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The Trial-run Wagon Train

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By Mary Ann Hadley
Published: March 28, 2011

Describing the series of temperance meetings Ellen White held in Dallas at the request of that city's top dignitaries, James White had written to son Willie, "Your mother is having a perfect opening here. The tent is crowded. Today, March 11, (1879) I had a good swim in a lake two miles from Dallas. Mercury 98."

A more detailed account of the Dallas meetings, reported by R. M. Kilgore in the April 3, 1879, Review and Herald, read, "The first week in March the tent was pitched, and the lectures commenced Sunday, the 9th, with a good audience at 3 p.m., and in the evening the tent was filled with interested hearers. They remained over the following Sunday, speaking, when the weather would permit, during the week. A heavy rain storm and a severe 'norther' greatly disturbed the meetings, and paralyzed the interest. But the truth was presented in its usual force, and good must result from the effort. Many seemed highly pleased with what they heard, and expressed regret that Bro. And Sr. White could not stay longer. . . . Wednesday, the 19th, we left Dallas . . . .

Here we pick up the story.

Ellen's tent meetings in Dallas were held eight days, March 9 through March 16. Unfortunately, the Whites had promised to hold a short series of tent meetings in Denison in March also, so they were somewhat pressed to end the Dallas meetings and begin a brief series of tent meetings in Forest Park, near downtown Denison. The park was just six blocks from the Bahler home where the Whites were residing. But the trip from Dallas to Denison was anything but usual.

R.M. Kilgore explains, "Wednesday, the 19th, we left Dallas with five loaded teams for Denison, a distance of seventy-five miles, Bro. and Sr. White leading the van. After camping two nights on the way, we arrived Friday p.m."

Ellen gives a little more detail in one of her letters. She says, "We left Dallas last Wednesday morning with two heavy wagons, loaded, two two-seated wagons called 'hacks,' and our phaeton, Brother McDearmon and family and goods. We were moving on to Denison. We had our large family tent and pitched it and for two nights occupied it."

The Whites had decided that the McDearmon family would fare much better in Colorado than in Texas, and had proposed to transport them by wagon train. Apparently the plan had been some months in the making. James had written to Edson from Grand Prairie in early March that the McDearmon family's health had improved, that their place had sold, and they had $500. Because the Whites were concerned that the McDearmon family would not travel well, they had decided to make a trial run for the first leg of the journey, from the McDearmon home in Grand Prairie to Denison. Thus they had begun.

Ellen provides more detail. She says, "Fifteen composed our caravan: Elder Kilgore and his brother Scott, Brother and Sister McDearmon — their two children, Hattie and Joseph — their niece Nettie Cole, and grandson Homer Salisbury, Brother Moore and his son Willie, Brother and Sister Daniells, Sister (Marian) Davis, Brother and Sister White."

Who were these people? Elder Kilgore, was, of course, Robert M. Kilgore, conference president. His residence was in Peoria, Hill County, where he lived with his wife, Asenath, and their three children. His brother, Scott Kilgore, worked during this time period in tandem with A.G. Daniells. The two young men conducted tent meetings, focusing on the area north and east of Dallas. Scott lived near Plano with his wife and two daughters. McDearmon's niece, Nettie Cole, was the daughter of Brother Cole, the Dallas resident who hosted the Whites for their first night in Texas. Nettie Cole, then, was Emma McDearmon White's first cousin. Brother Cole had play role in Texas' first camp meeting also.

Brother Moore and son Willie were poverty stricken residents of Denison whose family had been guests of the Whites for Christmas breakfast the prior December.

It is interesting that Arthur and Mary Daniells and Marian Davis had traveled to Dallas and were also making this return trip to Denison.

Having left the Dallas area on Wednesday, and camping two nights, the caravan had traveled better than 25 miles per day. According to Ellen, they "arrived at home in Denison before the Sabbath and were well arranged before sundown."

To everyone's delight, the McDearmon family "endured the journey much better" than they had feared, so they were much encouraged as they pressed their plans to exit Texas in April, after the Denison meetings were concluded and as soon as they could prepare for a much longer wagon train trip.

Read on for more on the subject of the "Forest Park Reporter."

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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.