Ellen G. White: The Early Years: 1827-1862 (vol. 1)


The Whites and the White Home

The changed atmosphere since the conference is reflected in a letter Ellen White wrote to Sister Below on New Year's Day, just six weeks after the turnaround in attitudes. The White family were living in their little rented cottage on Battle Creek's west side, rejoicing in the freedom of having a home just for their family. This was the first time they had enjoyed such an experience in the past seven years of their married life. Counting the two young women who helped with the housework and the care of the children, there were seven. James White was 34; Ellen, 28; the three boys, Henry, 8, Edson, 6, and Willie, 18 months. With the parents often away as they served the cause, and Ellen's time so taken up with her writing, the two girls, Clarissa Bonfoey and Jennie Fraser, were an important part of the family. 1BIO 333.2

Since the November conference and the vision on November 20, Ellen had been very much occupied in writing the more general features of the vision for publication, and testimonies to individuals whose cases had been opened up to her. By New Year's Day she had scarcely gotten through, yet she laid this work aside and took time to write a newsy letter to Sister Below. It was a buoyant and interesting letter, with good news and some not so good. In its heart she exclaimed: 1BIO 333.3

I cannot express my gratitude to God for what He has done and is still doing for us. For weeks our peace has been like a river. The heavenly dew has distilled upon us morning, noon, and night, and our souls triumph in God. It is easy believing, easy praying. We love God, and yet our souls pant for the living water.—Letter 9, 1856. 1BIO 333.4

She wrote about the family: 1BIO 333.5

Jennie and Clarissa are quite well; Clarissa has not been as well as she is now for eight years. Jennie is much better than she has been since she had the ague. The children are quite rugged. Edson, you know, has been generally poorly, but he is coming up; is quite tough. James enjoys better health than he has for some time back. We praise the Lord for this.—Ibid.

As for herself, she was on crutches and had been since Christmas Eve, when she slipped on the ice and injured her left leg. She told of this: 1BIO 334.1

My health is quite good except a lame ankle. In coming from Sarah's to our house, I slipped and fell, wrenching my foot backward and putting my ankle out of joint. In rising it flew back again, but the bone of my left limb is injured, split, and I am a cripple for the present.... But I will not murmur or complain.... I know that the angels of God must have protected me or I should be suffering with distress from a broken limb.—Ibid. 1BIO 334.2

She was on crutches for six weeks, but kept up with her usual activities and was to ride that day into the country about thirteen miles. As to their home and plans for the future, she wrote: 1BIO 334.3

The brethren think we ought to have a little house put up. We pay now $1.50 per week for rent, and have scarcely any conveniences at that. Have to go a great distance for water; have no good shed for our wood. We put a few boards up at our own expense just to cover our wood. We shall make a beginning; cannot tell how we shall succeed.—Ibid. 1BIO 334.4

Within the next few months they did succeed, purchasing two lots for $25 each on Wood street some five blocks from the Review office. With the help of the brethren they put up a little one-and-a-half-story cottage. Writing later she told of how “from the time we moved to Battle Creek, the Lord began to turn our captivity.”—Life Sketches of James White and Ellen G. White (1880), 317. She reminisced: 1BIO 334.5

The publication of the Review, Instructor, and books was commenced under most discouraging circumstances. The friends and supporters of the cause were then very few, and generally poor; and it was by extreme labor and economy that the truth was published. For several years we suffered more or less for want of suitable food and clothing, and deprived ourselves of needed sleep, laboring from fourteen to sixteen hours out of the twenty-four, for want of means and help to push forward the work.—Ibid., 318. 1BIO 334.6

She spoke of their developing concept of “present truth,” stating that it was not as clear then as now, and added: 1BIO 335.1

It has been opening gradually. It required much study and anxious care to bring it out, link after link. By care and incessant labor and anxiety has the work moved on, until the great truths of our message are clear.—Ibid., 319. 1BIO 335.2

As the leading brethren in Battle Creek took over the Review office and the publishing of the Review and Herald, there were financial matters to settle with James White. For all practical purposes the enterprise was his, simply for the reason there was no other means of conducting the business. The only income were donations from readers of the journals and books, and these had provided just a bare sustenance for the workers and for James White—$4.08 a week. When money was borrowed for the publishing interests, he alone was responsible for it. At the time of the transfer of the business to the publishing committee in Michigan, there was an outstanding indebtedness of $1,000, offset by supplies and book stocks. He turned over the business with no personal financial benefit. At the time there was no provision for stocks of books and pamphlets, and he held these until arrangements were made for a book fund a few months later. Though ill and despairing of life itself, at the time of the transfer of interests in Battle Creek, Ellen White, on January 24, in a letter to Brother and Sister Loveland, reported: 1BIO 335.3

God has wrought for us in a remarkable manner since the conference. My husband has been much afflicted. Incessant labor has nearly carried him to the grave. But our prayers have ascended to God morning, noon, and night for his restoration. All medicine has been entirely laid aside, and we have brought him in the arms of our faith to our skillful Physician. We have been heard and answered. An entire change has been wrought for him.... We believe without a doubt, if he is careful of the health God has given him, his strength will increase and he will be able to overcome the disease that has fastened upon him.—Letter 2a, 1856. 1BIO 335.4

Then bubbling over with joy, she recited what the new outlook meant to her as the mother of three boys: 1BIO 336.1

Dear sister, it would be impossible for me to go into a recital of the sufferings I have passed through, the anxiety, and the dread thought that I should be left a widow, my dear children without a father's care. The scene has changed. God's hand has mercifully been reached down to our rescue. My husband enjoys good health, and my children are rugged. They never enjoyed so good health before. Little Willie is healthy and very pleasant. 1BIO 336.2

I never took so much comfort with my family as now. Our family has always been so large. But now... I can enjoy the company of my children; they can be more under my own watchcare, and I can better train them in the right way. All of us are united for the blessing of God, and morning, noon, and night His sweet blessing distills upon us like the dew, making our hearts glad and strengthening us to fill our place and glorify our Redeemer.—Ibid. 1BIO 336.3

For several months they kept close to Battle Creek, James White giving attention to the business interests connected with the transfer of responsibilities to the church and writing editorials and articles for the Review. He took up what had come to be called the “compromise with Stephenson and Hall” in Wisconsin and declared: 1BIO 336.4

We are now convinced that the Review should ever be free from all compromise with those who hold error, and should ever have been as free to speak out, when necessary, on those subjects which bear on the “age to come” as it now does.—The Review and Herald, February 14, 1856. 1BIO 336.5

From time to time he spoke freely of the visions and their place in the church, and the Review was open to items from Ellen White's pen. 1BIO 336.6