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W.K. Kellogg:
Life and Business Ethic

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By Mary Ann Hadley
Published: March 28, 2011

The previous article in this series introduced 19-year-old Will K. Kellogg leaving his family broom shop in west Battle Creek to supervise James White's venture in broom-making with partner A.H. King. With Battle Creek sweetheart, Ella "Puss D." Davis constantly in his thoughts, Kellogg had attempted valiantly, and unsuccessfully to save the broom factory.

Even as a teenager, Kellogg possessed certain character traits that would eventually make him successful in business, as is evidenced in his August and September, 1979 letters to James White. Please note this young man's business ethic.

On August 11 Kellogg writes to White in Rollinsville, Colo., "The money came in just the right time. I had began to think you had not received my telegram. You spoke about my not sending for money sooner. I don't think you could have received all my letters. You have changed your address so often that I have hardly know where to write you. I sent one letter home to John to send to you because I did not know where you were. I have paid off about 40 (employees) today and have money enough left to pay the balance due them. Elder, I am willing to stay in Texas as long as I can be of benefit to the business here and to you... I will send you a sample (of the corn) by mail tomorrow. I will also find out the rates of freight and let you know. I think there can be a special rate got on the corn. Will have the agent telegraph to headquarters tomorrow and see if he can't get a low rate of freight. Yours truly."

The following day, Kellogg writes White, "The freight agent here says the freight from here to Denver by the hundred pounds is as follows. Broom corn $2.30. Brooms in boxes $2.40 in doz. bunches $3.20. The agent says that to charter a car it will cost three hundred dollars from here to Denver and that you are only allowed 20,000 lbs. in a car... I think I can stand Texas several months yet. Please keep me posted as to your address. Yours truly."

One and a half weeks later, young Kellogg is again put out with King. He writes, "I have had the worst time since I have been here that I ever had in my life. If I had known how things were going to turn out and what was expected of me, I should never have consented to stay on any account... The corn will be ready to ship in a few days. What shall be done with it? I will get the price it will fetch in Chicago in a few days."

He continues, "There has been eighty acres out and there are twenty that will be ready to cut in a few weeks of the first crop. Then there is eighty acres of the second crop to cut in about two months. If there's plenty of rain and everything is favorable there will be a good second crop. It is doing well now... If there is a good second crop I am quite sure you will come out all O.K. I am doing my best to make all the expenses as light as possible... I have had to pay some of his (King's) debts he made in getting the corn crop made. I should not have done this only if I didn't the parties said they would take the crop and have it all sold so that they could get their pay for work done for King. So I have had to pay out some more money than I should have had to in order to save what had been invested."

Kellogg concludes this letter, "I wish I could see you and have a chance to tell you how things are. I can't write what I can tell but I hope to be able to do much better if I can only get a chance to go to school. Please send me your address." [NOTE: His Texas experience convinced Kellogg that he should go to school. Sometime after he returned to Battle Creek he concentrated what is normally a one-year business course into three months of intensive study.]

Mrs. Ella (Puss D.) Kellogg lived most of her adult years in poor health, raising Will Kellogg's two sons and one daughter while her husband spent long hours each day tending to the various business duties that would eventually make him the Cornflake King.

The story is told that when "Puss D."'s sister, Marian Davis, was in her 25th year of working as Ellen White's copyist, both Ellen and Marian were living in Northern California. Both had lived in Australia during the previous decade, where Marian had assisted in the completion of Desire of Ages, and then Testimonies for the Church, Volume 7. Ellen, having lived more than three-quarters of a century, was still quite active.

During the spring of 1904, Ellen filled a moderate appointment schedule, traveling and speaking in the eastern portion of the United States. She had left with Marian in California the task of completing for publication the manuscript entitled, Ministry of Healing. That spring, however, Marian contracted tuberculosis and was unable to finish the project. She died that fall, Oct. 25, 1904.

One year later, in 1905, Ellen White visited her faithful copyist's solitary grave in California. She noted that there was no curb around the grave, and no tombstone. Determined that the grave would not remain forever unmarked, she wrote to Marian's sister, Mrs. W.K. Kellogg. Ellen proposed that she would be responsible in supervising the placement of a modest tombstone and a curb, if Mrs. Kellogg would indicate the amount she should spend. And it was done.

Mrs. Kellogg died seven years later, in 1912. Her husband, Will, lived into his early 90s. He died Oct. 6, 1951.

Read the next article in the series.

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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.