Edgar Caro

Photo courtesy of Adventist Heritage Center, South Pacific Division.

Caro, Edgar (1871–1959)

By Lester Devine

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Originally trained as a secondary history teacher, a career long Adventist educator, Lester Devine, Ed.D., has taught at elementary, secondary and higher education levels and spent more than three decades in elected educational leadership positions in two divisions of the world Church, NAD (1969-1982) and SPD (1982-2005). He completed his forty years of denominational service with a term as director of the Ellen G. White/Adventist Research Centre at Avondale University College in Australia where his life-long hobby of learning and presenting on Adventist heritage issues became his vocation. 

Dr. Edgar Caro, a gifted doctor, was the medical superintendent of the Sydney Medical and Surgical Sanitarium of Summer Hill in Australia from 1898 to 1901.

Edgar Caro was born in Nelson, New Zealand, in 1871, the second of three boys in the family. His mother, Dr. Margaret Caro, was the first woman dentist in New Zealand, and his father, Dr. “Jacob” James Selig Siegfried Caro, was a Polish Jew. Dr. Jacob Caro had studied medicine in Berlin and Melbourne before settling in New Zealand and achieved some fame as the first physician in New Zealand to give inoculations. In 1888 Margaret Caro joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a result of an evangelistic campaign conducted in Napier by a young American evangelist, Arthur G. Daniells. Jacob Caro, while cordial to his wife’s Adventist friends, did not at that time join the Church.1 He did, however, experience conversion, “began to keep the Sabbath,” and was baptized under the ministry of G. T. Wilson in 1894.2

Edgar and his brother Eric were the first students from New Zealand to attend Battle Creek College, and Edgar later studied medicine while Eric qualified as a dentist. In 1893, Edgar married Edith Marie Dow, an American whom he had met at Battle Creek College. That year, Edgar and Eric’s brother, Percy, who had just finished studying law at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, visited them while on his way back to New Zealand and while there, after a brief illness, died at the age of 24.3 Edgar graduated from the University of Michigan in 1894 with a degree in medicine.4 Beginning in September of that year, Edith and Edgar spent some time in the United Kingdom gaining experience, and he was involved in medical mission work in London. Edith and Edgar arrived in Melbourne in November 1897.5 He spoke at several Seventh-day Adventist camp meetings, proving to be a strong advocate of healthful living and medical missionary evangelism.6 On the recommendation of Dr. Kellogg’s International Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association, a similar group was established in Australasia. The Australasian Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association (AMM&BA) was formed and legally constituted with A. G. Daniells as the president and Dr. Edgar Caro as the secretary.7 As with its parent organization in the United States, it was autonomous with goodwill ties to the church.

In 1898 Edgar was put in charge of the Health Home at Summer Hill in Sydney, Australia,8 which was renamed Sydney Medical and Surgical Sanitarium of Summer Hill.9 Ellen White commented one year later that “God has just as surely put His Spirit upon Dr. Caro as he has upon Dr. Kellogg.”10 Dr. Caro was also editing the journal Herald of Health.11 In 1902, this magazine became Australasian Good Health under other editorship.12 In the first edition of 1902, Caro was listed as an “editorial contributor.” His name was not listed as such thereafter.13 During the financial year 1898–1899, paying patients at the sanitarium numbered 285. Caro performed 127 surgical operations with inadequate facilities.14 At this time, the AMM&BA supervised 13 medical, hydropathic, and welfare enterprises scattered throughout major cities of Australia and New Zealand. In 1899 Caro refined the nurse’s training program to span three years. These nurses would service the Sydney Medical and Surgical Sanitarium and other enterprises.

Church administrators soon realized that there was a possibility that the AMM&BA, being based on Dr. John Kellogg’s model, could follow a similar path to that of its parent organization. They were concerned that Caro might follow a similar path to Kellogg and wrest control of the AMM&BA enterprises, including the Cooranbong food factory and outlets. A pivotal meeting of the AMM&BA took place in Geelong, Victoria, in Caro’s absence under the chairmanship of A. G. Daniells in March 1900. At that meeting, the AMM&BA was voted out of existence and replaced with a medical department of the Australasian Union Conference (AUC), an entity titled the Medical Missionary Council.15 Caro was voted in as the superintendent of the department. The major difference was that it was no longer an autonomous body.16 The problem that remained, however, was that from then onward, any financial liabilities of the Summer Hill Sanitarium or any other health enterprise were ultimately the responsibility of the AUC.

From mid-1900, Caro had to conduct the sanitarium under extreme difficulties. Surgery cases became rare, fees were increased to compensate these losses, and the clientele dwindled. During the crisis, the nurses were obliged to carry buckets of hot and cold water up and down the stairs when giving treatments.17 The AUC made no effort to rent another building. They were focused on the establishment of a major sanitarium at Wahroonga. Caro took a few months’ vacation in early 1901, only to return to a very important meeting of the AUC.

At the 1901 AUC Session, held in College Hall on the campus of the Avondale School for Christian Workers, Caro gave his report of the Summer Hill Sanitarium. In his report, he made a strong defense of his work. Nevertheless, the session was concerned that the financial situation might bring down all the medical enterprises and the associated health food industry.18

Caro found himself left with the dilemma of the Sydney Medical and Surgical Sanitarium. Dr. Daniel Kress, having just arrived from America, was elected to the boards of the Wahroonga Sanitarium, the Sanitarium Health Food Company, the Avondale Health Retreat, and the Book Committee.19 Four months later, Caro resigned and returned to New Zealand. Within weeks the Sydney Medical and Surgical Sanitarium was closed.20

Upon returning to New Zealand, Caro began a private practice in Napier.21 Shortly after he arrived, he received an eight-page letter from Ellen White addressed to Edgar and Edith Caro. In that letter, Ellen White admonished both Edith and Edgar to live a less lavish lifestyle and adopt more of a missionary, unselfish outlook.22 In this and later letters, Ellen White continued to give Dr. Caro advice about some things in his life that he needed to address if he were ever to be denominationally employed again.23

By 1906, Edith and Edgar’s marriage was in crisis, with him accusing his wife of “infidelity” and “bad behaviour,” and she decided to return to her homeland, America, with their children.24 In September that year, Dr. Margaret Caro sailed with her daughter-in-law and grandchildren for San Francisco, California, but Edgar was not there to meet the ship as planned. Very concerned, the other Caros traveled on to Ellen White’s home at Elmshaven, where she provided the essentially destitute family accommodation for the next year or so in a small four-room cottage at the rear of her home. There the Caros had access to Ellen White’s vegetable garden and orchard, and milk from her cow. She also loaned them money. In a series of letters, mainly to Dr. Caro but also one to Edith after she later moved Oakland for work, Ellen White tried to help put the marriage back together but without success. Edgar Caro maintained in an undated letter to Brother Farnsworth that years earlier he and Edith had already divorced. Though no record of that has been found, it is a statement that suggests he then believed the issue settled.

For a time, the location of Dr. Caro was unknown, and his financial support of his family was sporadic at best and minimal in amount. Finally he located in Chicago, in ill health and not working. His family situation really deteriorated when he abducted his children from their home in Oakland, California, an event that devastated their mother and caused both her and Ellen White sleepless nights. In time, Edgar returned the children, and Ellen White continued to work with him, encouraging him to come to California and there regain his health and spiritual perspective, with the view to his returning to denominational employment, possibly at Loma Linda where a new hospital program was under development. Instead, he returned to New Zealand, where for a time he operated a private sanitarium.25 Then on April 22, 1908, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Edgar married Anne Gertrude Harrison, an Australian.26

The Caros returned to Australia, and in time had three children, Edwin, Ewan, and Roy.27 Dr. Caro owned and operated a private hospital in Sydney until 1915, when he changed careers after losing his medical registration.28 However, for many years afterward, he apparently listed his occupation on electoral roll documents as “surgeon.”29 After Caro’s second wife, Anne, died in 1947, he married Alma Willerding in 1948. Alma had been born in 1900. Dr. Edgar Caro died on March 18, 1959, at the age of 87.30 Alma Caro lived till 1987, when she died at the age of 87.31

Sources

“Australasian Good Health.” Union Conference Record, January 1, 1902.

Caro, Edgar R. “Organisation of the Medical Missionary Council.” Union Conference Record, October 1, 1900.

———. “The Medical and Surgical Sanitarium.” Union Conference Record, July 15, 1898.

———. “The Right Arm of the Message.” Union Conference Record, April 1898.

Daniells, A. G. “Australasian Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association.” Union Conference Record, August 15, 1898.

“Doctor’s Unprofessional Conduct.” The Argus, Melbourne, Victoria, December 4, 1915.

“Dr. E. R. Caro and wife . . .” The Bible Echo, October 25, 1897.

“Editorial Contributors.” Australasian Good Health, January 1, 1902.

“Electoral Roll, Hornsby, New South Wales, Subdivision of Epping.” New South Wales State Archives, Kingswood, New South Wales, 1933.

Graham, E. M. “Summer Hill Sanitarium.” Union Conference Record, January 1, 1902.

Griffin, Pip. Margaret Caro: the Extraordinary Life of a Pioneering Dentist New Zealand 1848 – 1938. Leichhardt, New South Wales, Australia: Pohutakawa Press, 2020.

Griffin, Pip. “Timeline for Margaret Caro and Family, 14 September, 2016.” Unpublished manuscript held in the Ellen G. White/Adventist Research Centre. DF 133f.

Hare, Robert E. “Edgar Caro obituary.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, May 4, 1959.

Morse, G. W. “Medical and Surgical Sanitarium, Summer Hill, NSW.” Union Conference Record, July 26, 1899.

———. “Transfer of the Medical Missionary Work to the Union Conference.” Union Conference Record, May 1, 1900.

Olsen, O. A. “Visit to New Zealand.” Union Conference Record, February 15, 1906.

Patrick, Arthur N. The San, 100 Years of Christian Caring, 1903–2003. Warburton, Victoria: Signs Publishing Company, 2003.

“The Melbourne Camp Meeting.” The Bible Echo, November 29, 1897.

“Union Conference Proceedings.” Special No. 3, Union Conference Record, July 24, 1901.

“Union Conference Proceedings.” Special No. 6, Union Conference Record, July 31, 1901.

White, Ellen G. “Our Sanitarium and Its Work.” Union Conference Record, July 21, 1899.

White, Ellen G. Ellen G. White to Brother and Sister Caro. January 3, 1903. Letter 4 1903. Ellen G. White Estate.

White, Ellen G. Ellen G. White to Dr. Edgar Caro. June 24, 1903. Letter 117, 1903. Ellen G. White Estate.

White, Ellen G. Ellen G. White to Brethren Sharp and Caro. April 11, 1904. Letter 131, 1904. Ellen G. White Estate.

White, Ellen G. Ellen G. White to Dr. E. R. Caro. June 12, 1907. Letter 192, 1907. Ellen G. White Estate.

White, Ellen G. Ellen G. White to Dr. E. R. Caro. November 17, 1907. Letter 386, 1907. Ellen G. White Estate.

White, Ellen G. Ellen G. White to Mrs. Edith Caro. January 10, 1908. Letter 30, 1908. Ellen G. White Estate.

White, Ellen G. Ellen G. White to Dr. E. R. Caro. May 12, 1908. Letter 148, 1908. Ellen G. White Estate.

White, Ellen G. Ellen G. White to Dr. Margaret Caro. May 9, 1908. Letter 150, 1908. Ellen G. White Estate.

Wilson, G. T. “New Zealand.” The Bible Echo, September 10, 1894.

Notes

  1. Pip Griffin, “Timeline for Margaret Caro and Family, 14 September, 2016,” unpublished manuscript held in the Ellen G. White-SDA Research Centre, DF 133f. Pip Griffin is a second cousin of Edgar Caro.

  2. G. T. Wilson, “New Zealand,” The Bible Echo, September 10, 1894, 286.

  3. See Griffin, “Timeline.”

  4. Edgar Caro M.D. Testamur, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1894, held by South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia.

  5. “Dr. E. R. Caro and wife . . . ,” The Bible Echo, October 25, 1897, 344.

  6. “The Melbourne Camp Meeting,” The Bible Echo, November 29, 1897, 376.

  7. A. G. Daniells, “Australasian Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association,” Union Conference Record, August 15, 1898, 1–2.

  8. G. W. Morse, “Medical and Surgical Sanitarium, Summer Hill, NSW,” Union Conference Record, July 26, 1899, 14–15.

  9. E. R. Caro, “The Medical and Surgical Sanitarium," Union Conference Record, July 15, 1898, 81; see also Arthur N. Patrick, The San, 100 Years of Christian Caring, 1903–2003 (Warburton, Victoria: Signs Publishing Company, 2003), 14.

  10. Ellen G. White, “Our Sanitarium and Its Work,” Union Conference Record, July 21, 1899, 6.

  11. E. R. Caro, “The Right Arm of the Message,” Union Conference Record, April 1898, 54.

  12. “Australasian Good Health,” Union Conference Record, January 1, 1902, 16.

  13. “Editorial Contributors,” Australasian Good Health, January 1, 1902, 16.

  14. Morse, “Medical and Surgical Sanitarium.”

  15. G. W. Morse, “Transfer of the Medical Missionary Work to the Union Conference,” Union Conference Record, May 1, 1900, 14–16.

  16. Edgar R. Caro, “Organisation of the Medical Missionary Council,” Union Conference Record, October 1, 1900, 14.

  17. E. M. Graham, “Summer Hill Sanitarium,” Union Conference Record, January 1, 1902, 13.

  18. “Union Conference Proceedings,” Special No. 3, Union Conference Record, July 24, 1901, 34–36.

  19. “Union Conference Proceedings,” Special No. 6, Union Conference Record, July 31, 1901, 89–91.

  20. Graham, "Summer Hill Sanitarium."

  21. See Griffin, “Timeline.”

  22. Ellen G. White to Brother and Sister Caro, January 3, 1903, Letter 4, 1903, Ellen G. White Estate.

  23. Ellen G. White to Dr. Edgar Caro, June 24, 1903, Letter 117, 1903, Ellen G. White Estate.

  24. The sequence of events as follows are ascertained on the basis of a series of letters from Ellen G. White to Dr. Edgar Caro and others between June 24, 1903, and May 9, 1908. See Ellen G. White to Dr. Edgar Caro, June 24, 1903; Ellen G. White to Brethren Sharp and Caro, April 11, 1904, Letter 131, 1904, Ellen G. White Estate; Ellen G. White to Dr. E. R. Caro, June 12, 1907, Letter 192, 1907, Ellen G. White Estate; Ellen G. White to Dr. E. R. Caro, November 17, 1907, Letter 386, 1907, Ellen G. White Estate; Ellen G. White to Mrs. Edith Caro, January 10, 1908, Letter 30, 1908, Ellen G. White Estate; Ellen G. White to Dr E. R. Caro, May 12, 1908, Letter 148, 1908, Ellen G. White Estate; Ellen G. White to Dr. Margaret Caro, May 9, 1908, Letter 150, 1980, Ellen G. White Estate.

  25. O. A. Olsen, “Visit to New Zealand,” Union Conference Record, February 15, 1906, 4.

  26. See Griffin, “Timeline.”

  27. Ibid.

  28. “The Medical Board in Sydney yesterday concluded the hearing of evidence in relation to a charge against Edgar Robert St. John Caro of unprofessional conduct, in systematically seeking to attract patients by employing persons to tout for him at the Sydney railway station and elsewhere. Dr. Caro denied that there had ever been an agreement between him and any tout, or that he had asked anyone to get him patients. The board found the charge proved and directed that Dr. Caro’s name be removed from the register of medical practitioners in New South Wales.” (“Doctor’s Unprofessional Conduct,” The Argus, Melbourne Victoria, December 4, 1915, 20.)

  29. “Electoral Roll, Hornsby, New South Wales, Subdivision of Epping,” New South Wales State Archives, Kingswood, New South Wales, 1933, 17.

  30. Robert E. Hare, “Edgar Caro obituary,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, May 4, 1959, 7.

  31. See Griffin, “Timeline.”

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Devine, Lester. "Caro, Edgar (1871–1959)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 09, 2021. Accessed October 15, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=87U5.

Devine, Lester. "Caro, Edgar (1871–1959)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 09, 2021. Date of access October 15, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=87U5.

Devine, Lester (2021, January 09). Caro, Edgar (1871–1959). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved October 15, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=87U5.