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Pilgrimage: Ghost in the White Estate

Dr. Michael Campbell and Dr. Greg Howell explore the tale of Eli Curtis.

(Note: the text has been generated by AI. Always check the original audio before citing this episode.

Eli Curtis


Greg Howell (00:01.316)

Hey everybody, welcome to the Adventist Pilgrimage podcast. We wanna thank you guys for coming out because this is one of, honestly, one of my favorite episodes that we get to do every year because it's October time, we start kinda getting into that fall season. Frankly, even though I'm not personally a pumpkin spice kind of a person, there's pumpkin spice everywhere for those who like that. It's a fun time. And I know Michael, you may be a pumpkin spice guy, what are you these days?

Michael Campbell (00:28.155)

I'm all about the pumpkin spice. I was excited that this year Wendy's has pumpkin spice Frosties, so I had to go out and try that. It was a lot of fun.

greg (00:36.032)

Oh my word. I have not had that urge, although I do love me a frosty here and there. So anyway, for those who are also thinking in terms of perhaps the supernatural, looking at October obviously is one of those times. And we here at the Adventist Pilgrimage Podcast are thinking similarly actually, this particular episode this month. Yeah, some ghostly thoughts. We called this episode, "A Ghost in the White Estate."

Michael Campbell (00:45.686)

Some ghostly thoughts. Haha.

greg (01:04.612)

And frankly, I like the title, but I like the actual conversation around this whole thing. Michael, who are we looking at this month?

Michael Campbell (01:13.238)

Yeah, so big disclaimer just before anybody like just takes that and runs with it that, you know, we actually don't believe in ghosts, right, Greg? Bye.

greg (01:18.949)


No, not at all. I am not a secret seance person, no, not at all.

Michael Campbell (01:27.29)

No, no, but it's fun when you're doing historical research, you discover new things. And one of those things that just kind of doing a deep dive on recently is Eli Curtis, who was this Millerite waiting for Jesus to come really just excited and passionate about Christ's soon return. And his story, his story, because it's intertwined with the pioneers, James and Ellen White and Joseph Bates.

greg (01:39.394)


Michael Campbell (01:55.55)

and yet he will diverge and go a very different path. And that's kind of the story that we've been in the process of uncovering for this episode.

greg (02:04.58)

Yeah, this is great. These are one of these historical figures we don't know a ton about and kind of digging around a little. There's been a few articles, yeah, not a whole lot. There's no major dissertation.

Michael Campbell (02:09.718)

Mm-hmm. Some bits and pieces, yeah. But not a lot. And sometimes it's not always as accurate as one might like. And that's because new sources come to light, new evidence and genealogical materials. In fact, I was able to get in touch with for this research that I've been uncovering, two different branches of the descendants that...

one had a picture, so that's kind of neat. We can put that in the show notes, so if you haven't seen that before, that's kind of neat. And so there are those kinds of details, and there were some kind of fuzzy details, because there's more than one Eli Curtis in the 19th century. And so people have at times maybe confused those. So thanks to some genealogists and some descendants, we're able to kind of piece this together a little bit more.

greg (02:38.677)


greg (02:50.044)


Michael Campbell (03:02.102)

with more clarity and that's kind of that's the fun of doing research is we're always building on the work of those who've gone before and discovering new things and that's the fun of research.

greg (03:11.608)

Nice, nice. Yeah, well, let's just dive right into this guy, knowing a little bit about him and learning more about him as we go. Who's Eli Curtis as the Millerite? And what's his impact on the early Adventist story?

Michael Campbell (03:15.271)



Michael Campbell (03:25.646)

Sure, so Eli Curtis was born May 21, 1793 in Weston, Connecticut, and with his family very early on when he's young, we don't have a lot of details of his early life. He moves west to Michigan. He gets married and they have children, and at some point he discovers the good news about Christ in return. He's so excited about that, that he will go out to New York City and be part with

the group of believers in New York City. Joshua Himes at one point will go down and visit those believers and be a catalyst for starting a periodical called The Midnight Cry, which is kind of circulated en masse today. We have social media for that. Back then they had newspapers. And so there would be literally hundreds of thousands of copies of this that were just being disseminated. So he was core to that kind of publishing enterprise in New York and there were several others that were kind of in that New York.

group of New York City group of Adventists and he'll stay there after the disappointment for a time as well. And it's in that post-disappointment flux in that kind of where some people give up their faith, other people will, you know, return to their churches, others just give up religion altogether. But he will be one of those who we call the Bridegroom Adventists and what that means

It's referring to Matthew 25, the parable of the 10 virgins. And Samuel Snow, who showed up right before the summer of 1844 with

greg (04:50.712)

Yeah, yeah, 10 versions of Farewell, yep.

greg (04:58.7)

I was gonna say, he's the guy who really gave us the October 22 date as any solid thing. Uh-huh, uh-huh.

Michael Campbell (05:02.618)

sure is that sometimes called the seventh month movement, whatever, you know, the validity of Bible prophecy. So he's kind of one of those guys that is, and after the disappointment continues in his faith, he's just passionate about, and so he'll be printing even after they stop some of the activities in New York. He will continue his passion about sharing Christ and some of his new beliefs. He will be one of those that will

percolate around with Samuel Snow as already mentioned. But this doctrine, this new idea of the sanctuary, right? So the shut door, meaning the validity of the prophecy and the parable, the sanctuary being in heaven, not this earth, and then also the seventh day Sabbath.

greg (05:38.506)


greg (05:47.308)

Is he interacting with Chrysler? Chrysler in any of that? Or is he just kind of reading through with the newspapers and kind of contributing?

Michael Campbell (05:55.53)

Oh, you're thinking of like, yeah, so Western New York, I, you know, because he's interacting with snow, it'd be, it seems it would be surprising if he wasn't. I mean, he obviously with, Crozier, I think you mean Crozier, right? Yeah, Crozier and Hiram Edson and Dr. F.B. Hahn. So they're certainly in that trajectory in that group. They're in Western New York, so a little bit.

greg (05:57.048)

Sanctuary stuff and some of the other.

greg (06:05.696)


greg (06:12.38)

Crozier, that's who I meant, Crozier, yep.

greg (06:17.386)


Michael Campbell (06:22.686)

of a distance, but he does intersect very much so with snow. And that's the one that really catches the attention because we, again, we can only go by what historical sources we have, right? And so there was a, we have a couple copies of his, of his periodical. We'll talk more about that here in just a minute. By the way, those are at the American Antiquarian Society, but there were some copies at the White Estate, so hence, you know, why the, our, our.

title for today, what we're finding in some of the archives here. He's haunting still his ideas, right? That's what we're talking about today. And so, Curtis will be engaging with this. He's not so sure about Snow because Snow will actually say he's Elijah the prophet and he's like, yeah, I don't know about that. And at one point he sees him and Snow, he notes, is really annoyed with two groups of people. Those that are the spiritualizers, spiritualizing the

greg (06:53.237)

He's haunting still. Yeah.

greg (07:08.348)


Michael Campbell (07:19.906)

those who are trying to keep all of God's commandments and washing feet, right? So there's another group, and it's interesting, he connects that foot washing and the commandment keeping, presumably, saboteurism, which he's a saboteurian, or becomes one at least, and so clearly he's feeling a little bit at the margins, he's not jiving with where snow is going, but this kind of sets the stage for kind of the rest of the conversation of what's going on, but.

greg (07:24.66)


greg (07:34.308)


Michael Campbell (07:48.534)

But it's interesting, these are important, important ideas that are developing in this kind of very formative phase of saboteurian Adventist theology in the 1840s.

greg (07:59.332)

Okay. And he's putting himself in there. Now, is he interacting much with Ellen White or like he's starting his own publication? How's he working with that?

Michael Campbell (08:07.498)

Yeah, so he is, he is. And this brings to the periodical that I alluded to earlier, the girdle of truth, what a name, right? And there's not very many copies. There's one copy at the Center for Adventist Research. And I think there's a page of one that's missing. Maybe there'll be some other copies that will turn up, who knows, maybe some of our listeners will find one in some attic somewhere, who knows. And there's also some copies of, I think there's four, as I recall.

greg (08:14.096)

Mm-hmm. Yeah, right.

greg (08:20.706)


greg (08:29.669)


Michael Campbell (08:37.23)

They're at the American Antiquarian Society up in Massachusetts. And based on those, we know that he was reprinting some of Ellen White's visions. In fact, we first know and catch a glimpse of this because he will write about how he comes across, it's actually in this little PS that he had met basically a couple and allusion to these dreams and visions. And so...

greg (08:41.369)


Michael Campbell (09:05.778)

And then the next thing you know, he's actually printing some of Ellen White's vision. So it seems pretty clear there's a connection with James and Ellen White very early on, and he's publishing or printing some of these visions in his periodical. And this raised the question because at some point, he's obviously intersecting. He's very excited about the Sabbath, the sanctuary, even the gift of prophecy. But at some point here, they will part company. And that's kind of the more...

uh, intriguing ghostly part of our story, haunting part.

greg (09:40.197)

Mm hmm. Yeah, because there's this there's this letter where she's obviously getting the couple of quotes And that's usually the only place you find Eli Curtis is in this letter that she's interacting with him on right what what? What was the letter writing back because that's clearly Ellen's main Focus is how she's handling him later on

Michael Campbell (10:01.63)

Absolutely. So as I mentioned, in 1847, the two communications, right? So and he's reprinting those. So what started doing is to actually look at this line by line. And again, it's always fun when you realize, hey, you're not the only one that's kind of noticed this. So shout out to a friend of mine, an amethyst pastor, researcher extraordinaire, Kevin Morgan. So he found the same thing that I found, and that is that

Basically, he will reprint Ellen White's visions for Badam, except at one point he'll give a brief explanation about the crown on Jesus's head being a crown within a crown and noting that also he will leave out two, this version, there'll be later versions that leave out two different things. One is the Holy Kiss, right? And so you can imagine why.

greg (10:50.724)


Michael Campbell (10:52.534)

Those things get edited a little bit later on, but there doesn't seem to be any kind of malicious intent. So Ellen White's saying, stop polishing my vision. It's not like he's messing up and tweaking or somehow changing or altering her visions. That doesn't seem to be the issue. Correct. But in doing some research, here's where we found the ghost in the White estate. This copy of this tract by Eli Curtis.

greg (11:05.829)


greg (11:10.142)

It's not content based, yeah right.

greg (11:18.14)


Michael Campbell (11:21.858)

titled, A Wonderful Phenomena, Wonders of the Age, A Thrilling Narrative of the Facts Relating to the Dixborough Ghost. Now I know you're doing a little Dixborough ghost. I know you're doing some sleuthing on this one, Greg. What's this Dixborough ghost all about?

greg (11:30.064)

The Dixborough Ghost. Yeah.

greg (11:38.088)

Well, and the Dixborough Ghost is a fascinating background story because it's also part of the major movement in the early, early 19th, mid 19th century world called spiritualism. And spiritualism is a major player throughout a lot of the early Adventist periodicals. It's kind of the consistent bugaboo in the background. You know, a lot of Adventist ministers are dealing with the spiritualists or they're debating or they're just writing books against the whole idea.

Michael Campbell (11:51.478)


greg (12:07.732)

And the Spiritualist movement is one that basically focuses in on the ability to communicate with dead people or with spirits who have moved on. And the Dixborough Ghost is one of these stories that a lot of Spiritualists really kind of honed in on. And it's coming from that Michigan territory where Curtis has got some background. My understanding is that the ghost was the ghost of an old lady who died under mysterious circumstances. And the people moving into this home...

started experiencing strange phenomena. This one night a light was shining from the fellow's front kitchen, and he opens the door to the kitchen to see this old lady sitting out of a chair in the middle of his kitchen, and she's babbling on about something, and he comes up to her, and she looks at him, and it disappears. And five or six different times, you know, this ghost appears and shows him a little bit of a story, you know, and eventually the idea was that she replays part of her own.

Michael Campbell (12:56.543)

Uh oh.

greg (13:03.712)

last moments showing that she was murdered by these people. And you know, she's trying to tell someone about it. And that's kind of the background of the Dixborough ghost. It was one that isn't just like written by a person. There's multiple people who went to the authorities and said, here's our version of events. We saw this happened. Like the whole story is fairly well documented from multiple sources. So that's kind of the Dixborough ghost background of things. Anyway, how did Curtis

Michael Campbell (13:30.754)

It was kind of like a thing, right? It was a thing.

greg (13:32.268)

Yeah, it's a thing and people knew about it. It was well known, it was well publicized. So where's Curtis coming in on this thing?

Michael Campbell (13:39.931)

And it is... well, he shifts course, you know, and I think this shouldn't surprise us too much. If you believe in divine revelations, but you start shifting away, you know, and by the way, the spiritualism they're talking about is a spiritualism that is reinterpreting the Bible. So they're seeing biblical figures and everything else. So it's not like they're against the Bible. They actually it's like a it's a biblical spiritualism, but that particular manifestation of shall we say modern?

greg (13:54.818)


Michael Campbell (14:05.074)

spiritualism, this kind of thing. We think of the Fox sisters and everything else. If you read like great controversy and everything else, Ellen White is emphatic and unequivocal that this is the work of Satan. And so she sees this as a counterfeit very clearly. And so this is not the path to head down. So she sees this sort of a, and this is why she's so strong saying, you know, stop publishing or printing my...

greg (14:09.349)


Michael Campbell (14:30.558)

My vision is because she does not want to be associated with spiritualism in any way, shape, or form.

greg (14:36.222)

Mm-hmm. So this isn't so much about content of the visions, it's actually about reputation. She doesn't want to be connected with somebody who is publishing and putting these kind of things out there. Huh, interesting. So Eli is getting wrapped up in this, and he's not totally alone. I mean, we've got other Adventist luminaries like Moses Hull who also, yeah, got wrapped up in spiritualism. He's not out of the norm in some ways, but...

Michael Campbell (14:40.078)

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Michael Campbell (14:47.434)

Yeah, great.

Michael Campbell (14:56.51)

Of course later on.

greg (15:01.784)

But what goes on with him? Where does he go from here?

Michael Campbell (15:04.686)

Well, he does head back to Michigan and of course he's into this, starts a periodical, the Millennial Messenger, and so he's kind of, he's very passionate about his spiritualist views. And at one point, curiously, in 1870, he'll take his retirement savings and he will head down to Chauncey, Ohio, where he purchases a property that's well known at that time for spiritualist manifestations.

It's called the Kuhn's Spirit House. So just kind of like the Dixborough goes to another one of these like spots that are supposed to be more in touch with the supernatural and he will basically, yeah. And so he's starting a commune. Of course, 19th century is all about, not all about, but this is the heyday of a number of communitarian exactly experiments. You know, you think of the Shakers and a bunch of these other different groups, right? So this is very in vogue

greg (15:39.168)

He buys a haunted house, right?

greg (15:53.056)

utopian societies and yeah.

Michael Campbell (16:00.778)

with that time. And he believes that he'd been commissioned by a spirit who had signed the sacred name of Jesus of Nazareth to come to Ohio and to locate this on this piece of property where they would build the city of the New Jerusalem.

greg (16:14.543)


greg (16:18.596)

Well, that's a pretty big mandate. Ha ha.

Michael Campbell (16:21.158)

It is. He calls it the Morning Star Colony and they will build a tabernacle and a knoll that they will dub Mount Nebo and they will try to reconstruct King Solomon's Temple as an eight-sided structure with a window on each side and a cupola on top and this 60-foot tabernacle was supposed to be completed by Christmas 1871 but tragically, tragically that year

greg (16:34.628)


Michael Campbell (16:45.582)

He had like his whole life savings, I think it was like $6,000 or something, and it got stolen. The reason we know that there's advertisements, reward if you'll help solve the riddle, the mystery of all this huge amount of money. Now to give it some perspective, he bought that farm, the property, five acres, this spiritualist utopian thing for $257.50. So you get an idea that $6,000 is a lot of money. And he never recovers it.

greg (17:11.862)


Michael Campbell (17:14.554)

at least not that we know of, and he and his wife tragically will both later die. And so, and when that happens, of course, it just all falls apart, falls apart. So.

greg (17:24.356)

Yeah. So as a figure, he's not quite a cult leader, but he's definitely got this idea that I'm gonna start this community and I'm gonna use it to focus in on the spirits who are guiding this whole process. To me, it's fascinating that you can go from one extreme, Millerism and second coming, and then wind up on the other side of it. And I'm curious, to me, there's psychology in this.

Michael Campbell (17:28.053)


Michael Campbell (17:34.925)


greg (17:51.696)

What do you think pulls an Eli Curtis from preaching the second coming to preaching this utopian spirit led endeavor to rebuild Solomon's temple?

Michael Campbell (18:02.99)

I almost wonder if maybe it shouldn't surprise us, right? Because people are part of their culture, their milieu, their times, and there was a lot of fluidity of ideas between different groups and stuff like that. And so an experimentation that's going on. And so obviously to experiment with dreams and visions with Ellen White, you know, and to reprint her visions means a certain openness to the supernatural. But like a lot of things, there's a lot of gravitational pull in different directions. And so...

You can see how early saboteur and adventist will form the nucleus into a denomination. Eli Curtis, he's really close. He's really close. But it's amazing how a few little things can change that trajectory and he goes in just a completely different direction. And he's not the only one, as you pointed out, which means, again, there's a lot of fluidity of ideas and a lot of openness, a period of creativity, and certainly that's what's going on here.

greg (18:39.853)


greg (19:01.772)

Yeah, one of these days I want to jump back into a Moses Hall episode because there's some great connections there with family members actually coming from Josephine Cunnington-Edwards and some other people who've got some connections to him. But a story for another time, right? Yeah. There's some good stuff.

Michael Campbell (19:14.786)

Fascinating. Can't wait. Yeah, yeah. Tantalizer listeners here. I found a Moses Hall pamphlet I'd never seen before until just today doing some research in the archives. So all kinds of fun stuff. Absolutely. Yeah.

greg (19:22.84)

Oh, hey, I want to see a copy of that. That sounds great. That's awesome. So what do you think Eli Curtis's legacy is? I mean, obviously we've got this connecting points. We've been finding some new stuff. What do you think in the end, beyond his unfortunate ending, his impact on Adventism could be quantified as?

Michael Campbell (19:44.022)

There's a lot of these kind of liminal figures, you know, that you have the Millerite greats like Miller and Himes. We tend to not talk about some of these B-roll figures or, you know, lesser known that they played a very significant role all the same. And so I think part of kind of getting to moving to a more sophisticated view of our

Michael Campbell (20:10.154)

of strands of some of these other individuals who brought a lot of character and personality to the to the Millerite movement and maybe because they didn't become some of the Adventists, we tend to not tell those stories as much. We don't tell, we tend to tell the success stories, right? We talk about Joseph Bates and James White. We don't talk about the Eli Curtises, but he was part of that story, part of that creativity, part of the formation of early saboteurian Adventists and this discussion of ideas about foot washing and

greg (20:25.424)


Michael Campbell (20:39.298)

theology of the sanctuary. He writes some very significant articles that are important and play a pivotal role. Even if we don't adopt all his ideas, they are part of that conversation out of which those ideas did develop. And so he remains a very pivotal formative character, even if again, not well known and in the spotlight, in the limelight, but he's still an important part. And you need to, you know, we need to understand.

that story. And yes, it has a little bit of a tragic ending, not the ending that maybe perhaps we'd like, but that's what we do with history. We tell the history we find, not the history we would like to find. And hopefully we celebrate the good things and we hopefully can also learn from some of those challenges as well. So the haunting of Eli Curtis, if you please.

greg (21:15.78)


greg (21:27.488)

And yeah, I like how you said that, that we learn from these figures as much as anything. It does help put ourselves into context, if nothing else. It also helps me think about the Adventism of today. Even seeing in our own culture, in our own times, the Adventist world is pretty diverse, you know, looking across the globe, looking at the different ways it's impacted the cultures. We're not all in that same exact vein, but we're all part of a diverse...

Michael Campbell (21:32.235)


Michael Campbell (21:36.203)


Michael Campbell (21:45.869)

It is.

greg (21:54.652)

group waiting for the second coming. So I like that. It adds some in. It reminds me a little of Hiram Edson, who we just talked about a couple episodes ago, right? Definitely, like you said, a secondary figure that's got a major impact for a time and then kind of falls out of favor in some ways, depending on how you look at it. That's great. Well, I love this Eli Curtis conversation. I think there's some really cool stuff that's attached to him. I would be interested to see how the sanctuary doctrine is developed or is impacted.

Michael Campbell (22:01.602)

Yeah. Mm-hmm. Yeah.

greg (22:24.56)

through some of his other articles, but obviously a discussion for a different time on that one. The... Right?

Michael Campbell (22:29.706)

Yeah, and who knows, maybe we'll find more. You know, I know there were more issues of his periodical, we just don't have copies of them, or at least none that I found.

greg (22:36.876)

Yeah, and I'm not close enough to some of those great places like the Antiquarian Society to poke around on. So if other people are, or if you're in an area where you may have heard about Curtis, tell me a little bit, perhaps, about the ancestors that you bumped into, Michael, some of those folks.

Michael Campbell (22:55.154)

Yeah, absolutely. So one was a group of descendants who were on genealogists, and so they're doing their family genealogy. So I was able to engage and interact with them and clarify some dates and make sure I was tracking down the right person, right? And then the second one was a descendant who the daughter, one of his children, later became at some point a Seventh-day Adventist. And there are descendants in the Seventh-day Adventist Church today. I know because I met them.

greg (23:25.072)


Michael Campbell (23:25.482)

and I have corresponded with them. But earlier this year, it just happened to bump into them in the course of some of my travels for ministry and so on. And so that was a delight to have those paths to be able to intersect like that. And so it's fun because at the very end of his life, there's some confusion because there's different dates for when he died, but then I was able to sort out, there's a date that sometimes.

is attributed as his death date, but it's really his burial date because he dies in Ohio, but they bring his body back to the family farm, where all the family had been or is buried in that cemetery. So that's why there was a little bit of confusion as well as there's sometimes more than one person with that name. You got to make sure you get the right one.

greg (23:56.72)


greg (24:10.181)

Mm-hmm. Right, right. And that is part of just ferreting out. I honestly have to say, for people who may not like having to dig around, that is part of the historical moment is figuring out all these extra little details, because otherwise we're chasing rabbits that don't go down the right hole, right?

Michael Campbell (24:21.895)

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Yeah, and again, this is where we build on the research of others. We find where, how far they've been able to go and new evidence that shows itself. And you're able to continue pushing that on a little bit. And I suspect Greg, some will come along further and find some more of those missing issues and they'll be able to tweak what we understand now. And that's, that's a great part of that quest for understanding.

greg (24:49.808)

Nice, nice. Well, I love it. I love how much you've been able to pull up on this one, Michael. Thanks for bringing some of that new research up. And again, like we always do, anybody out there, if you know of stuff that is related to Eli Curtis, or frankly, any Adventist stuff or ephemera that's floating out there, we would love to hear about it and to get in contact. So reach out to us through all of the normal outlets here with the Adventist Pilgrimage. Well, folks, thank you again. Appreciate you giving us a listen here and seeing a little bit about

the supernatural moments in Adventist history, which we all kind of think about at this point in time. Thank you again for listening. We've got some new stuff coming up next month. October is always a busy month for Adventist historians because we have a lot of stuff happening around October 22nd. So we're, yeah, gonna be coming out here. We'll probably be able to do an episode live together here for the next one. So yeah, we'll be looking forward to that one. Topic to be disclosed. We've got a few different options there.

Michael Campbell (25:35.694)

That's true. I'll be out to see you, in fact.

Michael Campbell (25:41.038)

We should do it. Mm-hmm.

Michael Campbell (25:47.47)

Highly classified. That's right.

greg (25:47.984)

for the next highly classified, cannot let the cat out of the bag at this point, but we'd love to have you all join us for that one. Thanks again for listening and have a great day.



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