Ten Days in Texas:
D. M. Canright‎’‎s 1876 Visit to Texas

By Scott Severance Written: March 15, 2004

Southwestern Adventist University: RLGN 320, Ellen White’s Writings

Abstract

D. M. Canright visited Texas from May 5-15, 1876. During that time, he organized the ‎Dallas Seventh-day Adventist Church, which had 28 members by the time he left, and a ‎‎32-member Tract and Missionary Society. On May 15, he wrote a letter to James White; ‎in the letter, he suggested that the Whites spend the winter in Texas. Canright was only ‎one voice out of many, however, and it is unlikely that his was the major influence ‎behind the Whites’ 1878-1879 trip to Texas.‎

Contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Canright: An Overview
  4. Canright’s Trip to Texas
  5. Canright’s Influence over the Whites’ 1878-1879 Trip to Texas
  6. Conclusion
  7. Bibliography
  8. Endnotes

Introduction

Dudley M. Canright is best known for rejecting the Seventh-day Adventist ‎Church, along with Ellen White’s messages. But before he left the church, he was an ‎effective evangelist and administrator. He was one of three members of the General ‎Conference Committee in 1876 and 1877.[1]‎‎ Like the other leaders of the Adventist church ‎at his time, Canright traveled extensively, working, he claimed, “in every State where ‎we have churches, from Maine to California, from Texas to Minnesota.”‎[2] This paper will ‎explore Canright’s experiences in Texas and his role in James and Ellen White’s 1878-‎‎1879 trip to Texas.‎

Canright: An Overview

Dudley Marvin Canright was born in Coldwater, Michigan, on September 22, ‎‎1840. In 1859, at age 18 or 19, Canright attended meetings that James and Ellen White ‎conducted and was baptized. Three years later, he visited James White, wanting to ‎enter the ministry. James White consented, saying, “Go out and try it.” Canright was ‎ordained on May 29, 1865; he was 24 years old.[3]

Canright’s experiences in the church were sometimes tumultuous. In 1873, he ‎and his wife Lucretia were invited to join the Whites in Colorado for some much-‎needed rest. While there, they had a disagreement with the Whites, prompting a letter ‎from Ellen White on August 12 dealing with their character flaws.‎[4]‎ The Canrights were ‎deeply offended and refused to be reconciled. They moved instead to California, where ‎he almost gave up the faith. On November 8, they wrote a letter to the Whites seeking ‎reconciliation. Shortly thereafter, Canright’s and James White’s differences were ‎completely patched up.‎[5]

Despite Canright’s character flaws, he usually maintained a close relationship ‎with James White. Johnson points out that James White “admired his [Canright’s] drive ‎and accomplishments. White cited Canright . . . as an example among the ministers who ‎‎‘have laid their plans wisely and well, and have labored with vigilance to execute them,’ ‎and as one with the ability ‘to establish the work in new fields.’ ”‎[6]

Canright’s Trip to Texas

M. Ellsworth Olsen writes that in 1875, M. E. Cornell visited Texas and preached ‎a series in the First Baptist Church of Dallas. Five people were converted before Cornell ‎left. Some time later, “the new converts were pleading for help, and D. M. Canright was ‎sent to answer the call.”‎[7] Canright had been working in California for more than two ‎years. In late 1875 we find him working in Michigan, and then planting a church in ‎Maryland.‎[8] Where he was when he received the call to Texas is unclear.‎

In an article in the Review and Herald, written on May 16, 1876 from Little Rock, ‎Arkansas, Canright described his experiences during his ten days in Texas. He arrived ‎in Dallas on Friday, May 5. The next day, he organized a church of 18 members; twenty-‎five people attended the Sabbath-morning service.‎[9] It seems that M. E. Cornell’s ‎converts had been active during the past year.‎

Sunday, May 7, saw the baptism of eleven people in Long Lake.[10] These eleven ‎people were part of the eighteen charter members, although they had not yet become ‎members when the church was organized. According to Canright, this was the first ‎baptism conducted by Adventists in Texas.[11] This seems incongruous; most likely, M. E. ‎Cornell had baptized his converts a year earlier. Cornell’s five and Canright’s eleven ‎leaves two members unaccounted for. If Cornell did not baptize his converts, we are left ‎with seven members of unknown status. One possible explanation is that they had ‎already been baptized by immersion by their previous churches. An examination of the ‎attitudes in the Adventist church toward baptism and church membership during this ‎time period might shed some light on this issue.‎

Sometime between Sunday, May 7 and Wednesday, May 10, Canright visited ‎A. B. Rust in his home roughly twelve miles west of Dallas. Rust would later become a ‎prominent figure in the Adventist work in Texas. As a result of this visit, Canright ‎returned to Rust’s home on Thursday, May 11 to conduct a meeting for Rust’s ‎neighbors. The turnout was larger than he expected.[12]

Two experiences that week prompted Canright to spend a significant portion of ‎his article in a call for someone to work exclusively for the freedmen. During the ‎meeting he held at A. B. Rust’s home, he noticed racial divisions: While the Whites ‎entered Rust’s house, the Blacks stayed out and listened as best they could. Also, ‎sometime during that week, Canright visited a literacy school for freedmen taught by ‎Eddie Capman. His report does not give any further details about what he saw while he ‎was there.[13] It would be interesting to discover what role, if any, Canright’s appeal ‎played in eventually beginning the work for the freedmen.‎

On the following Sabbath (May 13), about forty people attended church. That ‎afternoon, six people were baptized and four joined the church through some other ‎means. There were then 28 members in the Dallas church. On Sunday, May 14, Canright ‎organized a Tract and Missionary Society with 32 charter members.[14]

Canright’s meetings were well-received. Church attendance and the attendance ‎at his meeting in A. B. Rust’s home attest to that. In addition, press coverage was ‎favorable. The Daily Commercial reported that his meetings, which apparently were ‎mainly held on the weekends, were very encouraging. It added that Canright worked ‎very hard while in Texas.[15]

On Monday, May 15, Canright wrote a letter from Dallas to James White. Part of ‎the letter described Texas:‎

So far as I can tell, Texas is just as good a field of labor as any of the ‎Western states. In the Northern part the people are about half northern ‎men. Further south it is different. A tent could be run here all the year by ‎using a stone occasionally. It is really the most beautiful country I ever ‎saw. The land is very rich. . . . I never saw such fine fields of wheat. ‎Harvest has begun here now. Strawberries, blackberries, peas, new ‎cabbage, &c., &c. . . . The climate is delightful. We have a cool breeze ‎from the Gulf every day but no fogs as in California. Does not get sultry ‎in the summer nor cold in the winter. Land is marvelously cheap—from ‎‎$1.50 to $10 per acre in the country. Poor schools and bad water are the ‎drawbacks. There is no good water in the state. Hard, warm lime water ‎and roily at that is all you can get. The only remedy for this is large ‎cisterns and these are being built now.[16]

It is clear that Canright was terribly misinformed about the weather. He had only ‎arrived ten days before, and he already was describing summer and winter in terms ‎those who live in Dallas wish were true. He was probably experiencing a form of culture ‎shock, and he had doubtless received false reports from the locals. Nevertheless, this is ‎the report that reached the James and Ellen White.‎

Later in his letter, Canright mentioned A. B. Rust and suggested that a Brother ‎King would benefit the work in Texas. Then he remarked, “It would be a splendid place ‎for you to spend the winter and be ready to [sic] for early camp meetings in the ‎South.”[17]

Canright’s letter to James White was dated May 15 from Dallas, while his article ‎in the Review and Herald was dated May 16, from Little Rock, Arkansas. I do not know ‎how he traveled to Little Rock, a distance of 319 miles by today’s highways.[18] Quite ‎possibly, he wrote the letter and/or the article while he was traveling between Dallas ‎and Little Rock. Otherwise, there does not appear to be enough time for the trip.‎

Canright’s Influence over the Whites’ ‎‎1878-1879 Trip to Texas‎

While D. M. Canright was clearly an influential leader in the church, his ‎contribution to the Whites’ 1878-1879 trip to the Southwest appears to be minimal. In ‎May 1876, Canright recommended that the Whites winter in Texas. However, after ‎Canright visited Texas, the work began increasing rapidly. For example, the Review and ‎Herald mentioned Texas on average several times per month during 1877—especially ‎once R. M. Kilgore arrived in May.‎

There were many subsequent references to Texas that likely had as strong an ‎influence over the Whites as did Canright. The following three quotes, all from the ‎Review and Herald in 1877, illustrate this.‎

‎“The influence of the work in Texas will be widely felt: and if it is wholly a good ‎influence, it may accomplish much good.”[19]

“The climate [of Texas] is delightful, and well adapted [sic] to benefit those ‎coming from the North who have weak lungs. . . . To those who are inquiring about the ‎advantages, products, etc., I would say, If you are poor, and desire change for financial ‎reasons and from a worldly point of view, you had better stay where you are. . . . There ‎is a large field opening up here, which should be occupied by devoted, self-sacrificing ‎S. D. Adventists.”[20]

‎“The following petition [came] from Hillsboro. . . : ‘We, the undersigned citizens ‎of Hillsboro and vicinity, most respectfully request Rev. Kilgore to preach a series of ‎sermons at Hillsboro after he has ended his engagement at Peoria. . . .’ A very strong ‎appeal comes from Towash . . . and another from Prairie Valley . . . . These are excellent ‎openings for the truth; but how can I be at all of these places at the same time? I wish I ‎could be, and still be efficient.”[21]

Despite appeals such as these, it was not until October 14, 1878 that the General ‎Conference sent the Whites to attend a camp meeting in Texas. While Canright’s letter ‎to James White and his article in the Review and Herald may have played a role in the ‎Whites’ decision, it appears to be only one voice among many.‎

Conclusion

There is a dearth of information regarding Canright’s trip to Texas. Several ‎questions remain unanswered. What was Canright doing immediately before he visited ‎Texas? What method (or methods) of travel did he use? We only know a few of his ‎activities from May 8-12, 1876. How did he spend that time? It would be helpful if ‎Canright’s diaries could be located. How did Canright’s appeal for the freedmen impact ‎the church’s later work in the South?

What we do know, however, is significant: Dudley M. Canright organized the ‎first Adventist church in Texas, and in doing so made a positive impact on the people of ‎Dallas and the surrounding area. Although Canright went astray in his latter years, ‎Adventists in Texas can be thankful that he was once a dedicated missionary.‎

Bibliography

Canright, D. M. “A Plain Talk to the Murmurers—Some Facts for Those Who Are Not in ‎Harmony with the Body.” Quoted in Johnson, pp. 172-182.‎

‎---. Letter to James White, May 15, 1876. Heritage Room, Chan Shun Centennial Library, ‎Keene, TX.‎

‎---. “My Present Standing.” Section in the introductory material of Seventh-day ‎Adventism Renounced, 14th ed. 1914. <http://web2.iadfw.net/billtod/stand.txt>.‎

‎---. “Texas.” Review and Herald 47:21 (May 25, 1876), p. 100.‎

Clarke, Jos. “Texas.” Review and Herald 50:4 (July 19, 1877), p. 31.‎

Daily Commercial. Quoted in Review and Herald 47:24 (June 15, 1876), p. 190.‎

Dallas Herald. “The Grove Meetings.” Quoted in Review and Herald 47:24 (June 15, 1876), ‎p. 190.‎

Johnson, Carrie. I Was Canright’s Secretary. Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1971.‎

Kilgore, R.&M. “About Texas.” Review and Herald 50:12 (September 13, 1877), p. 93.‎

‎---. “Texas Tent.” Review and Herald 50:17 (October 25, 1877), p. 134.‎

Olsen, M. Ellsworth. A History of the Origin and Progress of Seventh-day Adventists. Takoma ‎Park: Review and Herald, 1925.‎

Rand McNally. The Road Atlas. 2001 ed. Rand McNally, 2001.‎

White, Arthur L. “The Story of Two Men: D. M. Canright—A. G. Daniells.” Folder DF 351, ‎‎“Canright, D. M.—Misc.” Heritage Room, Chan Shun Centennial Library, Keene, ‎TX.‎

White, Ellen G. Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3. Mountain View: Pacific Press, 1948.‎

Endnotes

  1. D. M. Canright, “My Present Standing.” Section in the introductory material of Seventh-day Adventism ‎Renounced, 14th ed. 1914. <http://web2.iadfw.net/billtod/stand.txt>.‎
  2. Canright, “A Plain Talk to the Murmurers—Some Facts for Those Who Are Not in Harmony with the ‎Body.” Quoted in Carrie Johnson, I Was Canright’s Secretary (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1971), p. ‎‎172.‎
  3. Arthur L. White, “The Story of Two Men: D. M. Canright—A. G. Daniells.” (Folder DF 351, “Canright, ‎D. M.—Misc.” Heritage Room, Chan Shun Centennial Library, Keene, TX).‎
  4. This letter appears in volume 3 of Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View: Pacific Press, 1948) on ‎pages 304–329.‎
  5. Johnson, pp. 36–39.‎
  6. Johnson, p. 44.‎
  7. M. Ellsworth Olsen, A History of the Origin and Progress of Seventh-day Adventists (Takoma Park: Review ‎and Herald, 1925), p. 297.‎
  8. Johnson, p. 43.‎
  9. Canright, “Texas.” Review and Herald 47:21 (May 25, 1876), p. 100.‎
  10. Dallas Herald. “The Grove Meetings.” Quoted in Review and Herald 47:24 (June 15, 1876), p. 190. I ‎have been unable to discover the location of this lake.‎
  11. Canright, “Texas.”‎
  12. Canright, “Texas.”‎
  13. Canright, “Texas.”‎
  14. Canright, “Texas.”‎
  15. Daily Commercial. Quoted in Review and Herald 47:24 (June 15, 1876), p. 190.‎
  16. Canright, letter to James White, May 15, 1876 (Heritage Room, Chan Shun Centennial Library, ‎Keene, TX).‎
  17. Canright, letter.‎
  18. Rand McNally, The Road Atlas, 2001 ed. (Rand McNally, 2001), p. 140.‎
  19. Jos. Clarke, “Texas.” Review and Herald 50:4 (July 19, 1877), p. 31.‎
  20. R. M. Kilgore, “About Texas.” Review and Herald 50:12 (September 13, 1877), p. 93.‎
  21. Kilgore, “Texas Tent.” Review and Herald 50:17 (October 25, 1877), p. 134.‎