The Avondale Furrow Tale

By Dirk Anderson, Sep. 2009

The Avondale Furrow incident is occasionally cited by Adventists as evidence of how God used Sister White to guide the SDA Church. As the story goes, Mrs. White had a dream that showed the brethren which piece of property to purchase as the future site of the Avondale College in Australia.

One Adventist book describes the event in the most glowing terms:

"From several sources we put the story together. It seems that part of the committee went ahead, leaving Sister White to make the journey with Elder and Mrs. G. B. Starr. On the train she told the Starrs of her dream in which she and they were standing on the piece of property, looking it over, and came upon a neat-cut furrow about one quarter of a yard deep and two yards in length. She saw two of the brethren, who had grown up with the Iowa type of rich, deep soil, standing by the furrow and saying, 'This is not good land; the soil is not favorable.' As they spoke these words Sister White was told by One who had often given her counsel, 'False witness has been borne of this land,' and He explained the value of the different strata in the soil and their use.

"In due time she and her party arrived at Cooranbong, and they looked over the estate without reaching a decision that day. The next morning, May 25, 1894 ... the group scattered out to examine further the various parts of the property. The Starrs and Sister White walked over the place and came upon a spot where a neat-cut furrow had been plowed one quarter of a yard deep and two yards in length. As they stood there looking at the turned-up soil, two brethren came upon them from different directions. On seeing Sister White they remarked, 'This is not good land; the soil is not favorable.'

"Sister White then told them of her dream and of the fulfillment. With this evidence and evidence of the presence and the power of God as seen in the healing of Brother McCullagh, they decided to take the place, and made a down payment."1

Ministry magazine relates a similar tale, emphasizing Mrs. White's prophetic role:

"Here we see the striking evidence of how the Lord used Ellen G. White as His messenger to guide the Adventist people..."2

F.C. Gilbert, in his book, Divine Predictions Fulfilled, adds more details about the supposed poor quality of the land:

"All united in saying that it was poor land, nothing would grow there, and if a jack rabbit wanted something to eat while tarrying there, he would have to take is luncheon with him. It was upon this tract of land that Mrs. White saw in vision the school should be located."3

The book Believe His Prophets describes how a government insprector declared the property to be worthless:

"They decided to request a governmental agricultural expert to visit the land and give his frank and honhest apppraisal of it. His comment was that the land was so poor that if a bandicoot wanted to cross the 1,500 acres he would have to take with him his lunch a basket, for there would be nothing for him to eat. ... Sister White then told them of her dream and of the fulfillment. With this evidence and the evidence of the presence and power of God as seen in the healing of Brother Mccullagh, they decided to take the place, and made a down payment."4

The following claims are made by Seventh-day Adventists regarding this event:

  1. The Furrow Dream - Prior to her visit to the property, Mrs. White had a dream of a furrow in the ground, and the fulfillment of this dream helped convince those evaluating the property to purchase it.

  2. The Healing - Elder McCollagh was miraculously healed, and this sign from heaven helped to solidify the group in their decision to purchase the property.

  3. Property had Poor Soil - The property appeared to those evaluating it to have "sour" and poor soil, and to be a bad investment. Only Ellen White could see the true virtue in the land because she was divinely inspired by a dream and could thus recognize the value of it

Was the Property really a Useless Waste-land?

A.G. Daniells relates how a government expert was brought out to survey the land, and afterwards reported to the Adventist group:

"Gentlemen, I am sorry to have to tell you that this soil is worthless. It won't support a bandicoot (a large field rat). The wisest thing for you to do is to abandon all thought of making this place your school farm."5

Another SDA article called the property "Holy Ground" and says a second unnamed "authority claimed that the land was so poor that nothing would grow there".6

Fairy-tale author Arthur L. Maxwell embellishes the story even further:

"Before the purchase of the site was completed, much opposition arose. Leading businessmen pointed out that the soil was virtually sterile. Government experts were called in and confirmed its poverty. Almost everybody said that nothing good would ever grow in such a place, while someone caustically remarked, ' If a jackrabbit wanted something to eat while tarrying there, he would have to take his lunch with him.'"7

Maxwell visited the Avondale school many years after the purchase, and he lauded the miraculous transformation that had taken place since the Adventists purchased it:

"I saw it myself. The tall, sturdy corn; the fine orange, lemon, and other citrus trees--all where once it was thought that nothing but the wild eucalyptus would grow and where jackrabbits died of starvation."8

These SDA authors paint a picture of a barren, desolate wilderness, where not even a rabbit could find enough food to eat. All this hyperbole builds up the miraculous aura that Mrs. White prophesied that such a barren piece of land, which appeared to human eyes to be an utterly worthless wasteland, would one day flourish with fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, this is a complete fabrication and a falsification of the facts, foisted upon unsuspecting Adventist readers who are unaware of the true state of the land. The following pieces of evidence will establish beyond any doubt that parts of the property were very bountiful and held tremendous agricultural potential.

Not Barren According to Ellen White

In a letter written immediately after one of her visits to the property, notice what Ellen White says:

"Around us were immense employing the right means it [a 15-acre piece of swampy land] could be drained, and thus become the most valuable pice of land in the whole tract. ... I cannot for a moment entertain the idea that land which can produce such large trees can be of a poor quality. I am sure that were the pains taken with this land, as is customary to take with land in Michigan, it would be in every was as productive. ...they would be able to grow as excellent fruit, grains, and vegetables as are raised there. ... The swamp land could be used for cultivating cranberries, alfalfa might be sown to feed the cows, and some kinds of vegetables could be grown. I could see nothing discouraging in prospect of taking the land. ... Willie went in search of lemons which grew on the trees bordering the fence which bounded the farm. He brought back some nice specimens... There are oranges growing wild... They came from their investigation with a much more favorable impression than they had hitherto received. They had found some excellent land, the best they had seen... On the whole the day of prospecting had made them much more favorable to the place then they had hitherto been. ... Everything about the place had impressed me favorably..."9

Does Mrs. White's description sound like a barren wasteland?

  1. Land had "immense trees"
  2. Bordering properties had lemon trees
  3. Orange trees were growing wildly on the property
  4. Some in the group had discovered "excellent land" and overall, the group was "more favorable" to the purchase

Not Barren According to Local Sources

There are several evidences that the other farms and lands surrounding the future home of Avondale College had good soil. An Australian man named W.S. Campbell wrote that the soil around Cooranbong was "of good quality."10 The 1883 Almanac described the region as "situated in the midst of a fine timber and agricultural country".11 An 1842 newspaper article described the area as follows:

"The wheat crop growing in well enclosed paddock, appeared well and luxuriant. The gardens, in which were growing all the substantials, and many of the delicacies of the season, in the greatest perfection, excited our astonishment, more than anything we had before seen. In truth, seldom or never have we seen at any season, even in the most favoured spots of Britain, larger or finer potatoes, turnips, green peas, etc."12

Not Barren According to W.C. White

W.C. White also spoke favorably of the surrounding land in a June 10, 1894, letter:

"As the result of our own observations, we find that the same quality of land, similarly situated, is productive and profitable."13

W.C. White noted that surrounding properties adjacent to the river banks of Dora Creek were...

"...surrounded with fertile fields, growing corn so tall that one can barely reach some of the ears. Then there are old seedling orange trees, loaded with fruit, and occasionally a plantain tree... We think it is a good locality for oranges, lemons, peaches, passion fruit, necatrines, blackberries, etc. As for vegetables, it is excellent."14

If neighboring properties on the same river were growing ten-foot-high corn, why should anyone doubt the same could be accomplished at Brettville Estate? Obviously, they did not need a prophet to arrive at this conclusion! According to W.C. White's estimates of the Brettville Estate, "200 acres [are] fit for vegetables, 200 fit for fruit, and 200 good for dairying."15

No Starving Rabbits According to W.C. White

Were jackrabbits really starving on the property? W.C. White notes the wide variety of wildlife they encountered on the property after they started to build there:

"Of the wild animals on the place... There is a small family of large kangaroos... The wallabies are quite numerous... The native bears are getting scarce... Opossums can be heard any night... Occasionally a tiger cat makes a raid on our fowls... Flying foxes have done us no harm this year. Of magpies, there are plenty. The laughing jackasses, though not numerous, are very sociable. Groups of cockatoos and parrots are occasionally seen. The bell bird and the whip bird can be heard every day."16

Not Barren According to the Land Expert

And what about the government expert, Mr. Benson? Did he really say the land was useless and a rabbit would starve to death on the property? Not according to the report:

"Mr. Benson's letter belies the charce that Brettville would not support a bandicoot. He did indeed confess that he was mistaken in his opinion that the 'theological students' would not be best served in stepping on to an estate requiring arduous pionieer work before they could enter upon their horticultural and agricultural training. But he did not say that rabbits and bandicoots died there, nor did he say that nothing good would ever grow there, nor did he say that the soil was virtually sterile. ... Mr. Benson recognised the problems, but he also indicated that they were all capable of solution."17

When Mr. Benson arrived at the property, according to W.C. White, "it was a rainy day, and we were short of time, and he didn't see the best of the place."18 Since it was raining, and time was short, and Benson did not see the "best" part of the land, one must wonder just how accurate his negative assessment was.

Mr. Benson's primary concern was that he felt the majority of the land was "valueless and will be unproductive". However, he felt that 500 of the 1500 acres would be suitable for agriculture, with the "best of the land" being near the creek. Benson noted the land would require liming, draining, and clearing to bring it into suitable condition. Apparently he felt this task would be beyond the capabilities of "theological students." Benson noted the land was covered with Mellaleuca, Oak, Mahogany, Turpentine, Tea-tree, and Apple trees. He reported that Oranges, Lemons, Passion Fruit, Apples, Peaches, Nectarines, Plums, Persimmons, Guava, Quinces, and other fruit trees could be grown on the property. He also noted that "the land next [to] the creek would grow corn, pumpkins, potatoes, sweet potatoes and most vegetables."19

In concluding this section, it should now be apparent the land was not barren at all, but had plenty of fruit trees and other trees. The surrounding properties were highly productive agricultural lands, and there was no reason to doubt the Brettville estate would be just as productive. Although Mr. Benson did not get a chance to see the "best" of the Brettville Estate, he estimated one-third of the land could produce good crops. His main concern was that he felt the amount of effort required to prepare the land would beyond the abilities of "theological students", but he was later proven to be mistaken on this point. Regardless, the Brettville Estate was not barren by any means, and the Adventist group was convinced of its value based upon its own merits. In fact, as we shall see later in this article, the committee of Adventists that decided to purchase the property made that decision months before that group heard of a divine dream.

Was a Healing the Sign to Purchase the Property?

Thirty-four years after the purchase of the Brettville Estate, A.G. Daniells wrote a report of the purchase, but never mentioned anything about a miraculous furrow. According to Daniells, the group was "divided" over purchasing the property. (As we shall later see, Daniells himself opposed the purchase.) The event that supposedly brought the group into harmony was the healing of an unnamed man referred to only as "a brother". The reason brother McCollagh is not named in Daniells' account is no doubt because he later departed from the SDA Church. As the story goes, the brethren decided to pray over the matter of the property, and as Ellen White prayed...

"...the burden came upon her to pray for the healing of one of our members present who seemed to be going down rapidly with tuberculosis. When we arose from prayer, this brother told us that while Sister White was praying there passed through his body something like an electrice wave, and felt himself healed."20

While Daniells describes the ailment as "tuberculosis", Ellen White referred to it as merely an "inflammation", and according to Keith Moxon, "there is no evidence to suggest that McCullagh had anything more than a persistent sore throat and a stubborn case of bronchitis."21 Interestingly enough, neither Ellen White nor W.C. White in their letters written shortly after the event mention a miraculous healing. In his June 10 letter to the Mission Board, W.C. White acknowledges praying for a sign, but makes no mention of any sign given. Mrs. White simply states:

"I also felt most earnestly for Brother McCollagh who has been quite feeble, and prayed that the blessing of God might rest upon him. ... We did believe that we received the things we asked of the Lord."22

Notice that the healing was accepted on faith: "We did believe..." Contrast this with a miracle that is witnessed: A miracle witnessed is not a matter of believing a healing took place, but of knowing for a fact that a healing took place. One would expect that a miraculous or immediate recovery that served as the "sign" of God's favor that united the group in their decision to purchase the land would certainly be mentioned in Ellen White's recounting of the days' events in her letter, but she is ominously silent on the subject.

A Detailed Chronology of Events

1893 - The Search Begins

The search for a suitable property for the new Australian Adventist school begins in earnest in June, 1893, with the arrival of W.C. White from New Zealand. Elder A.G. Daniells, who is already in Australia, teams up with W.C. White in the search. General Conference president O.A. Olsen arrives on December 20 and visits a number of the proposed building sites. He leaves on February 19 without any decision having been reached.23

March, 1894 - W.C. White Finds the Property

W.C. White investigates the "Brettville Estate" property. This is the property that the Church eventually ends up purchasing for the Avondale school. Although concerned with the quality of the soil, W.C. White concludes that if the price were right, he would purchase it.24

March 26, 1894 to May 22, 1894 - Mrs. White Visits Property

Mrs. White moved to the city of Sydney, Australia on March 26, 1894. Over the course of the next eight weeks Mrs. White visited the Brettville Estate several times. W.C. White later reported that prior to May 23rd his mother "had visited the place two or three times, and had spoken in its favor to Elder and Sister Starr".25 A.G. Daniells also noted that Mrs. White had visited the site prior to May 23: "Several times Sister White, with her son, and her secretary, and a few of our brethren had visited the place, and she was favorable to its purchase."26

Stop now and consider the facts as they stand by May 22, 1894:

  1. W.C. White had located a suitable property and decided to buy if the price was right.
  2. Mrs. White had visited the property several times and was favorable to buying it.
  3. Mrs. White had already spoken in favor of the property to Elder Starr. This is important, because as we shall see, Elder Starr was to play an interesting role in this unfolding drama.

Based on these three facts, there is no doubt that the Whites had already decided in favor of this property by May 22, 1894. As further evidence, on May 9, Mrs. White wrote, "the decision we have so long contemplated has been made in regard to the land we hope to purchase for the school."27 It is evident the Whites had fully decided upon the property before there was any mention of a dream.

May 23, 1894 - Search Group Decides to Buy Brettville Estate

Mrs. White, W.C. White, A.G. Daniells, Elder Starr, and a number of others arrive at the property to examine it. Supposedly, this was when the furrow was first sighted, but there is no mention of it in Mrs. White's diary entry for the day. She tells of seeing trees and a river, and mentions a host of other trivial facts, but there is no mention of a furrow. If she had indeed seen a furrow that matched the scenes recently revealed to her in a divine dream, one would have thought it would deserve at least a mention in her diary. When A.G. Daniells' published his memoirs of the event there is no mention of a furrow. Elder Starr also failed to mention the furrow when he published his account of the event.28

The first person to see a furrow was apparently McCullagh. The furrow was not miraculously dug by angels during the night as Ellen White supposed. The furrow described by Ellen White matches the length and depth of furrows used by surveyors to mark the corner boundaries of property in Australia, even to this very day. McCullagh, who saw the furrow even before Ellen White did, describes its human origin:

"Now the truth is that the angle corner of upturned soil was done by the surveyor's spade to indicate boundaries and directions and nothing more."29

Mrs. White reports in a letter that the group had a favorable opinion of the property:

"They came from their investigation with a much more favorable impression than they had hitherto received. They had found some excellent land, the best they had seen, and they thought it was a favorable spot for the location of the school. They had found a creek of fresh water, cold and sweet, the best they had ever tasted. On the whole, the day of prospecting had made them much more favorable to the place than they had hitherto been."30

According to Arthur White, the committee decided to purchase the property that evening:

"Late that autumn night, the committee voted to purchase the Brettville estate for $4,500."31

Notice that at this point there is still no mention of a dream or a furrow in any of the documentation up to that date.

Late August, 1894 - Mission Board Rejects Purchase of Brettville Estate

The Foreign Mission Board in the USA votes against the purchase of the property. After receiving this news, Elders Rousseau and Daniells take a stance against the Whites, arguing for acquiring property closer to the city.

August 27, 1894 - Mrs. White First Mentions a Dream

Ellen White first mentions in writing that she had had a dream regarding the property. She wrote to Elder S.N. Haskell in the USA:

"In the dream you have heard me relate, words were spoken of land which I was looking at, and after deep ploughing and thorough cultivating, it brought forth a bountiful harvest."32

In a letter to her book editor, Marian Davis, written on the same date, she says:

"In the dream you have heard me relate, words were spoken of land which I was looking at, and after deep plowing and thorough cultivating, it brought forth a bountiful harvest. Having had this matter presented to me at different times, I am more than ever convinced that this is the right location for the school. Since I have been here for a few days and have had opportunity to investigate, I feel more sure than at my first visit that this is the right place. I think any [of the] land which I have seen would produce some kind of crop."33

Thus, we find Mrs. White first mentions in writing about having a dream in late August of 1894. However, the details of the dream are sketchy. Mrs. White, says "words were spoken" but she does not give any indication of what was said or who said it, nor does she mention any furrow, or any opposition to the property. It is uncertain whether news about this dream ever reached the Foreign Mission Board, but on Sept. 11 they approved the purchase of the property.

October/November 1894 - The Ashfield Camp Meeting

At the time of Ashfield camp meeting, the tale of the dream and the furrow was not widely known. Dr. M.G. Kellogg, who had earlier visited the property, had no idea Mrs. White had received divine guidance on the subject despite having discussed that exact subject with her. At the Ashfield camp meeting he reported:

"I do not understand that Sister White has ever been shown that Brettville Estate is the place. In fact she told me herself that she could not ask the Lord as to giving her light as to what piece of land the school should be placed on."34

If Mrs. White had indeed received a divinely inspired dream indicating the Brettville Estate was God's choice, then why did she never mention this to Dr. Kellogg and others? Would it not have saved herself and others a lot of trouble looking at other properties, not to mention the ensuing rift between the Whites and Daniells, if she had made it clear up front that God had commanded the purchase of this property?

At the same camp meeting, in response to continued opposition from Elders Daniells and Rousseau,35 Mrs. White first spoke of the dream to a public audience:

"Whoever turned up that plough, I do not know, nor anybody else. It was turned over about two yards wide, just as we would by a plough, and there were different grades of soil. One was standing at the end of that soil shaking their head. 'No,' they said, 'that would not produce. It was not good soil.' I thought that one that has authority spoke and said, 'The soil properly worked, properly educated, will bring its return.'"36

It would appear the impetus behind Mrs. White relating the dream story was to counter the opposition of Daniells and Rousseau. Whether or not Mrs. White's dream had any impact on the final outcome is uncertain. However, it certainly appears that was her intent. This conclusion may be supported by the fact that the union conference went ahead and voted to purchase the property on November 20.

1898 - Dream is Finally Written Out

Mrs. White finally wrote out a full account of her "dream" four years after the event:

"Before I visited Cooranbong, the Lord gave me a dream. In my dream I was taken to the land that was for sale in Cooranbong. Several of our brethren had been solicited to visit the land, and I dreamed that as I was walking upon the ground I came to a neat cut furrow that had been ploughed one quarter of a yard deep, and two yards in length. Two of the brethren who had been acquainted with the rich soil of Iowa were standing before this furrow and saying, 'This is not good land; the soil is not favorable.' But One who has often spoken in counsel was present also, and He said, 'False witness has been borne of this land.' Then He described the properties of the different layers of earth. He explained the science of the soil, and said that this land was adapted to the growth of fruit and vegetables, and that, if well worked, would produce its treasures for the benefit of man. This dream I related to Brother and Sister Starr and my family.

"The next day we were on the cars, on our way to meet others who were investigating the land, and as I was afterward walking on the ground where the trees had been removed, lo, there was a furrow just as I had described it, and the men also who had criticized the appearance of the land. The words were spoken just as I had dreamed."37

In this version of the dream, Mrs. White adds a number of important pieces to the story that were heretofore not mentioned:

  1. She was given the dream prior to visiting Cooranbong.
  2. She claimed to have related the dream to the Starrs and "her family", presumably meaning Willie.
  3. Mrs. White talks about being "on the cars", which refers to the train cars Mrs. White traveled on from Sydney to Dora Creek station (near the property), on the morning of May 23, 1894.38
  4. Mrs. White claims that later in the day, while viewing the property, the two men criticized the appearance of the land.

This is an interesting revision of events! In this dream story we have two men opposing the property, but this is not at all what was reported by her four years earlier in the May 23, 1894, letter already quoted above:

"They came from their investigation with a much more favorable impression than they had hitherto received. They had found some excellent land, the best they had seen, and they thought it was a favorable spot for the location of the school. They had found a creek of fresh water, cold and sweet, the best they had ever tasted. On the whole, the day of prospecting had made them much more favorable to the place than they had hitherto been."39

In fact, none of the accounts of any of those present on May 23, 1894, makes any mention of the opposition of two men. The closest example we have is an undated manuscript from Elder Starr that says in part:

"The next day after she related this dream, Sister White and I were invited by telegram to Dora Creek... Leaving the boat, the ladies sat upon a log lying near and listened to member of the committee express their minds regarding the place. ... I was listening to hear someone say, 'the land is sour' as Sister White said they would. But just near the place where we were gathered, there was a furrow in plain sight, and I saw Sister White looking intently at it. It certainly had all the appearance of the one she had told us of in her dream.

"Leaving the ladies seated on the log, the committee led us men to see the rich land in the large swamp near by. The committee had a man digging a deep ditch to ascertain the full depth of this soil. Here the man was still throwing out rich black soil at a depth of six feet or more. Someone inquired, 'What is the matter with this soil?' 'Oh, nothing,' was the reply, 'it is very rich. ...' Another spoke and said, 'Yes, but the land is sour.'"40

1907 - Dream is Embellished

Thirteen years after the event, Mrs. White makes another mention of the furrow, this time embellishing the tale even further:

"When we came to Avondale to examine the estate, I went with the brethren to the tract of land. After a time we came to the place I had dreamed of, and there was the furrow that I had seen. The brethren looked at it in surprise. How had it come there, they asked. Then I told them the dream that I had had. 'Well,' they replied, 'you can see that the soil is not good.' 'That,' I answered, 'was the testimony borne by the men in my dream, and that was given as the reason why we should not occupy the land. But one stood upon the upturned furrow, and said, 'False testimony has been borne concerning this soil. God can furnish a table in the wilderness.'"41

Now, let us examine some of the differences between four of the written accounts of the event:42

  EGW Diary Account
May 1894
EGW Account
EGW Account
Daniells Account
Starr Account
(no date)
Where was the furrow in relation to Sister White? No furrow is mentioned. Sister White is sitting with Willie and Emily on a log. Mrs. White spots the furrow while "walking around the ground" "We came to the place I dreamed of, and there was the furrow" No mention of a furrow All the ladies sat upon a log. The furrow was within eyesight.
Who Opposed the Purchase? The men were favorable to the land. No report of any opposition Two men criticized the land while standing next to the furrow Two men criticized the land while standing next to the furrow "Some" favored it, but "other members did not believe the soil was good enough" One man said the land was "sour", but he was not near the women or the furrow. He was standing by the ditch that had been dug.
Did anyone else have prior knowledge of EGW's dream? No mention of any dream Starr is told of the dream beforehand Mrs. White tells everyone the dream while at the furrow site No mention of any dream Starr was apparently the only one aware of the dream
Were the men surprised to see the furrow? No mention of a furrow No mention of surprise Men were surprised to see it No mention of a furrow No mention of surprise--only Starr and EGW took note of the furrow


Ellen White visited the Brettville Estate property "several" times prior to the pivital date of May 23, 1894. In any of these visits she may have personally observed the furrow. Or, she may have first heard of the furrow from a report brought to her by brother McCullagh.43 Regardless, in Sister White's diary and letters during May, June, July, and early August, there is no mention made of a furrow or a dream. She mentions a dream on August 27, but not a furrow. Elders Daniells' and Starr's published reports of the events do not mention a furrow.44 It was not until November, while facing opposition from Daniells and Rousseau, that Ellen White makes her dream known in public. She does not write it down until nearly four years later, and when she does, it conflicts with the notes in her diary which say nothing of any opposition to the purchase. In 1907, 13 years after the event, she embellishes the story even further, again contradicting earlier accounts.

So what really happened? Here is the most likely sequence of events:

  1. Ellen White visits the property prior to May 23, and observes the furrow which had been dug by surveyors to indicate the corner of the property.

  2. Expecting opposition, Mrs. White privately informs Elder Starr she has seen a furrow in a dream, and that in the dream she heard someone opposing the purchase.

  3. When Starr and Mrs. White arrives at the property, Mrs. White finds the furrow and stands looking at it. Starr notices it and is no doubt stunned to find the furrow just as Mrs. White described it, not realizing she had either previously observed it on the property or heard about it from McCullagh.

  4. The men who view the property on May 23 are favorable to it and that evening decide to purchase it. Perhaps, as Starr indicates, one person expressed doubt, but he was not at the furrow, but rather at a ditch some distance away from the furrow.

  5. In August, news of the Foreign Mission Board's rejection reaches Mrs. White. Daniells and Rosseau decide to side with the board against the purchase. Concerned that her project is in jeopardy, she writes Elder Haskell, mentioning the dream. The board soon acquiesces and approves the project.

  6. Meanwhile, the Whites and others continue to look at various other properties in Australia, despite the fact that God has supposedly given signs indicating the Brettville property is the chosen one.

  7. At the November camp meeting, in order to stop continuing opposition to the purchase from Daniells and Rousseau, Mrs. White embellishes her dream story to indict unnamed individuals who stood by the furrow and opposed the purchase. After this public humiliation, Daniells and Rousseau drop their public opposition, and the purchase is eventually approved.

  8. In later recountings of the event, Mrs. White embellishes the story even further, to make it appear as if God communicated His desire to purchase the property through her.

  9. Later, Adventist authors, seeking to accentuate the miraculous nature of this event, describe the property as barren and "sterile"--land that would most certainly have been rejected had it not been for the divine intervention of Ellen White's dream.

Thus, a closer examination casts doubt on the whole furrow tale. Instead of being a story of miraculous divine guidance, it would appear the dream was fabricated, or at least greatly embellished upon, perhaps with the purpose in mind to stifle opposition and manipulate others into acquiescing to the Whites' wishes.


1. Denton E. Rebok, Believe His Prophets, pp. 120-122, The Review and Herald Publishing Association Washington, D.C., 1956.

2. Ministry, "A Dream, A Plowed Furrow, A College is Born", August 1975.

3. F.C. Gilbert, Divine Predictions Fulfilled, p. 342.

4. D.E. Rebok, Believe His Prophets, pp. 120, 122.

5. A.G. Daniells, Australasian Record, Aug. 20, 1928.

6. Allan Lindsay, Australasian Record, "Holy Ground", Sep. 17, 1956.

7. Arthur L. Maxwell, Under the Southern Cross, p. 71.

8. Ibid., p. 72.

9. Ellen White, letter 82, 1894, pp. 2-8, to J.E. and Emma White, May 24, 1894.

10. W.S. Campbell, "The Seventh Day Adventists' Settlement and Inustrial College at Cooranbong", p. 201.

11. Knagg's Nautical Almanac and Dictionary, 1883, p. 94. Note that the May 13, 1841 edition of the Australian says the Campbell Estate (the early name of the Brettville Estate) had "more than an average proportion of good soil."

12. 1842 Newspaper article on Newport (Dora Creek area) and Lake Macquarie, exhibited in Keith Moxon, The Signpost, "The Avondale Furrow and What Grew From it", expanded edition, July 1996, p. 46. Apparently the good soil conditions still existed 42 years later in 1884, becuase the Illustrated Sydney News notes the "rich soil" and "fields of shining grain and luxuriant pastures" in the Dora Creek region in its Aug. 2, 1884, edition.

13. W.C. White, letter to the SDA Mission Board, June 10, 1894, p. 9.

14. Ibid., p. 8.

15. Ibid., pp. 8-9.

16. W.C. White, Australasian Union Record, March 1898.

17. Keith Moxon, The Signpost, "The Avondale Furrow and What Grew From it", expanded edition, July 1996, p. 39.

18. W.C. White, , letter to the SDA Mission Board, June 10, 1894, p. 9.

19. A.H. Benson, "Report of the Campbell Tract, May 21, 1894, pp. 1-2.

20. A.G. Daniells, Australasian Record, Aug. 20, 1928.

21. Keith Moxon, The Signpost, "The Avondale Furrow and What Grew From it", expanded edition, July 1996, p. 134.

22. Ellen White, letter 82, 1894, p. 8, to J.E. and Emma White, May 24, 1894.

23. Milton R. Hook, Ed.D., "The Avondale School and Adventist Educational Goals, 1894-1900", p. 84 (doctoral dissertation, Andrews University, 1978).

24. Ibid., p. 90.

25. Ibid., p. 91, op. cit. W.C. White in Caviness Interview [1936], Doc. File 170, EGWRC-AU.

26. Ibid., pp. 90-91, op. cit. A.G. Daniells, "Avondale College," 1928, Doc. File 170, EGWRC-AU.

27. E.G. White, Letter 40, 1894, p. 1. (To Brother Jones, May 9, 1894.)

28. E.G. White, Manuscript 75, 1894. Cited by Arthur White in the 4th volume of his biography of Ellen White, pp. 149-150; Hook, p. 314, op. cit. A.G. Daniells, "Wonderful Leadings of the Spirit of Prophecy in the Advent Movement--Part 5", Record, Aug. 28, 1928, p. 2; E.G. White and G.B. Starr, "Experiences in Australia," book manuscript, 4 vols., EGWRC-AU.

29. J.S. McCullagh, The Gathering Call, Mar-Apr 1939, vol. 27, no. 2.

30. E.G. White, Letter 82, 1894. Cited by Arthur White in the 4th volume of his biography of Ellen White, pp. 150-151.

31. Arthur White, Biography of Ellen White, vol. 4, p. 151.

32. E.G. White, Manuscript 35, 1894, p. 4. (To S. N. Haskell, August 27, 1894.) Manuscript Releases, vol. 8 p. 249.

33. E.G. White, Letter 14, 1894. See also Arthur White biography of E.G. White, vol. 4, p. 154.

34. M.C. Kellogg as quoted by Hook, p. 110, op.cit. "School Location: Discussion at Ashfield Camp meeting," in "Historical Materials," vol. 2, EGWRC-AU.

35. Hook, p. 315, "At the Ashfield camp meeting of October 19 to November 4, 1894, E.G. White related the dream for the first time to a public audience, in response to sustained opposition from Daniells and Rousseau." Please note that although the account speaks of "one" person who opposed the purchase, Mrs. White uses the plural terms "their" and "they", which would seem to indicate more than one person. When Mrs. White finally wrote out the dream four years later, she indicated seeing "two" people opposing the purchase.

36. Hook, p. 315, op. cit. "Education Work--Village Settlement, October 19-November 4, 1894," in "Historical Materials", vol. 2: "Educational Work in Australia, 1893, 1894," 1955, EGWRC-AU.

37. E.G. White, Manuscript 62, 1898, p. 2. ("Selection of the School Land at Cooranbong," June 26, 1898.) Manuscript Releases, vol. 8, p. 259.

38. Hook, p. 95, op. cit. E.G. White Diary, MS 75, 1894, EGWRC-AU.

39. E.G. White, Letter 82, 1894.

40. G.B. and N. Starr, "Personal Experiences and Observations with the Prophetic Gift in the Remnant Church," pp. 173-175, Doc. File 496, EGWRC-AU.

41. E.G. White, letter written October 22, 1907, from Sanitarium, California, to "Dear Children Edson and Emma" [Elder and Mrs. J. E. White].) Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, p. 54.

42. A.G. Daniell's and G.B. Starr's published memoirs of the event are not included in this comparison. Neither of them mentions either a dream or a furrow.

43. J.S. McCullagh, The Gathering Call, Mar-Apr 1939, vol. 27, no. 2: "Upon returning to Sydney, NSW as a member of the Land Spying party, I was relating to Mrs. E.G. White my discovery of this little upturned piece of land on the estate describing the quality of the soil and its sub-soil, but before I could explain the origin of this 'furrow' the noble lady burst forth in a voice of ecstasy, --'That soil was turned up by the angels of God; that is the location for the School.'"

44. Starr has a later, undated report of the dream and furrow, but some details conflict with Ellen White's version of the story.

Category: Visions Examined
Please SHARE this using the social media icons below