Dr J. H. Kellogg—His Rise and Fall


Dr. Kellogg could not stand the thought of being a loser, or having made a mistake.  He had to win, and in an argument would keep on going until the other person was worn down.  Also, because he was short for a man, (five feet four inches) this seemed to give him a feeling of inferiority.  If a taller person came into his office, he would invite them to sit down and he would remain standing, to be “over them.”

The nickname he was called by some people, “The Battle Creek Dynamo,” was very accurate.  On a normal day Kellogg would dictate from 25 to 50 letters, some many pages in length.  The term “multitasking” must have been invented by him.  While dictating, he examined reports and medical literature while dictating, and if interrupted by some emergency, could immediately return to the very words he had been dictating, even if in the middle of a sentence.  During his lifelong practice he did over 21,000 surgeries, and always prayed before each one.  Everyone loved his bedside manner, for no matter how busy he was, he always talked with each patient, taking time to answer their questions and counsel them on healthful living.  Dr. J.H. Kellogg was a well liked, brilliant doctor, whom God had blessed with a sharp mind and compassion for people and their ills.

Dr. John and his wife, Ella were unable to have children of their own.  Gradually, they began to take in needy and underprivileged children.  In 1894 they bought a 20-room house and took in 42 children; five of these they legally adopted.  Race, color or creed—they were all the same.  One Black, one Puerto Rican, and four Mexican children formed a part of their family.  These children grew up to become a doctor, a dentist, nurses and teachers. 

Dr. Kellogg’s kindness was often shown with the children, such as with one boy who was constantly misbehaving very badly.  The doctor informed the boy that since he insisted on acting like a little wild animal, he would have to sleep with the animals in the barn.  That night he had a cot put in the hayloft and the boy was put to bed there.  After he was asleep, the doctor couldn’t stand it for him to be alone so far from the rest of the family, so he put up another cot and spent the night in the loft with him.  He got up before the boy awoke, but he continued doing this for several nights.  One evening, the boy came to him, saying, “I don’t want to be an animal anymore.  I want to be a little boy.”

Besides all the other things he was occupied with, during the late night hours, (hurting his own health) Dr. Kellogg took the time to write.  He wrote more than 50 books on health and medicine, edited four periodicals, and wrote a 1,600 page handbook on Domestic Hygiene.  But, his most controversial book, The Living Temple was brought under fire, both figuratively and literally.

The Battle Creek Sanitarium was Dr. Kellogg’s pride and joy.  Even though Ellen White had given counsel when it was built that it should not be built so large, but smaller sanitariums should be built in various places, so as to be available to more people.  Also, with Cereal City growing daily, the Review and Herald office in Battle Creek, and the college right across from the Sanitarium, more people were moving there, until it got the

name of a Seventh-day- Adventist “Jerusalem.”  Ellen White even related that she had in vision seen a “fiery sword hanging over Battle Creek.”

Without warning, early in the morning of February 18, 1902, tragedy struck the Sanitarium.  A fire, seeming to begin in the area of the pharmacy, spread rapidly, and by daylight the entire main building, and adjacent structures lay in charred ruins.  Thankfully, all patients were evacuated, but one elderly man apparently lost his life when he realized he had forgotten his life savings and dashed back into the burning building after them.

Dr. Kellogg was returning from the west coast at that time, and heard about the fire while changing trains in Chicago.  Against all the counsel and warnings he had been previously given, he called for a table and papers, and on the train, began drawing up plans for a new building, even larger than the one that had burned.

Again Ellen White counseled:  “Last night I was instructed to tell you that the great display you are making in Battle Creek is not after God’s order.  You are planning to build in Battle Creek a larger sanitarium than should be erected there.”

So, the leaders of the denomination met with the sanitarium board to plan for the rebuilding.  The leaders suggested a single structure, perhaps five stories high and 450 feet long.  In spite of their counsel, and with the spirit of independence which was characteristic of him, Dr. Kellogg pushed ahead with a building six stories high, 525 feet long, and seven-acres of floor space. When finished, visitors were awed by it many columned front, breathtaking flower and fern-decked lobby, and marble floors.  It was described that it would stand as “one of the beautiful buildings in Michigan.”

Dr. Kellogg was immensely pleased.  Here was a place like no other in the world, where people such as William Howard Taft, William Jennings Bryan, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., J. C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, Henry Ford and many others came to be rejuvenated.

But, with all his talents, Dr. J. H. Kellogg was lacking what should have been most important.  He was leaving God’s will and plans out of the picture, and was actually beginning to study an Eastern Philosophy entirely contrary to the truth about God.


To be continued…


Compiled from Light Bearers,

Stories of the Pioneers

By Dorothy Dunbar