View All Photos

Jonathan and Caroline Orton.

Photo courtesy of Shelley Miller. Source: Find a Grave,  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/41077208/jonathan-trumbull-orton

Orton, Jonathan Trumbull (1810–1866)

By Ronald D. Graybill

×

Ronald D. Graybill has an M. Div. degree from Andrews  University and a Ph.D. in American Religious History from Johns Hopkins University. He has worked as a university professor, historical researcher, journalist, and editor. He spent 13 years as an associate secretary at the Ellen G. White Estate at the General Conference Headquarters. He is author of numerous articles and books on Adventist history, including Visions & Revisions: A Textual History of Ellen G. White’s Writings (2019).

First Published: January 29, 2020

Jonathan Trumbull Orton was an early convert to Sabbatarian Adventism in Rochester, New York. A “hackman” (who drove a carriage for hire), he was brutally murdered in 1866.1 It was he who introduced his close friend, John N. Loughborough, to Sabbathkeeping Adventist meetings, which convinced the two of them to join the Advent movement in 1852.2

Jonathan, his wife Caroline (c. 1813-1873),3 and their son and daughter, Alva and Drusilla,4 were well acquainted with James and Ellen White. They often hosted Adventist meetings in their home, and Jonathan frequently transported the Whites in his carriage.5 However, during the time the Review was published in Rochester (1852-1855) the Ortons and several other families became estranged from the Whites, feeling James White had been too severe in his criticism of J. N. Andrews.6

The family, along with J. N. Loughborough, moved to Waukon, Iowa, in 1856,7 and there, during the Whites’ visit, the Ortons and Whites were reconciled.8 Within a year the Ortons moved back to Rochester.9

In December, 1865 the Ortons joined others in three weeks of daily prayer sessions for the recovery of James White from a major stroke. Three months later, Orton was bludgeoned to death in his barn.10 The murder occurred less than a year after the death of President Abraham Lincoln, and J. N. Loughborough reported his friend’s murder in the Review as “The Assassination of Bro. Orton.” The perpetrator was never found.

Years later, J. N. Loughborough recalled Mrs. White warning the company that had prayed for James White that Satan was angry with them and “determined to make a powerful attack upon them.”11 But Orton’s murder was likely a revenge killing. Orton had befriended a fellow hackman, Horace Paddock. The two had a falling out over a chest of drawers Paddock had given to Orton, then tried to recover. Lawsuits followed, Orton won them, but Paddock vowed revenge. Paddock had an airtight alibi for the time of the murder, but it is thought he hired an unknown perpetrator.12 In his 1866 report of the murder Loughborough noted that Orton feared violence at the hands of Paddock.13 But years later, when Loughborough linked the murder to Ellen White’s warning, he claimed Orton had no knowledge of who might want to harm him.

Sources

Andrews, J. N. “Caroline Orton obituary,” Adventist Review. May 13, 1873.

Graybill, Ronald D. “The Murder of Jonathan Orton.” Insight, December 5, 1978.

Loughborough, J. N. “Recollections of the Past.—No 15.” Adventist Review, March 16, 1886.

Loughborough, J. N. “Sketches of the Past—No. 61.” Pacific Union Recorder, March 25, 1909.

Loughborough, J. N. “The Assassination of Bro. Orton, of Rochester, N.Y.” Adventist Review, March 20, 1866.

Orton, J. T. “From Bro. Orton.” Adventist Review, February 12, 1857.

“Jonathan Trumbull Orton,” U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current.

“Bro. J. T. Orton.” Adventist Review. November 9, 1857.

“Shocking Murder!” Rochester Daily Union and Advertiser, March 9, 1866.

Stevens, J. C. “Alva H. Orton obituary.” Adventist Review, March 29, 1917.

White, Ellen G. Testimony for the Physicians and Helpers of the Sanitarium, 1879

White, Ellen G, “Our Late Experience,” Adventist Review, February 27, 1866.

White, Ellen G, Testimony to the Church at Battle Creek, 1972.

Notes

  1. “Jonathan Trumbull Orton,” U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current

  2. J. N. Loughborough, “Sketches of the Past—No. 61,” Pacific Union Recorder, March 25, 1909, 1.

  3. J. N. Andrews, “Caroline Orton obituary,” Adventist Review, May 13, 1873, 175.

  4. Alva H. Orton (c. 1845-1917) never became a Seventh-day Adventist, although his obituary appeared in the Review without any mention of his faith. J.C. Stevens, “Alva H. Orton obituary.” Adventist Review, March 29, 1917, 21; Drusilla Orton Lamson (c. 1831-1919) married J.B. Lamson (1829-1870) and after his death became matron of Battle Creek Sanitarium. Publicly reprimanded by Ellen White (Testimony for the Physicians and Helpers of the Sanitarium, 1879, 77), she eventually left the church (according to D. M. Canright, Seventh-day Adventism Renounced [New York, N.Y.: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1889], 64) and her obituary does not appear in church papers.

  5. Ellen G. White, “Our Late Experience,” Adventist Review, February 27, 1866, 98.

  6. Ellen G. White, Testimony to the Church at Battle Creek, (Battle Creek, MI: Steam Press of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, 1972), 72-73.

  7. J. N. Loughborough, “Recollections of the Past.—No 15,” Adventist Review, March 16, 1886, 169.

  8. J. T. Orton, “From Bro. Orton,” Adventist Review, February 12, 1857, 118.

  9. “Bro. J. T. Orton,” Adventist Review, Vol. 11, Nov. 19, 1857, 16.

  10. Orton was attacked the evening of March 8, 1866, died early on March 9. “Shocking Murder!” Rochester Daily Union and Advertiser, March 9, 1866, 2; J. N. Loughborough, “The Assassination of Bro. Orton, of Rochester, N.Y.” Adventist Review, March 20, 1866, 127.

  11. J. N. Loughborough, The Rise and Progress of the Seventh-day Adventists (Battle Creek, MI: General Conference Association of the Seventh-day Adventists, 1892), 270.

  12. Ronald D. Graybill, “The Murder of Jonathan Orton,” Insight, December. 5, 1978, 8-12.

  13. Loughborough, “The Assassination of Bro. Orton, of Rochester, N.Y.”

×

Graybill, Ronald D. "Orton, Jonathan Trumbull (1810–1866)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed April 18, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=A9X3.

Graybill, Ronald D. "Orton, Jonathan Trumbull (1810–1866)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access April 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=A9X3.

Graybill, Ronald D. (2020, January 29). Orton, Jonathan Trumbull (1810–1866). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved April 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=A9X3.