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

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Chapter 24—The Extended Visit to Washington

From the day that the decision was made to purchase property in Washington, D.C., for the publishing house and the General Conference it was Elder Daniells’ hope and expectation that Ellen G. White would make a visit to the East so she could give counsel concerning the establishment of the work there. From time to time plans for such a trip were projected and discussed, and as the spring of 1904 neared they began to take shape. One thing held Ellen G. White in the West—she felt she could not go to Washington until after the first biennial session of the Pacific Union Conference. This was called for Healdsburg, California, March 18-27. 5BIO 318.1

There was even some discussion of the possibility that Ellen White would make Washington her permanent place of residence. But this she felt she could not do. At Elmshaven she was in favorable circumstances for bringing out her books, and she felt she should not be called upon to move from place to place. 5BIO 318.2

From time to time definite instruction was given to her in vision concerning the work in Washington. In fact, before the property was secured in Takoma Park, she had been shown that wherever the Review and Herald and the headquarters of the work were established, there should be a sanitarium and a training school. The leading brethren had not planned on this. With the decision to make Washington the center in the East, then, the first steps were to get these institutions under way. Church leaders felt they must now have Ellen White's help. On March 1 she wrote to Edson in the South: 5BIO 318.3

I have received letters saying that if I could make my home in Washington for a time, the confidence of our people would be established in the work there.—Letter 105, 1904. 5BIO 319.1

Later she wrote in her diary, “They want W. C. White and his mother to help them plan and put all the wisdom together.”—Manuscript 142, 1904. 5BIO 319.2

The plans being formed would keep her in the East for about a year, making Washington her headquarters. But first there was the union conference session in Healdsburg, opening Friday, March 18. Ellen White made the thirty-five-mile trip by carriage. Her party passed safely through the canyon with its narrow road and steep cliffs. This passage was always a bit of concern when driving with a team of horses. She spoke Sabbath morning, March 19, to a large congregation, and then because of impaired health she was excused from other session appointments. 5BIO 319.3

A storm hit the Pacific Coast, and it rained every day of the session. The weather was wet, cold, and miserable. But there was an earnest request from the townspeople that Ellen White speak at a meeting they could attend. This was arranged for Sunday afternoon, March 27. Even though there was a downpour of rain, “the large building was filled.”—The Review and Herald, May 5, 1904. 5BIO 319.4

While in Healdsburg, Ellen White talked with Elders Daniells and Prescott in regard to the proposed visit to Washington. She told them it was a serious question whether she should go, but if she did go she would spend only a few months there. She said, “If we decide to go, we shall be on our way in about two weeks.”—Letter 121, 1904. 5BIO 319.5

The return trip to Elmshaven was by train, for landslides had closed the road. The all-day trip was very tiring. 5BIO 319.6

She got a new set of upper teeth so she would feel safe in making the trip to Washington. “I dare not,” she declared, “leave myself with only one set of upper teeth. Should I have just one set, and should anything happen to it, I would be in a bad fix.”—Letter 133, 1904. 5BIO 319.7

Friday morning, April 1, she wrote in her diary: 5BIO 319.8

I have not slept much the past night. The thought of change and the long journey fills me at times with dread, but then I will remember the lovingkindness of the Lord. I will be of good courage and not look on the dark side, but looking unto Jesus reflect His image, and look in my Bible daily and read.—Manuscript 141, 1904.

As the time to leave drew near, she wrote to Willie that she could not go to Washington or any place where she “would be among believers who would lay their burdens on” her (Letter 161, 1904). Night after night in great distress she prayed, “Lord, I cannot go to Washington. If You have a work for me to do there, I beseech Thee to deliver me.”— Ibid. 5BIO 320.1

She reports that “the Lord drew nigh. The change came instantly. The peace of Christ filled my heart, and my brain was entirely relieved. I was at rest.”— Ibid. 5BIO 320.2

April 18 was the day set to leave for the East. Though on former trips she had traveled in the Pullman compartment to afford her as easy a journey as possible, this trip, for the sake of economy, would be made in a tourist sleeping car. Their car would go directly from northern California to Washington, D. C. 5BIO 320.3

In Napa Valley the cherry and prune trees were in full blossom and Ellen White regretted having to leave just then. But, as planned, on Monday morning, April 18, she and those who would travel with her were on the train for Oakland. Here C. H. Jones met them and took them forty miles south to Mountain View to visit the new site selected for the Pacific Press. Plans were well under way for the publishing house to be moved. It was a rainy, cold day, and this disappointed Ellen White, but she saw the property and was pleased with the plans being laid. “The moving of the press is a right move,” she commented (Ibid.). 5BIO 320.4

That evening in nearby San Jose they boarded the tourist sleeper and started their six-day trip East. In the party was Ellen White's traveling companion and nurse, Sara McEnterfer, and one of her secretaries, Maggie Hare. W. C. White had gone on in advance to attend to some business matters in southern California and would meet them there. Clarence Crisler, her leading secretary, would also join the party in Los Angeles. Marian Davis was left behind to work on the manuscript for The Ministry of Healing. 5BIO 320.5

W. C. White did not miss an opportunity to secure fruit for the long cross-country trip. He purchased a bushel of large oranges in Redlands and carried them onto the train. The conductor protested, but when Willie promised to share the oranges with the passengers, he relented, and the fruit was taken on board. 5BIO 320.6

The routing was by the south to ensure comfort and to avoid the high altitudes that sometimes bothered Ellen White in travel. She rested quietly on the train, remaining in her berth for the entire trip. She did a little reading and a little writing, but mostly rested and watched the scenery. As they reached the eastern part of Texas, large sugar houses, lumber mills, and cotton gins began to appear. Great plantations flanked the tracks, and Willie noted that on the best farms the old-fashioned light plows drawn by a mule had been replaced by two-horse sulky plows, much to the satisfaction of the sharecroppers. The corn and sugar cane were about ten inches high; the cotton looked like garden beans just putting out their second leaves. Rice fields were under water. 5BIO 321.1

Nearing New Orleans they passed through great swamps, where many varieties of palms were heavily festooned with moss. Just west of New Orleans, Elder S. B. Horton, president of the Louisiana Conference, and E. V. Orrell, secretary of the Southern Union, met the train, bringing a basket of fruit. This supplemented the provisions they had taken from home and from southern California for their meals—malted nuts for soup, zwieback, cream sticks, oranges, bananas, apples, applesauce, olives, nuts, jelly, turnovers, boiled eggs, and bread. 5BIO 321.2

In New Orleans some of the party went sightseeing with the Adventist brethren who hosted them. Ellen White remained in the sleeping car. Then, under a full moon, the train started north and ran for many miles along the shore of Lake Ponchartrain. 5BIO 321.3

The train stopped for a time in Atlanta, and the traveling party was surprised to see about twenty or thirty Adventist believers at the station awaiting them. They came on board for a few minutes. Fathers, mothers, and children gathered around to shake hands. They all wanted Sister White to stop at some future time and speak. 5BIO 321.4

Ellen White wrote on Wednesday morning, April 27, “Here we are in Washington.” She mentioned that preparing for the journey had been a heavy drain on her and she was quite ill the first day or two. But she was happy that all in the car “seemed very much like one family. Although at times there were between thirty and forty people in the car, there was no noise, no loud talking, no card playing. All seemed like acquaintances, each interested in the other. The passengers ... showed me much kindness,” she reported. 5BIO 321.5

The conductor of our car was a quiet, nice-looking man of about 50 years. He seemed to understand his business well. At one station a man bought some beer at a saloon, and put it in a cupboard at the end of the car. The conductor heard of this, and promptly ordered the beer taken out, saying that he would allow no such thing on the car. During all the time we were on the train, I did not get one whiff of tobacco, excepting once or twice, when someone passed through the car with a lighted cigar in his hand.... 5BIO 322.1

We had many pleasant interviews with the passengers. As I talked with them, I felt an earnest desire to meet them again sometime.—Letter 141, 1904. 5BIO 322.2

Describing their arrival at Washington's Pennsylvania Station, she wrote: 5BIO 322.3

We spent Sunday morning packing up our belongings and getting ready to leave the car. Our numerous bags and satchels were piled up in one seat, and when the train drew into the station, Clarence [Crisler] passed them through the open window to Willie, who put them on a truck.— Ibid. 5BIO 322.4