Dear Brother ___________,
Thank you for contacting the Ellen G. White Estate. I know of no instance where Mrs. White ate clam chowder. There is some evidence, however, that she likely ate some oysters. She was never shown in vision a doctrine of clean and unclean meats, though she was warned against swine's flesh, the most common and probably the most dangerous of the unclean meats to which our pioneers were ordinarily exposed. As a people, we did not come to a clear Bible understanding of unclean meats until around 1900. Mrs. White's experience with oysters predates that time by about 20 years.
On our website, www.WhiteEstate.org, you will find an article by Ron Graybill on this subject. Its title is, "The Development of Adventist Thinking on Clean and Unclean Meats." To find it easily, put the words "unclean meats" into the Search dialog box at the top of our home page, and click the Search button there. When I did this, the document I wanted came up first on the list. Though I suggest that you read the whole paper, I will quote several paragraphs from it here, and I'll include the endnote references for this portion:
The general distinction between clean and unclean meats in Adventist circles remained undeveloped throughout the nineteenth century. While Adventists argued vigorously against pork, the weight of their argument continued to be carried by physiological criteria. Uriah Smith explicitly rejected the applicability of the Mosaic distinction: "We believe there is better ground on which to rest [the prohibition on pork] than the ceremonial law of the former dispensation, for if we take the position that that law is still binding, we must accept it all, and then we shall have more on our hands than we can easily dispose of."9
For Adventists in the nineteenth century then, all meat-eating was discouraged, while the eating of pork was virtually banned. Other meats which we would consider unclean were not seen, apparently, in the same light as pork.
Once when Ellen White was ill, her son, W. C. White, reports that she was encouraged to drink a little oyster broth to settle her stomach. She is said to have tried a spoonful or two, but then refused the rest. 10
There is however, evidence that at one point in her life Mrs. White most likely ate some oysters. In 1882, when she was living at Healdsburg, California, she wrote a letter to her daughter-in-law, Mary Kelsey White, in Oakland, in which she made the following request: "Mary, if you can get me a good box of herrings, fresh ones, please do so. These last ones that Willie got are bitter and old. If you can buy cans, say, half a dozen cans, of good tomatoes, please do so. We shall need them. If you can get a few cans of good oysters, get them." 11
9. Uriah Smith, "Meats Clean and Unclean," Review and Herald, vol. 60 (July 3, 1883), p. 424.
10. Arthur L. White, "Dietary Witness of the Ellen G. White Household," (Unpublished paper, Washington, D. C., 1978), p. 15.
11. Ellen G. White to Mary Kelsey White, May 31, 1882. Letter 16, 1882, p. 1, (Ellen G. White Estate, Washington, D. C.)
For further reading (beyond Graybill's paper), let me suggest Chapter 27 in Herbert E. Douglass's fine book, "Messenger of the Lord." If you don't have it, you may wish to get it, or you can read any part of it online on our website. On the menu at the left of the home page, click on "Online Books," and then scroll down to the bottom of the list. Click on the link to "Messenger of the Lord," and then on the link to Chapter 27.
I hope this will be helpful to you. Let me know if I can be of further service. Thank you for writing, and God bless!
Ellen G. White Estate
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20905-6600 U.S.A.
Phone: 301 680-6550
FAX: 301 680-6559