Ellen G. White Writings

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Ellen White: Woman of Vision, Page 416

Chapter 29—The Review And Herald Fire

It was Tuesday, December 30, 1902, a quiet winter evening in Battle Creek. No snow was on the ground. Most of the 300 employees of the Review and Herald publishing house had left their machines and editorial offices for the day. A few workers had come in for the night shift. A. G. Daniells, the newly elected leader of the General Conference, was still in his office on the second floor of the West Building, just across North Washington Street. A little after 6:00 I. H. Evans, president and general manager of the Review and Herald Publishing Company, and E. R. Palmer had met with him to look over some new tracts in preparation. At 7:20 Palmer left, and Daniells and Evans were chatting.

It had been a good year for the Review and Herald—one of the most prosperous. There were bright prospects for a busy 1903 also (Review and Herald Supplement, April 28, 1903).

The tabernacle bell rang, summoning the faithful to prayer meeting. Then the electric lights went out. Daniells stepped over to the window and saw flames coming from the publishing house.

A few minutes before, all had been normal in the big building. The night watchman had just made his rounds through the engine room. Then the few employees at work detected the smell of smoke. Immediately the lights throughout the plant went out, leaving everything in total darkness. The dense oily smoke that filled the building with incredible speed forced everyone to leave hastily; even now some found the stairways cut off and took to the fire escapes. All the workers got out, but one just barely made it, crawling through smoke-filled rooms to safety. The fire alarm had been turned on at the first detection of the emergency.

When Elders Daniells and Evans reached the street, the whole pressroom was in flames. A minute or two later fire engines from the city fire department arrived and soon were pouring water onto the blaze. The whole building seemed engulfed. At no place could any firefighter enter it. Attempts to check the fire were futile. All could see that the flames were beyond control. Brother Robert of the art department saved a few pieces of furniture and some precious art materials, but nothing could be saved from the editorial offices or library.

It was now a little past 7:30; the firefighters directed their efforts toward saving the two-story West Building across the street, and the stores on the east

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