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

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Camp Meeting Travel Vignettes

Much of the program in attending camp meetings one after another, although strenuous, became somewhat routine. In the 1870 season there were a few happenings of special interest that we will mention as vignettes, without concern for time and place. 2BIO 291.3

The Carriage Journey to Marion

We were awake at four. We were ...on our journey at five o'clock. We halted for breakfast, five double wagons well loaded, at seven. Out on the open prairie, James and self walked about one mile and half. We were willing to ride when the wagons came up. At noon we halted in a beautiful grove. We then overtook the teams from Pilot Grove. There were then thirteen wagons well filled with men and women and children. There were about one hundred in all. 2BIO 291.4

At night we tarried in a grove. Tents were pitched and we then held a meeting in the large [family] tent. The neighbors flocked in. My husband spoke and I followed him. We had an interesting meeting, singing, talking, and praying. We retired to rest, but I was too weary to sleep, until about midnight. 2BIO 291.5

We arose at half past three and were on our way at four. We found all had the tents down and packed. Ours was soon ready and again our caravan started. Order was observed by all. At half past six, we halted on the prairie and built a large fire, and all came together for a season of prayer. We then ate our humble fare and were soon on our way again. 2BIO 291.6

At one o'clock we were on the campground and were faint and weary. We felt refreshed by eating a warm dinner. Our tent was pitched in the afternoon and we made our beds. Had a good straw bed to lie on and we slept sweetly.—Ibid. 2BIO 291.7

The next vignette comes from a James White report of traveling on a riverboat up the Mississippi. 2BIO 292.1

Riverboat Activities

We have, on our upward trip, met many, and very large, rafts of lumber drifting down the river. On them are erected board shanties in which the men cook and sleep. We observed, as we passed a large raft, in which there were probably forty men, one man swimming toward the steamer, while others were swinging their hats, and crying, “Papers!” These were immediately thrown overboard, and gathered up by the swimmer and taken to the raft. In a few moments these could be dried, ready to be read. 2BIO 292.2

This gave Willie a new idea. He immediately went to my traveling bag for present-truth books and cord, and to the fireman for stone coal. Between two pamphlets he would tie a piece of coal, and as we passed within throwing distance, we would land the books quite on the rafts. They were eagerly seized by the sturdy lumbermen. God bless the truth thus distributed.—The Review and Herald, July 5, 1870. 2BIO 292.3

The White family were not the only Seventh-day Adventists on the river going to camp meeting. This gave an opportunity for an unwitting outreach in song, reported by James White: 2BIO 292.4

A Shipboard Song Service

As the sun sank behind the bluffs on the Iowa side, the air grew cooler, and the evening was delightful. Our company was seated together in front of the clerk's office, on the bow of the boat, when we struck up the good tune and hymn “Resting By and By.” This we did for our own diversion and devotion, not expecting to attract attention. But as soon as we had finished two verses, and paused, hands were clapped and feet were tapped all around us, and as we looked around, our fellow passengers were all gathered forward standing just over our shoulders calling out, “Give us some more!” “Try that again!” 2BIO 292.5

We made an apology for disturbing them with our poor singing.... But as they continued to call for more, we gave them two verses of the “Celestial Army,” and begged to be excused.—Ibid. 2BIO 292.6

James White wrote that somewhat fewer than a hundred passengers were on the riverboat. One young man approached him, addressed him as Elder White, and told him that he heard him preach at Johnstown, Wisconsin, in the fall of 1868. He must have mentioned this to other passengers, among them a man from Ohio, who was on his way to Minnesota to improve his health. 2BIO 293.1

An Impromptu Evening Shipboard Meeting

The feeble gentleman from Ohio ...said to us, “It is rumored about this boat, Mr. White, that your wife is a public speaker, and every passenger will unite in a request for her to speak in the ladies’ cabin, if she will consent.” 2BIO 293.2

After a moment's consultation as to the propriety of the thing, and the right subject, we returned an affirmative answer. Soon the seats were arranged, a short prayer offered, and Mrs. White seized upon the great idea that God—His wisdom, love, and even His love of the beautiful—could be seen through the beauties of nature. The subject was made more interesting by reference to the grand and beautiful scenery of the day's trip up the old Mississippi. 2BIO 293.3

A more attentive audience we never saw. Nine in the evening came, and a dozen black-faced fellows were standing ready to prepare extra beds in the very room we were using as a chapel, so we closed, and sought rest for the night.—Ibid. 2BIO 293.4

At times when James and Ellen White had planned some trip in their ministry, illness on her part seemed to make it entirely out of the question, but taking God's providence into account in their plans, they would start out by faith and God sustained them. On the day they were to attend one camp meeting, Ellen was very ill. She had been in bed for two days, but she thought she must at least attempt to go. She wrote of it to Willie: 2BIO 293.5

“Make Way for a Sick Woman”

I was not dressed Wednesday and but a short time Thursday in the morning, until I dressed to start on the cars.... When we arrived at Jackson, it was State fair, and such a crowd I never saw before. They were determined to crowd upon the platform. 2BIO 293.6

Your father rushed out with me on his arm. He put his shoulder against men and women, crying out, “Make way for a sick woman. Clear the track for a sick woman.” He rushed through the crowd, took me to one side, and found me a seat. Adelia Van Horn was by my side. He went for Brother Palmer's team.—Letter 13, 1870. 2BIO 294.1

Their travels took them into newly settled country where the roads were sometimes very difficult to negotiate. On one occasion in Missouri, this left them in a distressing but somewhat comical situation described in a letter to Edson and Willie: 2BIO 294.2

Stranded in a Sea of Mud

I spoke five times in Hamilton. We started to visit an afflicted family who had lost a child 14 years old. Father preached the funeral sermon in the Methodist meetinghouse. We were provided a double wagon and horses by Brother McCollester. 2BIO 294.3

We rode finely for two miles when we tried to cross a mud slough. When in the center of rods of mud, the horses were stuck (stalled is the Western phrase). The mud was up to the horses’ bellies. They could go no farther. They were struggling until they lay flat in the mud. 2BIO 294.4

We were puzzled to know what to do. Father walked out on the pole [tongue] of the wagon and separated them from each other [and the wagon] and then used the whip and they, after making a terrible effort, struggled to terra firma, leaving us in the wagon in a sea of mud. 2BIO 294.5

Father decided to venture out on the pole and ran lightly over the stiffest part of the mud. The stiff mud bore him up. He tried to get a board for me to walk on over the mud. I had no rubbers. The board refused to come off the oak posts. 2BIO 294.6

I decided to follow your father's example. I ran out on the pole and his hand met mine and I got safe on terra firma. We left the wagon [in the mud] and horses [tied to the fence] and walked back to Hamilton, two miles.—Letter 18, 1870. 2BIO 294.7

We told the donor of the team where his horses were and with strong ropes he has gone to see if he can get them home.—Letter 17, 1870. 2BIO 294.8

James and Ellen spent eight weeks attending six eastern camp meetings, first at Oneida, New York, followed by South Lancaster, Massachusetts; Bordeauville, Vermont; Skowhegan, Maine; Clyde, Ohio; and one close at hand in Charlotte, Michigan. Wearily James took his pen and wrote: 2BIO 295.1

Our labors have been too great for us; and we decide that we should not hold more than two camp meetings a month, especially if we are to commence in May and continue into October.—The Review and Herald, October 4, 1870. 2BIO 295.2