First SDA Church In California

     Until 1868 the work of Seventh-day Adventists was confined to the territory east of the Missouri River and north of the south line of Missouri. At the General Conference held in Battle Creek in May, 1868, an appeal was made to extend the work to California.   The manner of distribution of labor at this time when all the ministers went to General Conference was for all to sit in committee of the whole and listen to the reports of various workers and receive applications for laborers from the different fields. The General Conference president then asked each worker to pray earnestly about the matter as to where he should labor another year. In a day or two the president called the names of the various fields and the worker was invited to speak up when the field was mentioned to which he felt he had a call. When the roll was called, all the fields were named except California. Finally, Mr. White said: "Has no one a burden for the California field?" J. N. Loughborough and D. T. Bourdeau then spoke, saying they had a burden for the work there. Accordingly, it was arranged for them to go there. Mr. Bourdeau had felt so impressed that there was different work for him to do that even before coming to conference he had disposed of all his goods, and he and his wife had come with their belongings converted into money. James White asked for one thousand dollars through the Review and Herald for the purpose of buying a tent and sending the first workers to the West Coast.   

     Accordingly, the brethren left Battle Creek, June 18, 1868. At that time the Pacific railroad lacked several hundred miles of being completed, and it was decided to go by water via Central America. They purchased a tent and equipment and sailed from. New York, June 24, for the Isthmus of Darien, going by land to the Pacific and on boat to San Francisco, where they arrived July 18.  

     Prices were high in San Francisco, and it did not seem best to begin work with the tent in that city. They therefore laid the matter before the Lord. In answer to their petition, the next day a stranger came from Petaluma and invited them to come to that place with the tent. There was a small church there, the members of which went by the name of Independents. They saw an item in some Eastern paper that two ministers had sailed for California, bringing a tent in which to hold religious services. They made the coming of these ministers a subject of special prayer. The night following the prayer meeting, one of the prominent members of the group dreamed that he saw two men kindling a fire to light up the surrounding country which seemed enveloped in darkness. As the two men had a fire kindled and shining brightly, the brother in his dream saw the ministers of Petaluma trying to extinguish the fire by throwing on brush, grass, and other things.  

     All their efforts seemed only to increase the flame. While he watched, the men lighted a second flame in another quarter and the ministers tried to quench it. This continued until the two men had five fires burning brightly. This man related the dream to his brethren, saying he would know the men when he saw them. When he saw the Adventist missionaries, he declared they were the identical men he had seen in his dream. 

     Naturally this company did all in its power to get the brethren started with their tent meetings. All of the little church of Independents paid close attention and accepted the message until the Sabbath question was presented. In the end six of their number joined with the Sabbath keepers. The ministers opposed the work of the two brethren. On April 9, 1869, at a general meeting of the brethren in the State a temporary State organization was formed, called a "State meeting," which voted to support the mission and relieve the brethren in the East of the financial burden. This action was supported by pledging gold coins to the amount of $750. This occurred less than eight months after the tent was first set up on the Pacific Coast. 

     The brethren continued to hold meetings in spite of considerable opposition. In one instance when the two married daughters of a farmer accepted the Sabbath, the man of the soil said that Loughborough would never preach again, and arming himself with a heavy club and a butcher knife, he lay in wait for the minister. Fortunately, Mr. Loughborough was an early riser, and although he knew nothing of the threat, he had passed the spot long before the infuriated man took his place in hiding. As a result of this opposition and the refusal of certain people to allow meetings in the schoolhouses, there arose a demand for a church, and the first Seventh-day Adventist church west of the Rocky Mountains was completed and ready for occupancy by the first of November at the town of Santa Rosa. At a conference, February 15 and 16, 1872, California was organized as a conference with Sabbath keepers, and with J. N. Loughborough as president.

1938 END, FOME 284-287