Washington, NH, Sabbath Trail Takes Shape

by  Trudy Wright   November 1997

The Sabbath doctrine took root in the small town of Washington, New Hampshire in March of 1844. It bears the distinction of being the "cradle of the seventh-day Sabbath in Adventism." Frederick Wheeler introduced his congregation to Sabbath-keeping after being rebuked by Rachel Oakes Preston for not keeping all of the commandments.

In 1995 Pastor Merlin Knowles was praying for wisdom on the use of the newly purchased property that is adjacent to this historic church. He was impressed to build a Sabbath Trail , a trail that would give the gift of the Sabbath experience to the approximately one to two thousand people that visit the first Adventist church each year.

The tiny congregation caught the vision of the trail. First they restored the church and graveyard to historic beauty. Then Merlin thought if he held a three-day conference workbee they could build a trail. Three years later the first half of the one-mile trail is being completed.

The trail winds through 16 tranquil acres. It will have 30 sites along the trail with benches and engraved markers that trace the Sabbath doctrine from creation to the new earth.

Fall workbees each year bring families, schools, churches, and neighbors to work on the trail. People have come from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, and Pennsylvania. The following academies have participated by sending groups of students: Pine Tree Academy, Pioneer Junior Academy, Riverview Memorial School, Blue Mountain Academy, Greater Boston Academy, Union Springs Academy, and South Lancaster Academy.

A six-foot wide, handicap accessible trail is being blazed through the forest. Bridges are being constructed to cross streams and swampy areas. Each site will have at least one granite scripture, a bench, and a tranquil setting in which to read, relax, and pray.

Each site has been chosen for its unique qualities. One site has a 200-year-old pine tree, another is in an evergreen grove. One overlooks a huge expanse of ferns, another overlooks a swamp, while yet another is beside a huge piece of gray granite. At the highest point will rest the two large tables of stone which will bear the ten commandments. It will be an impressive testimony to God's word. Plans are being formed to identify and label nature along the trail.

The Washington, NH members, with warm hospitality, cook for the crews that sign up with Pastor Knowles to work on the trail. Donations have been given for the expense. [Note: Pastor Knowles has moved and the church has a different pastor.]

The Washington Historical Society is thrilled with the trail and restoration work. This project has rekindled a spirit of interest in the little Adventist church on the quiet country road. The trail has truly become a project of the people, particularly the youth. It will direct attention to the Creator and Savior of the universe.

(This article was published in the November 1997 Atlantic Union Gleaner. Used with permission of the author.)