The Beginnings of Adventism: As the Twig was Bent, So Grew the Tree. Part 2, The Israel Dammon Incident.

Taken from, “Incident at Atkinson: The Arrest and Trial of Israel Dammon.”
Written by Bruce Weaver
Edited for content and space


220px-James_and_Ellen_White“Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.

-Matthew 24:11.

Just as delirium rages before a fever breaks, leaving the patent limp and scarcely breathing, so the pitiful, simple, credulous souls who followed William Miller up to the Great Day of his prophetic calculation were left prostrated and dazed by their shattered hopes.  -“Days of Delusion- A Strange Bit of History”


For more than a century, Seventh-day Adventists have relied unquestioningly on Ellen G. White’s own personal account of her first, post-disappointment travels (first published in 1860) for their understanding of her initial calling and her earliest ministry. In a personal letter to J.N. Loughborough in 1874, she describes how she spent the winter/spring of 1845 traveling from town to town, primarily in Maine, fighting various forms of fanaticism that preoccupied those Millerites who (following the disappointments of 1843 and 1844) still refused to believe that God had not shared His timetable with them.

While most Millerites quietly rejoined the mainstream denominations and society as a whole, small pockets of true believers were scattered throughout the northeast. Some of them, in Ellen Harmon’s home town of Portland, worshipped “with propriety of conduct…at Beethoven Hall.” The meetings of others (attended by Miss Harmon), who met almost exclusively in private homes, were characterized by the “holy” salutation kiss, loud shouting and singing, physical prostrations, promiscuous (mixed) footwashing, multiple baptisms by immersion, odd exhibitions of voluntary humility (i.e. crawling, barking), and the presentations of a few (mostly female) visionaries.

But it was the no-work policy advocated by a number of leading Adventist extremists that most attracted them to municipal authorities. Piscataquis County was the first to bring serious civil intervention to the fanatical Millerites of Maine. This precedent was soon followed by arrests, trials, and imprisonments or guardianships in Orrington, Bangor, Paris, Norway, Woodstock, and Portland. 

Ellen Harmon moved continuously among these Adventist extremists, and it is likely that she narrowly avoided arrest in Orrington by fleeing the scene.  And it is possible that she was arrested – along with Joseph Turner – at Portland in April 1845.  But there is no question about Ellen Harmon’s presence during and involvement with the incident in Atkinson that led to the arrest of Israel Dammon. 

The contradiction that matters most is between the testimony of the arresting officer, Joseph Moulton, and the memory of Mrs. White over whether or not the participants in the Ayer home resisted Dammon’s arrest. Deputy sheriff Moulton testified that when he notified Dammon that he was under arrest, “a number of woman jumped on to him – he clung to them, and they to him.” Moulton said that “so great was the resistance” that he had to send twice for reinforcements to help him and the three assistants who accompanied him. “We were resisted by both men and woman,” Moulton said.  —“Incident at Atkinson: The Arrest and Trial of Israel Dammon.” Written by Bruce Weaver

Ellen White’s statement  it is to be found the second volume of Spiritual Gifts (p. 40-42) which contain Ellen White’s only account of the February 1845 incident in Atkinson. It is as follows:

[Ellen White says that when the sheriff and his three deputies tried to arrest Dammon,] “the Spirit of the Lord rested upon him, and his strength was taken away, and he fell to the floor helpless.” In their efforts to drag Dammon from the house, she recalled, the men “would move him a few inches only, and then rush out of the house” because “the power of God was in that room, and the servants of God with their countenances lighted up with his glory,” she insisted, “made no resistance.” But, despite a dozen men’s efforts, “Elder D. was held by the power of God about forty minutes, and not all the strength of those men could move him from the floor where he lay helpless.”