Shiloh of the Message, Early work in New York
|1948 to 1850|
James and Ellen White did not long remain in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, back there in 1849. There were indeed pilgrims and apostles. their personal services, with those of Joseph Bates, were called for in all the places - few compared to later developments, but great for their resources then - where interest in the message of the third angel had been aroused. Particularly were they concerned for New York. They had made the journey there in 1848, and they had found at first a chaos of belief and teaching, typical of the state of the whole Adventist world at that time.
After the Disappointment of 1844 Adventists were in confusion. Some cried this and some cried that. Fanatics tried to sway the mind and attach the support of the little companies. Extremists tried the patience and disgusted the charity of more solid men. Some of the leaders went back on their experience, and led off in various directions. In all the turmoil the voices of the little company headed by Bates and the Whites were scarcely heard.
Hiram Edson, in New York, was a rock of strength. Bates and the Whites found him strongly supporting the cause. And others, some of them rescued from false doctrines and unwise attitudes, joined the little growing band. That first journey into New York, in 1848, the company consisting of James and Ellen White, Joseph Bates, H.S.Gurney, E.L.H. Chemberlain, Richard Ralph, and Albert Belden brought over such men as David Arnold of Volney, the Harrises of Centerport, Ira Abbey and wife of Brookfield, and Hesse Thompson of Ballston Spa. These mostly remained lay members, but people of strength. Very soon there came in such ministering brethren as Samuel Rhodes, R.F. Cottrell and John Byington - men who made great impressions upon the early work.
In 1849 the little paper Present Truth reached out to the scattered believers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and New York, and it seemed to them a beason. Glad responses came in to James White, with money enough to support the publication and to furnish means for travel. But the calls for their personal help were many and strong, and they felt they must answer some of them. In consequence the editorial and publishing work, so shakily established, suffered. None of them had experience in publishing; the ideas of James White in regard to it were, as he afterward confessed, at first limited to the publication of two or three numbers,(1) And Joseph Bates emphatically agreed with this. (2)
James White published four numbers (issues) of Present Truth in Middletown, Connecticut from July to September, but then he dropped it for tow or three months while he went out into the field. Bates was devoting his time, strength and money to the cause, constantly in the field, going from place to place seeking ouyt the "lost sheep of the house of Israel," as he termed the Adventists, and he highly approved of James White's doing likewise. Bates was the original health reformer among Adventists, and his Spartan regimen, allied to his sturdy constitution, enabled him to perform with superhuman energy. James and Ellen White, on the other hand, were both oppressed with ailments, partly constitutional and partly die to their ignorant transgression of the laws of health. Their wills, set like flints fo the work of God, and God's blessing upon them, enabled them to keep going, though under many distresses. But they never equaled Bates' serene state of health.
Hiram Edson earnestly urged the presence of the Whites in New York, and in October of that year they went. Shortly they decided to move to the State, and fixed upon Oswego, on the shores of Lake Ontario, as their residence. A second child had been born to them in July 1849, and this baby James Edson, they left in the care of Clarissa Bonfoey as they traveled. Henry, two years old, remained with the Howlands at Topsham. Now taking leave of the Beldens at Rocky Hill, they moved with Miss Bonfoey and their baby to the new home.
There were a few believers in and around Oswego. One was the John Place family, which afterward gave two sons, a prominent minister, Albert E, and an outstanding physician, O, Galen, to the cause. Colney, where David Arnold lived, was not far south. In the same month that the Whites moved to Oswego, Hiram Edson and Richard Ralph recovered Samuel Rhodes from his despondency, and enlightened and instructed, Rhodes was soon ranging the country with the message; he base, Oswego.
When James White sought to pick up the broken cord of his Present Truth, and after three months published the fifth number and then the sixth in Oswego, he learned the bitter lesson that an early enthusiam, once cut off, is not easily restored. The response was nothing like that received to the first numbers. Also, Joseph Bates was out of sympathy. Bates' idea of publishing was to write a treatise, bring it out as a tract, a pamphlet, or a "book" and then use it an ammunition while you drove lustily into the ranks of the enemy. That is what he had done and was doing, and he thought James White should do the same. A paper issued periodically would tie the editor to one place, and largely prevent his preaching. Moreover, that was what the other Adventists (to Bates, the "Laodiceans") were doing, and therefore it was wrong. So he added his weight to James White's discouragement about the paper; and, says White, "I gave it up forever."
His "forever" lasted three days. The night of January 9, 1850, Ellen White was instructed upon the matter. "I saw the peper," she said, "and that it was needed, that souls were hungering for the truth that must be written . . . God did not want James to stop yet, but he must write, write, write, and speed the message, and let it go." (see Prophetic Guidance in Early Days, page 25)
So, rousing from his discouragement, James White began again. In Oswego, from March to May 1850, there were published four more numbers of Present Truth. They they moved from Oswego, and lived for five months with the Harris family at Centerport, while James White brought forth another paper called The Advent Review. Four numbers were printed in Auburn, New York, a few miles from Centerport, and a fifth in Paris, Maine. This paper consisted of reprints of articles by leaders of the Adventists, or Millerites, before and immediately following the Disappointment. Its aim was to prove that White and Bates were advocating the orthodox Adventist doctrines, which the other parties were leaving. After that, in October of November, they moved to Paris, Maine. There the eleventh and last Present Truth was brought out, and the Second Advent Review and Sabbath Herald was begun.
|Following the trail of the pioneers, we drove up from Rome, New York toward Oswego. On the way at West Monroe, we stopped to stand in reverence at the grave of Frederick Wheeler, who taught by Rachel Oaks Preston at Washington, New York, was the first Sabbathkeeping Adventist minister. He died at a hundred years old.|
At Roosevelt, a few miles north, we stopped to visit our old church, where many an important conference was held in the early times. Roosevelt was but a crossroads now, though the old hotel still stands with its faded sign on its brow. The church is a mile beyond that. Finally locating the elder, Brother Ruprecht, out in his field, we enlisted his aid. He willingly left his corn cutting and accompanied us several miles to get the key. And then we stood in the old church, still occupied by a live congregation. We handled the big pulpit Bible, engrossed with the names of the donors at the time of the church's dedication, and we heard the elder say that Sister White had had visions in the church. The church had one or two enlargements, consisting simply of extending it forward, in the same dimensions. A plain, unpretentious, but hallowed building.
Back down the road a few rods, on the opposite side, is the community cemetery. It was of interest to us because it is the last resting place of Hiram Edson and his wife, who died at Palermo, Oswego County, he is 1892, and she the next year. We stood there and recalled the many missions and sacrifices and testimonies of these devoted children of God, and prayed for a portion of their spirit to fall upon us.
Going on we passed through Volney, but having no information as to the location of what was David Arnold's farm, where the first meeting in New York was held, we did not pause, but sped on to Oswego. It is still a thriving town, a principal port on Lake Ontario, a county seat, and a population of 25,000. But to us it is almost forsaken. Only two or three of our faith still live in the city; the "Oswego church" has been removed to Decterville, fifteen miles southwest. We had a pleasant, though brief visit with Mrs. Berthel Barbeau and her daughter, and afterwoard with her husband at this place of business. A photographer, he volunteered to go out, some eight miles, to near Southwest Oswego, and obtain a photograph of the Place home, where, he said, "Sister White often stayed, and where she had visions." It was in this house, in 1854, that Mrs White received instruction about the Messenger party, which was making inroads upin the infant cause. She was told that the workers, instead of giving time to refutation of the false charges, should ignroe them, and that the schism would then shortly die. they did, and it die.
No landmark of their stay or of our work remains in Oswego. Like Shiloh of old, where the Lord once placed His tabernacle and deigned to dwell, where Eleazer ministered, and later Eli, and the boy Samuel grew and learned to know the Lord, but which afterward was abandoned, "for the wickedness of My people" Oswego is to us a melancholy memory. Here, or near by, dwelt good men and good women, and they worshiped here. there were also contentious men and reprobates. Near here lived Silas Guilford and his noble family, and Elias Goodwin, and Lumen Carpenter, and then Hiram Edson, and Samual Rhodes; and here for a brief time lived and wrought James and Ellen White. But here also lived men of other spirit, like "one Lillis" whose earliest exploit, reported regretfully in the Review and accusingly in opposition papers, was to lay hands upon Crozier, who indeed unwarrentable interfered in Lillis' house with a meeting of Sabbathkeepers to whom he was opposed. And this Lillis, afterward, was with his rash and hasty spirit to join the Messenger party, that earliest and most vituperative faction, and finally he became a Spiritualist. The church in Oswego was often a trouble spot as various workers report, who went there to compose difficulties and try to build up the spirituality. Finally, like the church in Paris, Maine, and other places where the spirit of love failed, it faded out. But here once dwelt the Shekinah, and here prophets spake.
We visited the Dexterville church, a thriving congregation, though its members come from carious quarters, some even twenty miles away. Some ten years ago (1937) the church abandoned its quarters in Oswego, a hall in an unpleasant environment, and bought this neat building in the country community of Dexterville, making it their center. This church is a live missionary group, under the leadership of elder Leslie Woodruff, and the widespreading Caster clan, with many other faithful members. And I recall that though Shiloh, because of Hophni and Phineas, lost the sanctuary, yet in later days there dwelt there or in its vicinity, a prophet of God, Ahijah, who gave the counsel of Jehovah.
Footnotes: (1) Present Truth December 1849, page 47
. (2) Review and Herald, April 26, 1860
Footprints of the Pioneers by Arthur Spalding, 1947 Chapter 12, page 109 - 116