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Ellen G. White: The Early Years: 1827-1862 (vol. 1)

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    The Husband and Father Away from Home

    James left Battle Creek on Tuesday, October 9. From Chicago he got off a short note home; his word “Arrived at Chicago well and safe,” coming on Thursday, was reassuring. Friday, Ellen got a letter off reporting that she was “doing well,” still staying in bed in the parlor, and thought she would for another week, for she was “yet a cripple.” She confided:1BIO 425.4

    You may be assured I miss your little visits in my room, but the thought you are doing the will of God helps me to bear the loss of your company.—Letter 10, 1860.1BIO 426.1

    She wrote some family news:1BIO 426.2

    Our nameless little one grows finely; weighed him last Wednesday. He then weighed ten pounds and one quarter. He is well. Willie is reading to Sister Benedict. He has lessons every day and I can see he progresses fast. My hand trembles so; fear you cannot read it. In much love, your Ellen.—Ibid.

    She also wrote, “I shall expect a letter as often as once a week, and will write you if able, as often,” and she urged, “Let not despondency weigh down your spirits and do not feel anxious about home.”1BIO 426.3

    The letter she received a day or two later from James was posted at Eddyville, Iowa, on October 11. In it he declared:1BIO 426.4

    I am well. The coat is good this cold morning. I think I shall improve wonderfully in spirits and health out here. O for a closer walk with God. He is my hope and confidence. Tell dear Henry, Eddy [Edson], and Willie that I love them and pray for them. Hope Eddy will learn to be careful and good.1BIO 426.5

    On Monday, October 22, she wrote to James. He had been gone nearly two weeks.1BIO 426.6

    Thought I would pen a few lines. My health is improving. The children are well and obedient. We shall keep help if we can get it for a few weeks. Help is scarce. The little nameless one is fat and rugged, and very quiet. Has not had a cold yet....1BIO 426.7

    She picked the letter up two days later and finished it: I must send this today. I am getting along as fast as can be expected. Have had no pullbacks yet. Come up very slowly. The baby is five weeks old tomorrow, a fat, hearty fellow. He takes so much nurse, I am very hungry most of the time, appetite good. The children are all well....1BIO 426.8

    We have just weighed the yet nameless one. He weighs twelve pounds and a half, good weight. The children are doing well; are quite steady; are not perfect. This we do not expect of children....1BIO 426.9

    It looks like a long, long time before you return home, but we know you will feel as anxious to get home as we are to have you. We pray for you ... on your journey.... Write me often. I am anxious to hear from you. Yours affectionately, Ellen.—Letter 11, 1860.1BIO 427.1

    In one letter she reported that Mary Loughborough called to see her nearly every day.1BIO 427.2

    In his letter from Dayton, Iowa, written on October 22, James wrote that he still had a long journey, five weeks yet, and added, “I begin to want to see you very much. But I am well and free and am doing well, and if you continue to do well, I shall enjoy this tour.” He closes his letter:1BIO 427.3

    Be careful of your health. Do not want for anything that money will buy. Remember me affectionately to Henry, Edson, Willie and ----- without a name. Tell them that Father prays for them and loves them very much.... Yours in love, James White.—JW to EGW, October 22, 1860.1BIO 427.4

    Thursday, November 1, he was on the Mississippi riverboat War Eagle, en route to points in Wisconsin where, unbeknown to him, there was trouble. Thinking of home, he wrote:1BIO 427.5

    My faith is strong in God, and feel satisfied that I am in the path of duty.... I am happy to have you give so good a report of home, of our dear boys. I love my family and nothing but a sense of duty can separate me from them. If I am in the path of duty, my family will do best to have me here.—JW to EGW, November 1, 1860.1BIO 427.6

    In a letter Ellen wrote to Lucinda Hall on Friday, November 2, she mentioned her continued weakness, of going upstairs on her knees, of having “a long cry now and then,” and added, “It does me good.” Jennie was helping with the baby, but could not do “everything around the house” and tend the baby too. As for the baby, she thought him to be “as large as a child 3 months old.” She urged Lucinda, “Send him a name.”—Letter 18, 1860.1BIO 427.7

    Sunday, November 4, James had just arrived at Mauston, Wisconsin, where the wife of one of the ministers, Elder Steward, claimed God was giving her visions.1BIO 428.1

    Just before he reached Mauston, the folk in Battle Creek had been alerted to the problems there by a letter from Mrs. Steward containing her “visions,” which she sent for publication in the Review. “As we read these communications,” wrote Ellen White, “we felt distressed. We knew that they were not from the right source.” She requested the church in Battle Creek to pray for James in this mission, and at home the family earnestly sought the Lord. Recounting the experience, she observed:1BIO 428.2

    We had passed through so many such scenes in our early experience, and had suffered so much from these unruly, untamable spirits, that we have dreaded to be brought in contact with them.—Spiritual Gifts, 2:294.1BIO 428.3

    On arriving at Mauston and staying in the Steward home, James wrote of the situation being “a mess” and expressed the fear that fanaticism was taking deep root. But he could not speak understandably till he could take in more of what was going on. He feared he would have to speak plainly before he left, and reported:1BIO 428.4

    I found here a spirit of triumph over those not holy. They talk as though they were all, or nearly all, holy here. I have been calmly putting on the check, and it has put one on the lounge crying. Others are as [quiet] as mice.—JW to EGW, November 4, 1860.1BIO 428.5

    In this letter he wrote of being “exceedingly glad to get Henry's and Edson's letters. Good boys! I shall soon be home with them. Kiss Willie and Nameless for me.” In his letter written two days later, he exclaimed:1BIO 428.6

    Oh, I do wish you and Bub were here. But in three long weeks I shall see you, Lord will. Take care of yourself and the children. Be careful of yourself. I hope to meet you, both enjoying health. Love to all.—JW to EGW, November 6, 1860.1BIO 428.7

    Little is known of the details of James's work in Mauston and Marquette. Writing from Janesville, Wisconsin, he stated:1BIO 428.8

    When I hear that you are well, I shall be happy. My Mauston report will probably take off the hair, Marquette take the hide. Steward is no more with us, I think. [The steward family were reclaimed, and the daughter, mary, became an efficient and highly prized proofreader and copy editor at the review and herald. Near the close of Ellen White's life she was employed for several years to aid in producing books.]1BIO 429.1

    There is now great anxiety to see and hear you. The time has come. My health is better than when I left Battle Creek. I count the days when I shall see you and our dear children, only twelve more.—JW to EGW, November 15, 1860.1BIO 429.2

    On Monday, November 19, James White wrote to Ellen:1BIO 429.3

    I was extremely glad to hear from you, and am greatly relieved. Hope to hear from you again before I leave Monroe, so as to get the latest news.—JW to EGW, November 19, 1860.

    He closed the letter with the words “I do not ask you to weary yourself with long letters. Your care for me is great. May God help you and the children.”1BIO 429.4

    The same day she wrote James, reporting:1BIO 429.5

    We are as well as usual. Babe is fat and healthy, weighed last Thursday fifteen pounds. He promises to be a very rugged boy.... Babe is quiet and good nights, but I will tell you one thing, he is so hearty it will cost you quite a bill to keep me and him. He eats and throws it up and is just as greedy to eat again. My appetite is good. Food sets well.—Letter 14, 1860.

    She closed her letter:1BIO 429.6

    Dear husband, the time of your absence is nearly ended. One week more brings you home. We shall all be rejoiced to see you home again. All is well as usual in Battle Creek, as far as I know.—Ibid.1BIO 429.7

    About this time James wrote from Mackford, Wisconsin:1BIO 429.8

    I fear that all is not well at home. I have had some impressions as to the babe.—Spiritual Gifts, 2:295.

    While praying for the family at home, he had a presentiment that the child was very sick. The babe seemed lying before him with face and head dreadfully swollen. When Ellen received the letter three days later, she remarked that if her husband was there he would not have much faith in his presentiment (WCW, in The Review and Herald, March 5, 1936). But the next day the child was taken very sick with an extreme case of erysipelas in the face and head. A telegram was dispatched to James at Round Grove, Illinois. When he read it he declared that he was prepared for the news and that they would hear that the child's head and face were greatly affected. He cut short his trip, and in a day or two was home.1BIO 429.9

    In mid-November, Ellen had taken the children by train to the country and stayed with the Glover family. “The boys,” she reported in a letter to James written November 19, “had a good, free time in the country. I let them run and race as much as they pleased.” It must have been in connection with this trip that the virulent germs of erysipelas, to which infants are very susceptible, were picked up. On Wednesday, November 21, she wrote a short note to James:1BIO 430.1

    Dear Husband,

    I put a letter in the [post] office yesterday for you and told you that we were all well but Monday night our child has taken sick in the night and all day yesterday was very sick—dangerous. Today not so much distressed, but he is not out of danger. He is a very sick child. I thought you ought to know this and then you could do as you pleased about returning. Sister Benedict was with me all day yesterday. Sat up with the child all night and is with me today.... In haste. Ellen.—Letter 15, 1860.1BIO 430.2

    The heartbreaking sequence was recounted by Ellen White when it was over:1BIO 430.3

    My dear babe was a great sufferer. Twenty-four days and nights we anxiously watched over him, using all the remedies we could for his recovery, and earnestly presenting his case to the Lord. At times I could not control my feelings as I witnessed his sufferings. Much of my time was spent in tears, and humble supplication to God.—Spiritual Gifts, 2:296.

    Although erysipelas is extremely contagious, and these were days before germs or viruses were known, neither Ellen nor any other member of the family was stricken. It must have been during this three-week period that the child was given a name—John Herbert White. Ellen White picks up the sad story:1BIO 430.4

    December 14 [Friday], I was called up. My babe was worse. I listened to his labored breathing, and felt his pulseless wrist. I knew that he must die. That was an hour of anguish for me. The icy hand of death was already upon him. We watched his feeble, gasping breath, until it ceased, and we felt thankful that his sufferings were ended.1BIO 431.1

    When my child was dying, I could not weep. I fainted at the funeral. My heart ached as though it would break, yet I could not shed a tear.1BIO 431.2

    We were disappointed in not having Brother Loughborough to conduct the funeral services, and my husband spoke upon the occasion to a crowded house. We followed our child to Oak Hill Cemetery, there to rest until the Life-giver shall come, and break the fetters of the tomb, and call him forth immortal.1BIO 431.3

    After we returned from the funeral, my home seemed lonely. I felt reconciled to the will of God, yet despondency and gloom settled upon me.—Ibid.1BIO 431.4

    The year 1860 had opened with James and Ellen White in the Loughborough home witnessing the death of their only child. The year closed with the vivid memories of the death of their own child, a babe of 3 months, casting a gloom that would not soon pass away. It had been a year with but little joy.1BIO 431.5

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