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

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The Trip into Ohio and Iowa

The Review and Herald, November 6, 1856, the issue that carried the first responses to the Laodicean message, announced that “Brother and Sister White design spending several weeks in the West, and wish to be addressed at Round Grove, Whiteside County, Illinois.” Elon Everts and Josiah Hart, acquaintances from New England, were residing there. Soon after the Whites arrived, a conference was appointed by these two residents at “the Hittleson schoolhouse on Sabbath and First-day, December 6 and 7.”—Ibid., November 27, 1856 1BIO 345.1

The invitation “Will all the Sabbath brethren in the State, as far as possible, attend?” was a broad one, and illustrates the extent to which the third angel's message had penetrated Illinois. It was a triumphant meeting; in his report, James White observed: “If the brethren in Illinois wake fully up to the work, we shall endeavor to join them with a tent next summer.”—Ibid., January 1, 1857 1BIO 345.2

This was a time when “the West” with its good farmland was opening up to settlers. This lured many families from their rocky New England farms to the promise of a more comfortable and easy life. The Everts and Harts, with whom the Whites had associated in Round Grove, were examples. Two other families with whom they were well acquainted—the Andrews and Stevens families of Paris, Maine—had moved to Waukon, Iowa, and the J. N. Loughborough family had joined them. This removed from the work two young and fruitful ministers. These and their close associates were dissatisfied with moving the Review office from Rochester to Battle Creek, and they did not join James White and others on the matter of the Laodicean message. While she was at Round Grove a vision was given to Ellen White on Tuesday, December 9. She wrote: 1BIO 345.3

I was shown that the company of brethren at Waukon, Iowa, needed help; that Satan's snare must be broken, and these precious souls rescued. My mind could not be at ease until we had decided to visit them.—Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 160. 1BIO 345.4

Ellen White was insistent. To reach Iowa, the Mississippi River had to be crossed, either by boat or on the ice, and it was now early winter. Observing Ellen White's convictions, Brethren Hart and Everts were impressed to take the Whites by sleigh. Ellen White picks up the story: 1BIO 346.1

It was then good sleighing, and preparations were made to go with two horses and a sleigh; but as it rained for twenty-four hours, and the snow was fast disappearing, my husband thought the journey must be given up. Yet my mind could not rest; it was agitated concerning Waukon. 1BIO 346.2

Brother Hart said to me, “Sister White, what about Waukon?” I said, “We shall go.” “Yes,” he replied, “if the Lord works a miracle.” 1BIO 346.3

Many times that night I was at the window watching the weather, and about daybreak there was a change, and it commenced snowing. The next evening, about five o'clock, we started on our way to Waukon—Brethren Everts and Hart, my husband, and myself. Arriving at Green Vale, Illinois, we held meetings with the brethren there.—Life Sketches of James White and Ellen G. White (1888), 330. 1BIO 346.4

At Green Vale a severe snowstorm struck, delaying the journey nearly a week. On Monday, December 15, James White reported, “We hope to be able to break through, and pursue our journey ... in a few days.”—The Review and Herald, January 1, 1857. In his next report he told of their continued journey as the roads opened, and how as they stopped at the hotels they held meetings introducing the third angel's message. But they had to turn down invitations to hold meetings in the villages. Their mission, he wrote, was “to visit brethren and sisters who had moved from Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York, about thirty in number.”—Ibid., January 15, 1857 1BIO 346.5

Among these thirty, in addition to those named above, were the Butlers, Lindsays, Meads, and Lamsons. The young ministers in the group had found the work in the cause hard, the separation from family difficult, especially for the wife and mother, and there was no plan for regular financial support. It seemed that the enemy was stepping in to thwart the work of God just at a time when the outlook was most promising. 1BIO 346.6

As they neared the Mississippi River they made many inquiries about crossing. No one thought it could be done. The horses were breaking through the crusted snow at almost every step. The ice on the river was mostly composed of snow, and there was about a foot of water flowing over it. Ellen White recounted the breathtaking experience: 1BIO 346.7

When we came to the river, Brother Hart arose in the sleigh and said, “Is it Iowa, or back to Illinois?” ... 1BIO 347.1

We answered, “Go forward, trusting in Israel's God.” 1BIO 347.2

We ventured upon the ice, praying as we went, and were carried safely across. As we ascended the bank on the Iowa side of the river, we united in praising the Lord. A number of persons told us, after we had crossed, that no amount of money would have tempted them to venture upon the ice, and that several teams had broken through, the drivers barely escaping with their lives.—Life Sketches of James White and Ellen G. White (1888), 330, 331. 1BIO 347.3

Dubuque was six miles from the crossing, and the travelers spent the Sabbath, December 20, there. In the evening Elon Everts hung up a chart and presented a short and appropriate message. Waukon was four days’ sleighing away, and they pressed on. “I never witnessed such cold weather,” exclaimed Ellen White. She wrote: 1BIO 347.4

The brethren would watch each other to see if they were freezing; and we would often hear, “Brother, your face is freezing, you had better rub the frost out as soon as possible.” “Your ear is freezing“: or “Your nose is freezing.”—Ibid., 331. 1BIO 347.5

Ellen found little time to write, but on Wednesday as they neared Waukon, she got off a little note addressed “Dear Friends at Home.” 1BIO 347.6

Here we are fourteen miles this side of Waukon. We are all quite well. Have had rather tedious time getting thus far. Yesterday for miles there was no track. Our horses had to plow through snow, very deep, but on we came. 1BIO 347.7

O such fare as we have had on this journey. Last Monday we could get no decent food and tasted not a morsel with the exception of a small apple from morn till night. We have most of the time kept very comfortable, but it is the bitterest cold weather we ever experienced.... 1BIO 347.8

Children, be thankful for your comfortable home. We often suffer with cold; and cannot keep warm sitting before the stove even. Their houses are so cold, and your mother suffers with cold in her head and teeth all the time. Wear two dresses all the time.... Last night we slept in an unfinished chamber where there was an opening for the stovepipe running through the top of the house—a large space, big enough for a couple of cats to jump out of.—Letter 4, 1856. 1BIO 348.1

Of their reception in Waukon later that day she wrote: 1BIO 348.2

We reached Waukon Wednesday night, and found nearly all the Sabbathkeepers sorry that we had come. Much prejudice existed against us, for much had been said concerning us calculated to injure our influence. We knew that the Lord had sent us, and that He would there take the work into His own hands.—Life Sketches of James White and Ellen G. White (1888), 331.

Years later Loughborough gave a vivid description of the meeting of the travelers with the believers in Waukon. 1BIO 348.3

As Brother Hosea Mead and I were working on a store building in Waukon, a man looking up saw me, and inquired, “Do you know a carpenter around here by the name of Hosea Mead?” 1BIO 348.4

I replied, “Yes, sir, he is up here working with me.” 1BIO 348.5

Brother Mead said, “That is Elon Everts’ voice.” Then he came and looked down, and Brother Everts said, “Come down; Brother and Sister White and Brother Hart are out here in the sleigh.” 1BIO 348.6

As I reached the sleigh, Sister White greeted me with the question “What doest thou here, Elijah?” 1BIO 348.7

Astonished at such a question, I replied, “I am working with Brother Mead at carpenter work.” 1BIO 348.8

The second time she repeated, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” 1BIO 348.9

Now I was so embarrassed at such a question, and the connecting of my case with Elijah, that I did not know what to say. It was evident that there was something back of all this which I should hear more about. 1BIO 348.10

The third time she repeated the question, “What doest thou here, Elijah?“ 1BIO 349.1

I was brought by these bare questions to very seriously consider the case of Elijah, away from the direct work of the Lord, hid in a cave.... The salutation most thoroughly convinced me that there was going to come a change, and a “go-back” from the labor in which I was then engaged.—Pacific Union Recorder, August 4, 1910 (see also WCW, in The Review and Herald, January 23, 1936). 1BIO 349.2

Sabbath and Sunday they discussed the Laodicean message. All accepted the new light. Monday they discussed the move to Battle Creek, explaining the involvements. This reestablished confidence. At one of the meetings Ellen White was taken off in vision, and in vision solemnly repeated the words “Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord.” These words brought consolation and hope. Among those powerfully affected was Mary Loughborough, who in days past had been left at home alone while her husband was away preaching, and she was tempted to murmur. She confessed her bitterness of spirit in a powerful testimony and urged her husband to return to his ministry. 1BIO 349.3

At another meeting John Andrews renewed his consecration to God and to service in the Lord's cause. The few days James and Ellen White spent in Waukon were not in vain, nor were they soon forgotten. White reported: 1BIO 349.4

Should we undertake to give a full description of the triumphant meetings at Waukon, we should fall far short of doing justice to the subject. We close our remarks by adding that these meetings were the most powerful we had witnessed in years, and in many respects the most wonderful we ever witnessed.... We were ... many times paid for facing the prairie winds and storms on our long and tedious journey to northern Iowa.—Ibid., January 15, 1857 1BIO 349.5