The Case of D.M. Canright

Chapter 14 - Canright's Secretary

In the letter received on June 22, 1960, from the Adventist leader who collaborated in the writing of Questions on Doctrine, he said that Canright’s secretary, along with others, had taken oath that he had often said, "I’m a lost man, I’m a lost man!" Although the name of the secretary was withheld, I later discovered her identity. When she began to correspond with Jess Canright and Clifton Dey, seeking information about D. M. Canright, they shared the letters with me. Then, on April 6, 1962, I wrote to her, asking if we could meet to exchange notes on Canright. I had no reply, but on a Saturday she and her husband called at our home and remained about seven hours.

While my wife took notes, the secretary poured out a stream of what purported to be information about and reminiscences of Canright. She gave a sketch of his life which contained most of the charges current among Adventists, and added a few of her own. She told us of her association with him in Battle Creek, when, as an old man, broken in health and fortune, and living on the charity of the Adventists, he employed her as his secretary in writing a number of things, including the Life of Mrs. E. G. White.

Wherein we have been able to check her statements with official records, we have found them almost entirely inaccurate. But worse than her inaccuracy was her subtle disparagement of Canright. True, she conceded that he was naturally kind and affectionate, even a lovable man; but she represented him as dominated by an evil spirit in his testimony against Mrs. White and Adventism. She was sure that he was still an Adventist at heart, and she recounted various incidents which proved (to her) that he longed to return to that fellowship, but was restrained by the demonic power that possessed him. She told us that she was preparing material for a Life of Canright, and that if she were unable to complete it, the denominational leaders would do so.

Within ten days of the interview, I sent Mrs.——— a copy of the notes which my wife had written up, asking her to make any corrections that were needed. On May 19, I received a reply which sternly protested against making any public record of what she had said! (The reader will naturally contrast this attitude with that of the persons in Grand Rapids who were glad to have their testimony about Canright broadcasted). In compliance with her wishes, I now forbear to report what she told us, but I have other material on which to draw.

Let us now examine the validity of her claim to be Canright’s secretary. In her first letter to Mr. Dey, on May 31, 1960, she said: "By the way of introduction, I was secretary to your grandfather, Dudley M. Canright, in the years 1912 and 1913 in Battle Creek, Mich." In her second letter to him (Dec. 16, 1960), she stated: "Your grandfather wrote, or rather dictated, a daily letter in 1913" to someone whose name she could not recall. In her first letter to Canright’s son, she wrote about "having been secretary to your father," and later: "In 1913, your father dictated the contents of two books to me." So the time was 1912-1913. In reply to a direct question I put to her as to when she served as Canright’s secretary, she answered: "1912-14."

A glance at chapter 12 will show how unlikely it is that Canright was living in Battle Creek in 1912. That was the year that his son was away (in Alaska) most of the time until October, so that all the burden of the farm fell upon himself. During that time he had the addition built on the house which his son helped to finish on his return. "Does that sound," asks Jess Canright, "as though he lived in Battle Creek during that year?" (Jan. 14, 1961 letter). Moreover, it was the period during which Mrs. Canright’s health was failing.

The likelihood of his living in Battle Creek the following two years is scarcely greater, as the same chapter shows. His son, we saw, states that after his mother’s death (on Jan. 2, 1913), he and his father lived together "for several years," in Grand Rapids. He expressly says that during that time his father went to Battle Creek "several times, but only a day or two at a time."

What is more, the evidence against Canright’s having a regular secretary during these years is very damaging to the claimant. When I wrote to Canright’s son on Oct. 20, 1960, about his father’s professed secretary, he replied: "Now in regard to the secretary: as you know, he left the Adventists in ‘87, which was the year I was born. Up to the time I was seven or eight, I wouldn’t be able to say much about it, but from then on (say 1895), I am very sure he had no secretary other than...Fred Rudy, whom you have met." On Nov. 13, 1960, Jess Canright sent me a letter he had received from the secretary, thinking I would be interested to see it. His comment was: "Never heard of her before, and I doubt that she was my father’s secretary any more than Fred Rudy was, and probably not as much." In his next letter (Nov. 25, 1960), he said that she "to my knowledge, was never at our home to take dictation. ... If she did at some other place, I didn’t know about it." When I sent him what was her full name in 1912-3, he replied, "Never heard the name of ———- at anytime" (May 23, 1962).

Is it not conceivable, however, that this woman, though not (as she claims) a regular secretary for Canright, did occasionally act for him when he visited Battle Creek? Let the reader judge from the following: In her first letter to Canright’s son (Oct. 25, 1960) she stated that, in 1913, his father had a peg leg. Mrs.——— confirmed this to me, in my home, on May 5, 1962, explaining that he had lost a leg in an accident in his father’s hay field. But Fred A. Rudy, mentioned in the preceding chapter as living next door to Canright in Grand Rapids, declared in a letter dated Feb. 25, 1963: "Mr. D.M. Canright had two good legs when I knew him, and he was very active from daylight to dark." Similarly, Mrs. North (the former Roxanna Bailey), another neighbor, wrote on May 27, 1963: "I am sure Mr. Canright did not have a peg leg." Moreover, Canright’s nephew in Portland, Ore., wrote me on Feb. 4, 1963, that he had several pictures of his Uncle Dudley which indicated that he had two legs. (I have such a picture myself.) Finally, Canright’s son, under date of Jan. 3, 1963, said: "As to his losing a leg in his father’s hay field, that is pure fiction." In two previous communications (Nov. 25, 1960 and Oct. 4, 1962) he flatly declared that his father "never had a peg leg." In the latter of these he went on to say: "There was a relative of my father who had a peg leg. He came to visit us at the Grand Rapids farm... .It is just possible that Mrs. ———-- has reference to him"! We have seen in chapter 12 that Canright had a leg amputated in 1916. If he had already lost a leg before 1913, then when he died in 1919 he was minus both legs. But his son told me, in a letter dated Dec. 23, 1962, that his father "retained his right leg till he died." It is quite understandable, therefore, why he had written me on two previous occasions that he could not believe that Mrs. ——— had "even met" his father (July 6 and Aug. 30, 1962).

In her first letter to Mr. Dey (May 31, 1960), she wrote: "Your grandfather was born in Coldwater, May 1, 1845." She expressed the same thing in her fourth to him (Jan. 25, 1961). Now this is a deliberate denial of the truthfulness of Canright’s statement in Seventh-day Adventism Renounced – a book which I know she possesses, for she mentioned, in a letter written to me in July 1962, that it contains 409 pages apart from appendices. His statement reads: "I was born in Kinderhook, Branch Co., Mich., Sept. 22, 1840" (p. 37). Thus, he is accused of falsehood regarding both the place and time of his birth. The motive which Mrs. ——, when in my home, ascribed to him in falsifying his age was: that he might appear more impressive when speaking of early Adventist history. But chapter 2 provides absolute proof from public records that Canright’s statement is correct.

Now as a falsehood is worse than mistake, so is perjury worse than falsehood. Yet Mrs. — has (I do not now say, consciously) charged Canright with this wickedness, by alleging that he was sorry he had left Adventism, when he had solemnly declared on oath, on March 8, 1916: "I have never once regretted that I withdrew from that church." This outrageous charge stands in contradiction to the testimonies of all those earnest Christians who knew him well, and who had been blessed through his ministry.

Even this is not all. When Mrs. ——— had written me that pages 5-8 of the preface to the fourteenth edition of Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, had been dictated to her by Canright in 1913, I replied on July 23, 1962: "As an Adventist, you must have been struck with the kindly spirit which breathes forth in the last two paragraphs [of the Preface]. I have observed the same thing in his other two books also (The Lord’s Day, pp. 23-24, 26; The Life of Mrs. E.G. White, pp. 14, 187, 291). It appears, likewise, in his newly-reprinted pamphlet, Seventh-day Adventism Refuted (pp. 17, 19, 55, 56)." Her response was this: "‘Sweet Spirit’ in paragraphs of Preface overbalanced and counteracted by 409 pages plus appendixes by a power beyond D.M.C.’s control. Normally those paragraphs [on pages 7-8] express the real Canright." In other words, Canright wrote the main part of his book while in the possession of some evil spirit. This is an echo of Butler’s assertion in the Review and Herald Extra for Dec. 1887. The testimonies, appealed to above, are equally decisive here.

Thus, according to the secretary, Canright was a blunderer, a boaster, a liar, a perjurer and a demoniac, all wrapped into one. She goes one step further: she casts reflection on his parents. In a letter to Mr. Dey (Jan. 25, 1961), she insinuated that Hiram Canright deserted his family when Dudley was only four months old; and in one to me (July 17, 1962), she declared that his mother scattered it to Ohio and Wisconsin by the churlishness of her disposition. It seems that nothing short of the scandalous could have been true of Canright’s parents! With his father a shirker and his mother a shrew, the implication is obvious: "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"

But the facts contradict this account. We have seen in chapter 2 that Hiram was still in Kinderhook in 1860. So Dudley did not have to "fend for himself at an early age," as asserted [by Mrs. ——— in her first letter to Jess Canright, Oct. 25, 1960]. As a matter of fact, in after life he used to tell his children "lots of stories about the farm where he grew up." (Jess Canright, letter, July 16, 1962) As to Loretta, her granddaughter, Mrs. Jennings, wrote me: "Grandmother was a very wonderful Christian. Everyone loved her." Again she called her a "devout Christian," and added: "She wouldn’t say a word against anyone." As Loretta lived in the home of Mrs. Jennings from the time that she was a mere child, this testimony is decisive. Moreover, it is certain that not even one of Loretta’s seven children ever settled in either Ohio or Wisconsin.

Now this secretary has represented herself to Canright’s relatives, and to other people, as his friend. My wife and I have talked with those she has visited in the southern counties of Michigan, where, concealing her Adventist connections, and professing admiration for him, she has sought to induce the innocent to provide her with materials on him. These people were amazed to learn that she is not really so fond of him as she professed to be. In writing to Mr. Dey, she led him to believe that it was her pleasure in the memories she had of his grandfather that prompted her to seek information about him (May 31, 1960; Dec. 16, 1960). She had been raised up "to perpetuate his memory" (Jan. 4, 1961). In writing to Canright’s son (Oct. 25, 1960), she followed the same line.

As I have given to the reader a view of the secretary’s malice and methods, it will not be amiss to acquaint him with her inaccuracy, and consequent unreliability, in matters of an indifferent nature. She seems adept at misstating things, even when there is nothing to gain by doing so. Her habitual errors regarding the simplest facts reveal the necessity of examining carefully everything she says.

She has stated that the name Canright was originally Cankrite, when the earliest known form was Gernryk; that John W. was Dudley’s uncle, when he was his father’s cousin; that this cousin of his father’s served in the Civil War, though he was a man of 59 at its beginning; that John W’s farm is listed in an 1841 Atlas in the Coldwater Library, when the Atlas was put out in 1872; that Mrs. Batterson, of Batavia township, in Branch Co., is D. M. Canright’s niece, when she is John W’s granddaughter; that Mrs. Ruth Thompson of Coldwater is a great-granddaughter of Canright’s sister, when she is such to John W; that a Dr. John W. Canright practiced medicine in Battle Creek, when it was Dr. Harry Lee Canright; that many Canrights are buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek, when there are only two men of that name interred there — Joel, and his grandson, Clifton; that Eugene was Dudley’s brother, when he was his first cousin; that this cousin, who served in the Civil War, was mustered out in Iowa, when this took place in Nashville, Tenn.; that Jerome was Dudley’s brother, when, like Eugene, he was his first cousin. I have mentioned all of these items together because nearly all of them are disproved by chapter 1 with its footnotes.

Other erroneous statements by the secretary, and their corrections, include the following: my second chapter proves that Dudley Canright was not one of thirteen children, but one of seven; and that he was not reared in the home of James and Ellen White, but that his younger brother, Jasper, was. Chapter 3 shows that he was educated in Coldwater, Mich. and Albion, N.Y., not in Battle Creek; that he was first married in 1867, not in 1869; that his wife, Lucretia, died on March 29, 1879, not on April 24 of that year; and that after her death, his headquarters were in Battle Creek, not in Otsego. In chapter 7 we see that Canright was not pastor of the Otsego Baptist Church for merely eight months, but for a year and a half, when he resigned; and that he was not pastor of the Berean Church in Grand Rapids for only a year, but for a year and a half, when he likewise resigned and then, later, for another year, when he again resigned. My twelfth chapter shows that Canright bought 33 acres in North Park, Grand Rapids, not 40; that he lost his leg as the result of a fall at the Adventist Tabernacle in Battle Creek, not at the Berean Baptist Church of Grand Rapids; that he entered the Battle Creek Sanitarium on March 13, 1916, not on April 16 of that year; that he remained in Battle Creek for more than four months before being taken to his daughter’s home in Hillsdale, not just two or three days; and that he was in comfortable circumstances at the close of his life and not in financial straits.

Here, then, are two dozen instances of misstatement on the part of Canright’s secretary. I have others on hand which I have not introduced, because there was no reason to do so. But now the reader may draw his own conclusions as to the value of this woman’s witness against Mr. Canright. She has declared him to be the very opposite of what those who knew him intimately, and over long periods, declared him to be. At the same time, she has made claims for herself as a witness that are totally insupportable. She has even resorted to deceit in order to procure data which she hoped would assist her in disparaging him. And throughout, she has revealed her inaccuracy in a multiplicity of details on the circumference of his history.

Yet this is the party cited by one of the authors of Questions on Doctrine, in order to discredit Canright. She told me in my home on May 5, 1962 that this author had written her repeatedly for data on him. When I wrote to him what I had discovered about her unreliability, he professed to have no need of any information she possessed! Documentation which I had sent him on the charges he had made, apart from her testimony, he ignored. Impartial men can judge the morality of such procedure.

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