The Fannie Bolton Story

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Extract from The Gathering Call, February, 1932, pp. 16-22, (anonymous)

We were very zealous and conscientious believers in the Testimonies and other writings of Mrs. White being given by inspiration of God until one who was very closely associated with her work and in whose integrity we had perfect confidence, told my companion and myself many things connected with that work which showed us it was subject to very much human manipulation, though our informant seemed to be trying to uphold the work as of God. We could not doubt the truth of what we heard, and when later we saw truth in the Bible which these writings contradicted, we had no hesitancy to “maintain the Bible and the Bible only as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms.” (Great Controversy). FBS 113.3

In 1912 we were in Battle Creek for some weeks. One day while at the home of a friend she called our attention to a lady who was passing and said, “There goes Miss Fannie Bolton. Wouldn’t you like to meet her?” We replied that we should. We had once asked why she had separated from Mrs. White’s work and the answer had been given that she had told some things that she should not have told. We had never before seen Miss Bolton. FBS 113.4

When we had opportunity we told her that we would like to have a talk with her regarding her experiences while connected with Mrs. White’s work as one who was of much interest to us was still there and had told us of some things. Miss Bolton said she would meet us that and the following afternoons in a park where we could talk without interruption. The following is a crude report of that interview just as I wrote it with pen and paper as Miss Bolton talked. I could add many items which I heard from her later, but this is all that I ever wrote down just while she told it and I have not changed any of the wording. I am sorry some personal items appear but I do not wish to change it in any way now, and nothing that I heard later discredited anything that is here written. FBS 113.5

She [Fannie Bolton] was converted to S. D. Adventism about the year 1885. Was very zealous. Had previously attended Evanston College in Illinois. Experienced in writing essays which girls passed off as their own productions. Thru Elder George B. Starr, who had brot [sic] the “truth” to her she was called to work with Sister White. She was very conscientious in following out all instructions given in the Testimonies and discarded articles of diet condemned by them. It seemed a wonderful thing to her that she should be called upon to help in the work of a prophet of the Lord. FBS 114.1

Elder Starr went with her to the station in Chicago where she was to meet Sister White and party and go with them to Healdsburg, California. This was about two years after she had become a Sabbath keeper. Elder Starr was anxious to personally conduct her into the presence of Sister White, but she was not readily found. He asked Eld. W. C. White regarding her whereabouts but he simply replied that she was somewhere about in the company. At last, in a corner of an eating room, rather screened off from others, she was found making a breakfast of raw oysters, with vinegar, pepper and salt in evidence before her. Sister Fannie was a young, inexperienced girl, but surprise, horror and bewilderment took possession of her. She was shocked beyond expression and Eld. Starr took her aside as he noted from the expression of her face how she felt and told her she must not let it trouble her that Sister White did this, that she needed such refreshment to fit her for her long, tiresome trip, and that raw oysters are very easily digested. But Sister White from this time seemed like a Sphinx to Sister Bolton. [See Starr’s comments, p. 118] FBS 114.2

There was quite a party of them and they occupied a tourist car to themselves. One day she saw Eld. W. C. White enter the car with an open brown paper spread in his hand on which was a piece of bloody thick beefsteak. This looked horrible to her, but it was handed to Miss Sarah McEnterfer who cooked it an an oil stove and it was passed to the company after being cut up. Marion Davis and Fannie Bolton did not eat of it. Most or all of the others did. FBS 114.3

After reaching Healdsburg, Sister Fannie was given a quantity of rather mussy manuscript to prepare for the press. It needed much working over. She did the work carefully and satisfactorily. One day she and Sister White were taking dinner together at Eld. McClure’s and Eld. McClure spoke of the number of Sister White’s workers and asked what their work was. He asked what Marian Davis’s work was. Sister White gave a half evasive answer. Then he asked, “And Sister Fannie, what does she do?” Sister White replied, “She is here, she can speak for herself.” Thus invited Sister Fannie innocently told exactly what work she was doing. Nothing was said regarding it at the time, but a few days later Eld. W. C. White came to her and began talking in a round about way that made her wonder what he was driving at. At last he said, “Fannie, Mother is displeased at you for what you said at Eld. McClure’s.” Sister Fannie was surprised at this and told of the conversation that led up to it and of Sister White’s invitation to her to tell. Eld. White said, “Well, tell me just what your work is.” She took some manuscript that she had been working on and explained how she had rearranged and readjusted it, etc., and he said, “Yes, that is right. You have the correct idea and your work is proving very satisfactory, but it is best you say nothing about it to anyone.” She wondered why there was need of such secrecy in the Lord’s work. FBS 114.4

At one time she was working on some articles regarding David and Solomon which did not require as much editing as those on which she had worked, and one day Marian Davis said to her, “Have you compared the chronology of those articles? You will want to be careful about that.” She was surprised and said, “Why, the Lord is a correct historian!” “Yes,” Marion Davis said, “but Sister White is not a historian. You want to compare it with Edersheim or some other standard writer, preferably Edersheim.” Sister Fannie did so, but on opening the book was shocked and astonished to face a paragraph exactly like one in the articles she was copying, although there was no sign in the articles of its being a quotation, and on turning a page found a whole page which in the articles was only changed enough to prevent its being an exact quotation. Immediately her old trouble with essay stealing at school came back to her and she went to Marian Davis with troubled questions. Marian Davis tried to assure her that it was all right, that the Lord had a right to use all those things in His work for “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.” But it did not seem right to Sister Fannie. FBS 115.1

Dr. Kellogg had told them that in order to avoid a charge of plagiarism it would be best or necessary for them to revise “Great Controversy.” Sister Marian Davis did this but she often talked with Sister Fannie about it, and Sister Fannie found that many of her ideas and expressions went into the book. One day she expressed the opinion that the chapter “Modern Revivals” was too harsh, and afterward Marian Davis said Sister White and Eld. W. C. White wanted her to write out her ideas on the subject, that they might see them. She did so and Sister Davis came to her afterward and said, “Sister White and her son say that your chapter will not do.” “Will not do for what?” “For a chapter in Great Controversy.” “Of course it won’t do for a chapter in Great Controversy: it does not belong there. That writing and that thought is mine, and does not belong in the book.” But in spite of this, many things that she had written were put into the chapter “Modern Revivals.” FBS 115.2

Sister White did not want her to write anything for publication for herself. She said she wanted every ounce of her strength, all there was of her in her work; but Sister Fannie told her she would have no strength for anything if she did not use some of it in her own way. She wrote a story for the health journal which won a prize. One day she entered Sister White’s room and found her reading it with evident enjoyment, but when Sister Fannie said, “I wrote that story, Sister White,” Sister White looked very angry and threw the magazine down. FBS 115.3

At the time of the Minneapolis General Conference, Sister Fannie was left in California, and during that time helped on the “Signs of the Times.” She felt free again and enjoyed her work and gave enough satisfaction that the request was made that she be freed from other duties and be allowed to continue her work with that paper, but Sister White so strongly objected to giving her up that she had to return to her work with Sister White. This is the report of her first year’s experience with Sister White.... FBS 115.4

When Sister—went to Australia she noticed such a change in Sister Fannie Bolton that she begged her to tell her what was the cause of her trouble. She finally agreed to tell her and her husband. Finally, he said, “I wish you had not told me these things. I would rather not know them,” although they had insisted upon her telling them. He seemed unfriendly to her from that time. They afterwards told Sister White what Sister Fannie had told them and she was severely reprimanded for it. Sister White called her an adversary and a Miriam. FBS 115.5