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


Chapter 3—(1876) The Camp Meetings

James White was overjoyed to receive Ellen's telegram that she, with Mary Clough, would meet him at the Melvern, Kansas, camp meeting, which was due to open on Thursday, May 25. He hastened off twenty postcards to as many points in Kansas, giving the welcome word. He had summoned J. H. Waggoner to come from California to assist him, for he felt the need of help through the camp meeting season. This he now canceled, for Ellen would be taking many of the meetings. 3BIO 36.1

He assured Willie and Mary, in Oakland, that he would be on the grounds with ample preparations made, and he was, but Ellen White's train was delayed; instead of arriving on Friday, she was driven onto the grounds early Sabbath morning. She was weary after six days of travel, including a twenty-mile trip by farm wagon over bad roads, a journey broken by a stop for the night at the home of a friend. 3BIO 36.2

“Weary, of course,” reported James White, “short of sleep, and trembling with nervous headache, she takes the speaker's stand at half past ten and is wonderfully sustained in her effort.”—The Signs of the Times, June 8, 1876. She was the speaker that evening also to a congregation increasing in numbers. James White described the encampment, first as things looked on Friday, before Mrs. White and Mary arrived: 3BIO 36.3

The weather is fine, the grove pleasant, and besides the two large tents, one seated for the congregation, and the other parted with cloth for families, there are on the ground seventeen family tents, besides several covered wagons used for lodgings.... 3BIO 36.4

By the assistance of many with cheerful hearts and ready hands, our tent is pitched, board floor is laid, and the tent is furnished with chairs, table, beds, bedding, et cetera, ready to receive Mrs. White and her niece from California and other expected friends.—Ibid. 3BIO 37.1

Continuing his report, he wrote of Sunday: 3BIO 37.2

It is our turn to speak. The audience is large and attentive. Mrs. White speaks in the afternoon, and calls forty or more forward for prayers. This is an excellent move. We often lose ground on First-day before the crowd for want of moral courage to keep at our work for the advancement of the church and the conversion of sinners. But at this meeting decided advancement is made on First-day.

Before the evening discourse we hold a meeting for the special benefit of those who are seeking the Lord. Near fifty come forward. The interest of this social meeting increases until the last. Many speak for the first time.—Ibid. 3BIO 37.3

Monday was a full day and concluded with a meeting of which he wrote: 3BIO 37.4

In the evening, Mrs. White speaks with great power upon progressive sanctification as expressed by the apostle, on the plan of perpetual addition, until an abundant entrance is given into the immortal kingdom. 2 Peter 1:5-11. At the close of the meeting eight or ten rise up as candidates for baptism. 3BIO 37.5

Third-day morning. The camp has arisen at four, and we are enjoying a precious social parting meeting. This moment Mrs. White is making closing remarks, exhorting the brethren and sisters to watch lest they lose Jesus by the way in returning home, as Joseph and Mary lost Christ in returning from Jerusalem.—Ibid. 3BIO 37.6

Ellen White, writing from the campground, declared, “Children, I believe it was my duty to attend this meeting. I am coming out all right as far as health is concerned if I rest and do not labor too hard.”—Letter 30, 1876. She spoke of her pleasure at the healthy condition of the conference, which promised to become one of strength. She told of how “several young men came to this meeting unconverted and careless, sought the Lord earnestly, and took the baptismal vows.”—Ibid. As James and Ellen departed for the railroad depot they observed the train of wagons on their way to the water for the second baptism over the weekend, bringing the number to thirty-eight in all. 3BIO 37.7

As he brought his report of this, the first camp meeting of the season, to a close, James White made this enlightening comment: 3BIO 38.1

This excellent meeting, with all its labor of preparation, anxiety, preaching, hearing, exhorting, confession of sins and want of Christ, its tears, deliverances, and joys, is now past. Those parents who brought their children to the meeting and saw them converted, and take the baptismal vow, are now glad that they brought them. Those who did not bring their children regretted their mistake. These annual feasts of tabernacles are gatherings of the greatest importance; and there should be a general turnout of all who may be benefited.—The Signs of the Times, June 8, 1876. 3BIO 38.2

At the special session of the General Conference that had been held in late March, James White had participated in laying plans that called for one meeting to follow another, week by week, usually with a parting meeting Tuesday morning. The first was now in the past; as listed in the Review and Herald of May 25 and July 13 there were thirteen more yet to attend: Missouri, Iowa, two in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Indiana, Michigan (including the General Conference session), and Illinois. 3BIO 38.3

En route to the Missouri camp meeting at Holden, they had a few hours to visit Ellen's sister Caroline Clough, as well as her nieces. They arrived at the campground in ample time for the opening of the meeting on Thursday. In describing the surroundings, she stated: 3BIO 38.4

It is a beautiful picture of loveliness that is presented to the eye, in the trees covered with green foliage, the waving grain with the sunlight and shadows resting upon it, the cultivated soil, the varied scenery in the high hills covered with verdure and adorned with trees, and the broad, rich valleys under cultivation. All is fresh and green.—Letter 31, 1876. 3BIO 38.5

Knowing that it seldom rained in California in summer, she commented, “I suppose you are drying up in Oakland and looking burned and seared. But Oakland is the home of my choice.” 3BIO 39.1

The Kansas City Times carried a good report of the meeting, which was held in a beautiful grove. There were seventeen family tents and a large congregation tent. The paper stated: 3BIO 39.2

The plan of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is to hold great annual camp meetings in most of the States. These are attended by their prominent ministers. Elder White and wife are here and are expected to make the tour of the United States. They open the summer's campaign with the Kansas and Missouri meetings. They are both indefatigable workers, preaching once or twice a day, and also writing editorials and reports for their church papers, published at Battle Creek, Michigan, and Oakland, California.—In The Signs of the Times, June 15, 1876. 3BIO 39.3

Ellen White reported fifteen hundred people attending her Sunday meetings, morning and evening (Letter 31, 1876). James White regretted that this and the Kansas meetings were held at points distant from the railroad. If properly located, he felt, they could well have been attended by “five or ten thousand” (RH, June 15). He commended the conference for electing laymen for the conference committee. 3BIO 39.4

James and Ellen White were not enthusiastic about camp meetings held at an inconvenient distance from the railway stations. Of their experience in getting off to Iowa, she wrote to their children in Oakland: 3BIO 39.5

Yesterday we arose early and rode three miles over rough road to see the train move grandly out of the depot, leaving us behind. We then went to Brother O'Brien's and waited till the next morning.—Letter 31a, 1876. 3BIO 39.6

The remedy proposed by James White was that the meetings be properly located the next year. The next meeting was in Iowa, just outside the city limits of Marshalltown. Uriah Smith reported that “Brother and Sister White arrived from the Missouri meeting on Thursday P.M. bringing a good report from that meeting and being themselves in good health and spirits.”—The Review and Herald, June 15, 1876. There were forty family tents and two large tents. Friday morning, June 9, James White wrote Willie: 3BIO 39.7

We are well, and having fine weather, and a crowd of brethren, a quarter larger than ever before—1,200 out last evening to hear me speak. 3BIO 40.1

A week later he wrote: 3BIO 40.2

Mary [Clough] is splendid on reports. The Iowa camp meeting was a great victory. We sent reports to eight different papers in the State.—James White to WCW, June 16, 1876.

Smith was at the next meeting also, held at Sparta, Wisconsin. Note his interesting report: 3BIO 40.3

Here, as in Iowa, the presence of Brother and Sister White constituted, in a large measure, the life of the meeting, their counsel and labors giving tone to the exercises and progress of the work. Sister White, especially, was at times called out in powerful appeals, and most forcible descriptions of scenes in the life of Christ from which lessons can be drawn applicable to everyday Christian experience. These were of absorbing interest to all the congregation. 3BIO 40.4

These servants of the church, though now of so long and large experience, and notwithstanding all their wearing labors, are still growing in mental and spiritual strength.—Ibid., June 29, 1876 3BIO 40.5