Ellen White: Woman of Vision


Chapter 21—Sunnyside—Ellen White's Farm

From the very first, as plans began to develop for use of the 1,450 acres (587 hectares) of the Brettville estate, it was calculated that some of the land would be sold to Adventist families. By July 1895 there was talk of some 120 acres (49 hectares) being used in this way. On Sunday morning, July 7, Ellen White negotiated for the first of such land to be cut off from the estate, 40 acres (16 hectares) on the north side of the tract. For this she paid $1,350. “The reason I purchase now,” she wrote, “is that I may furnish money which they [those connected with the school] need so much just now” (Manuscript 61, 1895). WV 332.1

She planned to leave some of the land as woodland, use some for grazing, and some for orchard and garden. Of course, a choice spot would be selected for the homesite (Letter 88a, 1895). WV 332.2

For some time she had felt that she should have her home in a location more conducive to her writing than the large rented house at Granville. There it seemed inevitable that she must run what seemed to be a “free hotel,” with people coming and going almost every day. Now she determined to build a little cottage where such demands could not be made upon her. She also determined to develop a portion of her land in such a way as to provide an object lesson of what could be done in agricultural lines in that area. It was mid-July, and on inquiry she learned that whatever was to be done in planting an orchard must be accomplished in the next few weeks. WV 332.3

As the 40 acres (16 hectares) came into her possession, the first step in developing her little farm was clearing land for the orchard. Soon three good-sized tents were pitched on her property. She and her granddaughter Ella lived in one, and also, much of the time, one of her woman helpers. Another of the tents was used for cooking and dining, and the third was occupied by some of the men (8 WCW, p. 31) clearing land and planting trees. As construction of her little home progressed, Ellen White stood by to run errands for the workmen to save their time. She also did a little writing. WV 332.4

Starting almost from scratch, in early August the men made considerable progress on “the farm,” and the foundation was in for the house (Letter 156, 1896). Her August 28 description of the little camp at Sunnyside is revealing: WV 332.5

I am seated on the bed writing at half past 3:00 a.m. Have not slept since half past one o'clock. Ella May White and I are the sole occupants of a large, comfortable family tent. Close by is another good-sized tent, used as a dining room. We have a rude shanty for a kitchen, and a small five-by-five [1.5-meter-by-1.5-meter] storeroom. Next is another tent, which accommodates three of my workmen. Next is a room enclosed but not finished, for washhouse and workshop. This is now used as a bedroom by two men, Brother Shannon, my master builder, and Brother Caldwell. These five men we board. Several others are at work on the land who board themselves. Fannie Bolton occupies another tent, well fitted up with her organ and furniture. You see we have quite a village of tents (Letter 42, 1895). WV 333.1

On a quick trip to Granville in late July Ellen White, with Hare, Rousseau, and W. C. White, spent a day driving around seeking information on securing fruit trees and orchard planting. She also had something else in mind. WV 333.2

I went into Sydney to see if I could find anything for the poor families, cheap. Money is so scarce we hardly know what to do and which way to turn to supply the demands in a variety of lines. The calamity of failure of banks has been and still will be keenly felt. We watch our chances where goods are offered for half price and purchase most excellent material to give to those who cannot buy that which they need (Manuscript 61, 1895). WV 333.3

On Wednesday, the last day of July, they were shopping again: WV 333.4

All day W. C. White, Emily, and I spent in Sydney purchasing the things essential for our use in camp life. We thought it wisdom to select an outfit of granite ware [enameled cooking utensils] that will bear transporting and handling (Ibid.). WV 333.5

Royalty income and some borrowing made it possible for Ellen White to do what others could not do in missionary lines. WV 333.6

Monday morning, August 19, 1895, Ellen White was exuberant as she took her pen to write to Edson. Paragraph after paragraph bubbled with good news: WV 333.7

Yesterday, August 18, 1895, the first [fruit] trees were planted on the Avondale tract. Today, August 19, the first trees are to be set out on Mrs. White's farm—an important occasion for us all. This means a great deal to me (Letter 126, 1895). WV 333.8

The reason for her exuberance was that planting had begun. WV 333.9