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


The Seventh-day Adventist School

In January, 1869, James White had proposed through the Review the starting of a school in Battle Creek, and he called for pledges for such an enterprise (Ibid., January 12, 1869). But the idea did not catch fire. Then he proposed a lecture series to follow the General Conference session in 1870, and made a similar attempt the next year, without significant response. The need of qualified men in the ministry led to the action taken at the General Conference session at the turn of the year, 1872, calling for young men to present themselves for the ministry. Finally, in early April, 1872, James and Ellen White called the Battle Creek church together to give serious study to establishing a school there. Among the questions asked were: 2BIO 336.4

Shall we take hold, as a people, of the subject of education, and form an Educational Society? 2BIO 336.5

Shall we have a denominational school.... to qualify young men and women to act some part, more or less public, in the cause of God? 2BIO 336.6

Shall there be some place provided where our young people can go to learn such branches of the sciences as they can put into immediate and practical use, and at the same time be instructed on the great themes of prophetic and other Bible truth?—Ibid., April 16, 1872 2BIO 337.1

It was proposed that with shares costing $10 each, the church form a society “to raise funds for the purpose of renting, purchasing, or erecting school buildings, and procuring school apparatus.” Steps were taken to determine what the interest was and what support could be expected. A standing committee consisting of Uriah Smith and E. W. Whitney was formed to foster the interest. With James White joining this committee, the following definite and significant steps were taken: 2BIO 337.2

“Resolved, That we invite the General Conference Committee to employ suitable teachers for the contemplated school, to take such steps as they may deem proper to raise the necessary means for the support till it becomes self-sustaining, and to take the general oversight of this enterprise.” 2BIO 337.3

This being a movement in behalf of the cause at large, the General Conference Committee are the proper persons to act in the premises. In accordance with the foregoing resolution, its management will hereafter be in their hands. 2BIO 337.4

It is now decided to commence the school on Monday, the third of June next. A place is provided, and teacher engaged. The first term will continue twelve weeks, to August 26. Tuition from $3 to $6, according to studies taken. 2BIO 337.5

The chief object has been stated to aid those who contemplate becoming public laborers in the cause of truth. Of course, those who have no such object in view, but who wish merely to acquire an education under the advantages and in the society here offered, are at perfect liberty to attend. Let all come who can, in season to be here at the commencement, and others as soon thereafter as possible.—Ibid., May 14, 1872 2BIO 337.6

The above appeared as an unsigned note on the back page of the Review. As James White was editor, it is assumed that it was his announcement. 2BIO 337.7

Two weeks later readers of the Review were informed that, judging from letters received, there was a good degree of interest in the proposed school (Ibid., May 28, 1872). Meanwhile, Butler, the new president of the General Conference, quickly joined in support of the school idea. On May 22 he wrote: 2BIO 337.8

From recent references in the Review the readers of the paper have become acquainted with the fact that a school was to be started June 3 in Battle Creek having some connection with our denomination, the General Conference Committee having the supervision of it. As one of that committee, I wish to say a word in reference to this subject so that all may know my feelings concerning the matter. 2BIO 338.1

I fully believe it is in the order of God that we should have a school started in connection with the other institutions which are growing up there. And I expect to see this comparatively small beginning which is now being made amount to something very important before the message shall close. I believe this because it is something that is necessary to meet a want that exists among us.—Ibid., June 4, 1872 2BIO 338.2

Butler addressed himself to the great need of a school and the type of school it should be, in the light of many of the institutions of learning in the land. He stated clearly: 2BIO 338.3

We want a school to be controlled by our people where influences of a moral character may be thrown around the pupils which will tend to preserve them from those influences which are so common and injurious in the majority of the schools of the present day; and in this school we want a department in which those who would labor in the ministry, or in other public positions of usefulness, may receive the instruction which will qualify them for the duties of those positions.—Ibid. 2BIO 338.4

Announcement of the opening was made the next week in the June 11 issue, under the heading “The S.D.A. School.” The announcement opened with the words: 2BIO 338.5

This school commenced in Battle Creek at the time appointed, June 3, with twelve scholars, Brother G. H. Bell, teacher. Two have since joined. This is a better beginning than we had ventured to anticipate, in view of the brief time taken to commence the enterprise, and the short notice that was necessarily given.—Ibid., June 11, 1872 2BIO 338.6

Those who might feel that this was a small beginning were reminded of the parable of the mustard seed. 2BIO 339.1

George I. Butler came in quickly with a second article, titled “Mental Culture and the Pulpit,” in which he emphasized the importance of those who stand in the highest and noblest work God has committed to man, being prepared by a proper education to do the greatest amount of good possible for him to do. 2BIO 339.2

At midterm there were twenty-five regular students, but the grammar class, which was held in the evenings so Review employees could attend, numbered between forty and fifty. The school was well on its way (Ibid., July 16, 1872). 2BIO 339.3