The Gilead Institute of America

How NOT to Start Outposts

Sutherland's Story About the Hurlbutts

It was in April of 1908 that Sister White took me with her to visit the Hurlbutts, who owned a 500 acre cattle farm in Humbolt County in northwest California. Although they lived too far from the cities of Oakland and San Francisco to sell milk and cattle, they were able to churn and sell a lot of butter.

Mrs. Hurlbutt was an Adventist, and her husband, though not a professing Christian, was favorably inclined. Through diligent work and frugality, and through an inheritance from her mother, the Hurlbutts became quite wealthy, and had requested Sr. White's counsel regarding how they could best help the Lord's work. Mrs. Hurlbutt repeatedly expressed a desire to start an orphanage, but Sr. White counseled against it, because she knew that the Hurlbutts did not have the qualifications to succeed in running an orphanage. They had zeal, but not the characteristics necessary to operate a successful home for orphans.

But Mrs. Hurlbutt had gone ahead and purchased a large tract of land at the south end of Clear Lake, and had spent over $10,000 in putting up a building, and had been bringing orphans from the streets of Oakland and San Francisco to their farm.

The Hurlbutts had strong personalities, and soon the children were running away because they could not tolerate the program which the Hurlbutts put on them.

Now, on April 19 (EGW Bio, Vol. 6, 167-168) Sr. White took me with her to visit the Hurlbutts, and endeavored to persuade them that instead of trying to operate an institution themselves, they should sell their properties and move to Madison and help Magan and me to make a success of our school and sanitarium there. Sr. White urged them to invest their means and their lives in helping us.

Well, they took some of her advice. They cleaned up their Humbolt property and sold it, and moved to Madison. Mr. Hurlbutt was suffering from arthritis, so we put them up in sanitarium that winter, and they watched the work we were doing there. Soon, as Br. Hurlbutt grew better they became so enamored with our work there at Madison, that they decided they could go somewhere else and start another Madison. They thought of Sr. White's counsel to them about not running an orphanage, so they gave that up. But they became so infatuated with the idea of starting another Madison, that there was nothing we could say to dissuade them from leaving Madison. They refused Ellen White's counsel that they should turn their money and talents over to help us.

They scouted around the south and found some property at Reeves, between Atlanta, Georgia, and Chattanooga. Then Sr. Hurlbutt went back to Clear Lake and persuaded a Br. John Wilson (N.C. Wilson's brother) to join them and become their farm manager. Then they persuaded Dr. Hayward who was trying to start a medical work on San Mountain near Chattanooga to join them. And they got Professor Boynton from San Franando Academy to come be their business manager, Bible teacher, and principal of the school.

Sr. White again tried to dissuade them against striking out on their own, and urged them to help the workers at Madison. But they felt well qualified to go ahead. We at Madison had to let them go. They would not listen to us.

They bought 500 acres for $25,000a lot of money in those days and then spent another $100,000 building a large sanitarium. Dr. Hayward was an A#l doctor, but had been struggling with a small general practice on San Mountain, and so it felt like velvet to him to have so much money to spend on building up a sanitarium practice at Reeves. Professor Boynton was a splendid teacher and as principal at San Fernando Academy he was able to recruit several faculty members and students to come with him to Reeves. Sr. Hurlbutt had very large plans and felt that with such a team and all their money they could do as good as Madisonand maybe even a little better. (Madison was not known for having much money in those early days.)

As for me and Madison, they felt the Lord had been kind to send them to counsel with me at Madison, and appreciated staying with us in the sanitarium all winter, but they were set against helping us there. Sr. White urged them to counsel with us, but they went ahead and left us and never called on us again for counsel. There was nothing we could say or Sr. White could say to change their minds.

Well, they got well started, and then Br. Wilson took sick and died of tuberculosis of the throat. Then the sanitarium burned down, and Prof. Boynton left with some of the staff and started a school at Flat Rock near Atlanta.

When news of the fire got around, it was soon disclosed that Dr. Hayward had indebted the sanitarium $25,000 and the creditors began demanding their money. Then it was that Sr. Hurlbutt came to me and asked for my counsel. She reminded me that Sr. White had urged her to seek my counsel, and so now that she needed it, I must not refuse to help her. I thought back of how the Lord had been merciful to Magan and me when we had needed counsel, so I called our attorney, a Mr. Parsons, and we wrote letters to every creditor. We explained what had happened. The Hurlbutt Farm Corporation had only $20,000 fire insurance, so I offered to pay each creditor 75% immediately if they would forgive the balance. But if they wanted full payment they would have to wait a year so as to give me time to get more money. All except one wrote agreeing to accept 75% as payment in full. One man was owed $15 which he wanted in full, so we were able to pay off all the creditors.

Well, Sr. Hurlbutt got a Br. Loren to try to continue the school, but to no avail, so she got discouraged with Reeves and moved to Delonigan. Someone there had some property with a spring and creek on it and a grist mill which she thought could make a profit from the wheat farm. So she bought the farm for $12,000 and invested another $10,000 on it. But it all blew up in her face, so she left it.

Reeves was still in her possession, but since the sanitarium fire and loss of Wilson, Boynton, and Hayward, she was unable to attract a team to do anything with it. So the Hurlbutts went to Birmingham and teamed up with a colored manJim Piersonwho was a nurse and had a treatment room. He was having real success with the wealthy people of that city, and was also rescuing juvenile delinquents whom the city's police department turned over to him. They recognized him as a wise and godly man.

Mrs. Hurlbutt thought that if they could work together and build a sanitarium for the wealthy colored people of Birmingham, and a school and farm for the delinquents of that city, their efforts would be successful, like at Madison. So Sr. Hurlbutt went to Mother "D" (Druillard) and persuaded her to give Jim Pierson $15,000, and then got Sr. Lida Scott to donate thousands more for their project, and I was afraid for a while that Sr. Hurlbutt would suck up all the resources of the Laymen's Foundation.

They found a property near Starretts [sp] south of Birmingham, and started construction. But their buildings were not built well. The foundations and roofs gave way, and thousands of dollars were sucked up from the self supporting work to help them.

By this time Sr. Hurlbutt was so old that she could no longer promote her dreams, so Jim Pierson put her into a oneroom cottage where she could live with her six cats and all her things piled high in one room.

One day I got a letter asking me to come down to see her. I must not refuse her. She called my attention to all that Sr. White had said about her need to look to me for advice and counsel. Mother "D" told me not to go, but I recalled how God had been so good to me, and I must be good to other people. So Mother "D" and I went down to Birmingham to see her. There we found her in a dying condition. There was nothing we could do but relieve her needs, and take her back to the Madison sanitarium.

After a few days of care she felt well enough to call me in and tell me what she had done. She confessed that she had been ugly and rebellious and that she had hated the very sight of me because the Lord had told her what to do and she didn't want to do it. She was angry and didn't want a thing to do with me or Madison. Then she told me she was sorry and repentant and that she must make things right before she died.

She told me to go to Florence, Alabama, to a certain bank, and get her will and have it changed so that everything would come to me and Madison.

I told her, "No, that would be terrible if the word ever got out that I had taken her property away from the General Conference and turned it over to Madison. I can't afford to jeopardize my reputation with the General Conference, which isn't any too good anyway."

Well, she insisted that she was afraid to die and that the Lord had convicted her that she must turn her property over to Madison,"I must clean up and straighten up before I die. I must do what Sr. White told me to do, or I will never get to heaven. I have done everything except what the Lord told me to do, and I have been afraid to die. I have had a mean spirit in me."

So I told her we would be willing to help. Sr. Scott, Mother "D", and I counseled her, "If you want your property to be used as Sr. White told you to use it in the beginning, then turn it over to the Laymen's Foundation." So she sold their propertyI think for $1over to the Laymen's Foundation, and then there wasn't anything left to burden the General Conference.

Well, with her coming back like the Prodigal Son, there wasn't anything we could do but to put the "royal robes" upon her and welcome her back.

She said, "I can't understand myself. All these years the devil has been leading me to rebel and run like Jonah, but here I am right where I said I would not be, doing the very thing which the Lord through Sr. White told me to do."

Transcribed from a wire recording of E. A. Sutherland made in about 1951 at Wildwood, edited by David J. Lee.

This is a very good example of why we need to follow the advice of the Spirit of Prophecy in our movements; otherwise, we will meet with much disappointment. Also, it is not wise to start a ministry just because a person wants to start one. It must be called by God. It is best to work along with those who are already doing God's medical missionary work.

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