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


Chapter 7—(1864) An Intensive Course in Methods of Reform

James and Ellen White were ready to spend a few weeks in learning all they could about both health reform and new methods in the care of the sick. For weeks they had looked forward to visiting Dr. Jackson's “Our Home on the Hillside,” at Dansville, New York. James White wrote regarding this health institution: 2BIO 83.1

In the month of September, 1864, Mrs. White and self spent three weeks at the health institution at Dansville, Livingston County, New York, called “Our Home.” Our object in this visit was not to take treatment, as we were enjoying better health than usual, but to see what we could see and hear what we could hear, so as to be able to give to many inquiring friends a somewhat definite report.—How to Live, No. 1, p. 12. 2BIO 83.2

The institution was well located, and the guest list ran at about three hundred. The physicians on the staff were listed as: James C. Jackson, M.D., physician-in-chief; F. Wilson Hurd, M.D.; Miss Harriet N. Austin, M.D.; Mrs. Mary H. York, M.D.; and Horatio S. Lay, M.D. 2BIO 83.3

Dr. Lay was the Seventh-day Adventist physician of seventeen years’ experience at Allegan, Michigan, with whom Ellen White had talked soon after the health reform vision. This visit had encouraged him to take his ill wife to the institution and to learn what he could of the so-called rational methods. At Dansville he was soon taken onto the staff, which gave him an excellent opportunity to study the practices and procedures employed there. 2BIO 83.4

Accompanying James and Ellen to Dansville were Edson and Willie, and also Adelia Patten. They were given the routine physical examination by Dr. Jackson. As to James and Ellen White's health report, no data is available. But they conversed freely with the doctor and listened to his lectures, took treatments, observed the attire of the women there, and dined at the institution's tables. Both gave good reports on the general atmosphere, the dietary program, and the courses of treatments. 2BIO 84.1

Writing to Mr. and Mrs. Lockwood, close friends residing at Battle Creek, Ellen White stated: 2BIO 84.2

You may ask what we think of this institution. Some things are excellent. Some things are not good. Their views and teachings in regard to health are, I think, correct. But Dr. Jackson mixes up his theology too much with the health question, which theology to us is certainly objectionable.... 2BIO 84.3

Dr. Jackson carries out his principles in regard to diet to the letter. He places no butter or salt upon his table.... The food I call liberal and good. All the difficulty is that there is danger of eating too much. All our food is eaten with a keen relish. If anyone requires a little salt they have it supplied for the asking.—Letter 6, 1864. 2BIO 84.4

Ellen then described the baths taken at 10:30 A.M. and the rest period from 12:00 noon to 1:45 P.M., when everything was quiet and “all undress and go to bed.” There were certain features—such as card playing and dancing—for the recreation of the patients of which she did not approve. At a later time she advised that those visiting such an institution should carry along with them “the gospel sieve and sift everything they hear, that they may choose the good and refuse the bad” (Testimonies for the Church, 1:490). But she seemed certain that the Lord's hand was in their coming to the place. She declared: 2BIO 84.5

I do think we should have an institution in Michigan to which our Sabbathkeeping invalids can resort.—Letter 6, 1864. 2BIO 84.6

James White's report stressed the treatments and the dietary provisions: 2BIO 84.7

Baths given at “Our Home” are not as cold, neither given as frequently, as we expected to find them. They are tempered to the conditions and diseases of the patients so as generally to be regarded by them as a luxury instead of with feelings of dread. The most heroic treatment, which a score of years since caused much prejudice upon the public mind against water as a curative agent, [see The Story of Our Health Message, 31-33.] is abandoned by all well-informed hydropathic physicians. In our opinion no one, however low and sensitive to cold, need fear being injured by water at this institution.—How to Live, No. 1, p. 14. 2BIO 84.8

James White found the food program equally appealing and wrote of it in some detail: 2BIO 85.1

The tables are spread with an abundance of plain and nourishing food, which becomes a daily luxury to the patients, as the natural and healthful condition of the taste is restored. The glutton, who gratifies his depraved appetite with swine's flesh, grease, gravies, spices, et cetera, et cetera, on looking over Dr. Hurd's tract on cookery, may in his ignorance regard this style of living as a system of starvation. 2BIO 85.2

But a few weeks’ experience at “Our Home” would correct his appetite, so that he would eat plain, simple, and nutritious food with a far better relish than he now does that which is unnatural and hurtful. We never saw men and women gather around tables more cheerfully, and eat more heartily, than the patients at Dansville. The uniformity and sharpness of appetite was wonderful for a crowd of patients. It was the general leanness and lankness of these persons alone that could give the idea that they were sick. 2BIO 85.3

Besides the usual rounds of excellently cooked wheat-meal mushes, wheat-meal biscuits, cakes, and pies, and occasionally other varieties, we found the tables bountifully loaded with the fruits of the season, such as apples, peaches, and grapes. No one need fear of starving at “Our Home.” There is greater danger of eating too much. 2BIO 85.4

The appetite of the feeble patient, who has been pining with loss of appetite over fashionable food, becomes natural and sharp, so that simple food is eaten with all that keen relish with which healthy country schoolchildren devour plain food. The food being nutritious, and the appetite keen, the danger of that class of patients who have become feeble by self-indulgence is decidedly in the direction of eating too much.—Ibid., pp. 14, 15. 2BIO 85.5

James recognized that changing from the common meat-eating diet to one that was plain and healthful could, with some, call for time to accomplish. He warned against sudden, sweeping changes. Dr. Jackson made a deep impression upon him as a physician who was a “master of his business,” a “clear and impressive speaker,” and “decidedly thorough” in whatever he undertook. James closed his report on a positive note, recommending the institution to those suffering critically. As to others, he had this to say: 2BIO 86.1

To those who are active yet suffering from failing health, we urgently recommend health publications, a good assortment of which we design to keep on hand. Friends, read up in time to successfully change your habits, and live in harmony with the laws of life. 2BIO 86.2

And to those who call themselves well, we would say, As you value the blessings of health, and would honor the Author of your being, learn to live in obedience to those laws established in your being by High Heaven. A few dollars’ worth of books that will teach you how to live may save you heavy doctor bills, save you months of pain upon a sickbed, save you suffering and feebleness from the use of drugs, and perhaps from a premature grave.—Ibid., p. 18. 2BIO 86.3