Birthplace of Seventh-day
Adventist Church Turns 150
Battle Creek, Michigan celebrates sesquicentennial
BY MEGAN BRAUNER, Adventist News Network
attle Creek, Michigan, a city with historic and cultural significance to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, recently turned 150.
City officials marked the occasion with eight former Battle Creek mayors joining the sesquicentennial Tuesday, February 24.
ADVENTIST SANITARIUM: Drawings of the medical and surgical sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. John Harvey Kellogg made the Sanitarium famous when he took over the institution in 1875. [Photos: Property of the Ellen G. White Estate]
Incorporated in 1859, the city served as a base for members of the Underground Railroad and abolitionist leaders, with human rights activist Sojourner Truth calling the city her home for 27 years.
Mayor Mark Behnke said one thing that has remained the same over the last 150 years is spirit of the city's people.
"I'm proud to be mayor of Battle Creek," Behnke said.
Behnke said the anniversary was a time to appreciate the history of the city and look forward to its future.
For half a century, Battle Creek acted as the hub of the budding Seventh-day Adventist Church. Founders of Adventism likely anticipated a welcoming atmosphere in Battle Creek, said James Nix, director of the Ellen G. White Estate.
"Battle Creek was influenced by Quakers who were noted for being tolerant of different viewpoints held by others," Nix said. "That might have given a more open, tolerant reception to the Sabbath-keeping Adventists than might have been true of some other places."
Battle Creek is the site of the Adventist Church's first publishing house, the Review and Herald, and the Battle Creek Sanitarium, made famous by John Harvey Kellogg. Adventist Church co-founder Ellen White lived with her family in the city.
In 1855, Sabbath-keeping believers in Michigan invited Adventist Church co-founder Ellen White and her husband James to move to Battle Creek, where they promised to run the church's printing press.
GENERAL CONFERENCE: Ellen G. White, a pioneering co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, speaks at the 1901 world church business meeting held in Battle Creek, Michigan.
The newly established believers in Battle Creek organized into a world church structure in 1863, calling themselves the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Over the next 50 years, the Adventist movement grew into a more than 100,000-member organization. Today, membership is nearly 16 million.
While Battle Creek is no longer the headquarters of the Adventist world church, having moved to the Washington, D.C., suburbs in 1904, William Fagal, associate director for the White Estate, said the city holds important parts of the church's history.
"Things really began to take place there," Fagal said. "We took our first steps [toward] organization medical work, and official church-sponsored educational work in Battle Creek, and from there we sent out our first missionary. All of these enterprises, and more, grew during the Battle Creek years."
Today, Battle Creek is the home of the Historic Adventist Village, a restored collection of buildings that played vital roles in the church's heritage. Exhibits include the homes of Ellen and James White and William Hardy, an influential African-American Adventist, as well as the rebuilt second Adventist church in the city and an interactive visitor’s center.