Annie Smith Begins Again

She was late. Annie Smith quickened her steps as she scanned the houses along the unfamiliar street. She’d left her dorm room early, knowing that she would need to navigate her way through Boston to get to this meeting but she was still late!

A strange nagging sensation nudged at the edges of her mind but she brushed it away impatiently. She was late and she needed to find the correct house.

She slowed her pace and strained her eyes trying to focus on the number plates of the passing houses. She had damaged her eyes a few months prior and her eyesight was terrible.

No one was really sure what had happened but she suspected that she may have strained her eyes while trying to do a sketch of Boston from the Charlestown Female Seminary where she was a student.

Suddenly a hazy set of numbers blurred into focus and Annie stopped short narrowing her eyes to see better.

“There it is!” she exclaimed out loud squinting at the numbers on the door. Relief washed over her. This was the house she was looking for. She lifted the latch on the gate and hurried up the path to the front door.

Annie Smith was not particularly interested in the subject matter being presented at the meeting she was attending. She was only going because her mother had asked her to.

Slipping into the house as quietly as possible, Annie let out a small sigh as her mind wound back to her mother’s letter.

Rebekah Smith was worried about her children’s spiritual condition and had written to Annie in an attempt to provide some guidance. Joseph Bates had visited Annie’s hometown of West Wilton, New Hampshire, and Rebekah had attended his meetings. Bates had preached about the Sabbath and Mrs. Smith has been one of many who had accepted the new truth.

She had spent some time talking to Joseph Bates who enquired after her children. Rebekah told him how both Annie and Uriah had been offered lucrative teaching positions but that their spirituality was at a low ebb.

“I’m worried about them” she confessed softly

As he watched the weariness on Rebekah Smith’s face Joseph Bates’ heart was touched. His mind whirred into action piecing together a plan.

“Sister Smith,” he said enthusiastically “I’ll be preaching in Boston in a few days, not too far from where Annie’s school is. How about you write to her and tell her to come see me preach? I’ll write out the directions for you so you can send them to her”

Rebekah was thrilled and took him up on the offer, dashing off a letter to Annie in the mail as soon as she was able to.

When Annie received her mother’s letter her first reaction was to retreat. She didn’t really want to attend a series of meetings by Joseph Bates. The great disappointment had left her discouraged and spiritually depleted. She’d taken up the offer to study at the Charlestown Women’s Seminary and also accepted a few well-paying teaching positions in the aftermath of the disappointment.

She figured that if Jesus wasn’t coming she would need an education and a way to support herself financially. But she had to admit that her hold on God was fraying. She had first committed her life to God when she was a young girl and had been baptized into the fellowship of the local Baptist Church her family attended.

In the summer of 1844 she, along with the rest of her family had heard the Advent message. Her mother, her brother Uriah and herself had chosen to throw in their lot with the Millerite movement but the great disappointment had dealt a crushing blow to her faith. She knew she was drifting but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be brought back to shore. The entire experience had been too painful.

She stared at the letter in her hand for a long moment, contemplating her mother’s request.

Come on Annie she finally told herself it’s not like you’re doing anything else. You don’t have any classes and you certainly don’t have anything else planned. Just go! Besides, it’ll make Mother happy.

Sighing she folded the letter and slipped it back into the envelope. It was decided. She would go.

Now, slipping into the home of Mrs. Elizabeth Temple, Annie shut the door quietly behind her. Walking into the room where the meeting was being held she looked around and noticed that there was only one remaining seat. A chair by the door. At the front of the room stood a tall pleasant looking man whom she assumed was Elder Bates. As he started to speak he referred to a chart and spoke on the topic of the sanctuary.

As the details of her surroundings sank into Annie’s mind she bolted upright in her seat. The strange nagging sensation she had had before came screeching back into her mind like a freight train.

She had seen all of this before. All of it. In a dream, last night.

Her heart began to hammer in her chest as she mentally ticked off each detail.

In her dream, she had been running late and had come into the room where the meeting was in progress to see there was only one seat left. A chair by the door. She had seen a tall pleasant looking man pointing to a chart and uttering the words “Unto two thousand and three hundred days, then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”

She felt her jaw dropping open involuntarily as she checked off each aspect of her dream.

What she didn’t know was that Joseph Bates had had the same dream, only he had seen it from his perspective at the front of the room.

As he saw the young woman slipping into the room he remembered his dream. In it, he had seen a young woman walking into the room where he was preaching while he preached on the topic of the Sanctuary. She had come in late and had taken the only seat available, a lone chair at the back.

He had been planning to speak on a different subject but as he as his dream unfolding in front of him he immediately switched topics to speak about the sanctuary.

After the meeting, Joseph Bates introduced himself to Annie Smith. He then told her that he had seen her in a dream the previous night.

Startled Annie’s eyes locked on his face as she replied “How strange, I dreamed of you and some of the circumstances of this meeting last night as well”

Impressed that their meeting was no coincidence Elder Bates offered to study the Bible with Annie. An offer she took him up on without hesitation. A few weeks later Annie Smith re-committed herself to the Advent message.

The Good Old Review

After her reconversion, Annie began to contemplate the direction she wanted her life to take. She loved to write and she was well educated. At that point in time, she had an almost irresistible career opportunity on the table. She had been offered a job teaching at the prestigious Mount Vernon Academy for $1000 a year in addition to full room and board. It was a small fortune and an amazing opportunity but was it the path God wanted her to take?

She prayed long and hard.

As she thought and prayed over her options she decided to submit a poem she had written to the Review and Herald. It was titled “Fear Not Little Flock” and she addressed it to the Resident Editor James White.

Would he be willing to consider it for publication?

James White did more than that. He liked the poem so much that, after consulting with Joseph Bates, he offered Annie a job as a copy editor at the fledgling publication.

There was, however, a small catch. There was really no money to pay her a salary. Would she be willing to work for room and board only?

It seemed like a piece-of-cake decision. Mount Vernon Academy at $1000 a year with room and board vs some unknown Millerite publication who could offer her only room and board?

Easy. Piece of cake.

Annie soon found herself on her way to Saratoga Springs to join the unknown little paper. All trailblazing begins with little grassroots movements anyway. This was her opportunity to make a real difference and Annie Smith seized it with both hands.

Her only qualm was her weak eyes but James White told her to come inspite of them. Shortly after she arrived in Saratoga Springs, James White gathered the entire publishing house staff together. They held an anointing service for Annie and prayed for healing for her eyes.

Soon after the season of prayer ended Annie Smith regained her sight. It was a small miracle. Her small miracle and the assurance that she had taken the path God had marked for her. Though it was less traveled it would prove to be the path that would make all the difference.

Over the three years following her arrival in Saratoga Springs Annie Smith wrote 45 poems and hymns which were published in both the Review and Herald and the Youth’s Instructor. When the publishing house moved to 124, Mount Hope Avenue in Rochester, New York, Annie moved with it. There she spent most of her time as a copy editor but was occasionally called on to bear the responsibility of acting editor of the Review when Elder and Mrs. White were away traveling.

Love’s Labour Lost 

Rumor has it that Annie Smith fell in love with the young John Andrews, while they were working together at the Review office. Some of the speculations are based on a letter from Ellen White to John Andrews written about a month after Annie’s death. In it, she wrote “I saw that you could do no better now than to marry Angeline; that after you had gone thus far it would be wronging Angeline to have it stop there. The best course you can now take is to move on, get married, and do what you can in the cause of God. Annie’s disappointment cost her her life”

Annie’s own poetry and correspondence also hinted at heartbreak and potentially unrequited love. In one of the exchanges between Annie and her mother, Annie wrote

My lot had been to learn

Of friendship false, that bright will burn

When fortune spreads her wing of light,

But fades away when cometh night

To which her mother replied;

 

Dear Annie,

 

What though thy lot had been to bear

Much adverse fate, mid toil, and care

Raised expectations crushed and dead

And hope’s triumphant vision fled?

Does not thy heart begin to feel

The claims of Him who wounds to heal?

Go Not Gently Into That Dark Night

When Annie had been at the Review only a year James White’s sister and brother Anna and Nathaniel White arrived in Rochester. They were both suffering from tuberculosis. Nathaniel died in May of 1852 and Anna died a year later. Annie Smith wrote a poem for Anna White when she heard of her death. The poem was set to music and later sung at Annie’s own funeral shortly after.

Annie contracted tuberculosis from the White siblings. Extremely ill she went home to her mother in November of 1854 to recuperate. During that time she underwent water treatments in the hope that they would provide a cure but they did not help. James and Ellen White sent her $75 to defray the expenses of her last illness.

Shortly after she returned home from the water treatments Elder Bates stopped by West Wilton to see the family. He spent a Sabbath with them and while they fellowshipped Annie felt the spirit of God resting upon her and praised God in a loud voice. Turning to her Elder Bates said “you needed this blessing and now if the Lord sees that it is best for you to be laid away in the grave, He will go with you”

During her illness, Annie began work on a book of poetry that she wanted to see published before she died. Her brother Uriah left his work at the Review and Herald in Rochester to help her prepare it for publication. Annie firmly believed that once the book of poetry was completed she would either die or be miraculously healed.

On the 19th of July 1855, Annie called her mother to her room and told her that something had changed and that she didn’t think she would live through the day. Her mother and her brother John kept a vigil by her bedside throughout the night watching as she struggled to breathe. About 2 am she seemed to gain some strength and looked comfortable and even happy.

“John” her mother whispered, “Annie is being blessed!”

At that moment Annie spoke in a clear strong voice saying “Glory to God! Heaven is opened. I shall come forth at the first resurrection.”

She was blessed.

She had been given an assurance of salvation and death was no longer an endless cavern of fearful unknowns. Annie Smith had a firm grasp on the blessed hope.

On the 24th of July Annie wrote her final poem;

 

Oh! Shed not a tear o’er the spot where I sleep;

For the living and not for the dead ye may weep

Why mourn for the weary who sweetly repose

Free in the grave from life’s burdens and woes?

 

Two days later in the early hours of the morning, she called for her brother Samuel and drowsily asked him to wet her head.

“I feel sleepy” she murmured to him.

Leaving her bedside he went to his mother and quietly said to her “I don’t know, but Annie is dying”

Rising from her fitful sleep Rebekah Smith came to her only daughter’s bedside and sat beside her. She spoke to her but Annie was unconscious by then. She passed peacefully to her rest shortly thereafter.

One of the more well-known hymns she wrote beautifully sums up the experience of her life and her last illness;

 

While pilgrims here we journey on

In this dark vale of sin and gloom

Through tribulation, hate, and scorn

Or through the portals of the tomb

Till our returning king shall come

To take his exile captives home

O! What can buoy the spirits up?

Tis this alone – the blessed hope

Further Reading and Citations

  • Maxwell, C.M. (1976) – Tell It To The World – The Story of Seventh-Day Adventists
  • Collins, N.J. (2005) – Heartwarming Stories of Adventist Pioneers (Book 1)
  • Burt, M.D. (2011) – Adventist Pioneer Places (New York and New England)

Recommended Listening 

  • Pathways of The Pioneers (1998) – Volume 9, Episode 6 – Founding the Good Old Review
  • Pathways of The Pioneers (1998) – Volume 10, Episode 1 – Move To Rochester
  • Pathways of The Pioneers (1998) – Volume 10, Episode 2 – Sickness and Death In Rochester