Ellen G. White: The Lonely Years: 1876-1891 (vol. 3)


Ellen White Finds a Home Base

The school in Healdsburg was initiated and commenced its work during a period of physical weakness and frustration on the part of Ellen White. It was a full year after James White's death in early August, 1881, before she was sufficiently recovered from physical prostration, grief, and overwhelming concern for Battle Creek to engage in a consistent program of book preparation. After traveling out from Oakland to visit among the churches in northern California through the early winter months, she decided that she would make Healdsburg her California headquarters. She and James had built a home on a little farm on West Dry Creek Road, about three miles from the village, which had not been sold. On February 7, 1882, she wrote to Willie, who was managing the Pacific Press in Oakland: 3BIO 194.1

Now I am decided to go to my Healdsburg place.... I shall not move much at present. Shall get me a cheap secondhand stove and a little cheap furniture and commence living for myself at present. In my Healdsburg house I have all the conveniences I wish.... I like the water. I can keep a cow and hens and chickens. I can get vegetables cheap and fruit cheap, but best of all I have a place that pleases me and that I want to live in. 3BIO 194.2

I believe some way will be provided for me. I do not get suitable food going around.... It is my right to make myself comfortable and place myself under the very best circumstances healthwise.... 3BIO 194.3

After staying a while on my place without making any great parade or expense, I can test the matter fully whether my health is better. If not, my next step will be to go to St. Helena. I do not wish to put up a house in St. Helena and be to more expense if I can live in Healdsburg near the school.—Letter 1a, 1882. 3BIO 194.4

On Thursday, February 23, her personal belongings and some furniture arrived from Oakland and were moved into the little home on the farm. The next day her letter addressed to Willie and Mary in Oakland carried the dateline of “White's Ranch,” Healdsburg, California, February 24, 1882. And in the Signs of the Times for March 9 was a notice that she requested to have published, “The post office address of Mrs. E. G. White is Healdsburg, Sonoma County, California.” She drew in her family of literary and home helpers, hoping soon to settle down to a serious program of writing. But this she found hard to do. She took pleasure in scouting around the country, buying grain and hay, chickens, a cow with its calf, and horses for transportation and to work the place. One horse was Dolly, of which she wrote on April 2: 3BIO 194.5

George [a hired man] thinks that Dolly may work into plowing or harrowing. She is awkward, but she tries to learn. She will see what Katy does and will try to do just as she does. Everything is odd to her now, and she stares at the mountains and hills as if she was a tourist viewing the scenery. I think she enjoys the change.—Letter 4, 1882. 3BIO 195.1

April was a busy month for gardening. From the Italian garden nearby they secured a large number of strawberry plants. She and Addie Walling joined Brother Bellow in planting them. A good many grapevines were also set out (Letter 8, 1882). A few days later she secured from the Italian garden beet and spinach plants to transplant. Also she helped in planting seeds for parsnips, cabbage, carrots, and beets. “We shall have quite a garden,” she wrote, “if the Lord favors us.” May and Addie Walling were living with her and attended the public school. She drove them to the school in the morning and picked them up in the afternoon. She pictured her home situation: 3BIO 195.2

My health is good. I have some trouble in sleeping all I want to. I exercise considerably, picking up wood, and if it were not for weak ankles, would exercise more. I put rubber bandages on my ankles and this helps them. I feel then I can walk anywhere.—Ibid. 3BIO 195.3

In a letter written April 16, in which she mentioned some of the afflictions of those about her, she said, “I find, after all, your mother can endure about as much as the younger people.”—Letter 9, 1882. But up to this point, she had to force herself to her writing. This was limited more or less to the Battle Creek situation, some work on Spirit of Prophecy, volume 4, and the touches she must give to the articles prepared for the Signs and the Review. Many of the latter were drawn by her literary assistants from her earlier writings, published and in manuscript. The Signs for the year 1882 carried fifty-seven articles from her pen. Some were on Old Testament history, some reported her work among the churches, and a number were on practical subjects (some of the latter were reprinted from earlier issues of the Review and Herald). Quite naturally, at this time some articles on education-related topics were also published. The Review published twenty-three E. G. White articles in 1882, dealing mostly with practical subjects. 3BIO 195.4