Why Battle Creek?

The story behind our location.

Arthur L. White, Secretary, Ellen G. White Estate, Inc.

The foreign - language - speaking workers' meeting could have been held in any one of several cen­trally located large cities in the United States, but instead, Battle Creek was chosen. Church leaders sensed the definite advantage of holding this convention at a point of denominational significance. The announced program was a full one, but time was found from day to day to acquaint the visit­ing ministers and their wives with some of the high points of our early history through occasional periods of briefing and then actual visits to the par­ticular places of interest.

Very graciously the Battle Creek church, at the opening meeting, supplied each vis­itor with a copy of a carefully planned eight-page leaflet presenting "Seventh-day Adventist Historical Landmarks in Battle Creek."

With its maps, its illustrations, and its helpful notes, the key points—all within the radius of a few city blocks—could easily be found and identified. At the introductory briefing all were urged to make the most of their visit to historic Battle Creek, to walk its quiet streets between the meetings, pick out the landmarks, and relive the pio­neer days. The visitors were reminded that the first house of worship constructed by Sabbathkeeping Adventists was erected here in 1855.

It was here, that same year, that our first publishing house was built, and start­ing with a hand press, grew until it was the largest and best-equipped printing estab­lishment in Michigan.

Church organization was brought into being here, since a denominational name was selected in 1860, and in 1861 and 1862 plans were laid for the organization of churches and conferences.

In 1863 the General Conference was organized here.

In this place in 1866 we opened our first sanitarium, an institution that was to rise to world renown and become the largest and best-equipped medical and surgical sanitarium in the world.

It was here we began our edu­cational work and built our first college in 1874 and for twenty-six years trained workers for the world field.

It was in Battle Creek the for­eign-language work of the church gained strength as the Review and Herald office began to turn out literature in Danish and German.

It was on the site of the present taber­nacle where our convention was held that the Dime Tabernacle was built under the farseeing leadership of Elder James White. It was a brick structure seating nearly 4,000 and was often utilized for the holding of General Conference sessions.

It was from this tabernacle that James White was buried in 1881 in the largest funeral to this time held in Battle Creek. And it was here, thirty-four years later, that as the church throughout the world mourned, four thousand people gathered for the funeral of Ellen G. White.

The Kellogg family lived here, and this was where John Harvey Kellogg, at the age of twelve, set the type for Mrs. White's early works on health. It was here that he, after obtaining the best medical education that could be had in North America, be­came the unchallenged leader in the medi­cal activities of the denomination, the edi­tor of health journals, and the author of numerous health books.

It was here in Battle Creek that cereal foods and other health foods were initi­ated by Seventh-day Adventists and devel­oped. These products have changed the dietetic habits of America and other lands.

It was here at the General Conference session of 1901 that in response to earnest appeals of Ellen G. White, the General Conference was reorganized, opening the way for the worldwide expansion of the work of the church.

It was in historic Battle Creek that the church passed through serious conflicts and gained many victories.

In quiet Oak Hill Cemetery across the town many of the noble men and women of the cause now sleep, awaiting the call of the Life-giver.

One day the group met after lunch in front of the Adventist-operated Battle Creek Health Center to walk with their guide down North Washington Street—the street central to so many early Advent­ist enterprises. To the left was seen the James White Memorial Home, our first home for aged workers, and nearby, the main building of the Battle Creek Sanitarium Food Company plant, now serving as the hospital for the Health Center. Far­ther down the street and on the right, the site of Battle Creek College was pointed out. Of special interest were the Battle Creek Sanitarium buildings on the left.

By special arrangement we walked through the main hall of the structure erected by Seventh-day Adventists in 1903 to replace the sanitarium plant lost by fire in 1902, and then entered the adjoining 13-story addition built in the late 1920's.

The whole plant serves today as the Federal Center, housing a number of impor­tant Government interests. At various points the group stopped for a brief review of the early history. But the story of the sanitarium, its founding, its successes, the defection of its leaders, the sale of the buildings to the United States Govern­ment, and the present Adventist-operated Battle Creek Health Center was reserved for a later hour.

A block farther down Washington Street we paused at McCamley Park, site of many an earlier gathering, and we were shown the locations of the Review and Herald Publishing plant beyond the park, and its depository across Washington Street, known as the West Building, which served as the General Conference office as well. Nearby points having been visited dur­ing the meetings, the group looked forward to the six-hour guided tour announced for Thursday afternoon following the close of the council. Well over one hundred people assembled in the parking lot at the Tabernacle to drive in twenty-five cars down Champion Street past Elder Loughborough's home where the tithing system was studied out in 1859 and then to the White home on Wood Street, built by James and Ellen White in 1857 on an acre and a half of land. By special arrangement, we had the privilege of entering the build­ing and going to the second-floor room where Ellen White in the spring and sum­mer of 1858 wrote her first account of the great controversy vision.

In groups of eight or ten the visitors ascended the stairs to the low-ceilinged sec­ond-floor room where the writing was done.

The homes of a number of early Advent­ist workers were pointed out in the west end of Battle Creek, with the last stop at the home of Uriah Smith, editor, author, inventor, committeeman, and teacher, just back of the Battle Creek College of earlier years.

The next stop was Oak Hill Cemetery across the town, where for an hour we paused at the graves of many of the pio­neers—James and Ellen White and other members of the White family; j. P. Kel­logg and his sons, John Harvey and Will K. Kellogg; Elder Cornell; David Hewitt, "the most honest man in town"; John Byington, the first president of the General Conference, with his daughter, Martha Amadon, who lived to the age of 102; and his son-in-law George Amadon, for many years the foreman of the Review and Herald.

The last half of the afternoon was spent in a guided tour of points within easy driv­ing distance of Battle Creek. These in­cluded:

Otsego, where the group stood by the grave of D. M. Canright, early Adventist minister who in later years apostatized and fought his former brethren, and then drove by the Hilliard home where Ellen White on June 6, 1863, received the health reform vision.

Allegan, where in 1894 James Edson White built the missionary boat, the Morn­ing Star, to pioneer the work among the colored people of the South.

Monterey, site of the early Michigan church where in October, 1862, the first delegated meeting of organized Seventh-day Adventist churches convened under the chairmanship of Elder Joseph Bates. Here we stood by the stones that outlined the foundation of the church. At Monterey also is the retirement home of Elder Bates and, nearby, the Poplar Hill Cemetery where Joseph and Prudence Bates are bur­ied. Here, at the grave of the apostle of the Sabbath truth, the tour ended with a prayer of consecration to the yet unfinished task of sounding the message of the third angel to every tongue, kindred, and nation.

Men are needed at this time who can understand the wants of the people, and minister to their necessities. The faithful minister of Christ watches at every outpost, to warn, to reprove, to counsel, to entreat, and to encourage his fellow-men, labor­ing with the Spirit of God, which worketh in him mightily, that he may present every man perfect in Christ. Such a man is acknowledged in heaven as a minister, treading in the footsteps of his great Exemplar.—Gospel Workers, p. 315.


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Arthur L. White, Secretary, Ellen G. White Estate, Inc.

December 1964

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