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The Great Second Advent Movement: Its Rise and Progress

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    Deliverance from a Railway Disaster

    The day after the decision was made to purchase our first 60-foot tent (May 23, 1854), Elder White and his wife, being then in Jackson, Mich., were to start on their journey for Wisconsin, where they were to labor for a time. We spent the afternoon at the house of D. R. Palmer, only a short distance from the station. Several times in the afternoon Elder White spoke saying, “I feel strangely in regard to starting on this trip; but, Ellen, we have an appointment out, and we must go. If I had not an appointment, I should not go to-night.”GSAM 328.3

    As night came on, near the time of the arrival of the train, we had a season of prayer. All seemed led out to pray for the safety of Elder White and his wife on this journey. As we arose, Elder White expressed his faith that the Lord would have a care for them and keep them.GSAM 328.4

    At eight o’clock I went with them to the train to assist in securing seats and adjusting their parcels. We went into one car with high-backed seats, called in those days a “sleeping car.” Mrs. White said, “James, I can’t stay in this car, I must get out of here.” I helped them in getting a seat in the middle of the next car. Mrs. White sat down with her parcels in her lap, but said, “I don’t feel at home on this train.” The bell rang, and bidding them a hasty “Good-by,” I soon left for Cyrenius Smith’s, to tarry for the night.GSAM 328.5

    About ten o’clock we were all much surprised to hear Elder White, whom we supposed was well on the way toward Chicago, knocking for admittance. He said the train had run off the track three miles west of Jackson; that most of the train, with the engine, was a total wreck; but while a number had been killed, he and Mrs. White had escaped uninjured. He soon secured a horse and carriage, and in company with Abram Dodge, went for Mrs. White, whom the Elder had carried some distance in his arms, over a wet, marshy tract of land and across a small stream of water, to a place of safety, away from the scene of disaster.GSAM 329.1

    Early the next morning I went with Mr. Dodge to view the wreck. At a point where the road crosses the track obliquely, an ox had lain down to rest directly on the track. The engine had no cow-catcher, and so on striking the animal it was thrown from the track to the left. At the first shock of the engine’s striking the ground, the baggage car, containing Elder White’s trunk of books, jumped entirely clear from the track and was uninjured; at the same time the passenger car in the rear of the train was uncoupled from the rest of the train without human aid, and quietly stopped upon the track. The engine and tender ran on the ground off the track some six or eight rods, when the engine struck an oak stump some three feet in diameter. The force of the train was such that the engine was turned over bottom side up, and the back of the tender swung round across the track. The main body of the train, going with full force, struck this wreck of the engine, thus producing a second shock. The first car that struck the engine was an express car, which was crushed into kindling wood. It, with its contents, was a mass of rubbish piled upon and around the tender. The next was a second-class car, containing eighteen passengers, of whom one was killed and all the rest were more or less injured. This car was split in two by the sleeping car running through it. The fore part of the sleeper was broken in pieces, and the seat in which Mrs. White did not feel free to stay was completely crushed.GSAM 329.2

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