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AN important step was taken by the denomination in the spring of 1868, when it decided to open a mission in California. The work had begun in the East, as we have seen, then it had moved west as far as Rochester, N. Y., where for the first time the denominational organ, the Review and Herald, was printed on a press of its own. In 1855 the headquarters were moved to Battle Creek, Mich., from which, as a center, evangelistic work, by the use of schoolhouses, tents, and halls, had been carried on chiefly in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio. The time had now come to carry the message to the Far West, and a train of providences opened the way for this to be done.
D. T. Bourdeau attended the General Conference which convened in Battle Creek, May 28, 1868, with all arrangements made to enter a new field of labor, feeling strongly impressed that he would receive such a call at the meeting. When M. G. Kellogg, then resident in California, made a plea for laborers to be sent to that State, Elder Bourdeau immediately volun
teered to go, believing that to be the field of labor for which he had been constrained to make himself ready. J. N. Loughborough was impressed in the same way, and he also gave public expression to his convictions of duty. The brethren assen. bled made the matter a subject of daily prayer until May 31, when it was decided that the proposed mission should be undertaken, and that Elders Loughborough and Bourdeau should have it in charge.
James White thereupon appealed through the Review and Herald for $1,000 with which to purchase a tent and send these laborers to the Pacific Coast. The transcontinental railway lacking some hundreds of miles of completion, the party journeyed by way of the Isthmus of Darien, arriving July 18, 1868, in San Francisco, where they were entertained at the home of a believer. It was naturally the desire of the one or two families of Adventists in San Francisco to have the tent pitched first in that city, but the brethren found on inquiry that a suitable lot could be obtained only on payment of a very high rental. As the situation was presented before the Lord in a season of prayer, the minds of the brethren were led out in the direction of the country to the northwest of San Francisco.
On the following day a man who was a stranger to the Adventists called at the house where they were staying, and invited them to pitch their tent in Petaluma. He belonged to a little church in that town, whose members called themselves "Independents." They had seen a notice in an Eastern paper to the effect that two evangelists had sailed for California with a tent, intending to conduct a series of religious services, and they had prayed that if these men were servants of God, they might have a prosperous voyage. Elder Loughborough wrote:
"The night following that prayer meeting, one of their prominent members dreamed that he saw two men kindling a fire to light up the surrounding country, which seemed to be enveloped in darkness. As the two men had a fire kindled and shining brightly, he saw the ministers of Petaluma trying to extinguish the fire by throwing on brush, turf, etc.; but all such efforts only increased the flame. As he was watching this, he saw that the men lighted a second fire in another quarter, and that some of the same ministers ran to quench that fire, but with no better success than in the first instance. In his dream he saw that this work was continued until the two men had five fires brightly burning, and the light was shining most beautifully. Then he saw these ministers, together with others, in council, and heard them say, 'It is no use. Let them alone. The more we try to put out the fires, the better they burn.'"-" Rise and Progress of Seventhday Adventists," by J. N. Loughborough, p. 277.
The man was further given to understand in the dream that the two men he had seen kindling the fires were the evangelists
coming to California with a tent. He told the dream to his brethren, saying that he should recognize the two men on seeing them. This further roused the interest and curiosity of the little company of "Independents" in the expected tent evangelists, and it was one of their number who called at the house. where Elders Loughborough and Bourdeau were staying, and invited them to Petaluma. The man had learned, on inquiry at the dock, that a tent had arrived from the East, and had been delivered to such a street and number. Calling at the place thus indicated, he found the men he was looking for.
The result was that the tent was pitched in Petaluma on Aug. 13, 1868, and the meetings then begun were continued until October 16. The man who had had the dream recognized Elders Loughborough and Bourdeau as soon as he saw them, and both he and all the members of the "Independent" church co-operated heartily in giving the meetings a good start. Six of them ultimately accepted the Adventist views; the others joined in the opposition, which was vigorous. The five ministers of Petaluma all united in opposing the Adventist evangelists. One of them, in introducing the subject of the tent-meetings in the pulpit, said if the men had confined themselves to preaching, he would have said nothing, but their books were in every house. He was not far wrong, for already by that time the evangelists had sold about $300 worth of books in the place, and the instruction in Bible truth thus imparted was undoubtedly influencing the minds of the people.
In the course of the winter, meetings were held in Windsor, and in the Piner District, lying to the west of Santa Rosa. Early in April, 1869, the tent was pitched at Piner for a general assembly of the Adventists in California, to last over two days, at which time there came together seventy believers. At this meeting a temporary organization was effected, known as a "State Meeting," which took upon itself the responsibility of sustaining by tithes and offerings the evangelistic work west. of the Rocky Mountains.
From the middle of April to the sixth of June a tent-meeting was held in Santa Rosa, followed by one in Healdsburg. While the latter meeting was in progress, one of the preachers would go over to Santa Rosa to meet with the believers there on the Sabbath. A trustee of the schoolhouse three miles west of Santa Rosa, had invited Elder Loughborough to make use of the building on June 12 for such a gathering, but when the hour for the meeting came, the building was closed against the Adventists. They accordingly held their meeting under the boughs
of a wide-spreading oak. Scores of teams passing along the adjoining highway soon carried the word throughout that section of the country, and awakened everywhere sympathy and support for the work. The people determined that the Adventists should have a meeting place of their own in Santa Rosa. One man gave two building lots and $500 to start the enterprise. Others pledged from $50 to $100, and soon a sufficient sum of money was in hand to erect a neat house of worship 60 x 40 feet, which was ready for use Nov. 1, 1869.
By the spring of 1871 there had been raised up in Sonoma County five churches of Seventh-day Adventists, the ministers of other denominations in each place strongly opposing the work. At a Methodist camp-meeting held that summer, the ministers met in council are said to have decided to "let the Adventists alone," because the more they opposed the doctrine, the more it spread.
The city of San Francisco was next to hear the advent message, the tent being erected on the south side of Market Street, between Fifth and Sixth Streets, June 16, 1871. Elder Bourdeau having been recalled East, D. M. Canright had been sent to take his place. The interest to hear was good, and the meetings were continued in halls, with the result that by the first of December there was a company of believers numbering more than fifty, the whole number of Sabbath keepers in the State then being 208. The tithe for the year was more than $2,000.
In the course of the summer of 1872 a tent-meeting was held in Woodland, Yolo County, which resulted in a church being raised up also in that place. In the following October the first Adventist camp-meeting in the State was held at Windsor, lasting one week. The camp consisted of thirty-three tents in addition to the sixty-foot circular tent in which the meetings were held. Elder and Mrs. White attended, and their message was heartily received by the believers. They remained in the State till the end of February, 1873, holding meetings with the various churches and companies, and giving much appreciated instruction in various phases of the truth. On February 15 and 16 the California Conference was organized at a meeting held in Bloomfield, Sonoma County, the Sabbath keepers then numbering 238.
The message next entered what was then the quiet little city of Oakland. In the middle of the year 1873 there was a solitary sister here who kept the Sabbath, and she had been alone in her faith for a long time. First a brother from San Francisco joined her in prayer meetings held in a little back parlor. The