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Pilgrimage: Hiram Edson (with Dr. Brian Strayer)




(Note: the text has been lightly edited for clarity. And it's always possible that minor imperfections exist.)

 

Greg Howell:


Hey everybody, welcome to the Adventist Pilgrimage Podcast. We have had a great summer with lots of different stuff going on. I know Michael's been traveling - -


Michael Campbell:


Both have.


Greg Howell:


...yeah, all the different camp meetings are good stuff. I've spent some much needed rest time up in the Pacific Northwest just in the last couple of weeks doing some traveling and stuff. But we are not forgetting our faithful listeners on the Adventist Pilgrimage Podcast. We have still got things to talk about. We have actually, it's been kind of fun because I've noticed, Michael, in your traveling and even in some of my traveling, people have started giving us stuff or we've found things and I'm pretty sure those are going to come up as some episodes here in the next few months.


Michael Campbell:


I think so too. Very nice surprises that we didn't even know were out there. So we have to temporize our listeners but we have a few things coming up around the corner.


Greg Howell:


Unknown ephemera. That is usually our goal in this kind of stuff. Anyway - -


Michael Campbell:


We have a special guest, don't we?


Greg Howell:


...exactly. And that's what I'm kind of excited about. This is not an unknown person. This is Dr. Brian Strayer, who has written a fascinating book on one of the early Adventist pioneers. Who kind of gets mentioned at one point in early Adventist history, and then you don't hear about him again. They're one of those guys that kind of just shows up, makes his contribution, and then fades out. What I'm excited about today is that Dr. Strayer has pulled back the curtain a little bit on this fellow and shown us how much more is really going on here with a brand new book that is out. So Michael, you know Dr. Strayer a little bit better, and I figure I'll just let you introduce, but it's going to be a good one today.


Michael Campbell:


Absolutely. So a special welcome to Brian Strayer as a guest for this episode.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Thank you.


Michael Campbell:


Where do I begin, right? [laughs] So, he's an old family friend. We go back to when Heidi and I were in grad school. Young grad students that we kind of adopted him, would come over to his house where - - to go listen to - - to watch West Wing and enjoy some good Michigan apple cider in the evenings and lots of fun times.


The other thing is I knew that Brian Strayer, having taught in the history and political science department for many years, he was, I guess you would say he's a legend at Andrews and the undergrad program and teaching and I knew that his class in Adventist history was just epic. It was one of those things you - - and I was in seminary, but I thought, you know, maybe Brian might not mind if I would just kind of sit in his class and just watch a master teacher at work, and that was one of my great joys, is just to sit in his class and hear someone that loved both teaching and also who loves Adventist history.


So welcome, Brian, and he comes eminently qualified as a historian, backgrounds also not only in Adventist history, teaching that, but many other topics. His dissertation was - - he specializes in French history, early modern history, and many other things. I mean, I could go on, but - - so Brian, welcome. Tell us a little bit about your interest in Adventist history. How did that get started for you?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Well, actually it began while I was a teenager, Mike, because I grew up in upstate New York, Union Springs Academy there. I think it was my junior year. We had a textbook called the Story of our Church.


And as I studied that textbook, I began to notice that many of the early pioneer places and people actually came from my area, upstate New York. So that kind of planted a seed of interest for me. And then in 1974, after I had finished my master's degree in history at Andrews, Dr. Richard Schwarz, at that time the chair of the department, asked me to be his research assistant for the textbook, Light Bearers to the Remnant, that he was preparing for college level denominational history.


So even though my name is not anywhere in the book, I was the one that did the research, took the notes that he used to write that book.


Michael Campbell:


One of the legwork we say that grad students do, right? [laughs]


Greg Howell:


Uncredited heroes of the books.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Yes. And today, of course, I live only two blocks from the Center for Adventist Research there at James White Library, so it's like living next to a goldmine for Adventist primary sources.


Michael Campbell:


Absolutely. By the way, some of our listeners may be interested and we may have some from New England or upstate New York. In addition to your other work, something very unique, I think very special, is you've written a history of Union Springs Academy, I think even an update to it, haven't you?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Absolutely. That is true. Yes, I just finished this summer the Centennial History of Union Springs Academy, which covers it from 1921 to 2021, and that will be available at Alumni Weekend in the third week of September of this year. It's a major work, 450 pages.


Greg Howell:


Wow.


Michael Campbell:


So when we're talking about Adventist historiography, there's a lot of different kinds. You have these broad surveys, like the textbook that you helped Schwartz with. You have biographies. We're going to talk about your biography here in just a minute. But also this kind of, I guess you'd say like a local history kind of thing. And these are all very valid ways of doing history, right?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


That's right. Very few people do institutional history, particularly academy history. To my knowledge, our Center for Adventist Research only has about six academy histories, including...


Michael Campbell:


Yeah, I was gonna say, that's a rare one to pull out. That's great.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Yeah, including one centennial history, and that is Indiana Academy here in the Lake Union. So not many people do that kind of history. It's a labor of love.


Michael Campbell:


Yeah, the kind of thing where, I mean, you can see that personal connection, you having gone there as a student years ago and then bringing that back is a - - that's really a gift to that institution. That's very special.


Well, let's get into the biography for today that we're here to talk about, it just became available. I know that you've been working on it, so I had a sneak peek of it some time ago. And I know when I read it at that point, thoroughly enjoyed, just having my eyes opened when, when someone can go in depth, but start us out by telling us for someone that's listening and maybe is not as familiar with Adventist history, they may, maybe they've heard of Hiram Edson before, maybe they haven't, but why should Adventists today care about Hiram Edson?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Well, as you mentioned, he typically comes in 1844 and then fades from view shortly thereafter. But in reality, Hiram Edson was a key player in the transitional period from the Millerite movement of 1844 to the formation of the General Conference in 1863. His peak contributory era, I would say is the 1850s.


And so I would say that we need to focus on him outside of 1844 because he did so much for the early Sabbath-keeping Adventist Church. Secondly, I would say that because he and O.R.L Crosier as well helped to solidify our beliefs in the seventh-day sabbath and in the sanctuary message. He is important, particularly in the 1844 to 46 era.


Another good reason is because he himself was a deacon, a licensed minister, and later in the 1870s, an ordained minister. And as such, he helped to establish some of our earliest Adventist congregations in New York and Pennsylvania. which in the early years were tied together as one conference, in the 1860s to 1890s.


So he's a key organizer. I think another good reason, as I bring out in Chapter 7, “Ministerial Partners” of my book, James and Ellen White handpicked Hiram Edson as what we might call a ministerial trainer, he trained J.N. Andrews in his 20s, he trained J.N. Loughborough when Loughborough was in his 20s.


He worked alongside some of the senior evangelists as well, Joseph Bates, John Byington. So he's a collaborative, cooperative, teaching, minister figure here. And I think fifthly, because Edson is unique, in many ways, he's a numerologist. He loves numbers, particularly if they have some prophetic significance for him.


He's a symbolist. He seems to be able to find symbols behind every old Testament bush [Michael laughs], so to speak. He's charismatic. Now, there's something we don't usually associate with a sheep farmer. But Hiram Edson, as we will develop in our discussion, I'm sure, had what he called presentments.


He believed that these were divine insights that would help him understand events that were soon to come to pass and then the negative side toward the end of his life, I would simply define him as somewhat of a curmudgeon, a little hard to get along with. He stops going to church for a while. He is out of favor with some of the leading church brethren and, toward the end of his life, he's kind of under a cloud. But we need to understand that part of his life as well.


Michael Campbell:


Well, this is very interesting. I want to unpack a couple of those things really quick. I mean, I'm sure we'll come back to some of these others later too, but you know, first of all, I mean, I think it's very interesting. He was kind of a mentoring pastor, you know, in that earlier time when we didn't have a formal system of theological education, but that mentoring, I think, really meant a lot. Not everybody had that gift.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Right.


Michael Campbell:


So, that's most intriguing. The other thing I think is interesting is that, you know, you use the word curmudgeon, to kind of describe him at the end, but, we tend to always focus on the history that is the warm fuzzies, Brian, right? I mean, the feel good history. I'm glad you have that in this book. I mean, he made a significant contribution with his understanding of the sanctuary, but he did have some very strange ideas towards the end. And fell out of favor, like you said, so I mean, that's part of the challenge of history is not only telling the niceties, but sometimes maybe the foibles, the flaws and that that to me gives a sense of authenticity as I read your biography.


Dr. Brain Strayer:


Well, thank you. I think that many of our pioneers were crusty old saints [Michael laughs], their hearts may have been in the right place, but their personalities and characters and temperaments sometimes clash.


Michael Campbell:


Yeah, This is part of doing history, right? I think good history, at least, you know, not any history is perfect, but an attempt to try to be as objective as possible.


So you mentioned a couple of things, but when you're working on a biography, there's the things you already know. When I read your biography, the thing I already knew about Hiram Edson is the sanctuary thing, right? That this is what he's famous for. But then you also discover these other things you didn't expect, to find, the curmudgeon part or whatever. Tell us some more of the things that surprised you. And as you're doing the research, I don't want you to give your whole biography away, but tell us a few teasers here.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Well, I tell you, it's one of the things I enjoy most about research is the surprises. You just never know, when you pick up the next source, the next letter, the next diary, what you're going to find. Some of these finds are truly delightful and serendipitous. I discovered, for example, in doing my geographical research, that Hiram Edson lived four miles from the home of Joseph Smith. They were neighbors. And here are two men having supernatural experiences. With beings they claim to be angels.


Now, Hiram Edson doesn't name the angel that he met in his barn, but of course, Smith does. He calls him Moroni. So here are two men, almost within shouting distance of each other, in upstate New York. I discovered that Edson wrote numerous articles. And a couple of tracts on prophetic symbols and timelines, but to my surprise, not a single article or pamphlet focusing on the meaning of the heavenly sanctuary, or...


Michael Campbell:


That is really shocking. That was shocking, Brian.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


That is shocking, because we give him that credit. But it really belongs to O.R.L. Crosier, his contemporary. I also discovered that Hiram Edson, like my earlier New York biography friend, John Byington, was a Methodist, an abolitionist, and an Anti-Mason. So those three streams come together in Edson.


Michael Campbell:


So unpack that for just a second, because the Methodist, that's pretty easy. We get that. The Abolitionist against slavery, that's a - - we're starting to have that little clearer lens thanks to some people like Kevin Burton and others who are doing research on, you know, how incredibly active our early pioneers were as abolitionists in the abolitionist movement and so on.


So that actually doesn't surprise me even before I read your biography. Then what might be a little less familiar for people is the whole anti-Mason thing, Brian, can you just like give us the Cliffs Notes, unpack that for a second?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Okay. In the 1820s, there was a political movement that arose called the anti-Masonic movement. It was particularly strong in upstate New York, the burned-over district. It stems from an incident in which a man named Henry Morgan [Ed.: I think he means William Morgan], an ex-Mason, threatened to divulge the secrets of the Masonic group society, and they allegedly captured him and drowned him in the Niagara Falls area, and from that reaction to that violent movement, the anti-Masonic movement arose and it lasted for about 20 years. 1820s, 1830s into the early 1840s, there was an anti-Masonic party that fielded local and state candidates. John Byington was strongly anti-Mason, Hiram Edson strongly anti-Mason, and I think that filtered into our early denominational gene pool that we do not favor secret societies.


Michael Campbell:


And I think it's part of that larger milieu of that context.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Yeah.


Michael Campbell:


Yeah, tell us some more.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Well I also discovered that Hiram Edson was present for at least four of Ellen White's visions. He took notes on those visions. He shared those notes with Ellen White, and she used those notes to refresh her memory about those four visions, which took place in various places throughout New England.


I discovered, and I don't know the reasons for all of this, but I discovered that some of Hiram and Esther's children became Seventh-Day Adventists and married Adventist spouses, while others of their children did not. And that, of course, was the case with John Byington as well. You win some, you lose some along the way.


Of course, as we mentioned already, discovering that Edson was considered a curmudgeon in the...


Michael Campbell:


Yeah. Such a great word. [laughs]


Dr. Brian Strayer:


There were those who actually questioned his orthodoxy and his orthopraxy toward the end of his life, even though he was an ordained minister. He did for a while stop attending church, although he never opposed the Adventist church or its teachings.


So in my final chapter about Edson's legacy, Chapter 12, I explore how Edson fell out of favor and how he today is back in favor. I would say the main reason is Arthur W. Spalding. What Spalding does in his books is basically rehabilitate Hiram Edson's curmudgeonly reputation. He downplays the negative. And he up-builds Edson's positive contributions.


Michael Campbell:


Interesting. So I kind of wonder, you're making me think, you know, as you're mentioning that the 1920s and ‘30s, he would have been like - - we might say a forgotten pioneer, but I'm hearing you're right. Spalding is rehabilitating his story within the broader Adventist historiography.


I also wonder if, you know, people that were challenging the sanctuary doctrine, I'm thinking all the way into the ‘60s and ‘70s. That's about the time, you know, through the early ‘80s when the church really is developing a whole bunch of apologetics back against Desmond Ford and Adventist Historic Properties, that's when they buy this property. So it makes me wonder if part of our historiography is also autobiography, right? I find that intriguing.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


I think the two go together. The purchase of the Hiram Edson site in 1982 not only helps to rehabilitate Hiram Edson’s reputation, but also helps to focus attention on the sanctuary message, on that location.


Michael Campbell:


Yeah. All right, I want to get into this whole vision thing with angels. Edson doesn't mention the name of the angel, but this has actually been the focus of some scholarly debate. Was it a vision? Was it not a vision? You know, what was this? So now you've looked at all these sources and then the historiography of it later on. Give us some clarity on this.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Well, I tell you, I do try to avoid the word vision. Because Hiram himself never referred to his cornfield experience as a vision. I also don't believe that Hiram was a visionary in the traditional sense of the word.


Michael Campbell:


Like Ellen White.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


I do believe he was charismatic.


Michael Campbell:


Okay.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


That's the term I prefer to use. Hiram had a special word that he used for these experiences. I do detail four of them in my book, he called them presentments. Now, I had not heard that word before. I was familiar with the word presentiment with the letter I in the middle. It's a negative, threatening, foreboding kind of experience.


If you have a presentiment that something's going to happen, it's usually bad. But Hiram Edson used the word presentment without the I in the middle, meaning a vivid portrayal of some future event. Which he expected would soon be fulfilled. So I believe that what happened to him in the cornfield, he would not identify as a vision, but as a presentment. You have to remember he wrote a pamphlet in 1845, predicting Christ's soon return in May of 1845.


So to him, whatever he saw in the cornfield, October 23, 1844 would have been a presentment of something he expected to see happen within the next few months, therefore short term for him. So I wouldn't call him a visionary. I don't believe he was a prophet. As we mentioned already, he does not spend a lot of time explicating the heavenly sanctuary services. That was primarily left up to others. In chapter 9 in my book, I mentioned the key individuals in the 1850s who explicate the heavenly sanctuary and its services, cleansing, investigative judgment, and so forth are O.R L. Crosier, J.N. Andrews, Uriah Smith, Charles Sperry, and Elon Everts.


So Hiram Edson really is not focusing on the heavenly sanctuary. All that he claims to have understood after October 23, 1844 was, number one, the sanctuary is in heaven, not on this earth. Number two, there are two parts to the sanctuary, the holy place and the most holy place.


Number three, he saw Christ entering the second place, the most holy place, October 22, 1844. He did not know a whole lot more than that after October 22. He and Crosier and Hahn had to study it out for a good many months before they came to any further understanding.


Michael Campbell:


Well, very interesting. And again, it shows you, I think, the complexity of somebody like him, right?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Yes.


Michael Campbell:


And everything else. By the way, you mentioned charismatic, not only thinking in terms of a presentment, but also in terms of some of his worship. If Hiram Edson came to church, I suspect there might be a lot of Adventists today that might be just a little bit uncomfortable, Brian, what do you think?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


I think Hiram Edson was cut out of the same mold as Ellen White when it comes to his Methodism. I think Hiram could be described as a shouting Methodist.


Michael Campbell:


Okay, that's what I was going to ask. Was he a shouting Methodist? Okay.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


I've never seen that word applied to him, but the charismatic meetings that Hiram and Esther held in their home were very much, I think what we today would consider to be much more emotional. Much more charismatic.


Michael Campbell:


I always like the word ecstatic the way to describe it because there is a later actual charismatic movement in the early 20th century and sometimes people might get confused with that but that's to say that they're very dynamic and very -- being prostrate on the floor and enthusiastic, maybe waving hands and being slain in the spirit and things like that is I understand, is that right, Brian?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


I would agree. I think Hiram Edson and Esther, particularly in their -- what we would call cottage meetings, their own home meetings. It was very rousing. We know that some of his neighbors sat on the hillsides around their home to listen to them sing, so it was very rousing music that they sang. We know that it aroused opposition in my book, as you know, with some pretty nasty incidents in which people physically attacked Hiram Edson at his meetings. Yes.


Michael Campbell:


They could generate strong responses, evocative. Yeah.


So, tell us about him as a person. What was his actual life like? Some highlights that, again, for those that might not be as familiar with his story tell us that kind of - - who was he as a human being, right?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Well, I would certainly use the word courageous, referring again to the incident I just alluded to a moment ago, there were about 40 men who stormed into his home during one of these meetings intending to lynch any of the Millerite Adventists they could get their hands on and Hiram Edson confronted them alone, personally. He quoted a couple of Old Testament scriptures and he calmed them down and he moved them out the front door. That certainly took courage. You know, he confronted an angry mob of, he says, about 40 men. And that happened, I think it was December of 1844.


Another word I would use for him is collegial. Once again, he was chosen by James and Ellen White as a trainee of younger ministers, such as Loughborough and Andrews. But he was also very collegial to work with the older ministers like Bates and Byington in extending the boundaries of Adventism.


So he's a collegial individual. As our [unclear] in mind have already indicated, I would also describe him as complicated. He definitely was not a simple sheep farmer.


Michael Campbell:


Right.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Although that's how he would describe himself in the federal censuses that I’ve looked at. He became a charismatic, he had presentments. He was a deep thinking symbologist who loved to parse the Old Testament for any contemporary applications of any symbol he could squeeze out of the Old Testament, a numerologist. He covered the traditional timelines, you know, the 70 weeks, 1260 days, 2300 days, but then he loved to go deeper into the 1290 day prophecy, the 1335 day prophecy, and then one of his favorites, the 2520 day prophecy, which he actually squeezed out seven different articles in the Advent Review.


So he's a complicated man. Finally another C word, curmudgeon here. I think he was a crusty old saint in the 1870s. He quit going to church for a while. He actually wrote a 200 page manuscript, handwritten, on the role of England in the end time prophecy. Which he took from a very obscure text in Jeremiah about a lion, and he took the lion to be the symbol of Great Britain, the Review and Herald reading committee refused to publish it.


You publish all of it or publish none of it. Hiram Edson even mentioned that manuscript in his final will and testament in 1882. So very end of his life, he's still holding on, hoping that his wife Esther will get that published.


Michael Campbell:


He's got a special light that he wants to share.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Yes. That's how we know that - -


Michael Campbell:


Dear brother Edson, we love you, but maybe not this special light. [laughs]


Greg Howell:


It's funny you mentioned him because Bates was doing the same kind of stuff around the 1850s. I always find that kind of interesting, you know, he's looking at the seven spots of blood in Leviticus. Yes. Here's Hiram over here, you know, calculating out the 2520.


I did some work at the Center for Adventist Research on Bates Bible. He was doing all the same math in the back of the Bible, you know, a lot of these numbers are all the same kind of thing. Do you think there's a lot of crossover between those two guys? It's a kind of two old stalwarts.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Absolutely. 100%. In fact, in my chapter on “Speculative Theologian,” Chapter 8, I draw parallels between Miller, Litch, Fitch, Himes, and Bates on the one hand, and Edson on the other.


Edson is mirroring their techniques, their methodology, their choice of time prophecies, their symbolism. Yeah, Edson is -- and he's very close to Joseph Bates, as it is. I mean, they took long treks together, hundreds of miles together. So yes, I believe Bates has a very strong influence on Hiram Edson in this manner.


Greg Howell:


Yeah, ‘cause as I was reading your article on Spectrum on it, the prophecies specifically that he was looking at mirror a lot of the private studies that Bates was publishing and you know, the sanctuary symbols and his own pamphlets at the same time frame. So that's an interesting connection there.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Yep, I agree.


Michael Campbell:


Was he going into a lot of the unusual symbols like in Ezekiel, Brian? I can't remember, you have to - - but I've been re-reading through Miller, and he really goes into Ezekiel a lot.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Yes. That's why I say, Hiram Edson can find symbols behind every Bible bush. He can explicate some symbols. that you and I would never even think of. He reminds me very much, another one of my books is a biography of Claude Brousson, a 17th century Huguenot pastor. And Claude Brousson loved doing that. It was like a game to find symbols. In the Old Testament, and then explicate parallels to the current situation of the Huguenots in 17th century France.


Well, Hiram Edson is doing exactly the same thing. He's taking Old Testament symbols, and then he's paralleling them with current problems and challenges in the Millerite and Sabbatarian Adventist experience.


Greg Howell:


Well, I would honestly say we're perhaps following that tradition even today and quite a few of our judges.


Michael Campbell:


Yeah, this plays into your work on the history of hermeneutics, Greg.


Greg Howell:


Yeah exactly. Because I'm watching the same traditions as they just kind of morph between cultural events and world issues. We're all kind of looking at the newspapers in our Bible in the same hand half the time.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


There you go.


Michael Campbell:


Yeah, interesting. Well, Brian, you've mentioned Esther a couple times now, I think, he's got a context, too, with his family, his parents and children. Tell us more about them.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Well, I think it's worth noting and I do know this in my biography that Hiram Edson was descended from three of the signers of the Mayflower Compact in 1620 and five of his great uncles fought in the American Revolution.


So given this distinguished bloodline, he was actually qualified to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, but that wasn't formed until 1897, 15 years after he died. He was actually qualified to join the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, but that wasn't established until 1889, seven years after he died.


Hiram's father, Luther Edson, was a soldier in the war of 1812. And so he comes from a very distinguished patriotic military line of service. In 1830 at the age of 24, Hiram married Effa Chrisler in a Methodist ceremony, and they had three children, George, Susan, and Belinda. But Effa died of unknown causes in 1839, she was only 28. So like most men of that era, Hiram married within a few months. Because he had three young children that needed a mother, he married Esther Mariah Persons, in another Methodist service. And they had three children, Viah Ophelia, whose correspondence, we have some, at least. I say Viah Ophelia, the first Viah Ophelia died at 13 months.


They had another daughter, they also named Viah Ophelia, and that's the one whose correspondence we have in part. So they named the second daughter after the first, and then a third daughter, Lucy Jane. By the time Hiram Edson died in 1882 then, he had enjoyed the company of two wives, six children, and 12 grandchildren, whose names are entered in his Bible, which today is in the Loma Linda University collection.


Michael Campbell:


Very interesting. Yeah, it makes you kind of wonder - -


Greg Howell:


I had a - -


Michael Campbell:


- - go ahead, Greg.


Greg Howell:


Oh, no, keep going, keep your thought.


Michael Campbell:


No, I was just thinking, you know, a young woman who dies, if she, complications from a pregnancy or something like that, or tuberculosis, I mean, just disease was so rampant that that really wasn't that unusual. But, anyways, Greg, you were going to say something.


Greg Howell:


Yeah, I was kind of wondering, Dr. Strayer, with the Wesleyan charismatic stuff, behind both Ellen as well as Edson here, how do you feel the church handled some of his charismatic stuff compared to hers in the later years? ‘Cause you did mention in the Spectrum article, a healing that was mentioned, you know, where he resisted the call of the spirit to kind of go and heal this particular guy, but then relented and had this amazing moment. How do you think the church has handled the early moments of that versus some of the later ones?


I remember a fun quote from Ellen White in 1906, where she. talked about how in the early days, there was a lot more of these kind of charismatic events, but they couldn't really talk about it as much at that point in history. So I kind of wondered how much of that played into his curmudgeonly aspect later on in life, do you think?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Well, I think one of the metaphors that I develop for Hiram at the end of his life is a metaphor that he didn't really leave the church, I think the church left him. The church that Hiram was most familiar with was the movement of 1844 to 1860 or thereabouts. He was more comfortable, I think, in the developing movement, with local congregations, with expanding frontiers.


With exploring new theology. I think what's - - we got our fundamental principles nailed down. What was it, 1872 by a Smith? Kind of list the fundamental principles of the church after 1872, the church begins to take institutional shape. A lot of institutions are formed. We've got the conferences and the General Conference and so forth.


I think that Hiram Edson, like Samuel Adams is not too comfortable at that point. You know, John Adams goes on to be president of the United States, but his cousin, Sammy Adams does not fill an institutional role, he's not comfortable. I think Hiram Edson is a Sam Adams in the church. He's less comfortable with an organized, disciplined, institutionalized church with a fundamental belief system nailed down.


He would rather write articles to the Review, you know, exploring his symbols. [Greg and Michael both laugh] Exploring prophetic timelines and get reactions from the beloved, from the believers, you know? But that's not what's happening in the 1870s and ‘80s anymore.


Greg Howell:


They're kind of battening down the theological hatches, right?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Yeah, he doesn't fit.


Michael Campbell:


Including the Pandora's box he opened with the whole sanctuary, right?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Yeah. [all three laugh]


Greg Howell:


Well, I think that helps make sense of her statement because I always found that little interview she did in Oakwood talking about how you couldn't, we couldn't talk as much about those early ecstatic experiences these days.


That helps make some sense of it because his generation and even in a way her generation is developing past some of the open exploratory theology and experiences of that generation, they're moving past it. Yeah, that kind of helps make some sense of both him and her then.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Yes.


Michael Campbell:


Institutionalizing - - well, I want to come back to the book, Brian, tell us the story behind the book. Why this particular book, how tell us the story how this biography came about.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Well, as you earlier alluded to, there is a pattern in the biographies that I write. J.N. Loughborough came from Victor, New York, which is just a few miles south of Rochester.


John Byington was from northern New York, St. Lawrence County up near Canada. Hiram Edson comes from the Erie Canal area, east of Rochester, just a few miles north of Waterloo, New York, where I was born and raised. So I'm doing the New York boys here. I have chosen three of our pioneers about whom we had no biographies. I feel a kinship. As an upstate New York Yankee, to them, now as far as Hiram's concerned, there had never been even a children's book on him.


Michael Campbell:


It's really a shocking, Brian, that someone, yeah - -


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Truly is, there never even been a children's book on Hiram Edson. So there was a significant lacuna in Adventist scholarship on Hiram Edson there.


Third is I go into greater detail on this in my preface. I think Arthur W. Spalding knew more than he said. When I read the correspondence, and we have his correspondence at the Center for Adventist Research, the letters that he wrote in the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s to L.E. Froome and Thurber, Maxwell, Wilcox, and other figures, he knew more than he was able to say in his books. Review and Herald of that era, Pacific Press of that era had kind of a self-imposed, well, I would use the word censorship. There were things that Spalding wanted to say that he knew he couldn't say.


And one of his famous quotes was that the Adventist pioneers were more like horse flesh than angels.


Greg Howell:


Wow. I've not heard that one. [Greg and Michael laugh]


Dr. Brian Strayer:


He got an angry letter from Maxwell about that. Good old Uncle Arthur didn't like that phrase. So, Spalding knew more than he was able to say. And that kind of spurred me on to say what Spalding couldn't say in this book.


Finally, that's why I want to give a shout out to a man that nobody knew, I suppose, outside of Rochester, New York. His name is Robert Allen. He died at 92 or 93. He was a civil engineer. He was a faithful member of the Rochester Bay Knolls Seventh-day Adventist Church, and he was a passionate collector of materials concerning Hiram Edson.


A whole box full of materials regarding Hiram Edson's land purchases, his genealogy, any mention of him in local newspapers. This man collected for decades and his son, Jim. Jim Allen, Academy, a student friend of mine, passed that box along to me. He told me when he did that, he said, Brian, I've tried to get rid of this box on Hiram Edson for years.


But every time I bring it up, he said, all I get is glassy stares. I said, you won't get a glassy stare from me. I said, I want every scrap in that box. And I have used every scrap in that box in my book. That's why the dedication page states dedicated to the memory of Robert H. Allen, 1923 to 2018. I was wrong, I see it was 95. Zealous amateur historian whose private collection of Edson materials filled many gaps in this biography. So that was really the final spark.


Michael Campbell:


I remember meeting him at the Benilde Church years ago. They did one of these sanctuary history celebrations and they're at the Hiram Edson property, and what a passion he had for many years.


So I think that's a shout out to people who have those burdens for collecting and have local collections of historical materials, and we may have some people listening and saying, I've got a box up in the attic. And if you do, Indiana Jones, Greg Howell, and Michael Campbell will come and very happily - - let us know, we love to hear stories about materials that people may have just sitting around in a box like that, right, Brian?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Yes.


Greg Howell:


We will - -


Michael Campbell:


What's that, Greg?


Greg Howell:


We will drive to you. I will make the move. [Michael and Greg laugh]


Michael Campbell:


Yeah, we want to see these things preserved in places like the Center for Adventist Research, where I happen to have a little personal bias in North American Division archives, right?


I'm less concerned about where, and as long as these materials get preserved in some way so that historians like Brian Strayer here have the ability to, you know, can be the catalyst for a major new contribution to Adventist history.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Well, we professional historians most definitely appreciate the amateur collectors.


Michael Campbell:


It's everybody, like, working together, right?


Greg Howell:


We're never everywhere. Even this summer, like we mentioned, two or three people have been sending me stuff and they're clearing out houses of older relatives that don't have any, they don't know what to do, but they noticed, Hey, this looks old. I'm getting stuff like that all the time. It's those people who save it for us cause we can't get it all.


Michael Campbell:


That's right. These great collections. By the way, I was at the Smithsonian earlier, and one of the reasons we have the collections at the Smithsonian, there's a thing, how do the collections at the Smithsonian exist?


A lot of those collections are thanks to personal collectors who accumulate a significant collection, and then bequeath that as a legacy for the people of the United States through the Smithsonian and those, those special collections that people that have a passion for collecting or finding these things, and in many different ways, not just in Adventist history, that that is how these legacies and how these things happen.


Before we, you know, I want to make sure we talk about how you can get a copy of your book, and I think we've talked about this already, curmudgeon, he's got some wacky ideas, his legacy, but I think maybe it - - this is a podcast and Adventist historiography doing these deep dives in Adventist history.


That's why we call it a Adventist Pilgrimage. Right. We're trying to really reflect in a deep way, but let's talk about the historiography about this for a minute. You've talked about Spalding, the horse flesh and everything else. How we do history matters and this week is kind of significant because a famous Adventist historian who was very controversial, Ron Numbers, just passed away, right?


I know our listeners are going to be, you know, it's polarizing even just to mention his name because some are going to be like, you know, he's a heretic, other people are going to say, well, he was a saint. Probably there's a little bit of tension somewhere between those two extremes, right?


But how we do history, how we interpret it matters. So reflect it with us just a little bit more about the historiography interpretation of Edson before we wrap up.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


One of the surprises I discovered that I had not known before is that from the time of Edson's death in 1882 until the 1940s, there is virtually no mention of Hiram Edson's name whatsoever in Adventist literature.


Not in the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, not in the Union papers, not in children's books about Adventist Pioneers. He's virtually forgotten for 60 years. And then along comes Arthur W. Spalding and in the 1940s and ‘50s and ‘60s. What he does is basically revive and rehabilitate. That's his reputation.


His three key books are In the Footsteps of the Pioneers, that's 1907. Captains of the Host, 1949; and Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, that's a four volume set.


Michael Campbell:


Right.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Hiram Edson’s name comes up frequently in volume one, which was published in 1961. So he devotes several paragraphs to detailing the early accomplishments of Hiram Edson in the 1840s and ‘50s, particularly, and finally, I would say that today, or at least since 1982, the Adventist Historic Properties Group, now known as Adventist Heritage Ministries, their efforts to establish a visitor center, to move the Luther Edson barn, to build a model of the Earthly Sanctuary, to establish the Bible Prophecy Trail and garden, on the site of Hiram and Esther Edson's former farm in Port Gibson has immensely Boosted Hiram Edson's reputation and focus attention on the sanctuary message as well.


I end my last chapter in Hiram Edson by asserting that if he could come alive today, Hiram Edson would be shocked at the positive glowing reputation that he now has. Among conservative traditional Adventists in the church, that was not the reputation he had when he died in 1882. So, it would be a big surprise to him to see how famous he is. [all three laugh]


Greg Howell:


It's like a generation had to forget him to remember that he was a good guy.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Yeah, that's right.


Michael Campbell:


Interesting with history, some people, during their lifetime, they aren't famous, but then the story later grows, or as interest changes over time. I think that's also very significant. And having worked a little bit at the Adventist Heritage Ministries in the past, you know, I also know, like, for example, I think Joe Allen and Lewis Walton, he was a big time supporter, continues to be. They continue to be big time supporters, but I think they were a catalyst for purchasing that property.


I also know that they were very concerned by the church with Des Ford and the sanctuary and everything else. So I do think these kinds of things that were shaping Adventism in the ‘70s and ‘80s contributed again to this kind of starting for people to care enough to actually purchase that property and tell that story, right.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


I agree. Yes. They were key individuals, many of the articles that I've read are by those two individuals.


Michael Campbell:


I also noticed Spalding, some of his papers and stuff. I mean, I haven't spent the time that you have, but he also had some personal relationship with one - - not personal relationship in any other than just, he knew and corresponded with at least one of Edson's, one of his daughters, I think, that helped supply him with material and information, and sometimes just like this box was saved by Robert Allen, I wonder if also him having a connection and some historic materials and stories that were through the family that ended up, he had that, somehow had that connection and and maybe just like that was a catalyst for your book maybe that was a catalyst for him to write about him. I wonder.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Yeah, Viah Ophelia - -


Michael Campbell:


The second one.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


- - was about 1910, corresponded with him and shared some of that original manuscript. As I develop in my book, apparently most of those 200 pages were destroyed. Esther Edson allegedly burned them, but she saved about 12 pages, which was the, I would describe it as autobiographical material on Edson's experiences in 1843 and ‘44.


And it's from that material that Arthur W. Spalding wrote an article in the Youth’s Instructor in 1910, later articles in the Adventist Review and of course his books. So, yeah, he did have direct contact with Viah Ophelia.


Michael Campbell:


Is that where that Hiram Edson manuscript that's kind of incomplete, did that come from her too, do you think?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Yes, it apparently came through her. Her mother passed it along when Esther died a few years after her husband. She passed that manuscript on to Viah Ophelia and Viah Ophelia took it with her to Florida and then to Texas. It had a perambulatory route. Before it finally found its way, I think through Froome back to Washington, DC, in the 1950s.


Michael Campbell:


Yeah, interesting. Well, I know Froome and Spalding were close friends and Spalding was kind of Froome's mentor in many ways. So that's very interesting. There's always these connections and personal relationships.


Well, before we're done, how does one get a copy of your book, Brian?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Well, thank you. Thank you for bringing that up. Actually, there are two ways. One way is to order it from the publisher, which is Oak and Acorn.


Michael Campbell:


Okay. And they have a website and everything?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Well, I would recommend contacting the director. That's a small press. There are only about four people working there.


Alberto Valenzuela. So it's Alberto.Valenzuela@AdventistFaith.org.


Michael Campbell:


He's giving these away for free, then?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


That's what?


Michael Campbell:


He's giving these away for free?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


No, no. He's selling them.


Michael Campbell:


Oh, okay. [chuckles] I just want to make sure people know. If they email him, you know, they're not going to expect a free copy when you go to buy this.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


The other way would be to order it from Amazon, Amazon.com. I think they're selling it for about $12 plus postage and handling.




Michael Campbell:


Now, I think they're - - usually Oak and Acorn, not like instantly, but usually most of their books they put on Kindle after a short amount of time.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Oh, okay.


Michael Campbell:


So if you're listening to that, I mean, this is hot off the press. We're talking hot off the press. If you're listening to this, that's what we love to do with Adventist Pilgrimage Podcast, if there's a major new book in Adventist history, we want you to hear about it first from Adventist Pilgrimage Podcast, but yeah, definitely check that out and usually after a short amount of time, I think pretty much all the titles in print from Oak and Acorn you can get them on digital form.


So, watch for that, listeners, you want to make sure, and if you want a print copy, absolutely. You can order that from Alberto, Oak and Acorn, or Amazon. And then, last but not least, Brian, what's next? I know Union Springs Academy, we talked about that at the beginning.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Well, yes.


Michael Campbell:


When you get your wits about you...


Dr. Brian Strayer:


When I get my wits about me. Yes. Well, you know, I've just finished 260 pages on Hiram Edson and 450 pages on Union Springs Academy. So at the age of 73, that's been quite a challenge. I have been told by two or three Adventist scholars that there is a need for a biography of Joseph Harvey Waggoner.


Michael Campbell:


Now the question is, was he born in New York, Brian?


Dr. Brian Strayer:


No, no. See, that puts him outside my New York circle. I have to think about this one.


Michael Campbell:


Uh oh, I don't know about that one. [Michael and Brian laugh]]


Greg Howell:


The outlier.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


He does have some ministry connections in New York in the 1860s, and he is involved with the infamous Nathan Fuller scandal, writing against him, but you know, he's Wisconsin, I think for the most part, he's a Midwesterner. But, as the father of Ellet J. Waggoner, we know a good deal about E.J. Waggoner of 1888 fame, but we don't have much at all on Joseph Harvey, his father, who was an editor; who was a missionary to Switzerland, who was a writer and publisher of pamphlets and books. I don't know. I will ask my friend George Knight what he thinks about that.


Michael Campbell:


Okay. ‘Cause I'm not sure. I think you need a New Yorker. I was hoping to go for a woman like Sarah Lindsay because there's still not a single biography in this series about a woman and I think that's a travesty, Brian, and you've done so much work on Sarah Lindsay.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


I have. I love her dearly. I have been to her territory. I've been to Ulysses, Pennsylvania. I've stood by her grave. I've seen her home in Wellsville, New York. I preached from a pulpit she preached from in Wellsville Adventist Church, the 1905. I'm not sure we've got enough to scrape together. That would be the problem on Sarah Lindsay.


Michael Campbell:


This is the challenge with doing history, isn't it? Sometimes you wish there was more.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


You know, I know of no diaries. If we just had some diaries, that would be great.


Michael Campbell:


So maybe somebody listening will have a box in their attic, just like Robert Allen did, had this box, and has a box of diaries and letters and it's just waiting. That might be the catalyst, the tipping point to get Brian to write a biography on Sarah Lindsay.


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Yes. Absolutely wonderful. I'm glad you put that out there.


Greg Howell:


She's out there somewhere, we'll find her. [Brian laughs]


Michael Campbell:


Well, I'm just saying, you know, I'm going to put a plug out there for women in Adventist history. Brian, you've always had a passion for helping to tell the stories of early Adventist women.


Plus, we're trying to get a New Yorker there for you. So anyway - -


Dr. Brian Strayer:


Very good. Great.


Michael Campbell:


Anyways, it's been a delight, a pleasure. Thank you, Brian, for joining us on the podcast- -


Greg Howell:


Thank you so much, Dr. Strayer.


Michael Campbell:


...It's truly a delight. Your book is a valuable resource. If you love Adventist history, and you've enjoyed this conversation, I encourage you to just purchase a copy and this will be a valuable resource that will be a great addition to Adventist historiography. Brian, thanks so much again for joining us for your valuable scholarly contributions and without any further ado, thanks for joining us for another episode of Adventist Pilgrimage Podcast. Join us each month as we take a deep dive into our Adventist past.



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