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


Chapter 34—(1889-1890) The 1889 General Conference Session and Beyond

The General Conference session of 1889 was held in Battle Creek from October 18 to November 11. Ellen White joyfully reported that the “spirit that was in the meeting at Minneapolis” was absent and “there seems to be no dissension.”—Manuscript 10, 1889; Letter 76, 1889. Still it smoldered in the hearts of some, principally those who composed the hard core of dissenters in Battle Creek. This she was to continue to meet through much of 1890 and into 1891. 3BIO 448.1

The five-thirty and the eight o'clock morning meetings of the session were given to devotions and Bible study. The rest of each day was crowded full with the regular business, which included the auxiliary meetings relating to the Sabbath school, publishing, medical missionary work, et cetera. These business matters stretched two days beyond the anticipated closing time. 3BIO 448.2

Among the items considered was the means by which to reach the South Sea Islands with the Seventh-day Adventist message. Action was taken to buy or build a ship and have it ready for service early in 1890. This culminated in the Pitcairn, a one-hundred-foot schooner built at Benicia, California, at a cost of a little less than $12,000 and launched at high tide Monday night, July 28, 1890. It set sail from Oakland, Monday afternoon, October 20, on its first voyage, with supplies for two years’ travel. In addition to officers and crew, it carried a missionary force of six, three men and their wives. 3BIO 448.3

Nothing up to this time had done so much to stir Seventh-day Adventists with a missionary spirit as the building and sailing of the Pitcairn, which was to make six trips from American shores to the island fields before it was sold in 1900. By that time, commercial transportation met most of the needs. 3BIO 448.4

Another action of special note was the adoption of a constitution for the National Religious Liberty Association, formed in Battle Creek on July 21, 1889. The pressure on Congress to adopt a national Sunday law brought the question of religious liberty prominently to the front. Both the Review and Herald and the Signs of the Times, through much of 1888 and 1889, carried articles in nearly every issue relating to the steps being taken and the perils of religious legislation. 3BIO 449.1