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Sickness in the Camp

library pictures
By Mary Ann Hadley
Published: March 28, 2011

In 1876, during one of James and Ellen's domestic disagreements, James wrote to Willie that Ellen could go to California to be with her relatives, but he was going to Texas. Now, in the spring of 1879, he and Ellen, having spent nearly six months in Texas, were making final preparations to leave the state.

Some weeks prior to the their wagon train exodus, James had written to Willie, "Texas is on the whole a good state in which to winter. My health has been good here. Your mother seemed determine not to like (Texas); but in spite of this feeling, she is coming out better than last spring or several springs before."

James continues, "Change of plans relative to the route, or rather, the manner of travel to Colorado leads me to change some other plans... When I was going through as master of the caravan I decided to take ten mules and twelve horses. Now I shall be satisfied with eight mules and four horses — no oxen — no cows... I have sold all the stock but four cows... I shall sell these cows as fast as I can get a good price.

"I wish now to call your attention to a subject of graver importance. Probably, dear children, I may have erred in some of the sharp things I have written relative to the mistakes of younger heads. It is my nature to retaliate when pressed above measure. I wish I as a better man."

On April 20, James reports to Willie, "We leave for Colorado via Kansas campmeeting, Tuesday, the 22nd. There will be about ten wagons in all, besides half a dozen saddle horses. We want you and Mary to meet us at Emporia, and go to Colorado with us."

The following week, James writes to Willie on Sabbath, April 26, from "Camp Halfway between Denison and the Red River." He reports, "We have started on our journey to Colorado. Rains have detained us in getting off, and now the River is so high that we have to wait here till Monday the 27th. Elder Corliss, Brother Bears and daughter, Dr. Hardin, M.A. Davis and your parents came out here last evening, and just before Sabbath were pitched in two tents. We have four heavy mules on two wagons, and a fine span of smaller ones on our two-seat spring carriage."

Describing their circumstances he writes, "It is a delightful morning, and as we read Review, Good Health, Instructor, and write, the mules delight themselves with the tender grass. In a walk with Corliss this morning we ran on ripe wild strawberries. Quails all around us cried, 'Good-to-eat' or 'Bob White' or 'More Wet,' just as you please. Sunday morning we may prove these fellows as to the truth on the point whether they really be 'Good-to-eat.'"

In the White's Sabbath morning perusal of the most recent issues of three Adventist magazines, they had read a report of the recent General Conference session in Battle Creek and of the dedication of the dime Tabernacle. James responded to Willie, "The Review is splendid."

According to Ellen's diary from the same time, "We remained until (Wednesday) April 30 in a waiting position, for the sick to be able to travel and the ferry so that we could cross."

Others had joined their caravan, and at least two who would make the wagon train journey were quite sick. James Cornell insisted on making the trip, stating that he could be buried somewhere along the trail just as easily as in north Texas.

Another ill man, W. H. Moore, of Denison, received unusual medical attention from Ellen. Many years later while in Australia on Nov. 6, 1899, Ellen wrote a letter to a Peter Wessels. The letter, which is published in part in Selected Messages, Volume 2, page 299, recalls the following: "A brother was taken sick, with inflammation of the bowels and bloody dysentery. The man was not a careful health reformer, but indulged his appetite. We were just preparing to leave Texas, where we had been laboring for several months, and we had carriages prepared to take away his brother and his family, and several others who were suffering from malarial fever. My husband and I thought we would stand this expense rather than have the heads of several families die and leave their wives and children unprovided for. Two or three were taken in a large spring wagon on spring mattresses.

"But this man who was suffering from inflammation of the bowels, sent for me to come to him. My husband and I decided that it would not do to move him. Fears were entertained that mortification had set in. Then the thought came to me like a communication from the Lord, to take pulverized charcoal, put water upon it, and give this water to the sick man to drink, putting bandages of the charcoal over the bowels and stomach.

"We were about one mile from the city of Denison, but the sick man's son went to a blacksmith's shop, secured the charcoal, and pulverized it, and then used it according to the directions given. The result was that in half an hour there was a change for the better. We had to go on our journey and leave the family behind, but what was our surprise the following day to see their wagon overtake us. The sick man was lying in a bed in the wagon. The blessing of God had worked with the simple means used."

Read on to follow James and Ellen White as they cross the Red River into Indian Territory, Chickasaw Nation.

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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.