Elder Hottel goes to General Conference

R. DeWitt Hottel's diary gives a participant's perspective on the 1888 General Conference session.

Ron Graybill, Ph.D., is professor of history at La Sierra University, La Sierra, California.

Among the historical treasures housed in the General Conference archives is the diary of Elder R. De Witt Hottel, an Adventist minister who served in Virginia during the late 1880s. Hottel attended the 1888 General Con ference session and kept a sketchy diary of his experience.

Although Hottel's diary is its main ingredient, this article also includes in sights and information gleaned from several other sources. The blending of these sources offers a day-by-day account of the Minneapolis General Conference session as it might have been experienced by a typical delegate.

The sources used to fill out Hottel's account include the notes W.C. White took on the sermons delivered at the session, reports found in the Review and Herald, recollections penned by Ellen G. White, and newspaper stories from the Minneapolis Journal. In other words, although Hottel did not actually write everything that is here, he could well have done so because he, or others like him, would have shared in all these experiences. Footnotes identify the material that comes from sources other than the Hottel diary.

Tuesday, October 9, Quicksburg, Virginia

Mollie and I had a good dinner. Left about 5:00 for the depot. Got my bag checked for Battle Creek, Michigan. Mollie cried as I left. I hated to leave her alone, but I think it duty to go. I trust the Lord will keep us both.

Thursday, October 11, Battle Creek, Michigan

I arrived here at 3:00 p.m., walked up to the Review and Herald office. Saw Brother Henry and got a half-fare permit.

Friday, October 12, Chicago, Illinois

Left for Chicago at 1:20 in the morning, slept' some, arrived at 8:30 a.m. Since my train did not leave again till evening, I started out to see a few things. Walked down State Street, Wabash Avenue, Michigan Avenue. Went to see Jerusalem on the Day of the Resurrection. It was good. Left at 5:30 p.m. and rode all night. It rained some. I have a bad cold, don't feel good.

Sabbath, October 13, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Arrived at Minneapolis at 8:30 this morning. Took the streetcar to the new church at Fourth Avenue and Thirtieth Street. I see the newspaper today calls us a "strange people." 1 The church is an ample building sitting on the corner, with vacant lots all around. However, the city is moving in this direction. The meeting hall is upstairs, while downstairs they have provided room for Sabbath school and the conference Tract and Missionary Society. The Tract Society has built a depository next to the church.

The General Conference Institute has been under way since Wednesday. To day Brother Smith spoke for Sabbath school on the signs of the times. In the afternoon Sister White spoke with great freedom and power. She took as her text "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us." As there has been no little controversy going on over the 10 horns, her message was very welcome. Hearts were melted and 62 earnest testimonies were borne in quick succession. At our sundown social meeting we have prayer for Brother Butler, who is too ill to attend. At night Brother Jones spoke on the image of the beast. 2

Met quite a number of brethren I knew. Am tired and sleepy.

Sunday, October 14

I had my trunk taken up to my room in the boarding house and put on some clean clothes. Good meetings all day. At 10:30 a.m. Elder Jones spoke on the plucking up of three horns.

It rained a little. I took a walk around the neighborhood.

Monday, October 15

Up at 5:30 a.m., down to breakfast at 6:00. Sister White spoke this morning, bearing out many points I was glad to get. But things began to heat up when Brother Smith spoke at 10:00 on the horns. He said he thought the subject was utterly unnecessary and tended to evil. He said the old view has "stood the test for 40 years" and the new view should be tested as long. This was not reform, he said, but "tearing up" of old truth. He said he, for one, was not going to "sit calmly by and see the foundation stones of our message taken out with ruthless hands."

He said he was laboring at a disadvantage because he did not know the issue was coming up. Then he added, sarcastically, that some seem to have known and "brought in libraries" of source materials.

The issue seems to be that the enumeration of the 10 horns we have usually given should be changed, and the Alemanni should replace the Huns.

Smith must have been all the more upset when young Brother Waggoner spoke in the afternoon on the law in Galatians. He even threw in a few remarks about the divinity of Christ. 3

Sister White was in the meetings. The whole thing will be discussed. Got wet today going to my room for dinner and again on my way back to the meetings.

Tuesday, October 16

Day was full of business. Social meeting at the usual hour. At 9:00 a.m., church and state by A. T. Jones. At 10:30 a.m., E. J. Waggoner on the law and the gospel. At 2:30 p.m. A. T. Jones took up the 10 horns again and replied to Smith in no uncertain terms. He told why he had come with "libraries," and discussed several letters that had passed between him and Smith and Waggoner. 4 We also had a special meeting and voted to circulate a special issue of the American Sentinel just before Election Day next month, when Harrison and Cleveland square off.5

Wednesday, October 17

A special meeting at 7:15 a.m. in regard to the Sentinel. Then Sister White spoke awhile and talked plain to us. The General Conference session opened this morning at 9:00 a.m. Elder Haskell was chosen temporary chairman. With 84 delegates and many visitors, we are told this is probably the largest General Conference session ever held. They have pitched 15 tents next to our boarding house, making this session look much like a camp meeting. I am the only delegate from Virginia. We admitted the Arkansas Conference to the General Conference, also the Australian Conference. Then the session adjourned to the call of the chair. 6

Uriah Smith spoke again on the 10 horns. He started at 10:20 a.m. and didn't finish till nearly 1:00. It was decided to investigate the matter during the coming year. Brother Waggoner spoke on the law again at 2:30 and at 4:00 p.m.

Thursday, October 18

Rain today. Sister White spoke again at the early morning meeting. At 9:00 a.m. E. J. Waggoner on Galatians, law, etc. At our conference meeting we had a good report on the work in the southern field Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and Tennessee. 7

Friday, October 19

While we were falling' asleep last night, we were surprised to hear laughter and loud talk in the next room. The speakers were making light of Brothers Jones and Waggoner, imitating their speaking style in a ridiculous way. Willie White came in for his share of ridicule too. It seems they believe Sister White and her son conspired with Brothers Jones and Waggoner to make a stand here for the views the two young men are presenting.8

Today was cold. It snowed. I went to the canvassing class at 5:30 in the morning, then Sister White spoke with us about having faith. More trouble in the afternoon. Brother Waggoner spoke on the law in the morning, but later in the day Brother Smith spoke against him, claiming Romans has no reference to Galatians. Said there is danger in Waggoner's position. 9

Brother Kilgore said he opposed bringing up the question. He said that there never had been an opportunity like Dr. Waggoner has been given. Said that if it had been Waggoner who was sick instead of Elder Butler, he still would have opposed it. 10

Sabbath, October 20

I was sick all day, but attended most of the meetings. Sister White spoke at 9:00 in the morning and again at 2:30.

Sunday, October 21

Was sick all night and this morning. Didn't get up till nearly 9:00. I came down to the church but could hardly make it. I went back to bed and was in bed all day. Have taken a bad cold and sore throat.

Monday, October 22

Sick all night. Did not rest at all well. I was going to go downtown to take a bath treatment, but Brother Burdick came and gave me an hour's treatment this morning. Brother Purdham helped. I came near fainting. Went to bed and felt some better, but toward evening felt worse. My head hurt me very bad. I put a warm brick at my feet, which helped. I had a letter from Mollie today. I was glad to hear from her, but I guess she don't know I'm sick.

Tuesday, October 23

I rested some better last night. I feel much better this morning, but my throat is sore yet. I had some lemons, which helped. I got up at 8:00. I praise the Lord for his goodness toward me. Came back to my room early, and drank some hot lemonade and went to bed early.

Wednesday, October 24

My throat is not quite so sore. I feel weak yet, but attended all the meetings. Brother Morrison took up the subject of the law in Galatians. Very eloquent. Said he was glad to defend the truth, but sorry for the necessity of investigating the subject. 11

In the afternoon Brother Purdham and I, along with quite a number of others, went downtown to visit St. Anthony's Falls on the Mississippi River. Came back for the evening meeting; Brother Eldridge spoke on the canvassing work.

Thursday, October 25

I was down for the social meeting this morning at 5:30. Sister White was there and spoke. At 10:00 a.m. Brother Morrison spoke on the law in Galatians.

I walked out east awhile this evening. Came back and studied my lesson awhile. At night Brother Prescott spoke on education, which was splendid. Dr. Kellogg came today.

Friday, October 26

Much like yesterday. Social meeting at 5:30 a.m. Sister White was with us. Morrison on Galatians at 9:00 a.m. I walked west a little in the afternoon. Welcomed the Sabbath with prayer in the church. Quite a number of new people have come in for the Sabbath.

Sabbath, October 27

Social meeting at 5:30 a.m. Sister White was not present. Brother Morrison on the law in Galatians. The Tract Society met at 2:30 p.m., other societies afterward—education and publishing, I think. I was at my room. Brought some peanuts and ate them this evening. We had two canvassers' meetings today; some points of interest were brought out. Saw Dr. Kellogg this evening about my catarrh. He gave me a receipt.

Monday, October 29

At the 5:30 a.m. social meeting Sister White read from a testimony given in 1878. Law in Galatians at 9:00 by Brother M.

Brother P, his brother, and I went to St. Anthony's Falls on the train. Charles P. bought a basket of grapes, and we ate as many as we wanted. Had to miss our dinner. Arrived at the falls at 12:45 p.m. and were there one hour. The falls are nice. We passed behind the water.

When we came back, I went to a Sabbath school meeting. After that, Dr. Kellogg talked awhile. I bought some crackers and apples. No conference meeting today.

Tuesday, October 30

Warm. Social meeting at 5:30 a.m. Sister White with us and read a letter. She said she never expected to attend another General Conference. Brother Morrison at 9:00 on law.

10:30 a.m. Conference. Distribution of labor. I reported partially today. Brother Humman given to Georgia, and Brother Purdham to Louisiana. Canvassing this morning at 8:00.

Wednesday, October 31

Warm. Social meeting at 5:30 a.m. Sister White was present and spoke awhile. Canvassing class at 8:00, conference at 9:00. After dinner Brother Purdham and I went down to see the large flour mill of the Pillsbury Company. 12 Met up with Brothers Lane, Wilcox, and others, went through it. Largest mill in the world.

Thursday, November 1

Warm. 5:30 a.m. social meeting. Sister White there and read and spoke awhile, and others spoke. One man spoke who was a crank on religion. Said Christ had come.

After noon Brother Stevenson and I went downtown and took a bath. Walked down and back. Was in a rubber-type affair. I came back to church and, as I felt bad, came up to my room and went to bed. Brother P. came up with me, but when he heard that Brother Bourdeau was to speak, he went back.

Friday, November 2

At our 5:30 a.m. social meeting the same man claiming that Christ had come began to speak, and Sister White rebuked him and gave some of her early experience and warnings.

Brother Matteson spoke tonight and gave some of his experiences, which were very touching.

Sabbath, November 3

No social meeting this morning. Sabbath school at 9:00. I was in kindergarten class, which was interesting. Brother Waggoner spoke at 10:30 a.m. At 2:30 p.m. Sister White spoke, and a call for backsliders to come out was given. Meeting continued till close of Sabbath.

Sunday, November 4

Social meeting at 5:30 a.m. Sister White was not present. Our crank was present again, and also a lady who tried to speak, but they were stopped. Conference at 9:00 and following was Tract Society, which adjourned about 10:30 a.m. Closed by prayer by Brother Haskell. This closed our meeting.

We had dinner at 12:00 noon, but just before, we went in and had up some Bible questions and questions asked Brother Waggoner. Quite a number came down and took the 2:20 train for Chicago. Nearly a carload of us.

Wednesday, November 7

Arrived at 3:40 p.m. Mollie was not looking for me yet. I was glad to get back safe and find her well and everything all right. I feel thankful to the Lord for His goodness. Ate supper; retired about 8:00, as was tired and sleepy.

1. "Here's a Strange People," Minneapolis Journal, Oct. 13, 1888, p. 8. (Complete copies of the Journal articles may be obtained through the White Estate.)

2. Uriah Smith, in Review and Herald, Oct. 16, 1888, p. 648; Oct. 23, 1888, p. 664.

3. Most of the details in this day's entry are taken from W. C. White Handwritten Notes From Various Meetings Held in 1888 (E. G. White Estate).

4. Ibid.

5. Hottel does not mention the names of the candidates.

6. Uriah Smith, in Review and Herald, Oct. 23, 1888, p. 664.

7. Ibid.

8. E. G. White letter 14, 1889, p. 4; E. G. White letter 85, 1889, p. 3.

9. W. C. White Handwritten Notes.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Hottel does not mention the name of the mill, but the Minneapolis County Historical Society identifies the Pillsbury Mill as the one most nearly fitting his description.


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Ron Graybill, Ph.D., is professor of history at La Sierra University, La Sierra, California.

February 1988

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