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


The Name Elmshaven

The conjecture has been that the property had received its name, Elmshaven, from its original owners, the Pratts. But careful research provides no evidence to support this. The place must have been nameless, or simply known as the Robert Pratt place. Now that the property was in Sister White's hands and multiplied hundreds of letters would go out from there, should these not carry a distinctive dateline? Sunnyside was what she had called her much-loved Australian residence. What name should this beautiful, well-situated home carry? 5BIO 35.3

Finally, it must have been the trees in front of the home—elms—that gave them a lead. The first inkling we get is from the heading of a W. C. White letter with the dateline “Shady Elms, St. Helena, Cal., January 1, 1901.” But this is one lone exhibit. Apparently Willie found no support, for there is not a second instance of its use. But a few days later Sara McEnterfer headed a business letter, “Elmshaven, St. Helena, Cal., January 6, 1901.” Soon W. C. White and E. G. White letters were carrying the Elmshaven dateline. 5BIO 35.4

One feature that made Elmshaven particularly attractive was the space its acreage provided for the erection of other buildings that could be occupied by members of Ellen White's staff. A most pressing need was that of providing a home for her son Willie and his family. Just across Blackmon Canyon Creek and next to the land on which a food factory was being built were seven acres that included a beautiful building site on a knoll. These were soon deeded to W. C. White. One and one-half of these seven acres were of level, rich garden and orchard land. The rest was rolling hill land. When this land was given to him, his mother declared, “You are not to sell any of this! This is to be the children's schoolroom and playground.” It became just that. 5BIO 36.1

Some of the land to the east went for a cottage for Iram James, who had been her farmer in Cooranbong and who had responded to her cable message inviting him to come to America and fill the same position at her new home place. Eventually some of the land was used as sites for cottages for three other families of her staff. 5BIO 36.2

Just a little on the defensive on the matter of acquiring such a property, Ellen White pointed to the opening providences of God that had made the move so very clear. It was at a time when she was pressing hard for funds to help save the Scandinavian publishing house from bankruptcy. She wrote: 5BIO 36.3

Some may ask, “Why, if there is such need of money in the work, did Sister White purchase a house and a farm?” This was not my planning. The Lord placed me here.... This home was provided for us by the Lord.... We could not possibly have found a place better fitted for our work. The Lord has certainly favored us, and I am greatly encouraged.... We greatly enjoy our quiet home in the valley, and we thank the Lord for all His great blessings.—Letter 10, 1901. 5BIO 36.4

She confided to Dr. Kellogg that she could “now keep out of the din of the battle” (Letter 175, 1900). She wrote the officers of the General Conference, “The manifest working of the power of God in this matter is a cause of great thankfulness. Here I am retired from the strife of tongues.”—Letter 139, 1900. 5BIO 36.5

Some months after getting settled, Ellen White made an earnest appeal to the believers to establish a church school. She was particularly gratified that she could make available nearly an acre of land in a little triangle near the Sanitarium Road. This she set aside for the church school for as long as it should be operated there. On it a building was erected and eventually enlarged to accommodate a ten-grade school. She was pleased that her own grandchildren could attend this school. Part of her cow pasture just across the Sanitarium Road was soon serving as a baseball field. 5BIO 36.6

A few things about Ellen White's new house may have puzzled some visitors who entertained a narrow image of her and regarded her as a severe, reserved person. An ornamental glass panel in the main front door, and an entire, tall window beside the stairway in the hall were made of numerous pieces of colored and patterned glass. Blues, reds, greens, yellows, purples—all were there to spice up the appearance of the entryway and the stairway. 5BIO 37.1

Around the fireplace (a feature that was a strong attraction to Ellen White) the Pratts had installed imported tiles depicting the legend of King Arthur. Ellen White would not have selected such decorations, but she was not so straitlaced as to have them removed. And she would later conduct many a family worship in the room with King Arthur's knights. 5BIO 37.2

The house and surroundings of Elmshaven today are not the same as they were in 1900. When she purchased the home, the three upstairs rooms and a low attic room over the kitchen served as bedrooms. Soon arrangements were made to replace the attic room with a spacious writing room over the kitchen and back entryway. 5BIO 37.3

Of the trees around the house when she bought it, none were taller than the house. Only a couple even reached to the height of the eaves. This meant that in the early years the house was in the sun much more than it is today. Since there were no houses nearby, Elmshaven had a commanding view of all the flatland around it and the hills beyond. 5BIO 37.4

On shipboard, when Ellen White was concerned as to where she should make her home, the angel of the Lord had appeared and assured her that there was “a refuge prepared” for her (Letter 163, 1900). Now this refuge—Elmshaven—was hers, and she was ready for the tasks she had returned to the United States to accomplish. 5BIO 37.5