Ellen G. White: The Early Elmshaven Years: 1900-1905 (vol. 5)


The Third Week on Shipboard

This third week of the voyage was more trying to Ellen White. Tobacco smoke bothered her a great deal. She wrote of it in her letters to Dr. Kellogg. Quoit playing on the deck above her stateroom continued to irritate her. Then at night, when everyone should be sleeping, there was dancing on deck over her head till the wee hours of the morning. Several times while she was on deck she asked the men who were near her steamer chair to refrain from smoking, explaining how it affected her. But they simply said she could go “somewhere else” (Manuscript 29, 1901). When she appealed to one of the ship's officers, he confessed that he was helpless. A doctor on the second-class deck consoled her by pointing out that the voyage would soon be over, and he asked, “‘Did you ever know a tobacco user who could be reasoned with?’”—Letter 133, 1900. 5BIO 23.1

On the liquor side of the temperance question, one case particularly attracted Ellen White's attention, and she wrote of it to Dr. Kellogg: 5BIO 23.2

One man, with Reverend attached to his name, who during the voyage, Bible in hand, had given expositions of the Word in the social hall, was on several occasions so drunk that he had to be carried to his stateroom.— Ibid. 5BIO 23.3

The preacher's wife, full of anxiety and sorrow on his account, confided in Ellen White that before they left Australia her husband had come into a considerable amount of money and now he was drinking so freely he did not know or care where the money went. 5BIO 23.4

As they neared the California arrival time, late Thursday night, Ellen White felt she could hardly endure the expected partying that traditionally marks the final day of a voyage. Willie came to her and said, “‘We are nearing the last night of the trip, when we shall have more noise than ever before; but I am praying for a storm.’”—Manuscript 29, 1901. “‘So am I,’” Ellen White replied. 5BIO 23.5

That Wednesday evening, still dreading the next day's carousal, she found a little anteroom and lay down. She fell asleep, but soon was awakened by a voice speaking to her. As she gained her senses, she knew what it meant. “The room was filled with a sweet fragrance, as of beautiful flowers.” Then she fell asleep once more and was awakened in the same way. Of it she wrote: 5BIO 23.6

Words were spoken to me, assuring me that the Lord would protect me, that He had a work for me to do. Comfort, encouragement, and direction were given to me, and I was greatly blessed.— Ibid. 5BIO 24.1

Part of the message that came to her at that time was an assurance that put her mind at rest on one particular point. This was the question of where she should make her home in America. In earlier years they had lived in Battle Creek, Michigan, as her husband led the church and managed the Review and Herald Publishing House. Then they lived in Oakland, California, as James White started the Signs of the Times After her husband's death, Ellen had lived in a home in Healdsburg, California, only a few blocks from the college. This home she still owned. Just before leaving for Australia, she had lived in Battle Creek again. And now where should she settle? The question had concerned them from the time they planned to leave Australia. 5BIO 24.2

Writing of this two weeks before their departure, she noted: 5BIO 24.3

WCW has felt very strongly that under no circumstances should we locate in Battle Creek or east of the Rocky Mountains. Our position must be near the Pacific Press. We have planned to go into the country, in or near Fruitvale, so that we might have no connection with any duties or offices that would demand our attention. Here we hope to complete the book-making we now contemplate. 5BIO 24.4

We had gotten a good hold upon it here, but have not completed the work in hand because of our plan to leave this country the last of August. Willie was very loath to leave so soon, but it was my decided judgment that we must reach America before winter, since the change of climate at that time would be most trying to me at my age. 5BIO 24.5

So you can see that our plans were made not to get anywhere near a school or under the shadow of an office where our time and strength might be consumed as they have been in this new portion of the Lord's vineyard. We must be within ten or fifteen miles of the Pacific Press.—Letter 121, 1900. 5BIO 24.6

The Pacific Press was then in Oakland. The vision given to her that Wednesday evening during the last week of the journey set her mind at rest. She wrote of this, “The Lord revealed Himself to me ... and comforted me, assuring me that He had a refuge prepared for me, where I would have quiet and rest.”—Letter 163, 1900. 5BIO 25.1

What a comfort it was to know that God already had something in mind for her! How she wished she might know just what or where it was. 5BIO 25.2

Now they came to Thursday, the last full day of the trip. They would enter San Francisco Bay that night. The day was sunny and bright, but the sea was so rough the sailors could hardly keep their balance on deck. Most of the passengers remained in their berths. There was no final party. Ellen White lay in bed all day, not even daring to turn over. And then just before the Moana slipped through the Golden Gate, the sea suddenly quieted. It was ten o'clock. The ship could not dock until daylight, so the anchor was cast. Some weeks later she reported: 5BIO 25.3

I felt very grateful for that storm. It lasted long enough to prevent any carousal. And just before we entered the harbor, it cleared away, and the sea became as smooth as it had been all the way over.—Manuscript 29, 1901. 5BIO 25.4

Through the long night hours the ship swung lazily at anchor in San Francisco Bay. The White party no doubt expected that with the coming of daylight the Moana would move into one of the Union Steamship Company piers, and that soon they would see friends on the wharf, including many workers who had come to welcome them back to the United States. But such was not the case. Immigration officials, very conscious of germs, required the Sydney passengers, even though they had been on the ship for nearly a month, to proceed by tugboat to a quarantine station on Angel Island, where their belongings and trunks could be fumigated. That whole weary Friday was spent going through these formalities. 5BIO 25.5

One of Ellen White's last impressive glimpses of fellow passengers was of the preacher who couldn't stay away from the bottle. She saw him being carried by two men from the quarantine station to a restaurant, where he lay sprawled on a settee, while his beleaguered wife bathed his head. 5BIO 25.6

Finally, by early evening, the contents of trunks and suitcases having been properly fumigated and repacked, the party was taken by tugboat to San Francisco. They arrived at eight o'clock and were met by G. A. Irwin, president of the General Conference; C.H. Jones, manager of the Pacific Press; and J. O. Corliss, pastor of the San Francisco church. The traveling party soon dispersed. C. H. Jones, a longtime friend and acquaintance, took Ellen White and some of her helpers to his home in Oakland. Others stayed with friends in San Francisco. W. C. and May White, with the twins and Baby Grace, were entertained by the Corlisses at their home in Fruitvale, an Oakland suburb. That night Elder Irwin sent a telegram to Battle Creek, which carried the good news of the arrival of the party. It was published on the back page of the next issue of the Review It read, “San Francisco, Cal., September 21, 1900.—Sister White and party arrived this morning in good condition.” The editor commented that this would be “good news to thousands.” And it was. 5BIO 26.1