Ellen White: Woman of Vision


Chapter 11—California—Here We Come

Anyone for California?” asked James White. At the close of the General Conference session held in mid-May 1868, the ministers in attendance were given an opportunity to express their preferences as to the fields in which they would work during the coming year. California was as yet an unentered field as far as any denominational workers were concerned. WV 160.1

But eight years previously Merritt G. Kellogg had trekked with his family by ox team to California and worked in San Francisco as a carpenter. Then, as health reform was being promoted among Seventh-day Adventists, he returned to the East to take a medical course. He enrolled at Dr. Trall's Medical College, Florence Heights, New Jersey, where a few months later he was granted a diploma as a qualified physician and surgeon. He lingered in Michigan following his graduation, and at the General Conference session in mid-May made an earnest appeal for the General Conference to send a missionary to California to help him in his work in raising up a company of believers in San Francisco. The brethren agreed that in time such might be done. WV 160.2

But James was not ready to let it drop there. “Has no one had any impressions of duty with reference to the California field?” Up to this time J. N. Loughborough had remained silent; now he stood and spoke of his impressions and offered his services for work in the West. WV 160.3

Loughborough had come to the conference with the deep impression that he should go to California, but he had revealed this to no one. In no fewer than 20 dreams he seemed to be working there! WV 160.4

Loughborough reported on what followed: WV 160.5

Brother White then remarked, “When the Lord sent forth His servants, He sent them two and two, and it seems as though two ministers should go to that distant field.” ... Then Elder [D. T.] Bourdeau arose and stated how his mind had been exercised, and that he had come to the meetings with his companion and all his earthly substance ready to go where the conference might say (Pacific Union Recorder, July 3, 1913). WV 160.6

White counseled, “Will Brethren Bourdeau and Loughborough pray over this together and separately until the day the Review goes to press, that they may be sure of the mind of the Lord in the matter?” (Ibid.). WV 160.7

At the appropriate time, when White called for their word, the two brethren replied, “California, or nothing.” White then called for $1,000 to buy a tent and start the mission. At this time the rails extended only to the Rocky Mountains; the journey had to be made by ship to the Isthmus of Panama and then by another ship to San Francisco. For the next year and beyond, readers of the Review were thrilled by reports from the missionaries, first on the trip itself, and then on the tent meetings and the organization of churches in the valleys north of San Francisco. WV 161.1

They began their work in Petaluma, and from there worked northward. Soon they had established churches in Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Bloomfield, and other places. WV 161.2

Loughborough reported: WV 161.3

Shortly after our arrival in California we received a letter from Mrs. White, in which she related a vision given her in Battle Creek on Friday evening of June 12—a day that we had spent in Lancaster, New York, before starting for California. She had never been in California, and had no personal knowledge of the habits of the people. In fact, at that time she had never been west of the Missouri River. Any knowledge she possessed concerning things there was derived from what the Lord was pleased to reveal to her. WV 161.4

In the instruction in her letter, she delineated the liberal ways of the people of California, and what would be the effect of labor among them on a close, “pennywise” plan. In preaching to the people in California, they must be approached in something of the liberal spirit in which they work, and yet not in a spendthrift manner (GSAM, p. 385). WV 161.5

Looking back years later, Loughborough testified: WV 161.6

As I witness the results of following the instruction given, I can say that our cause advanced more in three months than it would have done in one year had we not been helped “in the work of the ministry” by the instruction received through the gift of prophecy. Up to the spring of 1871, as the result of the efforts in Sonoma County, five churches of Sabbathkeepers had been raised up (Ibid., 386). WV 161.7

James and Ellen eagerly looked forward to the time when they would be able to visit the brethren there and see for themselves how the work was progressing. In fact, a year later James was already talking about attending a camp meeting in California. But their trip was delayed a number of times. In the summer of 1872 they had planned to attend most of the Western camp meetings (Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota), and then join J. N. Loughborough in California for a camp meeting to be held in late September. But when the Iowa meeting closed, they saw that in their state of health the strain would be greater than they could bear. After a few days’ rest they decided to go at once, thinking to arrive in California in late June. They had to have some rest. WV 161.8