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The Whites Arrive in Texas

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By Mary Ann Hadley
Published: March 28, 2011

Indian Summer was nearing its end when the Katy (M.K.&T. Railroad, for Missouri, Kansas, and Texas) passenger train 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, Mich.

Haskell was a prominent Adventist pastor and author who had moved to Michigan from his lifelong residence in Massachusetts. He had left by the home fires his semi-invalid wife, Mary, 20 years his senior. Emma White was planning to continue "on the cars" to Oakland, Calif., where her husband, James Edson White, 29, was lending his energies to a new printing establishment, Pacific Press. James and Ellen White's younger, newlywed son Willie, 21, and his bride, Mary, 20, remained in Battle Creek.

Ellen and daughter-in-law, Emma, had left Battle Creek on Oct. 23. First stop on their Texas-ward journey had been Topeka, Kansas, where Ellen spoke to a crowd of 150 residents of that state. Those hearty souls had traveled long distances only to camp in tents that were pelted with an inch of snow driven by piercing north winds.

Second stop for the ladies was another camp meeting, this one at Sherman, Kansas. This convocation had been arranged for the spiritual encouragement of scattered brethren from Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska and Tennessee. Ellen later writes, "At this meeting my husband joined me, (Business in Battle Creek had prevented General Conference President James White from attending the Topeka camp meeting.) and from here, with Elder Haskell and our daughter, we went to Dallas, Texas."

The last leg of the trip had lasted the better part of two days, the steam locomotive rocking the traveling party down through Indian Territory, and including an overnight stop in "Muscogee." Travel by locomotive in that day was commonly referred to as travel "on the cars," while travel by train was understood to refer to wagon train. The M.K.&T. line had crossed the Red River into Texas only six years earlier, in 1872, creating a new boomtown that would become known as Denison.

Now that the Whites had arrived in Dallas, they were met and greeted by Elder Robert M. Kilgore who drove them in his carriage to the home of Brother Cole. History has nearly lost sight of this host, Brother Cole. Were the "dusty and weary" travelers escorted to the Cole home due to its convenience? Or its commodious capacity for entertaining special guests? Was Brother Cole a leader in the Dallas church, or a local minister? Was there a Mrs. Cole? Perhaps there are clues. We shall watch for them as we continue our story. Meanwhile, who was Robert M. Kilgore, and why did he not take these honored guests to his home?

A year and a half earlier, in the spring of 1877, Iowa resident and Civil War veteran soldier turned Adventist preacher Robert M. Kilgore, had been commissioned by James White, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, to "take Texas as a field of labor."

Kilgore had put his Iowa property up for sale and moved his wife and three children to Texas. Financing his own labors, he had arrived at the one-year-old Dallas Seventh-day Church (the only Adventist church in Texas at that time) and had "settled" an all-church fight. Two factions had the church evenly split, and it was only after he had taken sides with the stronger faction that the Dallas brethren would make a permanently scarred and tenuous peace that would be a source of grief for decades. While this was to be only one of several blunders of this beloved preacher's career, he did manage to conduct a communion service forthwith. (For details of the problem, read the entire story in a testimony written to Elder Kilgore and another to the stronger faction as published in Testimonies to the Church, Volume 4, pages 315-340.)

That task accomplished, Kilgore had turned his attention to purchasing a large cotton tent and then holding tent meetings. As a result of this first year and a half of evangelism, he had raised up churches in Cleburne, Peoria, and Terrell, had organized numerous companies of believers, and had just completed a lengthy evangelistic campaign in Plano when the Whites arrived.

As the leading Adventist official in Texas, it would be expected, and proper, for Kilgore to have taken the Whites to his home on that Wednesday evening in November. Further, Kilgore's wife, Asenath, was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Cyrenius Smith, a Battle Creek family of famous singers who had sold their farm many years earlier, donating the proceeds from that sale to solidly establish the publishing work in Battle Creek. The Whites and the Smiths were well acquainted. But Kilgore had made Peoria (population 500 in 1878) his home and headquarters. Peoria still exists today as a dwindled community six miles west of Hillsboro in Hill County, more than 60 miles southwest of Dallas. Certainly the Cole home was in a more convenient location for the overnight guests from Michigan.

Thus ends James and Ellen White's first day in Texas.

Why had this well-known, larger-than-life couple traveled to Texas? What might they accomplish in this untamed state? How did daughter-in-law Emma fit into this picture? And S.N. Haskell? Read on to find out the answers.

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About this Article Series

The complete story of the Whites' Texas sojourn had never before been published before this series of articles appeared in the Keene Star newspaper (Dec 2003-Apr 2004). The series touches on the highlights, and presents little known facts about the Whites' stay in Texas.