Ellen G. White: The Progressive Years: 1862-1876 (vol. 2)


Chapter 16—(1868) Bearing Testimony by Voice and Pen

During the first half of 1868 James and Ellen White resided at their Greenville home, going out almost every weekend to the churches within a day's drive. Through the week Ellen's time was occupied in writing, and James's in both writing and working the farm. J. N. Andrews, General Conference president, who had been with them during November and December on the eastern tour, continued his ministry with them in northern Michigan until early March. 2BIO 221.1

Then Dr. M. G. Kellogg, who had resided in California for eight years, made a visit. Just before coming to Greenville, he had received his diploma as a physician and surgeon from Dr. Trall's Medical School, at Florence Heights, New Jersey (Ibid., April 28, 1868). The roomy White home in Greenville was becoming a sort of mecca in northern Michigan. The visit was “most agreeable,” wrote James White. “The harmony between what the Lord has revealed relative to this subject, and science, has been a theme of most interesting conversation, and mutual profit.”—Ibid. 2BIO 221.2

Having been reared in Maine, James and Ellen were not deterred by the cold of winter in their day-to-day activities, or in their travels by sleigh or carriage. To plow through heavy snowdrifts was considered routine. Of one such experience, more severe than most, Ellen wrote from Greenville to Edson, who was studying in Battle Creek, on March 9: 2BIO 221.3

We are at home again. We are thankful for this. Thursday we rode sixty miles. The snow was very deep, in many places nearly as high as the houses. 2BIO 221.4

While trying to get the sleigh over a fallen tree the reach [coupling pole] broke and we were down. We had to get out in the deep snow, unload the sleigh, and lift the box off the runners. A man came along in the woods just then and helped us toggle up the sleigh. We lashed it together with straps and went on. We stood in the snow more than half an hour. 2BIO 222.1

Previous to this, about ten o'clock, it commenced snowing, and snow continued to fall until twelve. Large flakes coming very fast! We never saw it on this wise before. Inches of snow were piled upon us and around us in the sleigh. To make it still more uncomfortable the rain began to come. But we rode on, every hour bringing us nearer home, and we were glad to lessen the distance. 2BIO 222.2

When within four miles of home we were so unfortunate as to enter upon a road open for several miles but entirely blocked up and impassable at the other end. The horses went up to their backs in drifts. We feared their getting down. After passing through fields, we were told there was no possibility of getting through, and had to go back. As we passed over drifts we got out, lightened the sleigh, and again plowed through the snow, while it was steadily raining. After this we had no very special difficulties. We arrived home about dark.—Letter 8, 1868. 2BIO 222.3

Not all trips in February and March were so unpleasant and hazardous, but neither were all the discomforts in travel. In those pioneering days, as the Whites were entertained in the homes of the believers they found straw mattresses on the beds—large cloth bags called “ticks” filled with straw of varying quality and quantity. The back page of the Review in early March carried a curious note titled “Straw Is Cheap,” signed by James White. It read, in part: 2BIO 222.4

In farming communities straw is cheap, and all those who lodge the weary and worn laborers in the Lord's vineyard can afford to furnish a suitable amount of the very best of straw to make their beds as comfortable as straw can make it. 2BIO 222.5

But it is too often the case that the preacher is deprived of a full amount of good straw on which to rest his weary limbs. The bedstead is frequently of the sort with strips of boards across it, nearly one foot apart, upon which is placed a scanty straw tick, both in length and breadth, partly filled with straw that has been worn more or less for a year, until it is broken to chowder, and sinks down between the slats, so that the restless occupant can count the slats by the distinct pains he feels in his weary body.—The Review and Herald, March 10, 1868. 2BIO 222.6

He called for bed ticks liberal in dimensions, filled with the proper amount of good, clean, sweet straw. He noted that “oat straw is better than wheat or rye.” After describing uncomfortable beds he had encountered, he appealed: 2BIO 223.1

Brethren, straw is cheap. Let not the worn and weary pilgrims who visit you to labor for your good lack good rest for the want of a suitable amount of good clean straw.—Ibid. 2BIO 223.2

When asked why they worked so diligently, often suffering hardship, they answered, “The love of Christ constraineth us.... Souls for whom Christ died seemed of such inexpressible worth that self was forgotten. Ease, pleasure, and health even, were made secondary.”—Letter 3, 1869. 2BIO 223.3