Beans, Bradawls and Bottomless Chairs
In the fall of 1852, talented young Uriah Smith (1832-1903), became a Sabbath-keeper. Early the following year he was invited to Rochester, New York, to assist James White in publishing The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, thus beginning an association with our church paper that would last almost without interruption until his death nearly fifty years later.
Times were difficult and money was scarce as Uriah and the other young people who were struggling to keep our fledgling church alive could all readily testify. On April 16, 1852, Ellen White (1827-1915) wrote to friends describing setting up house in the rented home on Mt. Hope Avenue there in Rochester where for a time the group all boarded together.
You would smile could you look in upon us and see our furniture. We have brought two old bedsteads for twenty-five cents each. My husband brought me home six old chairs, no two of them alike, for which he paid one dollar, and soon he presented me with four old chairs without any seating, for which he paid sixty-two cents. The frames are strong, and I have been seating them with drilling. Butter is so high that we do not purchase it, neither can we afford potatoes. We use sauce in the place of butter, and turnips for potatoes. Our first meals were taken on a fireboard placed upon two empty flour barrels (Ellen White, Life Sketches, p. 142).
* * *
Since beans were cheap, they apparently also figured prominently on the menu. If ever one needed a healthy sense of humor to survive, it was under those circumstances. Fortunately, Uriah Smit had a good one! Only a few weeks after he joined the family in 1853, he remarked to one of the others "that though he had no objection to eating beans 365 times in succession, yet when it came to making them a regular diet, he should protest!" (Eugene Durand, Yours in the Blessed Hope, p. 241).
* * *
Although few in number, all in the group believed in what they were doing. Whatever personal sacrifice was necessary in order to share their beliefs was counted as nothing. Many years later Elder Smith recalled the work they had accomplished during those early days.
I often think of the time when Elder [J. N.] Loughborough [1832-1924], myself and a few others, in Rochester, New York, under the direction of Brother [James] White [1821-1881] were preparing the first tracts to be sent out to the people. The instruments we had to use were a bradawl, a straightedge, and a penknife. Brother Loughborough, with the awl, would perforate the . . . backs for stitching; the sisters would stitch them; and then I, with the straightedge and penknife, would trim the rough edges on the top, front and bottom. We blistered our hands in the operation, and often the tracts in form were not half so true and square as the doctrines they taught (Ibid., p. 75).