Ellen White in the Southwest
By Mary Ann Hadley
Published: March 28, 2011
The complete story of the Whites' sojourn in the American Southwest had never before been published before a series of articles appeared in the Keene Star newspaper (Dec 2003-Apr 2004). This abbreviated account appeared in the Southwestern Union Record March 2004. The series touches on the highlights, and presents little known facts about the Whites' stay in the American Southwest.
Arrival: November 1878
Indian Summer was nearing its end when the Katy passenger train (MK&T) pulled into union station in Dallas the evening of Nov. 6, 1878. Amidst the weary travelers deboarding onto the streets of the thriving little city of 10,000 were Emma McDearmon White, 27; Ellen G. White, 50; James S. White, 57; and S.N. Haskell, 45, all residents of Battle Creek, Michigan.
Haskell, a prominent Adventist pastor and author, had traveled to Texas to lead out in the organizational camp meeting to be held in Plano November 12-19.
Emma White came to visit her parents, the McDermons of Grand Prairie, who had contracted yellow fever. Emma's husband, Edson, 29, was elsewhere lending his energies to a new printing establishment, Pacific press.
The Texas Sermons
While the Whites were in Grand Prairie tending to the McDermon family, Haskell was at Job Huguley's farm, site of the camp meeting, making preparations and preaching the initial sermons.
By November 14, Ellen was on the campground and had written to her son Willie, "We have come on the ground only last night and I have not been in meeting yet. Shall speak this afternoon, as the people are on the tiptoe of expectation." She continues with a benchmark statement, "Might just as well let them feel at once that they have expected too much, that I am nothing but a weak, frail, imperfect woman at best, looking to and trusting in God alone to accomplish the work." Ellen spoke on the beatitudes, made an altar call, and 75 individuals responded. Unfortunately for us, and the Ellen's chagrin, the Texas sermons were not recorded in writing, as her talks usually were.
Ellen and James held meeting in two locations in Denison, several surrounding country schoolhouses, and the Dallas church. Perhaps their greatest accomplishment was inadvertent—their association with a young couple, Arthur G. and Mary Daniells, 20-year-olds who were attempting to find their places in the work. Arthur served as tent-master, while Mary served as cook in the White's household.
Resting in Texas
Because of his health problems, James White had looked forward to winter in Texas and their larger "western camp meeting tour" itinerary. He would enjoy the vigorous outdoor activities associated with chopping wood, gathering pecans, and enlarging his herd of livestock.
Ellen had looked forward to an opportunity of uninterrupted writing in Texas. During the late months of 1878, she concentrated on completion of Testimony #28 (Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4). James served as her copy editor. Then on January 1, 1879, Marian Davis arrived in Texas to begin what would become a quarter century of editorial work for Ellen. That winter, Ellen's writings included work on Testimony #29but seemed to focus on an enlargement of Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 1, which would eventually be published as the five-volume Conflict of the Ages series. James reported to Willie in January, "Your mother astonishes us all in the amount and quality of her writing."
But she didn't always enjoy her time in Texas. James wrote to Willie in February 1879, "Your mother is determined to not like" Texas. She had complained of "hacking about in a lumber wagon" and of chopping her teeth out of ice during a "fearfully cold" spell. She was frustrated by the lack of laborers, saying, "We feel there is much work to be done even here in Texas, but no one to do it. It is the most destitute field for help I know anywhere."
When it came time to go, the Whites could have taken the train out of Denison to Kansas for their next camp meeting stop but chose to go by wagon train in order to help relocate several poor families to a "better life" in Colorado. Instead of a two-day trip, they traveled for nearly two months. Their party of 31 had to be ferried across the Red River. After a night on the bank of the Blue River, they rolled northwesterly toward Johnson's Ranch where they could purchase limited provisions, do a washing, and rest over the Sabbath. From there, they sent a river to atoka, Okla., to telegraph their whereabouts and to instruct the recipients to send their mail to Old Stonewall (now called Frisco, some 20 miles east of Ada).
Arriving at Old Stonewall, a Chickasaw town and location of one of several boarding schools, Ellen addressed a congregation of 100 Native Americans who responded positively to the gospel message. Pressing onward, using military and Native American wagon roads, the travelers crossed the South Canadian River 25 to 50 miles west of what is now McAlester and traveled northeastward. In Okmulgee, James addressed the local citizens.
Finally they reached Kansas, where they again boarded the train for a quicker mode of travel to a camp meeting in Emporia. Ellen was exhausted and 12 pounds lighter, but happy to be back in her comfort zone. The remainder of the wagon train arrived several days later, then journeyed westward to Boulder, Colorado. The Whites, meanwhile, made several camp meeting stops through the summer of 1879. Some weeks later, all the wagon train traveling companions were reunited near the Whites' summer cabin in Colorado.
About the Author
Mary Ann Hadley was the director of the Ellen G. White Research Center from its inception in March 26, 2004 to her retirement in late 2009. Her departure left a vacancy difficult to fill. Her knowledge of Adventist history, especially in the Southwest, her fundraising connections and abilities, and her availability as a volunteer made for over six years of intensive foundational and outreach activities. Building on the work of Southwestern's librarians leading to the inauguration of the Center, Ms. Hadley oversaw the setup of the Center's space, the acquisition and initial arrangement of collections, and the development of a network of supporters. Most remarkably, the number and variety of outreach activities under her leadership made the Center well known in the Southwest and captured the enthusiasm of Southwestern students who participated in them.