustained him in doing a large amount of work. For the blessing given on that occasion, we send back praise and thanksgiving to God. 8MR 142.1

I am afraid that we do not always appreciate the blessings that God gives us. We pass by the blessed tokens of His goodness and love, and look upon His special providences as common occurrences, and scarcely make mention of them. We do not place them in memory's hall, and reflect glory to Him who hath done abundantly for us. Oh that the Lord will give us thankful hearts, that we may praise Him, and be joyful in God. I hope to hear from you as soon as possible after you reach South Africa. 8MR 142.2

Those who move in faith can move forward. I am ready to strike my tent at any time. The time we ought to be improving in putting in crops into the land purchased by the school, is passing away, and because of this delay we shall be left a year behind. If this is after God's order, then a mist is over my eyes, and I cannot work in courage and hope. I send this letter to you. You and others have congratulated us on the securing of land for our school; but it is not yet an assured thing that the school will be located at Dora Creek. There is some hesitancy on the part of the committee in taking up the land for this purchase! 8MR 142.3

I have received letters from Africa in which it is stated that they are willing to postpone their campmeeting to any time that we will specify, in order that they may have our presence at the meeting. They urge that we make no delay. But arrangements have been made here for the campmeeting, so that if we remain for that meeting, we must make a delay. We do not feel clear to break away from this field of labor so suddenly. After the campmeeting, I think we will join you in Africa. I have not consented to go to Africa until within a few days; but the turn that things have taken leads me almost to prefer to come to Africa, rather than to remain in this country. I dread the future, and have little courage to remain. 8MR 143.1

I shall do as I wrote you. I promised to take the school ground as my property, and I will not consider it a hard matter. I think no better missionary work could be done than to settle poor families on the land. Every family shall sign a contract that they will work the land according to the plans specified. Someone must be appointed to direct the working of the land, and under his supervision orange trees, and fruit trees of every appropriate description should be planted. Peach orchards would yield quick return. Vegetable gardens would bring forth good crops. This must be done at once. We have some six weeks yet to set things in running order, and with God's blessing on the land, we shall see what it will produce. 8MR 143.2

The question was asked of Moses, Can the Lord spread a table in the wilderness? The question may be asked, Will this land at Dora Creek produce as abundantly as Sister White believes that it will? Time will tell. We must test the matter before we can speak assuredly, but we are willing to risk much, provided we can place the supervision of this enterprise under an understanding America farmer. We do want to demonstrate what can be done with the land when it is properly worked. When once this is done, we shall be able to help the poor who live in Australia in a far better way than by giving them money as we have had to do in the past. 8MR 143.3

I lay out this matter before you, that you may understand the situation, and be able to advise us in regard to leaving here for Africa. We shall have to enter into the plan suggested in order to know what can be done with the Dora Creek land; for great ignorance prevails in this country as to how to make the most of the land. The Dora Creek land produces the best oranges we have tasted since coming to Australia.—Letter 29, 1894, pp. 4-8. (To S. N. Haskell, September 2, 1894.) 8MR 144.1

Here we are in a new, strange locality—Brother and Sister Rousseau, Brother McKenzie, May Lacey, Willie, and your Mother. We came to this large farm to look at the land which has been represented as very grand and beautiful. I was not well and have not been able to eat much for several weeks, except rice flour porridge. But I am thinking to change the program and venturing to eat vegetables and fruit, which in about two or three weeks, we will have in abundance. 8MR 144.2

Willie has been having a long siege of council meetings and committee meetings. While pitching our tents, in driving a stake, he missed his stroke or his finger got in the way of the iron sledge, and he smashed his finger, splitting open the flesh to the bone in three places, but not breaking the bone. The nail had to be drawn out. This finger needed considerable care. Brother Simmons dressed it carefully every day, but as this finger difficulty was in a fair way of recovery, a small pimple appeared on his wrist which increased to great inflammation, and after more than one week of suffering, the core came out and the second gathering appeared. Hops [poultices] and Elder Blow soon brought that to a head and he now has some peace. He concluded to take my span of horses and platform wagon and Brother McKenzie and himself came to this place. 8MR 144.3

I was not strong enough to ride twenty miles to Fairlight, and ... twelve miles [farther] to this farm. They wished to see Brother and Sister Rousseau, and your Mother came on the cars, one hour's ride, to the station at Fairlight. Here the horses and carriage met us, and another horse and carriage was hired and we took another passenger, a lady, who has been the housekeeper for the family living in Sydney, who comes to this place to spend several days each month. 8MR 145.1

We expected to camp out in my tent, but we learned that the house on the place would accommodate us. It is a very excellent cottage and we found spring beds and everything, except food, and this we had brought with us in full supply. We did not arrive here until dark. Much of the road was uphill. I could but think of the inconvenience of locating a school eight or ten miles from [the] railroad. We were all weary and were glad to lie down and rest. 8MR 145.2

We all slept well, and this morning we were privileged to look over the buildings. There has been much outlay of money. There are immense cisterns built underground for reservoirs for rain water, and a large number of tanks besides. These buildings could be utilized for a school, but other buildings would have to be erected with suitable accommodations for school purposes. This land, 3000 acres, is offered for four and five pounds per acre. 8MR 145.3

We see most serious objections in having to transport all provisions and goods eight miles over a very rough road, all up and down hill. Here [there] are orange and lemon groves, and pear trees, and that is about all in the line of fruit. [The] soil [is] not the best. This locality was [settled] when the convicts were exiled from England. We see the buildings they occupied, and expected we might have the privilege of occupying one of the buildings for a few nights. This 3000 acres of land will sell for the sum of $50,000 or $60,000 and where could we obtain so much money?—Letter 122, 1894, pp. 1, 2. (To “Dear Children,” December 13, 1894.) 8MR 146.1

We have had to put all available help onto the land to prepare for the setting of our trees this week. If not set out this week we must wait one year and I have been on the ground using our two-horse team to go here and there and everywhere to save the time of the workers. We have pressed everyone into service we could command. 8MR 146.2

Mr. Mosely came [the] evening after the Sabbath. He is a gardener and furnished us the trees. He has a sample orchard at Orumbro twenty miles from here, and he will do his best to give us good fruit trees for this will be a sample of what he can furnish for others. Every hand is busy today. The plow goes into the ground and one follows the furrow to dig the holes and plant our trees of every variety. We have three acres cleared. The school planted 300 trees yesterday. This is only a quarter of what they have on hand to plant. 8MR 146.3

The light given me from the Lord is that whatever land we occupy is to have the very best kind of care and to serve as an object lesson to the Colonials of what the land will do, if properly worked. So you see, this has been a special, very important period of time for us. All our implements have to be bought in Sydney. All our provisions come from Sydney, and all our corrugated iron for [the] roofing of buildings, houses, and stables comes from Sydney. The rough lumber comes from the mills near us—from Morisset and Dora Creek—the other material from Sydney. 8MR 147.1

Just at this time everything is stirring to get a house that will shelter us in time of rain. I see we cannot safely depend on tents and this we have to do now. July and August are midwinter with us, and now will come more moderate weather. We have had no rain, with the exception of about four slight showers, since February. The past two months have been a most favorable opportunity to do our work on the ground. Nothing was done before this. We shall now have an opportunity to show what can be done. 8MR 147.2

Yesterday was Sunday. Mr. Mosely was on the ground with workers under him telling them what to do. Mr. Smith, who has recently moved to Cooranbong, is interested in the truth. He was on the ground receiving all the instruction possible from the lessons given by Mr. Mosely, the fruit grower. The keeper of the police station was on the ground and both these onlookers begged for Brother Rousseau to sell them a few trees—on Sunday, mind you—which he did. We are seeking to be friendly with all. 8MR 147.3

The school working team was so heavily loaded with water for watering the trees they could not get out on solid ground. Mr. Healy, a staunch Roman Catholic, saw the situation and put his horse onto the wagon, and drew it out. Yesterday, August 18, 1895, the first trees were planted on Avondale tract. Today, August 19, the first trees are to be set on Mrs. White's farm—an important occasion for us all. 8MR 148.1

This means a great deal to me, Edson. The circumstance of the securing of the land rested with myself. There was so much doubt and perplexity as to the quality of the land, but the Lord had opened up the matter so clearly to me that when they discouragingly turned from the land I said, No? You will not take it? Then I will take it; and with this understanding the land was purchased. Brethren Rousseau and Daniells backed as clear out of the matter as possible, but I knew the Spirit of God had wrought upon human minds. After the decision was made unanimously by several men to buy the land, then to back down and hinder its purchase was a great trial to me—not that I had the land on my hands, but because they were not moving in the light God had been pleased to give me. And I knew their unbelief and unsanctified caution were putting us back one year. 8MR 148.2

After looking at many places and spending time and money for nought, they found more objections and unfavorable presentations on the other lands than on this land, and the price asked for the only other tracts they would accept was $25,000 for one and $30,000 for another, and this land was purchased—1500 acres—for $4,500. 8MR 148.3

Since we have had our most excellent meetings in Cooranbong since July 1, during which time I spoke to the people under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, Brother Rousseau [has] acknowledged to me that he was now perfectly satisfied for himself in his own [that] this is the place God designed the school should be established. There are advantages here that we could not have in any other location they had visited. The land they had thought so bad was found on working it, not to be the best land, but average. 8MR 148.4

Good portions [of land of Avondale] are adapted for fruit, especially peaches, apricots, nectarines, and other fruit, while other portions of land are favorable for vegetables. The twenty-five acres pronounced worthless because [of] swampland, would, they thought, prove [to be] the most valuable land. They have cut through drains, and a boat will float up one of the deep cuts [carrying] the produce and any boatloads of cargo directed to the school grounds. They can raise vegetables on this land if [it is] properly worked. 8MR 149.1

Now, Edson, you can judge what relief this gives me. After tugging and toiling in every way for one year to help them to discern the mind and will of God, and then after abundant research finding nothing on the whole as good as this, they accept it. The climate is the very best climate in Australia and cannot be equaled by the New Zealand climate. 8MR 149.2

And here we are on forty acres of land we have purchased, and now we are planting our orchard. Elder Daniells came on the land en route from Queensland to Melbourne. He called at Cooranbong and visited the land and expressed great pleasure at every part of the work that has been done in clearing and in ditching the swamp that is usually several feet under water. The dry season made it favorable for working, so it is being worked and the soil is black and rich. Oh, I am so glad, so glad that my warfare is now over! 8MR 149.3

About twenty-six hands—students—have worked a portion of the time felling trees in clearing the land, and then have their studies. They say they can learn as much as in the six hours of study as in giving their whole time to their books. More than this, the manual labor department is a success healthwise for the students. For this we thank the Lord with heart and soul and voice. The students are rugged and the feeble ones are becoming strong. Wild young lads such as _____ are becoming men under the discipline of labor. He is becoming a Christian, transformed in character. Oh, how thankful are his parents that he is blessed with this opportunity!—Letter 126, 1895, pp. 1-5. (To J. E. and Emma White, August 19, 1895.) 8MR 150.1