On April 10, 1959, Elder Oliver Jacques, chaplain at the Battle Creek Health Center, wrote a letter to Elder Arthur L. White informing him about one of their patients, a Mrs. Carrie Johnson. She had recently been diagnosed with leukemia and related that she had been Elder Canright’s personal secretary in his later years. Elder Jacques believed that she had information and documents that might be of interest to the Estate. Elder White had not met Carrie Johnson or known of her story prior to this communication.

At its April 16, 1959, meeting, the White Estate Trustees asked board member Elder F. D. Nichol, who was traveling to Michigan later that month, to make contact with Mrs. Johnson in order to find out what information she had and to offer to house any documents she wished in the White Estate vault for safekeeping. (Mrs. Johnson was not yet in possession of Canright’s 1867 diary, which she obtained from his grandson, Clifton Dey, in August 1960.)

In 1962 the White Estate received requests from Canright’s descendants for the diary—which was now being kept in the White Estate Branch Office vault at Andrews University—to be returned to the family. It was their contention that the diary had been loaned to Mrs. Johnson, not given to her. The understanding of the White Estate, when the diary was received from her for safekeeping, as stated by her, was that it had been given to her as a gift by Elder Canright’s grandson.

In view of the dispute over its ownership, but having Mrs. Johnson’s word that it has been given to her, the White Estate Trustees voted to return the diary to Mrs. Johnson and for Elder White to write her a letter recommending that she return the diary to the Canright family as a gesture of good will, given their contentions. This he did on October 5, 1962. Elder White also informed the Canright family that the diary was being returned to Mrs. Johnson.

After it being returned to her from the Branch Office vault, Carrie Johnson appears to have kept the diary in her possession for the rest of her active life. She died on May 28, 1980. Around that time her family gave the diary to the Branch Office and the expectation of Mrs. Hedwig Jemison, director of the Branch Office, was that it would be returned to the Canright family. On February 21, 1984, Dr. Robert Olson, director of the White Estate, returned the diary to Canright’s great-granddaughter, Shirley Roth, which she acknowledged receiving in a letter dated March 29, 1984.

Tim Poirier

E. G. White Estate

January 31, 2024