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


Chapter 4—Through the South to the 1901 General Conference

From a human standpoint, Sara McEnterfer was right when she said to Ellen White, “‘You are not fit to go anywhere. You should not go anywhere; ... I dread it for you.’”—Manuscript 43a, 1901. Sara was a nurse, a graduate of Battle Creek Sanitarium; and from a medical standpoint she could see that for Ellen White at the age of 73 and in her current physical condition, to start in late winter across the continent to attend a General Conference session was unwise. Even Ellen White questioned in her own mind as to whether the extra exertion and trip at that time might not cost her her life. Yet she was sure that she must go. And go she would, for God had a work for her to do. This was not the first time she had ventured forth in faith. 5BIO 55.1

The General Conference session would be held in the Battle Creek tabernacle and not the Oakland church, April 2-23. April would be a much more favorable time than February. Now the decision must be made on the route to be traveled. To make the journey directly to Chicago and then Battle Creek would take them over the Sierra Nevadas and the Rockies. It would be a journey she had often taken and one she dreaded, for even when her health was seemingly good she was ill-equipped to stand the high altitude. 5BIO 55.2

The alternative was to take a more extended journey traveling via Los Angeles, New Orleans, and then to Chicago and Battle Creek. This route carried attractive features for both Ellen White and her son Willie. Since returning from Australia, they had not gone a hundred miles from the Elmshaven home. The southern route would give them an opportunity to spend a few days in Los Angeles, and they could survey the work that was beginning to develop nicely in southern California. Then there was Edson White and his work in Mississippi and Tennessee. They could go to Vicksburg, see the Morning Star, inspect the development of the work in Mississippi, then travel to Nashville. There Edson had his headquarters, engaging in publishing and managing the work of the Southern Missionary Society. 5BIO 55.3

So, weighing the high mountains on the more direct and quick journey against the longer tour traveling at normal elevations; weighing the advantage of seeing James Edson White in his work, all of which had been developed since Ellen White had gone to Australia, against the wear and tear of the longer journey, the choice was made in favor of travel by the southern route. Tentative appointments were made for services Ellen White might hold with Adventist churches in Los Angeles, Vicksburg, and Chicago, even though it was a question from day to day as to whether she would be well enough actually to make the journey. 5BIO 56.1

The trip began Thursday afternoon, March 7, with Iram James driving the party to the Southern Pacific Railroad station in St. Helena. The southbound, three-car steam train left at 3:17 P.M. to connect at Port Costa with the Owl on its nightly run from Oakland to Los Angeles. In the party were Ellen White, Sara McEnterfer, Maggie Hare, and William White. When the party boarded the Owl at six-seventeen, they were happy to find Elder McClure, pastor of the Healdsburg church, on the train. In his pocket he had the tickets for the journey, which he had secured from C. H. Jones in Oakland. He also had health certificates to prevent quarantine restrictions upon entering Texas on their eastern journey. 5BIO 56.2

Every member of the party was weary. They retired early and were a bit refreshed when they reached Los Angeles at eight o'clock Friday morning. In making arrangements Willie had asked that provision be made for the party to stay at the Sanitarium in Los Angeles, where they could have pleasant rooms, good food, and be comfortable without the burden of visiting. This could not be done if they were dependent on the graciously offered entertainment in the homes of believers. Two other things Willie had asked for: the use of a carriage for Ellen White while she was in the Los Angeles area, and oranges, which might supplement their diet as they journeyed. 5BIO 56.3

On Sabbath morning Ellen White met her speaking appointment in the Los Angeles church. This experience had an immediate and dramatic effect on her physical condition. In San Francisco after her “decidedly victorious” meeting she had walked five blocks. In Healdsburg a successful meeting left her feeling so exhilarated that she decided that she could stand the trip to Battle Creek. The Los Angeles meeting had the opposite effect. A full hundred visiting believers had come in, some from a distance of sixty miles, to be present for the Sabbath-morning service. Four hundred people crowded into the meeting house. As Ellen White stood before the congregation, she thought of the great work to be done in southern California. “Like lightning” the condition of things “flashed” before her mind. Such was not unusual in her experience. While standing before large congregations, not infrequently visions were given to her opening up to her both general situations and the experiences of individuals in her audience. In this case, several persons were presented to her. Their influence on the work was clearly depicted. Writing of it later, she said: 5BIO 57.1

The presentation distressed me.... While I was speaking, there came to me the assurance of full and abundant grace and salvation. I thought of the wonderful possibilities before those who unite with Christ. They will become true, earnest, self-sacrificing workmen, preparing the way for the coming of the Lord. They work in harmony with the prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”—Manuscript 29, 1902. 5BIO 57.2

Recounting the experience, she declared: 5BIO 57.3

I could not find words to express my feelings at the thought that the warnings of His word have not been heeded. I longed for strength to cry aloud and spare not, to lift up my voice as a trumpet, and show God's people their transgressions and the house of Jacob their sins.— Ibid.

Then the scene changed: 5BIO 57.4

There flashed before me a presentation of the great mercy and goodness of God in contrast with the perversity of His people, who ought to be far advanced in spiritual understanding. How I longed to arouse those before me to realize the importance of the time in which we are living.... I seemed to see Jesus standing as He stood on the last great day of the feast, stretching out His arms as if to embrace the world, and crying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”— Ibid.

Somehow she was unable to roll off the burden that rested upon her. She was so “anxious, so desirous, that the people should see their danger in not appreciating their privileges, in allowing their opportunities to pass unimproved.” She asked herself, “Will they awake? ... Will they come to their senses? I felt my soul fainting at the thought of the situation. The experience was too much for me.”— Ibid. 5BIO 58.1

That noon Ellen White could not eat. She was weary and heartsick. Her vital forces seemed to be giving way. Rapidly her condition deteriorated, and soon she lost consciousness. It was not until two o'clock on Sunday morning, twelve hours later, that she again regained a knowledge of her surroundings. She found Dr. F. B. Moran, a physician, and a nurse laboring over her. The appointments that had been made for her to speak Sunday had to be canceled, and serious misgivings were entertained as to whether she would be able to continue her journey. W. C. White, writing that Sunday afternoon, declared, “We are praying that she may have strength to proceed on her journey Tuesday morning.”—16 WCW, p. 298. 5BIO 58.2

By Tuesday Ellen had rallied a bit, and they felt that they could go on. They boarded the Sunset Limited at eight o'clock, found the train not crowded, and a first-class compartment ready for Ellen White and her two women helpers. They also found two bushels of large, luscious oranges there at the station waiting for them. The train pulled out on time for its sixty-hour trip to New Orleans. 5BIO 58.3

Since the car was not crowded, Maggie and Sara spent most of the time in the center of the car, leaving Ellen White to herself. Though uncomfortable from a physical standpoint, she felt she was in the line of duty, and later wrote, “As I lay in my compartment on the train, with no one with me, how precious it was to commune with God. I was alone with Him, and if ever I realized His presence in suffering and distress, I did then. I felt that the everlasting arms were underneath me. I realized the comfort of the Saviour's love.”—Manuscript 28, 1901. 5BIO 58.4

W. C. White described the pleasant and interesting task the party had in eating the two bushels of big, sweet oranges before they got to New Orleans. They were there Thursday evening in time to catch the train for Vicksburg, Mississippi, where Edson White had pioneered the work among the blacks. That night on the train Ellen White thought of the Morning Star, which she would see in a few hours. How eagerly she had followed the accounts of its building and sailing and its work as Edson had written to her in Australia, keeping her posted with the developments. 5BIO 59.1