Ellen G. White: The Later Elmshaven Years: 1905-1915 (vol. 6)


The Boulder, Colorado, Sanitarium

Boulder Sanitarium was established in 1895 by Adventists. The plant consisted of a five-story main building of brick, two fourteen-room cottages, a barn, powerhouse, bakery, and laundry building (Record of Progress and An Earnest Appeal In Behalf of the Boulder-Colorado Sanitarium, 3). Money for construction had been borrowed from the General Conference Association. The plant, which was not to cost more than $30,000, when completed cost $75,000. The General Conference money came from funds invested in the cause by Adventists at low interest rates (28 WCW, p. 451). 6BIO 33.2

It was expected that the organization making the investment in the Sanitarium would control it, and that the earnings of the institution would not only meet running expenses, but in time repay the capital investment. 6BIO 33.3

Three factors militated against this: (1) poor management both at Boulder and Battle Creek; (2) the John Kellogg-inspired philosophy that it was wrong for conferences to own and control sanitariums and wrong for ministers to direct the work of physicians and nurses; and (3) the idea that inasmuch as Seventh-day Adventist sanitariums were philanthropic institutions, a sanitarium would do well if it paid running expenses without an interest obligation, let alone retire its indebtedness (Ibid., 452). 6BIO 33.4

In the spirit of the last two of these propositions, Boulder Sanitarium was transferred to the supervision of the Kellogg-controlled International Medical Missionary Association. The General Conference was given a note for $45,000 in return for its investment of $75,000. Officials of the Colorado Conference were dropped from the board. For years the institution struggled financially, but in 1904, under F. M. Wilcox's management, it was able for the first time to pay one year's interest and, a year later, $4,000 on the note. 6BIO 34.1

These were the circumstances when at the General Conference of 1905 in Washington, D.C., Dr. O. G. Place, who several years earlier had been a physician at Boulder Sanitarium, came forward with the proposition that he purchase the institution. He offered $50,000. Some time before, Dr. Place had purchased a hotel within a half mile of the Sanitarium and had opened a competing institution, one with less discipline, lower standards, and higher employee remuneration. One deficiency was that in this institution the patients and guests were served meat. 6BIO 34.2

During the months preceding the General Conference session, Dr. Place had succeeded in making friends of the members of the Colorado Conference committee who had been left off the Boulder Sanitarium board. Taking all factors into consideration, he expected to be able to work out a deal while in Washington. 6BIO 34.3

Ellen White, learning of the plans, went before the General Conference on Monday, May 29, with a vigorous protest against selling Boulder Sanitarium. Her message was based not only on the disclosure of the propositions made but on a vision given to her while there in Washington (Letter 163, 1905). “Recently,” she said, “the question has been raised, What shall we do with the Colorado Sanitarium?”—Record of Progress and An Earnest Appeal In Behalf of the Boulder-Colorado Sanitarium, 39. She then discussed the situation: 6BIO 34.4

The light given me has been that the plans followed in the building up of this institution were not altogether in accordance with the mind and will of God. Too much money was invested in the building.— Ibid. 6BIO 34.5

She pointed out that the solution in this case, as in other cases of a similar character, was not in selling and getting out, but in making the institution a success in spite of the problems. More than money was at stake: 6BIO 35.1

After the investment has been made, the buildings erected, and our workers have gone in there, and wrestled and wrestled to make the work a success, and the Sanitarium has accomplished much good, shall we turn over the place to private parties? After the workers have wrestled all these years, shall those now connected with it give it up, and say they are beaten? We cannot have it so. No such representation of our work is to be made before the world.— Ibid. 6BIO 35.2

Every employee was to stretch his energies to make it a success. She declared: 6BIO 35.3

God wants this institution to stand as an educating power in the medical missionary work, and He desires that those who have been struggling with all their might to make it a success shall not have labored in vain.... The light given me is that we should not rest until the Boulder Sanitarium is a decided success. What we need is to gird on the armor, and advance in unity.—Ibid., 39, 40. 6BIO 35.4

She was positive in her position: 6BIO 35.5

God wants us never to do such a thing as to part with the Boulder Sanitarium. This institution will yet do its work, and will do it well.—Ibid., 41.

Then she pointed out that it was not in the order of God that another medical institution was started in Boulder. God had not sent a second sanitarium to Boulder. There were plenty of places a physician could go to establish another sanitarium. 6BIO 35.6

Those carrying the responsibilities at the Sanitarium knew nothing prior to the General Conference session of the proposition that the institution be sold. When they learned what was going on, and that the president of the conference was a party to it, they were shocked; relationships were really strained. 6BIO 35.7

Later Ellen White wrote more in regard to a second sanitarium in Boulder: 6BIO 36.1

The light which God has given me is that Dr. Place has not the glory of God in view in establishing a sanitarium in Boulder so near the one which is already located there.—Letter 198, 1906. 6BIO 36.2

And to the doctor she wrote on the same day: 6BIO 36.3

Dr. Place, you could not have properly considered the results upon others, or you would not have established a sanitarium where you are now located. Your management in this matter has not pleased the Lord. Your sanitarium cannot be carried on to the glory of God, situated as near as it is to the Boulder Sanitarium....

And why was our Boulder Sanitarium established? Was it not to teach health reform, and use rational methods in the treatment of disease? Dr. Place, if your institution gives indulgence to meat-eating and various other appetites, then is not its influence against the sanitarium already established, where the principles of health reform are upheld? 6BIO 36.4

I have had the situation opened to me, my brother, and the results for which a sanitarium should be conducted. The Boulder Sanitarium had, in the fear of God, taken the ground that our leading sanitariums have taken—to discard meat, tea, coffee, spirituous liquor, and the drug medications. Temperance principles had been taught in parlor lectures, and in other ways. Wholesome foods were served, and genuine health reform was taught. This institution should have had the right of way. But by the location of another sanitarium so nearby, the principles of which are in some respects quite different from those of the Boulder Sanitarium, difficulties will be presented which should not exist.—Letter 196, 1906. 6BIO 36.5

The matter of serving meat was one Ellen White mentioned in an appeal to the “Brethren and Sisters in the Colorado Conference,” August 10, 1905: 6BIO 36.6

Abstinence from flesh meat will prove a great benefit to those who abstain. The diet question is a subject of vital importance. Those who do not conduct sanitariums in the right way lose their opportunity to help the very ones who need help the most. Our sanitariums are established for a special purpose, to teach people that we do not live to eat, but that we eat to live.—Manuscript 90, 1905 (Special Testimonies, Series B 5:28, 29). [The several E. G. White documents dealing with the boulder sanitarium situation were first assembled as parts of Manuscript 90, 1905, and later printed in Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 5.] 6BIO 36.7

The straight testimony of the messenger of the Lord precluded any precipitous action on the selling of the Sanitarium. Yet not all in Colorado were convinced that selling might not be a way out of the problem they faced. 6BIO 37.1