Edson Farm Visitor Center
Dedicated in Clifton Springs, N.Y.
Site was “theological birthplace” of Adventism, leaders say.
Seventh-day Adventists and friends gathered recently in upstate New York for a special event: the dedication of a visitor center at the Hiram Edson Farm in the town of Clifton Springs. The Edson farm is considered the “theological birthplace” of the Seventh-day Adventist movement, since the farm’s owner, Hiram Edson, was influential in the development of the nascent group’s theology.
“We will never forget this weekend,” said Ron Shoemaker, a non-Adventist visitor at the dedication. “This is a God-ordained appointment.”
Shoemaker, a descendant of the Edson family, was among a crowd of more than 250 at the dedication on August 21. While there, Shoemaker and his wife, Anita, went to the granary in the Edson barn to pray--just as Hiram Edson had done in 1844.
At the farm, on the morning of October 23, 1844, Edson began to understand the unique pillar of the Adventist faith, the heavenly Sanctuary. Here he shared that truth with Joseph Bates, who in turn shared with Edson the Sabbath truth. And here, during a Sabbath-Sanctuary conference, Ellen White had a vision in Edson’s barn about church unity. On Edson’s farm all of Adventism’s major “S” doctrines--salvation, sanctuary, Second Coming, state of the dead, Sabbath, and Spirit of Prophecy--came together for the first time.
Theological Home: Reenactors Dennis Farley, portraying James White, and Rita Hoshino protraying Ellen G. White, pose by a sign at the Hiram Edson Farm, where a visitor center has opened. [photo: Lewis Walton, Sr.]
In the 1990’s a historic barn once owned by the Edson family was reconstructed here. But for many years there were no proper facilities to welcome thousands of visitors from all over the world. Adventist Heritage Ministry voted to construct a Visitor Center, designed to resemble an 1840’s home, such as Edson might have lived in. The new facility, just completed, houses artifacts from early Adventism and has quarters for a resident caretaker. The first volunteer hostess, Louise Nettles from Georgia, is already in residence.
Dedication services included a Friday night program at the Bay Knoll Seventh-day Adventist Church, with James Nix, director of the White Estate, presenting songs and vignettes from the Adventist past. Sabbath services included lesson study by Ed Reid, Stewardship director for the North American Division, and a sermon by Lewis Walton, an Adventist lay member from California. The Sabbath afternoon dedication at the farm featured re-enactors Dennis Farley depicting James White, Rita Hoshino depicting Ellen White, and Richard Walton depicting J.N. Loughborough, reminiscing about early Adventist experiences. Many remarked how powerfully the Holy Spirit was present throughout the weekend.
Jim Allen, a volunteer, says many people come in just to learn what “theological” means. He responds by sharing the Advent message. A stone mason, hired to help with construction, complained that his church doesn’t teach Bible prophecy. “You’ve come to the right place,” Allen replied, and thereafter each day started with prayer and Bible study.
The Center was made possible by sacrificial gifts from donors and generous help from conferences, union conferences, and the Ellen G. White Estate. But more funds are urgently needed. Recently an estate bequeathed to Adventist Heritage Ministry, provided funds just when needed. Hiram Edson, who sold his farm to help evangelism, would likely have been pleased.
-- Reported by Adventist Review staff with information from Lewis Walton.