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


Was This the Promised Refuge?

The next morning, Friday, September 28, she went down to see the “place under the hill” (Letter 132, 1900). To her surprise, it was not the William Pratt place that she had envisioned (a home in which she and James White had stayed), but a large Victorian home built by his brother Robert. She had often admired it in driving by. 5BIO 30.2

Robert Pratt, a railroad executive, was a member of a family of three who had come to California in search of gold. William had purchased the entire little valley and mountainside where the Sanitarium was now nestled. Later Robert purchased a strip of some seventy-four acres, which stretched through rich farmland up onto the hillside. 5BIO 30.3

William Pratt, with his wife and family, had responded to the preaching of J. N. Loughborough and I. D. Van Horn at St. Helena in 1873 and had become charter members of the St. Helena church. Three years later he gave land on the side of the mountain near Crystal Spring for a medical institution, the Rural Health Retreat. The spring, which yielded a bountiful supply of pure, soft water, was shared with his brother Robert and was just above and to the east of the institution. William Pratt's gift of land had also included his half share of the spring. At the time the Sanitarium was opened, this seemed an adequate water supply. 5BIO 30.4

Robert, not a Seventh-day Adventist, owned the land to the south and held the other half interest in the spring. He and his wife, facing advancing age, with their children grown and gone, accepted the invitation of their youngest daughter to make their home with her in the Bay Area (Letter 146, 1900). So the Robert Pratt property was up for sale. 5BIO 30.5

Elder J. A. Burden, manager of the St. Helena Sanitarium, knew that growing demands for water would soon embarrass the institution. This would be true particularly if the spring were shared by a family not friendly to it. He knew, too, that they must have land for a food factory and also for sewage disposal. What could fill these needs better than a few acres of valley land at the foot of the hill? But the institution was in no financial position to buy the Pratt property. Burden, a man of deep faith and some daring, had personally contracted for the Robert Pratt property, making the initial payment of $1,000. He expected to dispose of the home and the farm, retaining what was necessary for the institution and its growth (Letter 158, 1900). 5BIO 31.1

Delighted with what she found, Ellen White with difficulty restrained her excitement. She wrote: 5BIO 31.2

This is a most beautiful location. The surroundings are lovely. Ornamental trees from various parts of the world, flowers, mostly roses of a large variety, an orchard containing a thousand prune trees which are bearing, another orchard nearer the house, and still another orchard of olive trees, are growing on the place.— (Letter 158, 1900) 5BIO 31.3

The home was situated on a knoll in the center of thirty-five acres of level or nearly level land. The family orchard of about three acres lay to the north, with trees bearing peaches, apples, nectarines, figs, cherries, apricots, and pears. Back of this was about a half acre of olive trees. On the south side of the home was a vineyard of more than five acres of table and wine grapes, mostly the latter. The land to the west was divided between prune orchards—which they soon discovered had two thousand trees in prime bearing condition—a garden, and hayfield. The house itself was a well-constructed, seven-room, two-story frame building, completely furnished, including carpets, drapes, linens, and dishes. Ellen White continued her description: 5BIO 31.4

Well, to go back to my story, the Lord planned for me, and I found that I could buy this place here for less than I received for my house in Cooranbong and all its belongings. This includes two horses, one rather old, four carriages and a platform wagon, much better than the one I gave away, and a house furnished throughout. It was like stepping out of my home in Cooranbong into a beautiful roomy one here. It has surprised me much that we should be thus favored.—Letter 132, 1900. 5BIO 31.5

As for the fruit crops, there was little left except some grapes in the vineyard, which had already been sold, and the olives in the olive orchard. There were a ton of these, which they soon sold on the trees for $50. 5BIO 32.1

Back of the house to the east was “the farmer's cottage,” which with a little adaptation could be turned into an office building. Beyond this was a barn and stable with four horse stalls and room for storing four carriages. The hayloft could store twenty or thirty tons of hay. The cow barn had space for twenty-two cows; to the one cow now occupying it, it must have seemed a bit lonely. A few chickens completed the farm population. Ellen White was delighted with the carriages and wagons that were included with the place: two farm wagons, one two-seated express wagon, one double-seated covered buggy, two phaetons, an old road cart, and one hand cart. In addition, there were plows, harrows, and other farm tools (15 WCW, p. 903). 5BIO 32.2

To the east there were about twenty acres of rolling hill land, covered with evergreen forests of yellow pine, fir, live oak, manzanita, and madrono. Some of it was on a hillside so steep that it couldn't even serve as pasture. Several springs at the foot of the mountain would supply water in place of the crystal spring that now was in possession of the Sanitarium. 5BIO 32.3

Blackmon Canyon Creek ran through the full length of the property, first down the mountainside and then meandering through the very heart of the valley. It passed perhaps a hundred yards from the home, finally becoming the southern border of the property, along Glass Mountain Road. During winter the creek at times ran full to overflowing, draining the farm and adding to its attractiveness. 5BIO 32.4

That Friday, with its discovery, seemed all too short. Ellen White confided in the black, leather-covered journal that was given to her as she left Australia: 5BIO 32.5

Here was a house all furnished, and we could, as soon as the decision was made and terms accepted, go into this house, and find everything ready in excellent order to begin my home life without the perplexities of purchasing goods and furnishings for housekeeping. Here were horses, carriages, and nearly everything far superior to that which I had left, and the same price for which my home was sold will bring this beautiful, healthful residence, in good order for us to possess, and as soon as the settlement is accomplished [we will] come into possession and begin our work. 5BIO 32.6

This manifestation in our behalf was so marked and the desirability of location so decided that I knew the Lord was granting me His rich blessing....I never anticipated so much in a home that meets my taste and my desires so perfectly. Next week we shall live in our new home, and we will seek to make it a home after the symbol of heaven.—Manuscript 96, 1900. 5BIO 33.1

And all of this within a week from the time they had set foot on American soil! 5BIO 33.2

But the Sabbath drew on and with it the challenges of public ministry. There was a meeting at the Sanitarium on Friday evening, and again Ellen White spoke to the institutional family and to the guests (Letter 132, 1900). At five-thirty Sabbath morning she and Sisters Gotzian and Ings were on their way to the railway station in St. Helena to take the train to Napa, where the district camp meeting was being held. Ellen White was the speaker at the worship hour that Sabbath morning. 5BIO 33.3

She carried the service through well. The General Conference president, Elder Irwin, who had come to California to greet the party from Australia and to confer with Sister White, followed, leading the congregation into a revival service. Many came forward in new dedication of heart and life. 5BIO 33.4

Returning to St. Helena and the Sanitarium late Sabbath afternoon, Ellen White was delighted to meet her older son, Edson, who also had come West to greet her and confer with her. It had been nine years since she had seen him. She felt he looked a little worn. Her son Willie had also come up from Oakland to be present for important council meetings to be held early in the next week. 5BIO 33.5