Ellen White’s Early Years

Ellen Harmon ducked her head down low and kept her eyes trained on the sidewalk as she hurried away from the angry taunts being hurled at her. Her sister Elizabeth did the same, struggling to keep pace with her. Ellen recognised the voice behind her as belonging to one of the older girls that attended the Brackett Street School along with herself and her sister. I wonder why she’s so angry Ellen mused as she quickened her pace across the small park they were crossing. The Harmon kids had been taught never to retaliate or engage in a fight which is why both sisters chose to ignore the enraged rants that followed them. It sounds like she’s getting closer though Ellen thought worriedly doubling her pace into a run. She threw a quick glance over her shoulder to gauge the girl’s progress and was immediately assaulted by blinding pain.

“Ellen!” Elizabeth screamed as she saw the rock that the older girl threw smashing forcefully into her sister’s face. Ellen collapsed and a steady stream of blood began to seep out of her nose. Together with the school friend that was accompanying them Elizabeth managed to haul her sister to a nearby store. A little crowd of gawkers soon began to gather around the girls as blood began to pool on the floor of the hapless merchant’s store.

When Ellen opened her eyes the sight that greeted her was hazy. So many people, so many voices. Would she like a carriage ride home? No, she heard herself say in a strange faraway voice. She would manage to walk home. “I don’t want to get blood all over your carriage sir” she heard herself mumble thickly. It’s bad enough that I got blood all over your floor she thought foggily as she managed to struggle to her feet. Then with the help of Elizabeth and her friend Ellen half walked and was half carried the rest of the way home.

Turning Points

The incident proved to be a turning point in the life of Ellen Harmon. She was born on November 26th 1827 to Eunice and Robert Harmon in Gorham, Maine. Their home, a simple farmhouse situated on Fort Hill, was not far from the site where the first settlers of Gorham built their fort. Eunice and Robert Harmon were Methodists and raised their children in the same faith. Robert was a farmer but he engaged in hatmaking to supplement the family income. By the early 1830s, Robert Harmon realised that hatmaking was a far more lucrative career than farming and moved his family to Portland, Maine where he took up the work of hat making full time.

Robert was away selling hats when Ellen was injured. After the incident, Ellen was unconscious for three weeks. During this time her mother cared for her tirelessly and nursed her back to health, though the initial prognosis of her condition was bleak. When Ellen regained consciousness she was extremely frail and in a great deal of pain. Her face was so altered by the attack that she couldn’t recognise herself and when he father came home after his time away he couldn’t recognise her either.

The days, weeks and months of rehabilitation and healing that followed were painful and difficult in more ways than one. Ellen struggled to concentrate in school and was unable to read or write without difficulty. Eventually, she was forced to give up her education altogether. In addition to that, she had to endure an endless round of teasing at the hands of other children her age. It was a bitter and difficult trial to endure.

In 1840 William Miller preached in a little church on Casco St in Portland. The Harmon’s were among those who attended the meetings. Miller’s messages were both convincing and convicting and the Harmons embraced the Millerite movement wholeheartedly. So devoted were they to the message of Christ’s imminent return that they were eventually disfellowshipped from their local Methodist congregation. This would have been a significant blow to Robert and Eunice Harmon, who according to records had been Methodists for 40 years as of 1843.

Ellen was seventeen years old when the Millerites experienced the great disappointment of 1844. Her sister Elizabeth and older brother Robert gave up their faith in the Millerite message though Robert would later reclaim it. After the disappointment, Ellen Harmon was called by God to be his special messenger. Her work became instrumental in raising up and, to a great extent, preserving and advancing a movement which was established for the purpose of preparing a people to meet their God.

Citations and Further Reading

  • Maxwell, C.M. (1976) – Tell it to the World: The Story of Seventh-Day Adventists
  • White, A.L. (1985) – Ellen G. White: Volume 1 – The Early Years: 1827-1862
  • Knight, G.R. (1999) – A Brief History of Seventh-Day Adventists (3rd Edition)
  • Collins, N.J. (2005) – Heartwarming Stories of Adventist Pioneers (Book 1)
  • Burt, M.D. (2011) – Adventist Pioneer Places (New York and New England)