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


Chapter 5—(1863) The White Family Escapes to the East

When the White family settled in the little cottage on Wood Street in Battle Creek in 1857, there was forest to the north and pasturelands to the west. This gave promise of a quiet retreat and a wholesome atmosphere for rearing the family. Soon, however, the Michigan Fair Association secured considerable acreage almost adjoining the White property and built a racetrack for trotting horses. As the war came on, this proved to be an excellent training ground for recruits in the Union Army. The activities on the fairgrounds came to be of special interest to the teenage boys. W.C. White later recalled. 2BIO 59.1

The nearest neighbors to the south were the Jonah Lewis family, devout Adventists. While the White and Lewis families were noncombatants, the children took a lively interest in the war. The two younger Lewis boys, 16 and 18 years of age, and the two older White boys, 12 and 14, got hold of wartime songs and many a sunny afternoon sat on the fence and practiced, “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys Are Marching” and “We Are Coming, Father Abraham.” They all had good voices, and I, about 7, was an admiring audience, and sat on the grass to listen. 2BIO 59.2

My brothers went as far as they could in supplying themselves with warlike instruments. They built good bows and arrows with which they shot troublesome birds. They were good whistlers, but wanted a drum, so they bought two cheese boxes, knocking out the heads, putting the rims together, paper inside and out. They secured a sheepskin, took the wool off, and made rawhide heads. The drum was quite successful and could be heard all over the neighborhood, and when the noncombatant neighbors became offended with the noise of the drum they complained to Elder White that it was unbecoming for his boys to manifest such a warlike spirit. 2BIO 59.3

The drum was put away and almost forgotten, but one day the boys stumbled on it, brought it out, and were having a good time when they heard their father coming home. They dropped it in the woodshed and scurried to the kitchen. Elder White came in. He had heard the din and asked the cause of it. He went to the woodshed and the boys heard the big axe smash through it.—DF 780a, “Pioneer Days Are Recalled,” Battle Creek Enquirer, October 30, 1932. 2BIO 60.1

In his account Willie White included developments over a period of time: 2BIO 60.2

When soldiers were in training on the old fairground, ...Henry went to watch them and, boylike, was marching along with them, whistling in harmony with the fife. The captain gave the signal to the fifers to be silent, and the company of soldiers made their one-mile march keeping step to music of the drum and Henry's whistle. 2BIO 60.3

He wanted to enter the war as a drummer, but love for his mother and respect for her wishes led him to give up the cherished thought of being in the Army.— Ibid. 2BIO 60.4

James and Ellen White were distressed as they watched Henry and Edson in 1862 and early 1863 becoming more and more fascinated with the war activities, and at the same time losing the consecration they had enjoyed at the time of their baptism at the turn of the year. It seemed to them that they must get the children clear away from Battle Creek. James was now free from administrative responsibilities. At the General Conference session in May, 1863, actions had been taken calling for the production of a new prophetic chart and a chart of the Ten Commandments. His position as president of the SDA Publishing Association would not hold him continuously in Battle Creek. The development and production of the charts called for him to spend two or three months in the vicinity of Boston, Massachusetts. Why not take the family and stay, say, a year in the East, possibly living at the Howland Home in Topsham, Maine, just a few hours by train from Boston? 2BIO 60.5

Learning that they would be welcome in the commodious and comfortable Howland home in Topsham, James and Ellen White decided that the whole family would go east. They would take with them Adelia Patten, the young woman who lived in the home and cared for the children when the parents were traveling. She was also beginning to give some assistance in copying the testimonies and other writings. 2BIO 61.1

In addition to working on the charts, James White was eager to join Loughborough and Hull in evangelism in the Eastern cities. Ellen White wanted to put some time into writing Spiritual Gifts,, Volume III, dealing with Old Testament history. Adelia would look after the children while the parents were engaged in the activities that pressed so hard upon them. 2BIO 61.2