In the beautiful Pratt Valley, just below the St. Helena Sanitarium, and only a short distance from the town of St. Helena, California, there lies a property known as "Elmshaven." It was here that the chosen messenger of God, Mrs. Ellen G. White, made her home the last fifteen years of her life, during which time she brought out in book form many of the precious messages which had been entrusted to her. And it is here that the work in connection with the handling of her writings is carried forward today.
This property was selected after weeks of diligent search to find the "refuge," of which the Lord had assured her on the ship when she was returning from Australia. Here, this untiring laborer for God found quiet, restful surroundings favorable to the prosecution of her book work. With no inclination to enshrine any earthly spot, one is nevertheless solemnized at the thought of the angel messengers from heaven who frequently here appeared to Mrs. White, to give instruction and counsel to the church through the prophetic gift.
The modest estate, consisting of a few acres of farm and hill land at the time of Mrs. White's death, has since been diminished to about half its former size, and has been purchased and at the present time is the property of one of our evangelists.
As we enter the home, a two-story frame building, we note that it is in good repair. Though substantially built and roomy, yet it represents no elegance and no extravagance.
The two rooms of greatest interest are found on the second floor; so we climb the winding stairs, and turning to the left, enter Mrs. White's sleeping room,—a, fair-sized chamber, which is well lighted and has opportunities for good ventilation. Moving through the hall, we next enter the study, or writing room, as it was called, and find it to be a large, pleasant room, heated with a fireplace, and well lighted, particularly the southeast corner, where stood the comfortable armchair with footrest, and the convenient lapboard on which many pages of manuscript were written. We notice that this room is equipped with bookshelves, file drawers, and cupboards, where were kept —MTS. White's library, her manuscripts and writing materials. In the bedroom and the study may be seen the furniture nearly as it was when she was living here.
As we gaze down the hall, a picture comes to mind of the small figure hurrying to the study, carrying some important message to be communicated through her to the church, or possibly a bundle of manuscripts for a new book. Perhaps the eye catches sight of the threshold to the study where on Sabbath morning, February 13, 1915, she fell, and it was found later she had suffered a fractured hip. We will then be reminded that the cheery study became a chamber of helplessness, in which on July 16, after she had been confined to her bed for five months, the long life of service came to a peaceful end.
Returning to the stairway and descending to the ground floor, we pass into the sitting room, with an ample fireplace to the right, and to the left, sliding doors opening to the dining room. As we pause for a moment by the fireplace, we are reminded of the precious seasons of worship enjoyed here, and of Mrs. White's earnest supplications for grace, guidance, health, and strength for service.
As we step into the dining room, we think back to the time when Mrs. White presided at the head of the table, around which the family, and frequently leading workers, gathered to enjoy a well-prepared meal, and to spend a pleasant hour in talking of the day's activities or recounting interesting experiences in travel and labor.
Leaving the house and walking under the wide-spreading live oak, we step into the square two-story frame office building, and passing through a narrow hall with offices to the right and to the left, we enter the library at the back.
Here, before us, on the farther side of the room, we see two steel doors, opening into the fireproof vaults which protect the writings and historical treasures of particular interest to the visitor.
We step first into the old vault—a room 6 by 111/2 feet, and the smaller of the two. Here we observe that the wall space is lined with shelves and filing cases. To the right are bound volumes of our denominational periodicals, including the earliest: the Present Truth, published by Elder James White in 1849 and 1850; the Second Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, which succeeded it in 1850; and the Advent Review, a supplemental document of the same period. We see also the Youth's Instructor, Health Reformer, Signs of the Times, and many other periodicals.
On a shelf just inside the door of this vault, our eyes rest upon the memorable, old leather-bound family Bible, weighing over eighteen pounds, which Ellen Harmon, a frail girl of seventeen, when in vision, held on her extended left hand for fully twenty minutes.
To the left is the Ellen G. White manuscript and letter file. In the 72 drawers of a Shannon
File Cabinet is kept this collection of approximately 45,000 manuscript pages of her writings. Adjoining this file is the Card Index, in which are catalogued on 12,000 cards the principal subjects dealt with in the manuscripts and the approximately 2,000 Ellen G. White periodical articles.
We also note a small metal case containing. we are told, about 1,000 Ellen G. White letters in handwritten form. The earliest letter preserved was written in 1847, and this file carries us well into the eighties, when typewriters first came into use in Mrs. White's work. These letters are classified and indexed for reference in historical work. This file, covering a forty-year period, is incomplete, because as a genenall rule in those early days, the original copy was; sent to the person addressed. However, what. is preserved, is rich in historical data.
At the far end of the vault are to be found' shelves bearing two groups of important documents. Bound in half a hundred volumes with black or red covers, are about a thousand denominational pamphlets in classified order. Just below these, we see more than a score of early editions of books written by James and Ellen White.
We note with particular interest the first Ellen G. White book, a pamphlet of 64 pages, published in 1851 and bearing the title, "A Sketch of the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White." Along with this we find the "Supplement," which was published in 1854, and also the first writing of the story of "The Great Controversy," known better as "Spiritual Gifts," Volume I, published in 1858.* Among a number of other early publications are the first numbers of the "Testimonies," issued from 1855 and onward, the four volumes of "Spiritual Gifts," the six pamphlets entitled, "How to Live," and the "Spirit of Prophecy" in four volumes.
Leaving the old vault and stepping into the new vault annex, we face in the center a narrow shelf containing sample copies of many of the foreign editions of the E. G. White books: "The Great Controversy," published in twenty languages; "Steps to Christ," published in more than fifty foreign tongues; "Patriarchs and Prophets;" "Ministry of Healing;" "Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing;" "Selections From the 'Testimonies,' " and others in various languages.
The entire left wall of this vault is devoted to a bank of regular letter file cabinets, containing document storage and office correspondence files. An interesting phase of this last-mentioned file is the assemblage of letters received by James and Ellen White from our leading workers from 1860 and on. Needless to say, this collection is rich in historical matter.
The right wall is faced with shelves bearing other important papers and correspondence, and above this is an irregular row of black and red books. These are the Ellen G. White handwritten diaries, running back to 1859, which, while incomplete, constitute another rich source of historical data.
As we step back into the library, we are told about the history and work of the Ellen G. White Estate, of the creation of the Trusteeship to care for the writings, and of the several lines of endeavor which the trustees in charge of the estate are carrying forward through Elder W. C. White, secretary of the board, and his two assistants, D. E. Robinson and A. L. White.
(To be continued)
* Note.—This introductory article is written from the viewpoint of a group of visitors to the "Elms-haven" home and office.
We wish it were possible for all our workers to visit personally the "Elms-haven" office, and spend several hours in looking over the files of precious material housed there, gaining an understanding of the important work connected with the custody of the Ellen G. White writings, and having answered on the ground the many very natural and proper questions that come to the mind. But as this is manifestly impossible, these articles, covering the leading points involved, have been prepared at our request.
There will consequently appear, from month to month, a developing picture of the work at the "Elmshaven" office, giving a comprehensive explanation of how Sister White arranged for the future conduct of that work, and how it has been carried out.
We are confident that the presentation will prove of intense interest and profit. We believe the facts to be presented should be known and understood by every responsible worker in the cause, and consider it a privilege to make this contribution through the medium of the Ministry.
And it gives us sobering pleasure to present here the last article ever written for his fellow workers by our beloved Elder Daniells—the introduction to the series. It was gladly prepared only shortly before his death; for "Elmshaven," with all that the name implies, lay very close to his heart. It was inextricably bound up with his lifework, his last major effort being the preparation of his important manuscript, "The Abiding Gift of Prophecy." a masterful survey of the gift in operation.—Editor.