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Dr. William S. Sadler's Connection
with the Adventist Movement
by Dan Massey

Here is a brief outline/summary of the Adventist connection. For those of you who want more, I would refer you to Ronald L. Numbers' book, "Prophetess of Health--Ellen G. White and the Origins of Seventh-day Adventist Health Reform," 2nd. edition, University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 1992. Naturally, Numbers does not go into the more Urantia side of things. If you want to explore a surrealistic fictionalization of the critical 1907 period there is "The Road to Wellville," by T. Coraghessan Boyle, published by Viking. You may order these books from at the bottom of this page.

1. The Adventist Movement

Around 1818 a lay preacher named William Miller became convinced from a study of the Bible that the return of Christ was imminent. He set the year 1843 for the predicted return. In 1831, at the age of 49, he took to the pulpit. He received a Baptist license in 1833. He called on all who would listen to repent and to prepare for the rapture (spirit-seizure of the surviving saints into heaven). A fairly large number of people were converted from small churches, and in 1840 a nationwide crusade was launched. Miller preached in Portland, Maine in 1840 and 1842. When the promised return did not occur, the event became known in Adventist circles as "The Great Disappointment." Revisions were offered, which also failed to transpire, but the Adventist congregations continued to function and spread their view of the oncoming end times. Some maintained that an invisible event of cosmic significance had occurred on the final date of choice, October 22, 1844.

2. Ellen Gould White

Ellen Gould Harmon was born, a twin, in 1827 in Gorham, Maine. (Her twin sister never accepted her revelations.) At age ten she read a newspaper report of Miller's prophecy. Shortly afterwards she was accidentally struck in the face with a heavy stone which rendered her unconscious for three weeks and permanently altered the bony structure of her face. Subsequently, she became unable to tolerate school work and dropped out, unable to concentrate on either reading or writing. She was given to fainting spells and generally suffered from poor health and constitutional weakness. She worked some as a hatmaker and had some symptoms of mercury poisoning later in life.

In March 1840 she heard Miller preach in Portland. She experienced a dramatic public conversion at a Methodist camp meeting in the summer of 1841 and was baptized (in Casco Bay--North Atlantic Ocean cold beyond belief and fit only for cod) into the Methodist church on June 26, 1842. She experienced profound anxiety over her inability to pray in public and began to have vivid religious dreams. Finally, she achieved a breakthrough and began to speak with the power of the Spirit of God. She became so outspoken that she graduated from being a wonder to being a nuisance to the local churches.

After the Great Disappointment, she received a series of visions which supported the "Shut Door" theory, which held that, although Christ had not visibly returned, the door of salvation had been closed on 22 October and his ministry on earth had ended. All who had not accepted the Millerite doctrines by that date could no longer be saved. Gradually, her visions and positions became more widely known and more and more radically conservative, with accompanying public histrionics.

In 1846 she married James White and together the couple worked to spread her vision of the Adventist faith. Her first child was born in 1847 and, less than a year later, was left with friends so the couple could be free to pursue the careers of itinerant preachers. In 1852 they settled in Rochester, New York and reunited the family. From 1851 to 1855 James increasingly tried to focus attention in publications away from EGW's visions. In 1855 he was removed from his editorial position on several publications so that the visions could receive wider publicity. Shortly after this, they moved to Battle Creek, Michigan, now with three kids.

From Battle Creek, Sister White, through her visions and publications, exerted enormous influence on the growing Adventist movement. In 1863 she learned of a "water cure" espoused by James Caleb Jackson in Danville, New York. EGW successfully applied this treatment to curing two sons of a presumed attack of diphtheria and developed a consuming interest in hydropathy and vegetarianism. She journeyed to Danville to take the cure and receive instruction and, in 1866, led in establishing the Western Health Reform Institute (later the Battle Creek Sanitarium), which became the vehicle for the administration and dissemination of all manner of vegetarianism, water cures, phototherapy, and other osteopathic wonders to both the faithful and the secular community.

3. John Harvey Kellogg

In 1876, at age 24, John Harvey Kellogg was appointed superintendent of the Western Health Reform Institute. A child of "good Adventist stock," Kellogg was the first Adventist healer ever to receive formal medical training. Although he first attended Trall's Hygeio-Therapeutic College (one of the worst diploma mills in the country and a long-time favorite of Adventist healers), he wisely prevailed on the church to fund his education for two more years at the College of Medicine and Surgery of the University of Michigan and at the Bellevue Hospital Medical School in New York City. This was done in spite of James White's advice "that so long as nature had to do the healing work anyway, it was quite unnecessary for the doctor to worry about so much minute detail," a comment which pretty well characterizes the benighted ignorance of the elder leadership of the Adventist community. Over his years at Battle Creek, JHK undertook to rationalize the therapeutic traditions, find some scientific basis for what was done, improve the professionalism of services, expand services to the non-Adventist community, popularize the ideas of vegetarianism and hydrotherapy, and establish a medical school oriented to the peculiar requirements of the Adventist cult.

In an attempt to make Adventist vegetarian fare palatable to people not driven by the Spirit, Kellogg invented Granola and, later, Granose Flakes, for which he received a patent in 1894. JHK offered the rights to the church saying it could "make enough money to support the entire denominational work." EGW rejected the offer, fearing it would turn the church from its first duty of preparing for the second coming. Ten years later, she also rejected JHK's offer of Corn Flakes. JHK's younger brother, Wil K. Kellogg (not the Wil Kellogg of Sadler association) operated the food marketing concession for the Sanitarium which provided these and other delicacies to take home after the "cure" or to order through the mail. Eventually, this activity was spun off and matured into the well-known W. K. Kellogg cereal business. One of Dr. Kellogg's patients was C. W. Post, who liked the food so much that he started his own (competing) company to market flaked cereals.

4. The Young Doctors

In 1877, JHK organized a short course in hygiene for Adventist health lecturers and potential medical students. He established a nursing school in 1883. Beginning in 1895, a number of promising children of Adventist families were accepted at the San as medical students, in the Michigan state-chartered American Medical Missionary College. They undertook duties in nursing and therapy, studied what passed for medicine in those days, and supplemented the in-house corps of healers, the "Medical Evangelists." Basically, these kids were training to be both Adventist ministers and medically educated Adventist healers. As ministers, they focused much more strongly on the health reform oriented doctrines of EGW and her emerging ideas of universal salvation (contradicting her earlier "Shut Door" testimonies) than on the fundamentalist- apocalyptic theology of the General Conference (as the formal ministry of the church was organized).

As the power and influence of Kellogg and his associates grew in the church, the established ministry began to feel that the secular and commercial concerns of the water cure business were coming to dominate the more fundamental issues of damnation and, perhaps, salvation. In particular, EGW's third child, Willie, had allied himself with the hierophants and, through him, they sought to undermine JHK by turning EGW against him. This was facilitated by the fact that some of the "young doctors" had uncovered disturbing inconsistencies in the "testimonies" and in the personal behavior of Sister White, which neither she nor the clergy were willing to address in any intelligent manner.

Among other curiosities, JHK publicly criticized EGW for having eaten chicken and repeatedly castigated the clergy for eating meat at official meetings of the General Conference. Although the inerrancy of the EGW testimonies had never been claimed previously, after this situation fully developed the clergy began formally to teach that EGW was inspired and inerrant and to revise church history to support the idea that this had always been the case. A purge of the Medical Evangelists was eventually carried out by the General Conference; JHK, who had long sat at EGW's right hand and had done more than any other person to establish the rational legitimacy of her vision, was dismissed from all his positions in the church and formally disfellowshipped in November 1907; and the center of Adventist medical activity was relocated from Battle Creek to a newly established Sanitarium at Loma Linda, California.

5. William Samuel Sadler

Among the Battle Creek graduates in the first class (1899) was William S. Sadler. WSS promptly married Lena Kellogg, who was, I believe, an adopted daughter of JHK (he had a great many adopted children). The couple traveled to the San Francisco area, where WSS attended a local medical college and worked at a local Adventist sanitarium. Eventually, they settled in Chicago, where WSS began to establish a medical practice. In the course of his post-Battle Creek excursions, WSS became interested in the emerging theories of psychotherapy, especially as they related to psychosomatic disorders. He decided to go into psychiatry because, I believe, the field was not crowded and it allowed him the greatest freedom to practice medicine the way he saw fit--a way which was undoubtedly strongly influenced by his early upbringing in the Adventist church and his education at Battle Creek.

WSS had been an effective public speaker all his life, so he organized a series of seminars on psychotherapy and psychosomatic illness to try to educate the Chicago medical community to the emerging wonders of psychiatry. Although he had very tough going at first, and probably did a lot of hydrotherapy for local Adventists, he and Lena eventually established themselves in a prominent and successful psychiatric practice at 533 E. Diversey St, which was rather closer to the lake back then than it is now. WSS is reported to have become a great enthusiast for electroconvulsive therapy (I wonder what EGW would have thought of that?) The work was done in the basement at 533. He maintained a lead-lined room on the first floor (the first room on the right as you walk down the central passage). Some informants say he used this space for "radium treatments," while others say it was for his "x-ray equipment." I have struggled to imagine what either has to do with psychiatry. The point is that WSS was a man of his time and if, in retrospect, his medical practice seems to have involved a lot of quackery, that was pretty much the way it was everywhere.

Though quite young, because of his training WSS was the most prominent Adventist physician, aside from JHK, to become involved in the "young doctors" crisis. For WSS, the problem came to a head in 1906 over inconsistencies in EGW's testimonies and, in particular, a testimony of EGW in which she criticized JHK and the governors of the San for squandering huge amounts of donated money on a pretentious building in Chicago which was shown to her in a vision. When it subsequently transpired that no such buildings had been built, EGW pronounced that her testimony had been intended to prevent them from being built. WSS and certain other early graduates of AMMC chose to use this incident (and a number of other confusions, including inconsistencies about vegetarianism and possible plagiarism of many of her health testimonies) as the basis for a direct challenge to the authority of EGW's published testimonies. It appears that WSS and his associates were really trying to establish that Willie White and other close associates were either writing or rewriting EGW's testimonies without her knowledge or approval to suit the convenience of the clergy with which they had allied themselves. In the event, WSS separated from the church soon afterwards, I believe in connection with the purge of JHK and associates.

I somewhere have a copy of WSS's letters to EGW about the problems with the testimonies. It does not seem that EGW either saw WSS's complaints or chose to reply, although she had originally solicited them in an attempt to "clear the air," they were probably incapable of response without admission of fraud.

6. A Diagnosis of EGW

The best recent study of EGW's behavior and personality is included as an appendix to the second edition of Numbers' book. The author (Numbers' wife, who is a real non-Adventist academic psychologist affiliated with the University of Wisconsin) concludes that EGW displayed "somatization disorder with an accompanying histrionic personality style." This is discussed at length in Numbers' book, which, being in part an Adventist apology, tries to make it sound worthwhile. It sounds perfectly horrible to me.

It is instructive to compare the documented behavior and testimonies of EGW to the summary WSS presented in the appendix to TMAM. While it seems obvious that the first subject in the appendix must have been EGW, the statement that her messages were of a largely spiritual nature is ridiculous. The vast majority of EGW's testimonies were about what Adventists should eat, wear, and do in propagation of the faith. Issues directly affecting the church business operations were often addressed. Many of the testimonies were spiritual in nature, but they ran the gamut from hell-fire damnation to universal forgiveness, apparently paralleling EGW's own spiritual development from her fanatically fundamentalist-apocalyptic roots to become the spiritual leader of a major new religious movement.

7. Wil Kellogg

Wil Kellogg (not WK of cereal fortune) was Lena's (adoptive) brother. He married (I think) a biological cousin, who was another one of JHK's adopted children. Martin Gardner has published a fairly extensive genealogy of the Kellogg-Sadler clan, which is, I assume, authoritative. Wil and his wife lived much of their lives with WSS and Lena, occupying the apartment over the garage in back of 533. Wil earned his living as a bookkeeper (some say a "business manager") for the Sadlers' medical practice. He was present through all the Forum years and was one of the first five Trustees of Urantia Foundation. (If my memory has not forsaken me, the first five were Wil, WSS Jr., Christy, Bill Hales Sr., and Edith Cook.)

After publication of the Book, WSS charged Wil with the task of assembling the Index which was promised in the First Printing. Wil had pretty much finished his index when Edith Cook decided to get involved in readying it for publication. She didn't think much of Wil's work, which was apparently quite unsystematic (somewhat like the Concordex) and persuaded WSS to turn the project over to her. She spent at least the next 13 years on it (full time, I think) and had Anna Rawson's assistance for about 7 of these years. After all this, Edith came up with about 500 pages of typescript, giving about 50,000 terse references identified only by page number, and organized into categories invented by Edith. When she dropped the project to help the Foundation research the details of its case for copyright infringement against Burton King, she had about 25 open entries that required organization, which she estimated would take her another three to five years to complete. These open entries were for concepts like "Spirit" that appeared on essentially every page of the Book. Edith was determined to invent a taxonomy for all the thousands of uses of this word and key them to specific pages as part of her Index.

No wonder Wil stepped aside...

Some Informal Personal Comments on Dr. Sadler and the Adventist Connection
by Dan Massey
(collected from comments made in E-mail correspondences during 1996 and 1997)

The period in Adventist history in which the General Conference of the church attempted to wrest control of the Battle Creek Sanitorium ("the San") from J. H. Kellogg, failed, shed affiliation with JHK, and drummed him out of the church is clouded in controversy, accusations, and recriminations. The church has not been particularly forthcoming, although serious researchers (not me) have reportedly gotten a little more information in recent years.

As I understand it, the problem began with questions that graduates of the "Medical School" at the San raised about the "revelatory nature" of Ellen G. White's "messages". As you know from other sources, I'm sure, William S. Sadler was possibly the first and certainly the best known Adventist "medical missionary" to raise these issues. The connection of this with what followed is obscure, however.

Around the time EGW's "messages" were being questioned, the older San grads (WSS's classmates) started to question JHK's medical methods. I believe that this resulted, as much as anything, from these "young doctors" encountering the wider medical community of the time. This was a period of amazing ferment in American medical policy and education. Prior to this time, hydropaths, homeopaths, osteopaths, naturopaths, etc. had practiced alongside "scientific" physicians ("allopaths") in most parts of the country, had operated "medical schools", and had, in some cases, taught in legitimate medical schools alongside "scientific" practitioners (e.g., Hahnemann in Philadelphia).

The outgrowth of this period in American medicine was the development of formal standards for the accreditation of "real" medical schools, a major campaign by the AMA to discredit the "quack" schools, and political actions to get state legislatures to make licensing of physicians and accrediation of schools a matter of uniform law.

From what little I know of Adventist affairs during this time it seems that the church took advantage of the emerging new direction in medicine to do in JHK politically (in the church), polish their image, make a peace coalition with a varied range of supporters, and consolidate ecclesiastical power. At the same time, it appears that a critical group of "young doctors" took advantage of the situation to advance themselves professionally (albeit still tainted by the church), to cleanse theselves of professional quackery (more or less), and to lay claim to the ecclesiastical medical authority stripped from JHK.

Only the eye of faith could discern much of value in the "writings" and plagiarisms of EGW at this time near the end of her life. JHK and the San had become the bright light of Adventism as it presented itself to the world, but the San was not Adventist-spriritual (revelations and hell-fire) but Adventist-material (food, clothes, rules of living, etc. preached with a hell-fire attitude). Unfortunately, the San was, medically speaking, pure quackery. Yes, the Adventist lifestyle that JHK promulgated was surely healthier than average. Yes, the rejection of patent medicines saved people from various kinds of poisoning. However, JHK's own views of medicine were his own, largely unscientific, and scarcely advanced from the days of his training at Bellevue (in NYC) in the 1880's (?)

Basically, JHK had become the most powerful and respected person in the church except for EGW herself. The hierophants who surrounded EGW, including her immediate family members who were in on the "messages" scams, decided to bring JHK back to the divine order (subservience to the clergy). Part of the problem seems to have been that JHK and his close associates (e.g., WSS and possibly some of his associates) had taken to questioning the supposed "divine authority". In the end, the church joined with a group of the San graduates, who objected to JHK as a quack, and tried to oust him from control of the San. It is significant that WSS did not join in this action (although I have no reason to believe he supported JHK either).

(At this time WSS was struggling to establish himself in the Chicago medical community by teaching hydropathy and giving lectures to AMA meetings on "the mind cure." He seems to have avoided the practice of "real" medicine, perhaps because of his limited credentials.)

The church lost a lawsuit for control of the San and JHK gained complete control over the enterprise. The church then established a competing "scientific" center for healing and medical research, run by the San graduates who had broken with JHK, at Loma Linda, California (where it remains to this day). Over time, except for its Adventist foundations and a continuing emphasis on Adventist health concerns, the operation at Loma Linda emerged as a significant second-tier (important, but no Harvard or Johns Hopkins, etc.) center of medical research, treatment, and teaching. Meanwhile, the San descended into the quagmire of quackery uncontrolled by good sense. An institution exists today known as the "Battle Creek Sanitorium", which is, I believe, affiliated with the church, and claims succession to JHK's enterprise; however, I think it's just an ordinary Adventist hospital.

Today the College of Medical Evangelists (CME) is the major semi-independent political force within the Seventh-Day Adventist organization. It trains doctors, runs hospitals, and conducts research (e.g., xenotransplantation -- baby Faye was transplanted at Loma Linda, I believe). JHK would be rolling in his grave, as they say...

I'm sorry I can't tell the above as a simple, chronological story because I haven't enough details to make sense of it all. I have just settled for ideas, opinions, and occasional facts, assembled into an impressionistic whole.

3. The brevity of treatment of WSS's quackery. Since writing this I have read (from the web) the excerpt from the Meussling thesis, which is very non-factual and largely due to Christy, who was a hagiographer if there ever was one, and found some of it rather irritating in its idolatry... (probably just my problem...)

As for WSS as a "man of science" I can only point to these matters, aside from my note above about the beginnings of his Chicago practices, which came to my attention over a number of years visiting 533 and chatting up various people:

You'll recall that the building at 533 Diversey Parkway was redecorated around 1980 and afterwards. They installed central air conditioning, reconstructed the basement, put in carpeting downstairs, and removed various ancient artifacts (such as the soapstone sink in the "kitchen" on the first floor and the toilet with a metal-lined wooden tank up on the ceiling in the rear bathroom). By the way, this rear bathroom had a daybed for Edith Cook laid over top of an old claw-footed bathtub. I remember the first time I used the bathroom being painfully aware of the celestial hosts that surely surrounded me and looking at the daybed and thinking, "This could have been the very couch on which the contact personality..." Oh, well, you had to be there...

Anyway, when they cleared out the cellar they had to take out a lot of wood that had been used to build up dressing rooms that were used by WSS's patients preparing for electroconvulsive therapy. WSS ran a major outpatient shock factory as a large part of his practice at 533. This was a large enough activity to require a number (my guess is 4-6) private dressing rooms where patients could disrobe and don gowns. While this sounds like a pretty big assembly-line operation, I assume some of the space was used for "recovery". Imagine the Forumites (many of whom were WSS patients or family members) lining up to have their lobes regularly fried by the good doctor. Afterwards, they could go upstairs and read a few papers from the safe or go out and wander up and down the shores of Lake Michigan while they tried to remember the way home. WSS was, in my opinion, a severely megalomaniacal personality who was obsessed with the exercise of psychological power over personal associates and who abused his medical credentials towards that end.

Of course, the shock mill was the "legitimate" side of WSS's practice of psychiatry by the standards of the day. The less savory side was disclosed when they laid new carpeting on the first floor. If you think back to the layout of the building at 533, you'll recall that there was a room in front of the kitchen (north of the kitchen) on the west side of the first floor that had an adjacent mud room and exit to the narrow outside walkway along the west side of the building. When they took up the linoleum in here they found it was laid over a layer of sheet lead. This lead lining continued up the walls for some distance (perhaps 3-4 feet). Old timers in the building reported that WSS had the lead installed to protect visitors to the rest of the building "from radiation". Apparently this room was the radiotherapy room.

As for what kind of radiotherapy WSS administered to the neurotics he treated, I must turn to another detail. You will recall that, in the southwest corner of the kitchen, there was an entrance to a large closet that contained a (relatively) modern toilet, a refrigerator, and a curious box-like cabinet hanging from the ceiling over the fridge. I wondered if this box was some sort of old icebox, except it was too small to hold much ice or food and lacked a drain for meltwater. Again, the old timers in the building reported that it was actually a lead shielded container in which WSS had kept "his radium".

Now, I have no clear idea what WSS did with radium for the benefit of his psychiatric patients in the lead-lined room (and, no doubt, there was also x-ray equipment in there). I have a theory, however. In the years after the split with the church, JHK increasingly devolved into serious medical quackery at the San. One of his more exotic treatments was to have the patients breathe "radium emanations", that is, air laced with the vapors evolved by decomposing radium, which we now know to be the highly radioactive inert gas, radon, and its daughter radionuclides remaining as an aerosol after the radon decomposes. I have no data on the results, but they were surely salutary. It is not at all improbable that WSS was engaged in similar "therapies" at 533, though probably (?) relatively early in his practice.

Important questions that remain to be answered are whether WSS also practiced lobotomy and how he generally counseled those seeking his help. His published writings are probably not fully reflective of the really "professional" help that could be obtained in-person at 533 which surely went beyond soothing platitudes and practical advice.

Many years ago, while visiting on the third floor at 533, I spent the night in the bedroom in the south-east corner. The north wall of this room was lined with bookshelves which were about 50% filled, but in some disorder. The contents of much of the material seemed to be of a family nature and focused extensively on Seventh-Day Adventism and the evolution of the cult and especially its medical wing in the 20th century.

One of the volumes here was an old black-paper photo album. It contained many of the standard postcards from the San showing various forms of hydrotherapy, phototherapy, exercise regimens, staff lineups, etc. These postcards were published by the San and sold to visitors and residents. If you have seen any historical material on the San you have seen many of these pictures. The interesting thing about this album was that someone had written people's names in on the postcards. Sometimes with an additional caption, like "Lena with her new enema machine" (I made that one up...) I assume this album belonged to one of the "family" that had been at the San in its heyday. My guess is Lena Sadler or Ruth Kellogg, but that's pure speculation. One informant suggested it belonged to Leone, who I thought was Bill's first wife and not of the Kellogg heritage, but I'm uncertain of her family tie-in. I think this was based on a belief that Leone had for a time lived in the room where I found the bookcase.

Another volume was a small black looseleaf notebook containing about 100-150 sheets of around 4x5 lined paper (with six snaprings I believe). Most of the small pages had typewritten notes with handwritten annotations dealing with appropriate treatment for a range of maladies from nausea to masturbation to neurotic fear to fiscal extravagance. I assume this was either WSS or Lena's and reflected how they kept their advice consistent for their clientele. I somewhat regret that I didn't put the book in my pocket as a valuable historical artifact, but then I didn't anticipate the coming holocaust. I don't recall much if anything specific from it, except that "military school" was mentioned in a few places as one way to forge stronger fiber in callow, rebellious youth...

Well, that's enough for now. I'm not sure there's anything useful to be done with this. I don't think WSS was that much worse a quack than the average for his time and place, but I reject the idea that he was a great man of science or a pioneer of medicine. He was clearly open to new ideas to the point of gullibility, although the best example of this (his dalliance with Freud) also shows he was not, like so many others of the period, a mindless follower of the ridiculous and absurd. He did, over the course of his lifetime, make a significant contribution to the establishment of an American school of psychiatry, second only, perhaps to the Menningers in the pre-war period. Whether you think this really amounted to anything worthwhile probably depends on how you evaluate the development of American psychiatry as a "medical science" (as opposed to the "social science" of psychology). Personally, I find little to recommend it--then or now.

Further reading:

Order: "Prophetess of Health--Ellen G. White and the Origins of Seventh-day Adventist Health Reform," Ronald L. Numbers, 2nd. edition, University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 1992.

Order: "The Road to Wellville," by T. Coraghessan Boyle, published by Viking, 1993.