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I Was Canright's Secretary
by Carrie Johnson

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4. Carrying Large Responsibilities

HAVING LABORED successfully for better than two years in California, Elder Canright late in 1875 was called back to the East. He spent the early part of the new year conducting revival meetings in the Michigan churches. Then he moved into pioneer work in the border States of the South, with the raising up of a church on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

During the summer of 1876 Canright attended fourteen camp meetings in the East and Midwest, then between August and October he led out in an eight-week evangelistic tent meeting in Rome, New York. Early in the series his audience was limited only by the capacity of the tent: "Last evening," he wrote, "after crowding every seat inside, hundreds stood around outside." As to living arrangements he stated, "We have pitched a family tent beside the big tent. Here we make it our home, and we find it very convenient when we are not away. Friends bring in plenty of food."—Review and Herald, Aug. 10, 1876. There was no public opposition when he wrote, but he predicted "this will soon come." It did, but this must be passed over.

On Tuesday, August 15, Elder Canright was especially pleased to have Elder and Mrs. White and Elder Uriah Smith with him at Rome. His report to the Review states, "We advertised that Sister White would speak in the tent, and every seat was crowded, and some stood up. The discourse left a good impression." The audience ran between four hundred and six hundred people. The meetings were carried to a successful

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termination, strong membership was built up. A house of worship was constructed, and Canright attended the dedication, which took place on the second weekend in December. At the age of thirty-six, D. M. Canright, consecrated, energetic, and hard working, had proved himself and was entering upon the most effective period of his ministry.

At the 1876 annual session of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, held at Lansing, Michigan, on September 19, Elder Canright was one of three men elected to the General Conference Executive Committee. This action demonstrated the confidence of the delegates in this man who had shown his dedication and ability as an effective minister and evangelist. Indeed it was a high honor. Other members of the committee were James White, president of the General Conference, and S. N. Haskell, of New England. Canright was to be re-elected at the next session, which gave him a tenure of two years in serving on the highest committee in the denomination.

During these years, having gained nationwide prominence among Adventists as an evangelist, debater, and fluent writer, he used his talents in numerous ways. The Review and Herald regularly carried reports of his work and articles from his pen, bringing encouragement and instruction to the church. He was much in the field in revival work in the churches and in evangelistic work in new territories.

Dudley Canright basked in the favor of James White, who admired his drive and accomplishments. White cited Canright in a Review and Herald editorial as an example among the ministers who "have laid their plans wisely and well, and have labored with vigilance to execute them," and as one with the ability "to establish the work in new fields" (Ibid., Jan. 25, 1877).

In the spring of 1877 Canright wrote a series of articles for the Review and Herald under the general title, "A Plain Talk to Murmurers,"Note 1 presenting "Some Facts for Those Who Are not in Harmony with the Body." He traced the early history of the Seventh-day Adventist church, showing how under the tireless leadership of James White it had prospered in

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its development. He related at length the sorry experience of some who had apostatized and later fought the church. "They have just enough present truth to make them excellent tools of the devil. You will find them, one here, or one two or three there, on the borders of some of our churches, zealously sowing discord, creating doubts, and warring upon weak brethren. . . . They furnish argument and ammunition for our opponents with which to oppose our work, and tear down even the Sabbath itself."—Ibid., June 7, 1877.

Another article in the series dealt with Mrs. White, whom he ably defended. Of her character and her work he spoke freely:

"I have heard Sr. White speak hundreds of times, have read all her testimonies through and through, most of them many times, and I have never been able to find one immoral sentence in the whole of them, or anything that is not strictly pure and Christian; nothing that leads away from the Bible, or from Christ; but there I find the most earnest appeals to obey God, to love Jesus, to believe the Scriptures, and to search them constantly. I have received great spiritual benefit times without number, from the testimonies. Indeed, I never read them without feeling reproved for my lack of faith in God, lack of devotion, and lack of earnestness in saving souls. If I have any judgment, any spiritual discernment, I pronounce the testimonies to be of the same Spirit and of the same tenor as the Scriptures."—Ibid., April 26, 1877.

Of those who had received personal messages of counsel and reproof he could write from firsthand experience:

"Those who have been the most often, and, probably, the most severely, reproved through the testimonies, are those who have been the warmest supporters of Sr. White."—Ibid.

In midsummer New England beckoned again, and D. M. Canright threw himself energetically into opening unentered fields. After a month-long series of tent meetings at Newburyport, Massachusetts, through July, he pitched his tent on the last day of the month in Danvers, a factory city some ten or fifteen miles north of Boston. The community responded enthusiastically, and the meetings were a success from the start. Glowing reports appeared frequentlyin the

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Review and Herald. One such from the pen of Elder S. N. Haskell described the tent "as solid as a house, and as trim and neat as a tight-fitting boot." The lighting was "ten lamps, in all, in the sixty-foot tent. Every lamp was as clean and bright as a new silver dollar." The seating: "Every seat has a back to it." The speaker's stand: "The stand extends the whole length in front, but is only twenty inches high. It is covered with a marble oil-cloth, instead of the usual black one which looks so somber. Then the elder has a neat little box large enough for his Bible and lamp."

The hospitality of the town was noted by Haskell. One morning as he watched, a farmer brought six quarts of rich, fresh milk, and promised to deliver it regularly as long as the tent remained in Danvers: another farmer drove up with a "fine lot of potatoes." Soon came a load of nice green corn. This was followed by four pounds of sugar, a lot of berries, a mammoth loaf of the "most relishable home-made bread." Haskell concluded that "there was no danger of our brethren starving in this section, if this was a sample of the way they fare." In addition, the workers were often invited out to dinner.

When it was time for the meeting, each evening Professor Stone took his place at the organ. Mrs. Canright and Mrs. Lamson formed the welcoming committee. "I stood on an eminence," wrote Haskell, "and looked up and down the streets each way. There was just one continuous stream of people till the streets were lined. They came afoot, in single carriages, in double buggies, in farm wagons, in hacks, etc. . . . Officers were in attendance, and aided in seating the audience." Conference President Haskell concluded by thanking God for the marvelous interest created in New England for hearing the Word of God.

The workers lived comfortably in one large family tent, divided into bedrooms and living room, "well furnished with carpet, chairs, table, and other conveniences." Behind it was a kitchen tent "with stove, cupboards, tables, etc., all of which give the company a very comfortable and cheerful appearance." (Ibid., Aug. 16, 1877.)

To Elder James White, Canright wrote a glowing report

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in which he made reference also to the coming New England camp meeting which was scheduled for late August at Groveland, Massachusetts, some 25 miles to the north:

Danvers, Mass., August 13, 1877

Dear Brother White: we have now been here just two weeks. We are astonished more and more every day at the tremendous interest we have here. We never saw the like of it anywhere before. Rome [New York] was not more than half as large an interest as this. Our audience has been during the last week from six hundred to one thousand, generally seven hundred. They come from everywhere, loads by loads, from all the surrounding villages. The whole country is stirred up. All the papers give grand notices, publish just what we write. The reporters are on our side. The whole country is stirred. I think we shall find openings here for all winter. . . .

We have a perfect ovation every day of food of every kind, and of flowers without measure.

. . . Well of course we are all glad. It will not do for me to leave such an interest as this for anything. We shall not take down our tent for our own camp meeting [at Groveland, August 22-28], but hold meetings right along and go up there in the daytime. . .

We are all well and of good courage, and quite busy. We are much interested in the REVIEW from week to week, as that is the only medium through which we learn of the interests generally, as well as of yourself, etc. Your brother in Christ,

(Signed) D. M. Canright

The words "We are all well" were overly optimistic. In May, 1875, while Dudley and Lucretia were in Oakland, California, a son had been born to them. At the time he was writing from Danvers, Baby Fred and his sister Genevieve were both recovering from measles. Both had had a "a pretty sick time," said their mother. Whether the care of her children weakened Lucretia, or whether the arduous work at Danvers hastened a crisis, it was there, a month after this letter was written, that she suffered a lung hemorrhage, presaging the dreaded tuberculosis, which in a not-too-distant future was to terminate her life. (Ibid., Jan. 10, 1878; April 3, 1879.)

The camp meeting at Groveland was also a great success. For a little conference, with less than a thousand members spread through four States, to draw at its camp meeting from 15,000 to 20,000 people for weekend services was most encouraging. James and Ellen White were present, and she reported that Sunday, August 26, "boats and trains poured

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their living freight upon the ground in thousands" (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 79). When she reached the desk to address the crowd, she said, "A sea of heads was before me. The mammoth tent was full, and thousands stood outside, making a living wall several feet deep."—Ibid. All heard her speak as she addressed them for an hour on the subject of temperance. Then Monday evening she accompanied Elder Canright back to Danvers, where she was to speak in the evangelistic meeting that night. She addressed an attentive audience, which not only filled the tent but included two hundred who were standing outside.

The Danvers evangelistic series continued for ten weeks and on October 16 Elder Canright reported that between eighty and ninety were keeping the Sabbath and were growing stronger and firmer every week. Prayer meetings were being held in the homes of the people, and they were leaving off jewelry, tobacco, tea, et cetera. There was one sad note: "My wife's health has been very poor this fall. We fear the climate is bad for both of us; but we shall not give it up yet."—Review and Herald, Oct. 25, 1877. Land was bought in Danvers and construction for a new church was soon under way.

They hoped against hope that Mrs. Canright might regain her health, but Elder Canright was unable to make any encouraging report. The Review and Herald of January 10, 1878, carried the following word from Elder Canright: "As my wife has traveled with me extensively, and has many personal friends who are interested in her, it is proper they should know of her present illness.

"Over three months ago her lungs began to be affected—bled some—and she had a bad cough and some fever. We hoped that rest and home treatment would soon restore her. But this has not been the case. She has several times gained considerable, but has again taken cold or in some way fallen back. At present she is very poorly, not able to sit up. She is at Sister Harris's, in South Lancaster, Mass. We ask the prayers of our brethren and sisters that God may help her and raise her up. She would be glad to hear from her friends by letter, though she is not able to answer them."

By mid-February, Dudley could clearly see that her condition

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was deteriorating. He took Lucretia to Battle Creek and placed her in the Sanitarium, under the care of Dr. John H. Kellogg, while he remained close by for a few weeks. He was drawn into various activities close to the heart of the work, serving on several committees. At a special session of the General Conference in early March, Elder Canright presented the Sabbath morning message, and two days later was elected president of the newly created Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath School Association, a responsibility he was to carry in addition to his other labors. In late March he journeyed to Iowa, which for a time was to be his assigned field of labor.

It had been five years since he had worked in Iowa, and he enjoyed renewing old friendships there. During one of his frequent visits to Battle Creek, he himself became a patient at the Sanitarium. He had preached too vigorously, and his voice had given out, bringing on an old difficulty, hoarseness and sore throat. The doctors put him through vigorous treatment, and he was soon well again.

At this time James White, himself not well, remembering the healing he had previously found in the rockies, proposed another trip to Colorado. He proposed also that the Canrights go with him. There Lucretia might regain her health.

Both Lucretia and her husband concluded that it would be best for her to remain in Battle Creek, and Dr. Kellogg concurred in this decision. In a letter to Sister White she opened her heart: "I feel how hard it is to be as it were, shut away from the work by physical prostration. How much, oh, how much, to be done in saving souls! I have not felt, nor can I feel, to hinder Dudley this summer. . . . If I went to Colorado I should not know how to make myself comfortable, even if I should take help along with me."

With words of affection she closed the letter: "With very much love and gratitude to you both, my best friends, and wisest counselors. I am as ever, (Signed) Cretia."

While in Battle Creek, Elder White took a fatherly interest in Lucretia. He saw that she had an occasional ride in a comfortable carriage. "The poor child seems to be improving," he wrote, "but I don't see how it is possible for her to

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live long."—James White letter, June 27, 1878. Her two little children were placed under the care of the largehearted Martha Amadon, who had become a second mother to Lucretia when she was orphaned.

Come what may, she persistently and unselfishly refused to stand in the way of her husband's ministry. In the early summer of 1878 he attended camp meetings in Minnesota and Wisconsin. He was gratified in Wisconsin to observe that the governor, the State treasurer, and the town mayor all attended the Sunday meetings. He commented, "There is no good reason why the laborers should not have success if they walk with God and work hard."—Review and Herald, June 13, 1878.

Canright returned to Battle Creek suffering again from his old difficulty—hoarseness and throat trouble. He needed to be near Lucretia and he needed rest. James White failed to rally healthwise, and his future seemed uncertain. Thoughts of becoming president of the General conference seem to have been much in Canright's mind. When Elder White persisted in his plan to journey to the Rocky Mountains for a two- or three-month retreat, it seemed hard for Canright to give up the idea of accompanying Elder White. Ellen White was to attend camp meeting through the summer, and it was decided that Canright would serve James White as male nurse and companion during his stay in Colorado. Of this, Elder White gave notice: "This evening, July 4, at eleven o'clock, Eld. Canright, our daughter Mary [W. C. White's youthful wife], and the writer leave for Colorado, to be followed in a few weeks by W. C. White. Providence permitting, we shall all return to the General Conference the first of October."—Ibid., July 11, 1878.

The Rocky Mountain weather was cool and bracing. Elder White took up hiking. He hoped to increase his hikes a mile each day until he could run up the mountains "like a deer." He also planned to swim in the icy, mountain lakes. They mixed writing with the recreation, and James White reported that "many times each day the voice of prayer echoes in these mountains" (Ibid., July 25, 1878).

W. C. White, a close observer, who later joined the party

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in Colorado, in answer to an inquiry, some years later, wrote explaining what appeared to be Canright's motives for leaving his dying wife to accompany James White on the trip west. He said:

Elder Canright was in Battle Creek to be near his wife, who was dying with consumption. Suddenly he decided to go to Colorado with Father, for his health. And he went, contrary to the pleadings of the friends of his wife, and spent several weeks in the mountains near Black Hawk, with us.

At that time my father was President of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. His associates on the Committee were S. N. Haskell and D. M. Canright. Father's health was uncertain, and it was expected that one of these associates would be the next President.

My wife and I were surprised and shocked to observe the diligence and enthusiasm with which Mr. Canright improved every opportunity to exalt himself, and to discredit Eld. Haskell in my father's estimation. In the good providence of God my father's health improved, and he was re-elected, and there was no contest over the office of President.—W. C. White letter to E. W. Barr, July 27, 1920.

These facts were given, averred W. C. White, "that you may better understand the underlying motive for D. M. Canright's strange course of action" (Ibid.).

In early August word reached Canright and James White that Lucretia had suffered a relapse. By this time Mrs. White had arrived to be with her husband, and Canright left for Battle Creek. The Whites "parted with him the morning of the 12th, he to take the cars for Battle Creek, to be with his wife, who is reported to be rapidly failing." Elder White stated, "We parted with this dear brother with feeling of deep regret that he leaves us before our return, and yet we could not hold him a day from his faithful wife, who deserves his sympathy and care in her last hours. . . . We have now been together six weeks, and every day from the first our union has grown stronger and more dear. May the blessing of God go with him."—Review and Herald, Aug. 22, 1878.

Arriving at Battle Creek, Canright found his wife among friends, and more comfortable than he had expected. Soon she was again able to "ride out" two hours every morning and two hours in the evening. On the twenty-first of August the couple drove sadly out to Oak Hill Cemetery, and Lucretia showed Dudley the spot where she would like to be buried.

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"Eld. James White and party arrived from Colorado Thursday night, the 26th" of September, in time for the General Conference session in Battle Creek. There, the constituency named to the nominating committee Elders J. N. Andrews, S. N. Haskell, and D. M. Canright. Perhaps it should be observed that the constituency seldom places on the nominating committee those whom they consider likely candidates for office. This committee on which both Canright and Haskell served nominated James White for re-election as president of the General Conference, and brought forward the names of James White, J. H. Kellogg and Sydney Brownsberger as nominees for the General Conference Executive Committee.

The records show that Elder Canright participated actively in almost every important discussion relating to the interests of the church. With the encouragement of Elder James White, he had been leading out in efforts to reorganize the plan of Systematic BenevolenceNote 2 by calculating tithe on the basis of income rather than on the cumbersome plan previously in use—of freewill offerings and a tithe of 1 per cent a year on all property holdings. At this session of the General Conference the new plan was adopted. A number of Canright's Review and Herald articles of this period had to do with the tithe and the basis for ascertaining a proper tithe.

For some reason not apparent at present, the General Conference was to appoint a president for the Ohio Conference at this session. The State being nearby, the responsibility was placed on the shoulders of D. M. Canright. He could serve Ohio, and still at no time be far from his wife. He was often in Battle Creek and by her side. These were sad days, and Canright did some serious thinking. On November 26 he wrote to Ellen White:

I started in very much behind in everything. When I was twenty-one I did not know anything and had nothing. I have had everything to learn since, and I have been very ambitious to know and to do something. . . .

Lucretia never was naturally a student. She is wholly a motherly, domestic woman, loves to stay at home and simply take care of her own household duties, and family, hence it has always been very hard for her to enter into my feelings and to really take an interest in my studies or work. I have

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no doubt that I did not realize how much stronger physically I was than she, how much more natural energy I possessed, than she. Hence I have made it pretty hard for her. Now as the children get older I see that I must take more time to converse with them and instruct them, and I mean to do it. . . .

I have tried to improve in speaking. I speak slower, more distinctly and with a deeper voice. I find I improve here more than I anticipated. . . .

I am very glad, Sister White, for the advice you give me from time to time, and I do try to profit by it; but you know how hard all habits are to break off; we need line upon line. I hope you will not get discouraged at the little improvement.—D. M. Canright letter, Nov. 26, 1878.

In view of Canright's later defection and statements he was to make concerning the unkind and cruel manner he and Lucretia were treated by Elder and Mrs. White, such a documented contemporary statement as this by Canright and those of Lucretia may be well worth pondering.

While in Ohio, Dudley received a mournful message from his courageous, self-sacrificing wife: "My hopes that returning health will ever be mine to enjoy have faded away in the distance. . . . I realize more and more that I am failing. . . . But all this does not frighten me, nor bring gloom upon my mind. The Lord blesses me with peace of mind which is not often disturbed by doubts or temptations. Then, too, I truly am grateful for the temporal blessings I enjoy. The only thing lacking is your presence, and this lack I can only consent to because I know the need there is of your labors. If I can never be with you in your work again, I do not want to feel that I have hindered you, however much the natural feelings have to be sacrificed."—Review and Herald, Dec. 12, 1878.

Lucretia's last-known letter was dictated on February 25 from her hospital bed. She addressed her words to one of her closest friends—Ellen White. She expressed thankfulness for the messages of comfort and assurance Sister White had sent, and thanked her for the love and continued interest she had manifested during her year and a half of affliction. She wrote that the Lord had revealed Himself to her in love and mercy, and in His love she rested. In closing she called Elder and Mrs. White her "dearest friends."

A postscript written by her nurse stated:

She is very weak, but ever patient, uncomplaining, and even cheerful.

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Her room is a light place, and we feel God does care for her tenderly. Her husband has been here for several weeks. Your words were appreciated, I can assure you. She expresses much gratitude and affection for the kindness and interest you and Brother White have extended to her. With love and haste. (Signed) Mary Martin.

—Lucretia C. Canright letter, Feb. 25, 1879

On Sabbath, March 29, near sunset, Lucretia Canright died, at the age of thirty-one. The Review reported: "The funeral was held in the tabernacle, March 31, at 3 p.m., a large congregation attending. . . . Bro. Canright, with his two little ones, will have the sympathy of his many friends in this bereavement."—April 3, 1879. Burial was at Oak Hill Cemetery, in the plot Lucretia herself had chosen.

One of her last wishes had been that she might live to see her little family settled in a home of their own. Dudley had bought a house and lot in Battle Creek on Champion Street, and was preparing to move in when she died. Her desire was that Mary Martin, her nurse, live there as housekeeper and care for Genevieve, who was seven, and little four-year-old Fred. But she did not live to see her desire fulfilled. Sister Martin did move into the house and cared for the children. Mary White reported that "she is an excellent person to train children, she is so even in all her ways and yet so firm" (Letter, May 3, 1879).

End Notes

1. See Appendixes. [back to text]

2. The practice in early Seventh-day Adventist history of making regular contributions to the church in accordance with a predetermined plan. This was later superseded by the tithing system in present use. [back to text]

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