Hiram Edson and The Vision In The Cornfield

In the aftermath of the disappointment of 1844, Hiram Edson wrote; “Our fondest hopes and expectations were blasted and such a spirit of weeping came over us as I never experienced before. It seemed that the loss of all earthly friends could have been no comparison. We wept and wept, till the day dawn”

His recollection of the disappointment and its emotional toll is one of the most poignant descriptions of the devastating impact the event had on many waiting and watching Millerites. Edson, like many others, weathered this crisis of faith after a remarkable series of events.

When October 23, 1844, dawned and the little group of Millerites huddled in Edson’s farm had managed to check the first outpouring of grief, Edson led the way to his barn. Here they gathered and spent the morning in prayer. After this season of prayer, Edson, accompanied by his friend Owen Crosier, decided to make a trip across his cornfield. They wanted to visit some of their Millerite neighbors and encourage them. As they were making their way across the field Edson stopped short and seemed to stare straight ahead. Puzzled, Crosier pulled to an abrupt stop behind him calling out “Brother Edson, what are you stopping for?”

To which Edson replied, “God is answering our morning prayer, giving light regarding our disappointment”. Edson later explained that as he was walking he felt as if a hand was laid on his shoulder and he seemed to have a vision of the heavenly sanctuary where he saw that Jesus had that very day entered into the Most Holy Place of the Heavenly Sanctuary to begin the work of judgment.

Crosier and Edson along with their friend and neighbor Franklin B. Hahn spent the next several weeks and months poring over their Bibles studying the themes of the sanctuary and judgment. In March of 1845, they published their findings in a small paper called “The Day Dawn”.  Coriser, being a school teacher, wrote the article while Edson and his wife sold their best silverware to raise money to fund the publication and Hahn had the material published.

Millerite Experience

Hiram Edson was born in 1806 and went on to become a farmer. He was a Methodist and a deeply spiritual man. He married his first wife Etta Chrisler in December of 1830 and together they had three children. In 1835, the Edsons purchased a 56-acre farm near Port Gibson, New York and settled down to cultivate the land and raise their young family. However in May 1839 Etta died leaving Hiram with three young children; George was 8, Susan 6 and Belinda 4.

Perhaps for the sake of his children Edson remarried in October the same year. His second wife, Esther Persons was 23. She gave birth to their first child Viah Ophelia in June of 1841 but the child died within a year of her birth. Two years later, in June of 1843, they had a second child and gave her the same name as their first baby. Thirteen years later in July of 1856, they had their third and last child Lucy Jane.

Edson most likely accepted the Advent message sometime during 1843 when the great tent was pitched in Central New York. His daughter Ophelia recalls hearing that her parents accepted the message from William Miller himself. There were meetings held in Rochester in June of 1843 and later in November of the same year, Miller spent ten days lecturing in the city. It was most likely at one of these two meetings that the Edson family joined the Millerite movement.

Sabbatarian Adventist Experience

After the great disappointment, Edson morphed into a living example of a lay minister and played an important role in supporting and reclaiming backslidden ministers. One such case was that of Samuel Rhodes whom he helped to reclaim in 1849. He also laid hands on Clarissa Bonfoey in 1850 and she was healed.

Edson worked on his farm to earn a living but the all-consuming focal point of his life was preaching the Advent message. To this end, he spent weeks and months on evangelistic tours through New York and even Canada. He did some of his traveling alone but he also spent a considerable amount of time traveling with itinerant speakers like Joseph Bates, J.N. Andrews, Frederick Wheeler, and G.W. Holt. Edson also provided support and training in ministerial work to the young J.N. Loughborough.

Edson’s early years in ministerial work were at a time when there was no formal organization to issue licenses or pay salaries. However, he was eventually ordained and issued ministerial credentials sometime between 1866 and 1875.

Many important events linked to the shaping of early Sabbatarian Adventism took place on Edson’s farm. Along with the development of the Sanctuary doctrine in 1844 and 1845, the Edson farm in Port Gibson was also one of the places that Joseph Bates shared the truth about the Seventh-Day Sabbath. In addition, it was also the site of one of the Sabbath Conferences held in 1848.

Edson sold his farm in 1850 and two years later the proceeds were used to purchase the Washington Hand Press that serviced the fledgling publishing house that James White set up in Rochester, New York.

By the mid-1870s, Edson had begun to slow down considerably and had become mildly cantankerous and may have stayed away from church for a few years in the late 1870s. However, he was a dedicated Seventh-Day Adventist till the day he died. He passed to his rest in 1885 and was buried in Roosevelt, New York, in the cemetery opposite the historic Roosevelt Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

Further Reading and Citations

  • Schawrz, R.W. and Greenleaf, F. (1979) – Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church (Revised Edition)
  • Collins, N.J. (2005) Heartwarming Stories of Adventist Pioneers (Book 1)
  • Burt, M.D. (2011) – Adventist Pioneer Places (New York and New England)