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    Chapter 15—The First “White House”

    James and Ellen White were happy to be living alone with their three boys, Henry, Edson, and Willie, and their two helpers. But the house was small for the amount of entertaining they did. Ministers and workers were always welcome, and there would often be overnight visitors—people they had met on their travels. When these new friends attended meetings in Battle Creek or looked for a permanent home there, they often stayed with my grandparents.SMG 106.1

    Seeing their need of a larger house, the bighearted men who had contributed so generously to building the Review office and church, now after two years were ready to help Elder White secure a home of his own. An uncleared plot of ground not far from the Review office was purchased at a very low price; and kind friends offered to clear the land and help James build a house. They knew he had little money, for in his efforts to keep down the printing expenses, he drew less than half pay for his labors.SMG 106.2

    Soon after the Whites moved into their new home, Jonah Lewis, a Sabbathkeeper who had built on an adjoining lot, dug a well which he shared with the neighbors.SMG 106.3

    On the lot belonging to the Whites, there was space for a vegetable garden, a cow shelter and haymow, and a stable for the two horses and a carriage. On the northeast side of the lot a small grove of young oaks had been reserved for a quiet place where one could be alone to think and pray. There was also a playground for the boys. Here they had many good times when their help was not needed in planting the garden, carrying water, gathering and chopping firewood for the cookstove, or helping about the house. Mrs. White had her writing table near the window, where she could enjoy their fun by occasionally looking out and watching them.SMG 106.4

    A twelve-foot lean-to was built on the south side of the house for the boys’ room. Later, a larger addition was made on the north side, and Mrs. White’s parents, Robert and Eunice Harmon, were invited to live with them. When the old people moved to a cottage of their own, the vacated room was occupied by John and Betsy White, parents of Elder White. Grandfather White set up a bench in one end of his long room and worked several hours a day at his favorite occupation, mending shoes.SMG 107.1

    For a time after coming to live in Battle Creek, James’s father was perplexed over the Sabbath question. He saw that the Scriptures clearly taught the observance of the seventh day, but he had enjoyed so many special blessings on Sunday that it was difficult to relinquish his reverence for that day. So for a time he observed both Saturday and Sunday.SMG 107.2

    One Sunday morning Willie found him at his workbench, pegging shoes. “Oh, Grandpa,” he exclaimed, “don’t you know what day this is? It’s Sunday.”SMG 107.3

    “Yes, Willie,” the old man answered, “but I have decided that one Sabbath each week is enough, and I shall from this time on observe the Sabbath of the fourth commandment.”SMG 107.4

    This comfortable cottage near the Review office was the first home the White family ever owned, and how they enjoyed it! And how thankful they were to the dear friends who had helped them to obtain it! They were also happy to have all four grandparents near.SMG 107.5

    The day’s program for the family began with breakfast at six thirty, although the cook was usually up by five. Sometimes when Mrs. White came to the table, she would have in her hand six, eight, or more pages which she had written while the others were sleeping. They might ask her to read to them a little of what she had written.SMG 108.1

    Family worship came immediately after breakfast, with song, Scripture reading, and prayer. The worship hour was observed as regularly as the time for breakfast and dinner. When Elder White was away, Mrs. White conducted the worship; and when both parents were absent, the one in charge of the home led out.SMG 108.2

    After worship Elder White would leave for the office. “Come, children,” the mother would say, “let’s work in the garden,” and they would spend a few hours together, planting seeds in flower beds or setting out plants and cuttings. On cold or rainy days they worked indoors together.SMG 108.3

    Then Mrs. White devoted three or four hours to writing. Sometimes she would take her work over to the Review office, where she could be near her husband and where she could give a hand when there was extra work folding, wrapping, or addressing papers.SMG 108.4

    There were no idle moments for Ellen White. With all her writing and public work, and her family to care for, besides the many guests, she found it necessary to hire help in the home. It seems that neither Clarissa nor Jenny was with them when they moved to their new house. Clarissa had never been very strong. Then one day a short but serious illness took her life. She was greatly missed, for she had always been a “loving and lovable Christian.”SMG 108.5

    For several months Agnes Irving, a seventeen-year-old girl, helped with the housework. She had four younger brothers and sisters, and her father was an invalid. One day her mother came to the White home in great trouble. Mr. Irving was seriously ill and could earn nothing, and the family was in need of both food and clothing. Agnes insisted that her mother take all her wages for ten weeks, except one dollar, which she reserved for herself. The mother cried as she accepted the money, thinking of the self-sacrifice and love represented by the gift. Agnes cried with the anxious mother, and Ellen cried in sympathy with them both. The entry for that day in Ellen’s little black diary ends with these words:SMG 109.1

    “We aided them some. Paid half toward a pair of boots for little brother, one dollar. I paid $1.50 for a pair of shoes for the mother. Husband gave one dollar in money. Henry gave her ten cents, Edson ten cents, and little Willie ten cents. Husband gave her 25 cents more to buy a little luxury for the sick one. We parted with considerable half-worn clothing to make over, put up one pint of rich (unfermented) grape wine and another pint of currant, and sent a little handful of dried apples for the sick one.”SMG 109.2

    Her diary for this period abounds with similar recordings, which show that their gifts, though of necessity often small, came from loving hearts. Even the three boys were glad to share their hoarded pennies to help those in need.SMG 109.3

    There was order in the White home. Each of the boys had tasks which he was expected to perform without being reminded. Discipline was firm, but kind. My father told me that he could never remember being punished in anger. He remembered one switching, but it was preceded by a very serious talk and prayer. Sometimes, when there was disobedience or neglect of duty, Mrs. White would say, “Now, boys, we’ll let the matter rest for the present; tonight we’ll talk things over and see what can be done.” The solemn thoughts that occupied the minds of the culprits during the intervening hours subdued their spirits and prepared them to profit by whatever reproof or correction they received that night.SMG 109.4

    On Sabbath afternoons Adventist families sometimes came together at the White home. Whether the parents were present or not, the precious time would be spent talking over their Christian experiences, praying for one another and for the work of God, and singing hymns.SMG 110.1

    Whenever Mrs. White had a quiet Sabbath afternoon to spend with the children, she would read to them, and sometimes their little friends in the neighborhood were invited in to enjoy the story hour. She searched children’s books and Sunday School journals for choice stories. Years later, Willie’s wife, my mother, gathered some of these stories into a collection which was published in a book called Sabbath Readings for the Home Circle.SMG 110.2

    Many times Ellen White had to leave her children in the care of someone else while she traveled to speak at camp meetings and other gatherings. To be separated from her family was hard, but she made the best of the situation by writing letters to her boys often. Here is a letter she wrote to Willie when he was five years old:SMG 110.3

    “Dear Little Willie:SMG 110.4

    “Have you received the letters I have written you?SMG 110.5

    “I will tell you what I saw last Wednesday. The fire companies were out with red caps and red uniforms; the officers had plumes in their caps. Then I saw in an alley, looking out at the firemen, a poor deformed lame man. He was sitting in a little carriage, and what do you think was drawing him! It was not a dog or horse, but a goat harnessed up just like a little horse. I thought if Willie had seen this, it would have pleased him so much. Think of a goat drawing a wagon with a man in it!SMG 110.6

    “Willie, I am now visiting where there are two little boys, not as large as you are, and two little girl babies. The little boys and girls are cousins. They are very pretty little children. You would love to play with them if you were here.SMG 111.1

    “We hope Willie is well and happy. You must try hard to be good. Don’t please Satan by giving way to wrong temper, but remember, he that ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city.SMG 111.2

    “You must tell grandpa and grandma that we do not forget them, but often think of them and speak of them to our friends. You must try, Willie, to make grandpa and grandma happy. Don’t grieve them by being noisy and rude, but be quiet and mild, gentle; then they will love you. Mind Jenny and try to please her. Be a sweet little boy.SMG 111.3

    “From your mother”SMG 111.4

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