Early History

This is taken from a book written in 1947 called Footprints of the Pioneers by Arthur W. Spalding. I have put in the entire 12th chapter, since it pretains to our Church's history. I hope you enjoy reading about it. by Arthur W. Spalding. I have put in the entire 12th chapter, since it pretains to our Church's history. I hope you enjoy reading about it.

James and Ellen White did not long remain in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, back there in 1849. They were indeed pilgrims and apostles. Their personal services, with those of Joseph Bates, were called for in all the places--few compared to later developments, but great for their resources then--where interest in the message of the third angel had been aroused. Particularly were they concerned for New York. They had made the journey there in 1848, and they had found at first a chaos of belief and teaching, typical of the state of the whole Adventist world at that time.

After the Disappointment, Adventists were in confusion. Some cried this and some cried that. Fanatics tried to sway the minds and attach the support of the little companies. Extremists tried the patience and disgusted the charity of more solid men. Some of the leaders went back on their experience, and led off in various directions. In all the turmoil the voices of the little company headed by Bates and the Whites were scarcely heard.

Hiram Edson, in New York, was a rock of strength. Bates and the Whites found him strongly supporting the cause. And others, some of them rescued from false doctrines and unwise attitudes, joined the little, growing band. That first journey into New York, in 1848, of the company consisting of James and Ellen White, Joseph Bates, H. S. Gurney, E. L. H. Chamberlain, Richard Ralph, and Albert Belden (though some of these attended only the first meeting) brought over such men as David Arnold of Volney, the Harrises of Centerport, Ira Abbey and wife of Brookfield, and Jesse Thompson of Ballston Spa. These mostly remained lay members, but people of strength. Very soon there came in such ministering brethren as Samuel Rhodes, R. F. Cottrell, and John Byington--men who made great impressions upon the early work.

In 1843 the little paper Present Truth reached out to the scattered believers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and New York, and it seemed to them a beacon. Glad responses came in to James White, with money enough to support the publication and to furnish means for travel. But the calls for their personal help were many and strong, and they felt they must answer some of them. In consequence the editorial and publishing work, so shakily established, suffered. None of them had experience in publishing; the ideas of James White in regard to it were, as he afterward confessed, at first limited to the publication of two or three numbers. And Joseph Bates emphatically agreed with this.

James White did indeed issue in Middletown four numbers of Present Truth, from July to September, but then he dropped it for two or three months while he went out into the field. Bates was devoting his time, strength, and money to the cause, constantly in the field, going from place to place seeking out the "lost sheep of the house of Israel," as he termed the Adventists, and he highly approved of James White's doing likewise. Bates was the original health reformer among Adventists, and his Spartan regimen, allied to his sturdy constitution, enabled him to perform with superhuman energy. James and Ellen White, on the other hand, were both oppressed with ailments, partly constitutional and partly due to their ignorant transgression of the laws of health. Their wills, set like flint for the work of God, and God's blessing upon them, enabled them to keep going, though under many distresses. But they never equaled Bates' serene state of health.

Hiram Edson earnestly urged the presence of the Whites in New York, and in October of that year they went. Shortly they decided to move to the State, and fixed upon Oswego, on the shores of Lake Ontario, as their residence. A second child had been born to them in July, 1849, and this baby, James Edson, they left in the care of Clarissa Bonfoey as they traveled. Henry, two years old, remained with the Howlands at Topsham. Now, taking leave of the Beldens at Rocky Hill, they moved with Miss Bonfoey and their baby to the new home.

There were a few believers in and around Oswego. One was the John Place family, which afterward gave two sons, a prominent minister, Albert E., and an outstanding physician, 0. Galen to the cause. Volney, where David Arnold lived, was not far south. In the same month that the Whites moved to Oswego,

Hiram Edson and Richard Ralph recovered Samuel Rhodes from his despondency, and, enlightened and instructed, Rhodes was soon ranging the country with the message; his base, Oswego.

But when James White sought to pick up the broken cord of his Present Truth, and after three months published the fifth number and then the sixth in Oswego, he learned the bitter lesson that an early enthusiasm, once cut off, is not easily re-stored. The response was nothing like that received to the first numbers. Also, Joseph Bates was out of sympathy. Bates' idea of publishing was to write a treatise, bring it out as a tract, a pamphlet, or a "book", and then use it as ammunition while you drove lustily into the ranks of the enemy. That is what he had done and was doing, and he thought James White should do the same. A paper issued periodically would tie the editor to one place, and largely prevent his preaching. Moreover, that was what the other Adventists (to Bates, the "Laodiceans") were doing, and therefore it was wrong. So he added his weight to James White's discouragement about the paper; and, says White, "I gave it up forever."

His "forever" lasted about three days. The night of January 9, 1850, Ellen White was instructed upon the matter. "I saw the paper," she said, "and that it was needed, that souls were hungering for the truth that must be written….. God did not want James to stop yet, but he must write, write, write, and speed the message, and let it go."

So, rousing from his discouragement, James White began again. In Oswego, from March to May, 1850, there were published four more numbers of Present Truth. Then they moved from Oswego, and lived for five months with the Harris family at Centerport, while James White brought forth another paper called The Advent Review. Four numbers were printed in Auburn, New York, a few miles from Centerport, and a fifth in Paris, Maine. This paper consisted of reprints of articles by leaders of the Adventists, or Millerites, before and immediately following the Disappointment. Its aim was to prove that White and Bates were advocating the orthodox Adventist doctrines, which the other parties were leaving. After that, in October or November, they moved to Paris, Maine. There the eleventh and last Present Truth was brought out, and the Second Advent Review and Sabbath Herald was begun.

Following the trail of the pioneers, we drove up from Rome, New York, toward Oswego. On the way, at West Monroe, we stopped to stand in reverence at the grave of Frederick Wheeler, who, taught by Rachel Oakes Preston at Washington, New Hampshire, was the first Sabbath keeping Adventist minister. He died a hundred years old.

At Roosevelt, a few miles north, we stopped to visit our old church, where many an important conference was held in the early times. Roosevelt is but a crossroads now, though the old hotel still stands with its faded sign on its brow. The church is a mile beyond that. Finally locating the elder, Brother Ruprecht, out in his field, we enlisted his aid. He willingly left his corn cutting and accompanied us several miles to get the key. And then we stood in the old church, still occupied by a live congregation. We handled the big pulpit Bible, engrossed with the names of the donors at the time of the church's dedication; and we heard the elder say that Sister White had had visions in that church. Also, we recalled the reports of important conferences held there. The church has had one or two enlargements, consisting simply of extending it forward, in the same dimensions. A plain, unpretentious, but hallowed building.

Back down the road a few rods, and on the opposite side, is the community cemetery. It was of interest to us chiefly because it is the last resting-place of Hiram Edson and his wife, who died at Palermo, Oswego County, he in 1892, and she the next year. We stood there and recalled the many missions, and sacrifices, and testimonies of these devoted children of God, and prayed for a portion of their spirit to fall upon us.

Going on, we passed through Volney, but having no information as to the location of what was once David Arnold's farm, where the first meeting in New York was held, we did not pause, but sped on to Oswego. It is still a thriving town, a principal port on Lake Ontario, a county seat, and a population of twenty-five thousand. But to us it is almost forsaken. Only two or three of our faith still live in the city; the "Oswego church" has been removed to Dexterville, fifteen miles southwest. We had a pleasant, though brief visit, with Mrs. Bethei Barbeau and her daughter, and afterward with her husband at his place of business. A photographer, he volunteered to go out, some eight miles, to near Southwest Oswego, and obtain a photograph of the Place home, where, he said, "Sister White often stayed, and where she had visions." It was in this house, in 1854, that Mrs. White received instruction about the Messenger party, which was making inroads upon the infant cause. She was told that the workers, instead of giving their time to refutation of the false charges, should ignore them, and that the schism would then shortly die. They did; and it did.

No landmark of their stay or of our work remains in Oswego. Like Shiloh of old, where the Lord once placed His tabernacle and deigned to dwell, where Eleazer ministered, and later Eli, and the boy Samuel grew and learned to know the Lord, but which afterward was abandoned, "for the wickedness of My people," Oswego is to us a melancholy memory. Here, or near by, dwelt good men and women, and they worshiped here. There were also contentious men and reprobates. Near here lived Silas Guilford and his noble family, and Elias Goodwin, and

Luman Carpenter, and then Hiram Edson, and Samuel Rhoder; and here for a brief time lived and wrought James and Ellen White. But here also lived men of other spirit, like "one Lillis," whose earliest exploit, reported regretfully in the Review and accusingly in opposition papers, was to lay hands upon Crozier who indeed unwarrantably interfered in Lillis' house with a meeting of Sabbath keepers to whom he was opposed. And this Lillis, afterward, was with his rash and hasty spirit to join the Messenger party, that earliest and most vituperative faction, and finally he became a Spiritualist. The church in Oswego was often a trouble spot, as various workers report, who went there to compose difficulties and try to build up the spirituality. Finally, like the church in Paris, Maine, and other places where the spirit of love failed, it faded out. But here once dwelt the Shekinah, and here prophets spake.

We visited the Dexterville church, a thriving congregation, though its members come from various quarters, some even twenty miles away. Some ten years ago the church abandoned its quarters in Oswego, a hall in an unpleasant environment, and bought this neat building in the country community of Dexterville, making it their center. This church is a live missionary group, under the leadership of their elder, Leslie Woodruff, and the wide spreading Caster clan, with many other faithful members. And I recall that though Shiloh, because of Hophni and Phineas, lost the sanctuary, yet in later days there dwelt there or in its vicinity, a prophet of God, Ahijah, who gave the counsel of Jehovah.