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


Chapter 2—Elmshaven

On arriving in California, Ellen White was eager to get to her work. In just nine weeks she would celebrate her seventy-third birthday, and there was a great deal she felt she must do, especially in getting her books out. She hoped that she could quickly find a home, move in, establish herself, and get on with the many tasks awaiting her attention. Not wanting to have to undertake the building of a house, she hoped to find a place she could rent. 5BIO 27.1

At her age it seemed to her that the climate of California would be preferable to that of Michigan, with its long, cold winters. Then, too, she did not wish to place herself so close to the headquarters of the work that she would become deeply involved in helping to solve the everyday problems. 5BIO 27.2

The Pacific Press was located in Oakland; considering the many books she would want published, some place within the vicinity of that city would seem to be ideal. 5BIO 27.3

On the Sabbath after their Friday-evening arrival, W. C. White spoke in San Francisco to a good-sized congregation comprised of several nationalities. On Sabbath afternoon Ellen White addressed the believers in the Oakland church. General Conference president G. A. Irwin was the morning speaker. Sunday was spent in resting, in interviews with some leading workers, and visiting with friends. But on Monday morning, September 24, house hunting began. She and Willie discovered that Oakland had grown considerably in the nine years they had been away. Census for the city in 1890 was 66,619 persons. Now, just a decade later, it was a bustling 150,000, and property values had kept pace with the city's growth. 5BIO 27.4

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were exhausting days, spent driving from place to place as they searched for suitable housing. They soon decided that they would have to purchase, for rents were just too high. Rent on a house large enough to accommodate Ellen White and her assistants would come to $25 or $30 a month. At that time the monthly salary of her most trusted and faithful helpers was $30, and she herself received $50 a month. To pay from one half to two thirds of her total salary income for the rental of a home was out of the question. 5BIO 28.1

They did find a house in Fruitvale, now a part of Oakland, that could be bought for $6,000. It was located on a two-and-one-half-acre tract of land. But Oakland seemed cold and foggy, and Ellen White declared that she would just stop looking. She said, “The Lord knows what our work is and where we should be located; and we shall wait the Lord's time.”—Letter 132, 1900. 5BIO 28.2

At this point Willie suggested that she and some of her helpers go up to the health retreat at St. Helena, some sixty miles to the north. This institution had just changed its name to St. Helena Sanitarium, or simply the San. There she could rest a bit and also attend some of the meetings to be held in connection with the nearby Napa camp meeting. He agreed that he would continue to look for a house—or houses, for, of course, he had his own family of seven to care for. 5BIO 28.3

He found he could rent a little house owned by Dr. E. J. Waggoner, who for a number of years had been an associate editor of the Signs of the Times but who was now working in England. In rather amusing terms W. C. White wrote to his close friend Arthur Daniells: 5BIO 28.4

For several days we have been trying to fit a number seven family into a number five house, with a number three purse to purchase furnishings.—15 WCW, p. 871. 5BIO 28.5

He would have to pay $15 a month rent out of the “number three purse.” 5BIO 28.6

On Thursday morning, September 27, following her son's counsel, Ellen White, with Sara McEnterfer and some of her other helpers, started for St. Helena. They would cross the Bay by ferry, then complete the journey by steam train. The ferry was the little steamer El Capitan. One of the first things Ellen White observed was that no smoking was allowed on the deck of the boat. Delighted, she said, “What a privilege to be able to breathe freely, inhaling full inspirations of the pure, free air, unpoisoned.”—Manuscript 96, 1900. 5BIO 28.7

At a junction near Vallejo the women boarded a steam train for the thirty-five mile trip to St. Helena. What memories came back to Ellen White's mind as she journeyed up through the Napa Valley, making stops at Napa, Yountville, Rutherford, and Oakville. She thought of the meetings held twenty-five years earlier in Napa and the challenge of Miles Grant so successfully met by Elder Canright. At Yountville her mind turned back to the camp meetings held a mile east of the station, under the oaks by Napa Creek, for three summers in the mid-1870s. The railroad tracks ran between the main graveled road on one side and prune orchards and vineyards on the other. Both the prune trees and the grapevines were heavy with fruit, for it was harvesttime. 5BIO 29.1

Two vehicles were waiting for them at the St. Helena station: A comfortable two-seated phaeton, [A light, four-wheeled, horse-drawn carriage, with or without a top.] and the regular horse-drawn stage from the Sanitarium, used to transport guests the three miles from the railway station to the institution. As the horses slowed to a walk at the foot of the long, half-mile climb to the Sanitarium, more memories crowded the mind of Ellen White. She was journeying over the same road she and her husband had traveled in 1878, just after the institution was begun by Dr. M. G. Kellogg. She had been there in the years following her husband's death. She had purchased eight and one-half acres from William Pratt to preserve the land for the future use of the Sanitarium. On the property she had erected a home, Eliel, which easily could be turned into an expanded facility for the care of guests of the institution.—DF 14. 5BIO 29.2

At the Sanitarium she met old friends—Mrs. J. L. Ings, Mary Thorpe, and others. The first topic of conversation was the frustration of house hunting in Oakland, and Sister Ings volunteered: “‘Well, below the hill there is a place that is just the thing for you. It is Robert Pratt's place.’”—Letter 158, 1900. Ellen White was definitely interested. 5BIO 29.3

At the Sanitarium there were about forty guests. That night she spoke in the chapel. Writing of it, she said, “The room was well filled, and there were some standing at the entrance.” She reported freedom in speaking and she hoped, as she said, that “the Lord will give me a hold upon the people” (Letter 132, 1900). The significance of the phrase is understood by the fact that Ellen White in vision was often given insights into situations that others did not grasp. The institution was in rather precarious days, and its welfare was to become one of her concerns for several years. 5BIO 30.1