At Issue Index   EGW Index   Contents   Previous   Next

I Was Canright's Secretary
by Carrie Johnson

Page 120

13. Work Begins With D. M. Canright

IT WAS in Mr. Cornell's office, as I stated in the opening chapter, that I was first introduced to Mr. Canright. It was nine-thirty Thursday morning, January 2, 1913.

Early that morning Lucy Hadden Canright, Mr. Canright's wife, passed away. This blow brought him grief, confusion and frustration to the point of shock. He hastily boarded the trolley at North Park near Grand Rapids, Michigan, and journeyed to Battle Creek, seeking his early Adventist friends. Instinctively he turned to the Amadons, only to find Martha Amadon living with her daughter and George Amadon very ill. Martha directed Mr. Canright to W. E. Cornell's home, just two blocks away.

Together the two men came to the business college about nine o'clock that morning, where Mr. Cornell approached me a few minutes later in the typing room, prior to the introduction in his private office. Mr. Cornell had once been an Adventist, and later returned to the church.

After being sworn to secrecy, I was told that I was to work for a former prominent Seventh-day Adventist minister. Mr. Cornell told me that he himself had been his first secretary and that I would be his last secretary. I was reminded that I should not reveal what was said or done or for whom I was to work.

I was petrified in Mr. Cornell's office as I was introduced to D. M. Canright. I recognized with consternation that my new boss, "the former prominent Seventh-day Adventist," was none other than the familiar "Mr. X" whom I had seen

Page 121

in the helper's kitchen. Mr. Cornell sensed my distress, and hurried out of the office, locking the door. My thoughts were, What have I been tricked into? After I got hold of myself, I remembered that eight months earlier I had declared to the Methodist preacher who lent me the book by Mr. Canright that if I should ever meet Mr. Canright it would be time enough to decide whether he was right or wrong. The thought crossed my mind that maybe he was right. If so, this would be my chance to find out.

Moments later Mr. Cornell returned, explaining his reason for locking the door. The students were assembling, and he was afraid that someone might barge in, but within those few moments much passed through my mind.

As I evaluated the man standing before me, I couldn't help also thinking, How art thou fallen! All this and more raced through my mind as I braced myself to face the challenge of my first secretarial job.

When Mr. Cornell returned he outlined some regulations to which Mr. Canright and I were to adhere. He elaborated on this a few days later.

Mr. Cornell then plunged into helping Mr. Canright notify those he knew in Battle Creek of the circumstances that brought him there. Mr. Canright dictated an announcement of his wife's death for the Otsego Union. This was my first work for him, and it was a trying experience for both of us as the tears, not under control, rolled down his face. The paper, a weekly journal, carried the notice on the day of the funeral. The Dorcas Society of the Battle Creek church sent an appropriate floral tribute. His friends in Battle Creek invited him to stay in Battle Creek after the funeral and pursue his literary work there. Among his projects were correspondence to carry on and a book manuscript to finish—The Lord's Day From Neither Catholics nor Pagans.

For a few days Mr. Canright was in Grand Rapids and then in Otsego, where he attended the funeral. I was now in Mr. Cornell's employ, and he sent me to the Sanitarium College library to do piece work, such as addressing envelopes at $1.00 per thousand. In three days I was recalled by Mr. Cornell. Mr. Canright was back, and I was placed at his

Page 122

disposal for secretarial work. The routine of dictating personal letters now began.

As the news of Mrs. Canright's death spread through Adventist circles, letters of condolence began to come in. Sympathy, tributes, and some monetary contributions came from his old Adventist brethren. These gestures of kindness were gratefully acknowledged by him through letters that he dictated to me.

Mr. Cornell now became very specific in outlining the regulations by which we would work. I must tell no one that I was working for Mr. Canright or what I was doing. I was to come and go as if attending classes. The door was to be kept locked to prevent student intrusion. I was to keep Mr. Canright well informed of all Tabernacle church announcements, where and when weekly prayer meetings were to be held, et cetera.

A little later, in private, Mr. Cornell instructed me to learn from Mr. Canright what his activities would be, and report back to him. I was to report whom he saw and conversed with. Once again I was required to pledge secrecy and loyalty to him.

While making arrangements, Mr. Cornell requested that Mr. Canright not arrive at the school before nine-thirty in the morning, and that he must always use the rear entrance. After school hours he was free to leave by either exit.

All these injunctions left me with a troubled mind. I felt hemmed in, even tricked, at having been sworn to secrecy without the right to discuss my perplexity with others and seek counsel. I remember that Mr. Canright was greatly disappointed when he learned that he could not stay at the Amadon home, owing to Mr. Amadon's illness. As noted earlier, it was at the Amadon home where Lucretia Cranson, Mr. Canright's first wife, had lived after her parents passed away, and this is where she was living when she married Dudley. It was also here that the two Canright children, Fred and Genevieve, stayed for about two years after Lucretia's death. The Amadons had always befriended the Canrights, but now George Amadon was very low and near death.

Page 123

Mr. Canright also learned before long, if he didn't already know, that Battle Creek was not the same place he had known some thirty or more years before. Many of his old Adventist friends had moved away, and others were lying in Oak Hill Cemetery, where Lucretia was buried.

The college had been moved to Berrien Springs, the Review and Herald Publishing house had burned down and was now situated in Washington, D. C., as was also the General Conference. The Battle Creek Sanitarium had also burned and had been rebuilt, and was now under new management. The Health Reformer, a Seventh-day Adventist publication, was gone. The Haskell Home Orphanage was gone. The only thing left as Dudley knew it was the good old "Dime Tabernacle," built from dimes contributed back in the late 1870's.

Mr. Canright either would not or could not be consoled. His grief was heart rending. When Martha Amadon urged him to return to his former faith he replied, "I can't; it is too late."

It was then that I began to understand the full impact of his inconsolable grief. Even though his former brethren suggested many devices to occupy his mind and time, all were to no avail. His greatest concern seemed to be that he could not stay with the Amadons. To all this another grief was added when, a few weeks later, George Amadon died—on February 26, 1913.

Mr. Canright, adjusting as well as he could to the inevitable, lived in the cottage room furnished by Dr. Kellogg and ate his meals at the corner of the worktable in the Sanitarium kitchen on a meal ticket furnished for him by Dr. Kellogg himself. Meanwhile he settled down to writing and working in the office at the business college I have described.

His daily dictation was divided into two main parts: The answering of personal letters he had received, and the dictating of portions of the manuscripts for his books.

The letters he received daily dealt with questions that had come to the minds of those who read his book Seventh-day Adventism Renounced. He had a form letter he often had me type to be sent to persons who had made inquiry. I was to

Page 124

enclose with the letter certain little pamphlets he had written with one or another aspect of Adventist teachings.

The second half of his dictation, as I mentioned, related to the books he was writing. At the time I became his secretary his book on The Lord's Day was nearly complete. He had prepared this as "an answer to Seventh-day Adventism" on the subject of the seventh-day Sabbath. At the same time he was revising the introductory material for a new printing of his book Seventh-day Adventism Renounced.

Almost every day he wrote a letter to Madge Knevals Goodrich, writer for the Baptist Herald, published in Detroit, recounting somewhat in serial form his life history. Through these letters I learned a good deal about his life. In these letters he told about severe headaches that had troubled him from youth. He also told of an eye ailment, with its burning physical agony, that had plagued him viciously for years, and what steps he had taken to obtain relief. The eye trouble, I remember, had been diagnosed as tic douloureux. I recall that he had finally been told by a surgeon in Ann Arbor that if he were willing to lose his left eye he might save the other. But he was also warned that the operation might prove fatal.

I gathered from what he dictated that he underwent surgery without the comfort or benefit of any assurance he would awaken from the anesthetic, and that in this tortured situation, extreme mental depression intensified in his mind. It was strange how he seemed to have the will to live, but not the courage to die. I observed that an overwhelming desire for peace of mind seemed to dominate his subconsciousness. He seemed to yearn to be free from a kind of demonic power that controlled him. He craved the warmth of companionship of his former Seventh-day Adventist associates, yet he seemed incapable of ceasing to fight their beliefs and teachings.

I have gathered that after his operation, he was informed by his surgeon that his left eye, together with the facial nerves, had been removed, and that if a delicate tissue in his brain did not become blood soaked and break loose within six hours after the operation, his chance for recovery was good.

Page 125

If all went well, the burning sensation in his brain would subside and the unbearable pain would leave. During the six critical hours he was kept awake, motionless, and in a sitting position by nurse attendants, after which the surgeon pronounced him out of immediate danger. As I have already indicated, the operation left D. M. Canright with a sunken, empty eye socket, which, when I knew him, he seldom took pains to hide.

At Issue Index   EGW Index   Contents   Previous   Next