History of the St. Helena Seventh-day Adventist Church
The name "Seventh-day Adventist" highlights two of the distinguishing characteristics of the denomination. "Seventh-day" refers to the day of the week, Saturday, on which Adventists worship God as instructed throughout the Bible. "Adventist" refers to the hope Seventh-day Adventists have in Jesus' soon return to this earth. October 1, 2010, marks the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the name “Seventh-day Adventist.” Historical resources and other information for the commemoration are available at www.150SDA.org. Additional materials are being added continually.
Though Adventists did not officially organize as a church until 1863, Adventist roots go back at least to the early 1800s. Between 1831 and 1844, William Miller, a Baptist preacher, launched the "great second advent awakening," which eventually spread throughout most of the Christian world. Based on his study of the prophecy of Daniel 8:14, Miller calculated that Jesus would return to earth in 1844. When Jesus did not appear, most of the thousands who had expected His return left the faith, disillusioned. A few, however, went back to their Bibles to find why they had been disappointed. They learned that the Bible prophecy did not specify Christ's second coming on that date, but rather, they discovered that 1844 was the time when Jesus would begin a special ministry in heaven for His followers.
California Missionaries - 1859
In 1848 the Golden State became a possession of the United States after the Mexican American War, by the treaty of Guadalupe, although there were earlier Spanish residents, whose missions were south of San Francisco. The Russians had put their mark in California in the northern part of the state, naming the Russian River and Sebastopol, but they left by 1824. The population of the entire state in the early 1840’s was 6,000, but in 1849 the population of San Francisco alone was 85,000. Gold had been discovered in the Golden State at Sutter’s Mill, and California was welcomed into Union in 1850.
It appears that Merritt G. Kellogg (pictured with his wife at right), the oldest son of J.P. Kellogg, was the first Seventh-day Adventist in the State of California, arriving in the spring of 1859. His family spread the Good News by sharing literature and books. Their first convert was B. G. St. John and his family, that forty-niner who made and lost a large fortune in gold mining. Meeting with some success, Kellogg in 1861 held meetings in the courthouse in San Francisco on a weekly basis, and there were eventually 14 who confessed their faith in Jesus and His Church, including Mrs. Short (the wife of the chief of police) and Mr. Moon (a gold-seeker).
Adventist Church Formed - 1863
The Adventist Church was formally formed at the first General Conference Session on May 21,1863.
Kellogg organized a Sabbath School in his home. Early in 1865, an Adventist cobbler, L. W. Cronkrite, hung a placard of the Ten Commandments and a prophetic chart on his shop wall. When customers made inquiries about the strange beasts, Cronkrite gave them a study on the prophecies. So much interest was aroused that in the fall of 1865, the little Adventist company decided to send $133 in gold to Battle Creek to pay the travel expenses of a minister to labor in California. Alas, the General Conference had no one to send. (Tesimonies to the Church, IV, 489, 490.)
In the spring of 1867, the little group of believers in San Francisco decided to lodge their appeal once again to the General Conference by sending Merritt G. Kellogg to the General Conference Session, but unfortunately, he was not able to arrive on time for the session.
Kellogg decided to take matters into his own hands. He sold his home on the west coast, traveled eastward, and occupied himself until the next General Conference Session which was held May 28, 1868, where he would appear in person.
At first it seemed his plea would again go unheeded. Then, when only two workers remained to be assigned, one of them, J. N. Loughborough (pictured left), arose. He spoke of recent dreams which had left him with a strong impression that he should hold tent meetings in California. “Should Elder Loughborough go alone?” asked James White. After all, Christ had sent his disciples out two by two. That seemed a good plan to follow for so distant a field. D. T. Bourdeau (at right) thought so too; he would gladly accompany Loughborough.
Immediately James White set about raising $1,000 to purchase a new tent for California and to finance passage for the Loughboroughs and Bourdeau by way of Panama. No time was wasted. Less than a month after making their decision, these “missionaries” boarded a ship in New York City. Twenty-four days later, on July 18, 1868, they were in San Francisco. Here they were warmly welcomed by the St. Johns and other members of the Adventist company. (O. Macomber, Pioneering the Message in the Golden West, (1946) 54, 58, 59, 63-67.) They lodged with B.G. St. John, "the converted forty-niner". As they scouted the San Francisco area, they found that food was very inexpensive but the rental of homes and buildings to hold meetings was very expensive. There was a church in a small town called Petaluma about 50 miles north of San Francisco, which was known as an Independent church. Members had seen a notice in an Eastern newspaper that two men were traveling west with a tent to hold evangelistic meetings. They were able to make contact with Bourdeau and Loughborough in San Francisco and the Independent church invited them to Petaluma to hold meetings.
On August 13, about a month after having arrived in California, Bourdeau and Loughborough launched their series of tent meetings in Petaluma at the Independent church. As the story goes, one of the members of this Independent church had a dream one night where he saw two men kindling five fires. In his dream, he saw the ministers of the other churches in Petaluma trying to put these fires out, but the more they tried to put the fires out, the more they burned. Finally he heard the ministers say in the dream, "It is of no use. Leave them alone. The more we try to put out the fires, the better they burn." – J.N. Loughborough, Rise and Progress of the Seventh-day Adventists, p. 276-279.
Everything seemed to be going fine until they presented the Sabbath doctrine and a division arose among the Independent church members with only six accepting the Sabbath doctrine and uniting with the Seventh-day Adventist group.
Upon completing these meetings in Petaluma, Bourdeau and Loughborough moved on to Windsor, to the north, then to Piner, then on to Santa Rosa and Healdsburg. It is interesting to note, that the "five fires", that had been kindled, were now burning.
St. Helena - 1873
On April 11, 1869, at the Piner School House near Windsor the temporary state organization was formed with about 60 believers present. Work soon spread into the Napa Valley to Yountville and Napa, and by July 30, 1873 Elder Loughborough and Elder Cornell moved their tent to Saint Helena. The Valley’s newspaper, Napa Register, recorded, “The Adventists, who have been holding their tent meetings, are now attracting the general attention and causing the dry bones to shake. Elder Cornell is nightly drawing large, attentive, orderly, and appreciative audiences.” At the close of these lectures 36 signed the covenant and Hanna Willsie-Creamer, the only surviving member in 1945, recalled them as a “substantial class of people, well-respected citizens.”
The Sabbath School was organized November 8, 1873 with Emery Church, Samuel Jacks, James Creamer, and John Mavity as officers. These four laymen were devoted workers and had much to do with the establishment of the work in St. Helena.
There is little report of further progress in St. Helena until May 16, 1874 when Elder Loughborough presented the matter of church organization among Seventh-day Adventists. He presented the church covenant, and the following day twenty persons signed their names to the covenant which read as follows:
“We, the undersigned, hereby associate ourselves together as a church taking the name Seventh-day Adventist, convenanting to keep the commandments of God and the Faith of Jesus.” The signatures that followed were:
• John Mavity
• Amelia Mavity
• Samuel Jackson
• Julia Jacks
• Emory Church
• Millard Church
• Sarah J. Anthony
• Ruth C. Cruey
• Elizabeth Carter
• Anna Boyd
• Sarah R. Spencer-Atwood
• Mary Ann Stephenson
• James Creamer
• Hannah Creamer
• Margaret Cooper
• Martha Hudson
• Emily Wood
• Lovicy Thomson
• Hugh Hackney
• Thomas Barry
On June 4, 1874, Elder James White began to issue an eight-page semimonthly paper, The Signs of the Times, as a further means of spreading the Adventist principles on the Pacific Coast. After producing six issues, he arranged with the California Conference to take charge of the paper and returned east to obtain means to put the enterprise on strong footing. At the General Conference held in August of that year it was proposed to raise $6,000 east of the Rocky Mountains for this purpose, provided the brethren on the coast would raise $4,000, secure a suitable site, and erect a building. Elder George I. Butler brought this proposition to the California brethren assembled at the Yountville camp-meeting in October, and they responded by raising $19,414 in coin. The Sabbath keepers in California then numbered 550, and the yearly tithe amounted to more than $4,000.00.
Madrona/Oak Avenue Church - 1880
Services were held for a time in a home on Pope Street, but as the congregation grew they rented the Baptist Church for their meetings. On February 2, 1880, WA Pratt deeded the property on the corner of “Madrona Avenue and Oak Avenue” to the “Trustees of the Seventh Day Advent Church, and their successors in office” for the sum of $1. WA Pratt was listed as one of those Trustees. December 4, 1877 Elder and Mrs. James White made their first visit to the church, and on January 24, 1880 the first church in St. Helena was dedicated. It was located at the corner of Madrona and Oak Avenues, and is now owned by the American Legion. Tax Records from 1890-93 show that the real estate was worth $225, and the building improvement to the site added $700, for a grand total assessed value of $925.
Health Resort - 1878
A small health resort was opened near St. Helena in 1878 under the direction of Merritt Kellogg, who had received medical training in 1867. This has grown into a large hospital system, and a number of similar institutions have been established throughout California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah and Hawaii.
The first church school was started in 1908, and in 1913 the church purchased six lots on Brown Street for $150 on which to build their school. Included in this was a May 28 purchase from Ellen White, who sold 1.008 acres of land to the Society of Seventh-day Adventists on Brown Street for $10.00.
When Elder Borg was the district pastor and Elder James, his associate, was pastor of the St. Helena congregation, the membership passed the 200 mark and they began planning for a larger church. By December 1953, through negotiations by Dr. Meade Baldwin, Horace Jenkins (realtor), Elder S.T. Borg, and Dr. H.L. Byrd, they succeeded in purchasing the present site on Main Street from the Ursuline Sisters who had operated an academy on this location for many years. The deed for the one and three-quarters acres tract was signed by Mother Columbs, president of Ursuline Academy, Santa Rosa, after permission had been secured from the Mother General in Rome. The cost was about $10,000 [about $81,000 inflated to 2010 value], the burden of which was born by a core group of 13 families.
“My dad and Wilbur Mitchell did all the heating and duct work on the church. I think they donated all the labor and maybe some of the material. My dad designed the lights and built a prototype. We then had church members come to the shop in the evenings and cut out pieces and assemble the lights. Marge Baldwin did a lot of work on them. I worked some on them as well as many other church members.”
Four groups within the church were formed to raise money for pews and floor coverings, spear-headed by Meade Baldwin. On November 3, 1962, it was noted that “Clyde Tucker’s band is leading in the amount raised to date.” One pew cost $200. The target date for obtaining the funds was December 31, 1962. Ralph remembers baking chocolate chip cookies “and selling them outside the college gym before the Adventure Series and Artist Series programs. I think we raised several hundred dollars for the building project that way. There were a lot of people involved in many different fund-raising projects.”
Ten years and four pastors after the initial purchase of the land, the church was declared debt-free at its dedication service on November 30, 1963 at a cost of $159,378 cash, though its value stood at $325,000. Many thousands of hours (some estimate 20,000 hours) of volunteer labor by both men and women of the church enormously defrayed the cost. “Elephant Auctions,” dinners, breakfasts, chocolate chip cookies (!), and other fund-raisers were used. Others who should receive special mention for time spent on the project were Elder JI Robison, James Webster, Dr. JE Weaver, John Gallion, C. Clendennon, Dr. Meade Baldwin, Peter Wall, and Fred Landis.
During the 1980's a beautiful stained glass window for the front of the church was designed by Clinton Connelly and built by Rio Linda Academy. It is centered above the baptistery, and depicts Christ coming from Heaven, with brilliant green vineyards below. To the sides of this large pane are two smaller panes of stained glass, depicting Angels blowing trumpets, heralding Jesus' arrival. The windows are completely inside the church. The main window is in front of a large outdoor window, however it and the smaller windows are back-lit, giving the feeling of sunlight streaming in.
In 1987 a Sabbath School class consisting of about 20 members met in the balcony of the sanctuary. The daughter of two of the Sabbath School members was serving as a missionary in Togo, a small poverty-stricken sub-Saharan nation in west Africa. When they were home on furlough they visited the class on Sabbath, where they were asked to tell about their field. Dr. Meade Baldwin recalls:
At the southern part of the Fellowship Hall, which is known as the Fireside Room, is a large area dedicated to storage and distribution of food to the needy. Previously housing the "Dorcas," a clothing and household goods distribution site for needy persons, this proved to be the ideal location for an Upper Napa Valley Community Food Pantry. Fedalma Ruhl relates the history of the Food Pantry:
“The Food Pantry was started in 1993 after a request came to me from the St Helena Clergy. There had been a small Food Closet (literally a small closet) at the Episcopal Church. A group of ladies had started going to the restaurants and bakeries in town and getting surplus things to deliver to a list of needy folk. The Clergy group (I'd been meeting with them as the local Social Worker for years) came to me to see if the St Helena Church had any space that could be used for a larger, more effective site for distributing food. Our church had just added on the space that is currently used for the Pantry. It was to have been for storage.
Elder DE Venden became pastor in the late summer of 1964.
To Know Jesus Fully
Maranatha! Come soon, Lord Jesus!
Elder John N. Loughborough May 16, 1874
Compilation by Jennifer Oliver