During 1845, Ellen Harmon was invited to share her early visions with Adventist groups in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. A young preacher, six years older than Ellen, became convinced that her visions were genuine and that her message of encouragement was needed. And so James White entered young Ellen’s life, but not with romantic thoughts—at first. In fact, for a few months after October 22 he and other members of this particular group of Millerites viewed marriage as a denial of their faith in the soon-coming of Christ. In the Day Star , James condemned a couple who, in announcing their wedding, had “denied their faith in being published for marriage, and we all look upon this as a wile of the Devil. The firm brethren in Maine who are waiting for Christ to come have no fellowship with such a move.” Day Star , Oct. 11, 1845, p. 47.
After realizing that his joint ministry with young Ellen, though always chaperoned by her sister Sarah or other faithful friends, was activating gossip, he proposed marriage. Ellen accepted his proposal and they were married by a justice of the peace in Portland, Maine, on August 30, 1846.
“ I have a chance to get to Fairhaven tonight by sailboat, and shall take the cars tomorrow morning for Boston, and the express train of cars for Portland at four-thirty. Shall be in Portland tomorrow night at six o'clock....Sister Ellen says that the way is made plain. We are published; we shall be married perhaps Monday.” Letter: James White to Brother Collins, Aug. 26, 1846.
James & Ellen White’s marriage certificate.
“ We were married August 30, 1846, and from that hour to the present she has been my crown of rejoicing....It has been in the good providence of God that both of us had enjoyed a deep experience in the Advent movement....This experience was now needed as we should join our forces and, united, labor extensively from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific....” James White
Ellen recalled after James’s death: “It was not over a year before James White talked it over with me. He said something had come up, and he should have to go away and leave me to go with whomsoever I would, or we must be married. He said something had got to be done. So we were married, and have been married ever since. Although he is dead, I feel that he is the best man that ever trod shoe leather.”
James and Ellen had four children, all boys: Henry, born August 26, 1847; Edson, born July 28, 1849; William, born August 29, 1854; and John Herbert, September 20, 1860.
Herbert died after living only three months, a victim of erysipelas. The 33-year-old mother recalled this heartbreaking experience: “My dear babe was a great sufferer. Twenty-four days and nights we anxiously watched over him, using all the remedies we could for his recovery, and earnestly presenting his case to the Lord. At times I could not control my feelings as I witnessed his sufferings. Much of my time was spent in tears, and humble supplication to God.” Spiritual Gifts , vol. 2, p. 296
She described the infant’s final hours: “My babe was worse. I listened to his labored breathing, and felt his pulseless wrist. I knew that he must die. That was an hour of anguish for me. The icy hand of death was already upon him. We watched his feeble, gasping breath, until it ceased, and we felt thankful that his sufferings were ended. When my child was dying, I could not weep. I fainted at the funeral. My heart ached as though it would break, yet I could not shed a tear....After we returned from the funeral, my home seemed lonely. I felt reconciled to the will of God, yet despondency and gloom settled upon me.” Spiritual Gifts , vol. 2, p. 296
“ Henry N. White’s picture taken when he was three or four years old. Preserve carefully.” Signed Ellen G. White.
Ellen White’s eldest son, Henry, died at the age of sixteen. In late November 1863, he caught a cold which turned into pneumonia. After the death of Henry, a small book titled An Appeal to the Youth was published that included Uriah Smith’s funeral sermon, a brief biography, and many of Ellen White’s frequent letters sent to him and his brothers, especially when she was away on church responsibilities.
Henry, Edson, & Willie White 1862.
For Ellen White, her children were high priority. Her diary entries, letters to others and to her sons, all indicate her unending concern for them, especially their spiritual growth. She took their shortcomings as well as her own very seriously. After a difficult encounter with young Edson, she wrote in her diary: “Had an interview with Edson. Felt distressed beyond measure, feeling that it was not conducted wisely.” Manuscript 12 , 1868.
“‘ Oh,’ say some mothers, ‘my children bother me when they try to help me.’ So did mine, but do you think I let them know it? Praise your children. Teach them, line upon line, precept upon precept. This is better than reading novels, better than making calls, better than following the fashions of the world.” The Adventist Home , p. 289.
White Family in 1865.
Life with Ellen White Ellen White enjoyed gardening. On February 10, 1896 (at nearly 70 years of age), she wrote in her diary: “ I arose at half past four a.m. At five I was at work spading up ground and preparing to set out my flowers. I worked one hour alone, then Edith Ward and Ella May White united with me, and we planted our flowers. Then we set out twenty-eight tomato plants, when the bell rang for morning prayers and breakfast.” MS 62, 1896
Ellen White enjoyed many forms of travel. In 1876, while in San Francisco, she enjoyed a cruise on a sailboat owed by church members: “ The waves ran high and we were tossed up and down so very grandly. I was highly elevated in my feelings, but had no words to say to any one. It was grand. The spray dashing over us. The watchful captain giving his orders, the ready hands to obey. The wind was blowing strong and I never enjoyed anything so much in my life.” Letter 5, 1896
In her later years riding in her carriage became an important part of Ellen White’s life.
In 1913 she was taken for her first ride in an automobile by her twin grandsons Henry & Herbert. She commented: “ It is the easiest machine that I have ever ridden in.” Letter 11, 1913
Ellen White enjoyed helping others. In the 1890s Australia—and most of the world was undergoing an economic depression. Ellen White helped many people personally: “ While in Cooranbong I tried to set an example of how the needy should be helped. I tried to work in the way set before me by the Lord.” (Letter 105, 1902) “ There were many here who were poor and in need. Men who were trying to serve the Lord and keep His commandments could not provide food for their families, and they begged us to give them something to do. We employed them, and they ate at our table. We gave them suitable wages until their families were fed and comfortably clothed. Then we let them go to find work somewhere else.” Letter 33, 1897
Those in this country who receive the truth are mostly poor, and in the winter time it is a hard matter for them to sustain their families. Since I wrote the foregoing, a letter was brought to me from...a man who was a coachbuilder. He was in great poverty two years ago, and we gave him work. He was obliged to leave his family, a wife and five children…and come to Cooranbong…to obtain work…. We kept him as long as we had work that he could do, and when he left he modestly asked if we could let him have a few books on present truth, for he had none. I gave him about six dollars’ worth of books. He also asked if we had any cast-off clothing that we could give him, that his wife might make over for the children. I provided him a box of clothing, for which he was very grateful. Letter 113, 1897
“ Last evening we had a Dorcas Society in our home, and my workers who help in the preparation of my articles for the papers and do the cooking and sewing, five of them, sat up until midnight, cutting out clothing. They made three pairs of pants for the children of one family. Two sewing machines were running until midnight. I think there was never a happier set of workers than were these girls last evening. We made up a bundle of clothing for this family, and thought it was about all we could do….There are also other families to be supplied….Thus it has been ever since we came to this country. We shall certainly heed the call to send a box of clothing to these needy ones. I merely tell you these things that you may know that we are surrounded by poverty.” Letter 113, 1897
Reference: Knight, George R. Walking With Ellen White: the human interest story . Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 1999.
This PowerPoint presentation has been produced by Jeff Crocombe for a class on EGW: Life and Writings at Helderberg College in Semester 1, 2007. It should not be used without giving credit to its compiler, nor reproduced in any way without permission. You may contact Jeff Crocombe at: [email_address]