Donate ....Site map.... Contact us








Dr. Dowie and his family returned to Zion Home early in September. With them came many of those who had worked on the trans­formation of Ben MacDhui. Soon Zion in Chicago was in a buzz of gossip about the splendors of that retreat. Lurid stories flew from mouth to mouth, growing as they flew. One, about a thousand-dollar bath-tub, was a prime favorite.

At first there was discontent and criticism, but a sermon or two in Central Zion Tabernacle, with the General Overseer at his best, preaching the Full Gospel, fighting Zion's enemies, and painting the future glories of Zion, aroused such loyalty and devotion that Ben MacDhui was forgotten, except by a few grumblers who whispered timidly among themselves. Among these were Ezra and Myra.

It amazed and puzzled Herbert that the disaffected so quickly found one another in that great congrega­tion. His brother and sister-in-law seemed on inti­mate terms with every other malcontent in Zion­-and several of these were among the older and, sup­posedly, the stanchest of Dr. Dowie's disciples. He might have warned the General Overseer against these people, but somehow could not stomach tale-­bearing, although the practice was demanded of all loyal Zion members. His logical conscience approved



the demand. A traitor in camp was a menace to every other soldier and to the sacred cause itself. But an even more vigorous conscience shut his lips tight.

If the General Overseer knew how his Ben Mac­Dhui improvements shocked his people he gave no sign. Not only did he outdo himself in his sermons, but he proclaimed what he called Zion's Holy War against apostate churches, secret societies, oysters, pork, tobacco, liquor, the theater, newspapers, doc­tors, drugs, and devils. In this war every member and every resource of Zion were to be enlisted.

The Holy War began almost at once. Joyously as the newspapers fought "Dr." Dowie, as they liked to call him, their business offices had no hard feelings against him. Hence advertisements bearing his pic­ture appeared in the amusement sections of all Chi­cago's dailies. Crowds flocked to the meetings to see the show. Some who "came to scoff, remained to pray." Others left, disgusted, for the General Over­seer called a spade a dirty old dung-scraper. Some wanted to fight the thing out on the spot with fists and brickbats.

The effects of all this came swiftly. At Hammond, Indiana, a mob smashed windows in the Tabernacle, broke up the meeting, and tried to seize the General Overseer. Loyal Zion Guards and other Zion men and women surrounded him and escorted him safely to his carriage. Afterward he prayed earnestly for the healing of those whose heads had been broken by a shower of missiles aimed at him.

This event brought Zion's Holy War out upon the


front pages of the newspapers-which added to the lust of battle on both sides.

In Chicago itself the police helped Zion Guard to keep order. Dr. Dowie was popular with the city ad­ministration and especially with the Police Depart­ment. At the previous election, which had been close, he had commanded all Zion people in Chicago to vote for the candidate who had eventually been elected Mayor, but had done so only on that candidate's promise that the General Overseer's good friend Dan Cassidy should be continued in his job as chief of police. He had also been generous with his gifts to police funds and to individual policemen who helped protect him.

During October a battle of the Holy War was ar­ranged for Zion Tabernacle in Oak Park. This taber­nacle, a hall on the second floor of a building on the main street, was reached by an inside stairway lead­ing up from a side street. When the General Overseer arrived in his carriage, a large crowd had already gathered in the street but was content merely to jeer.

The hall was nearly full and the remaining seats and available standing room were quickly taken. Zion Guards were posted at the street entrance. The meet­ing began.

Herbert, who had served as usher, heard more and more noise in the streets. Going downstairs, he came upon a group of Guards holding the stair door against a mob. They were covered with broken eggs and bits of egg shells, one bled freely from a cut over his eye, another had a lump big as a walnut on his forehead,


and another spat blood through swollen lips. De­cayed tomatoes, turnips, cabbages, oranges, and other treasure-trove from grocers' garbage cans rolled at their feet, with here and there a cobble-stone or brickbat. While he stood with them, he looked out over the heads of a crowd which filled both streets as far as he could see. Many of them were yelling, all were excited. Missiles splashed and banged upon and around the Guards.

Suddenly there was a swirl of new activity. Men and boys shouted "Come on; let's go up and get the old faker. Come on, now, all together." Then there was a rush for the steps.

"Stand your ground, men, but don't use fists," said Deacon Nolan, quietly. He was a big man, more than six feet tall, weighing 260 pounds, a successful broker, and lieutenant in Zion Guard.

Advantage of position was with the Guard, since they stood on a landing five steps above street level. They rolled back the attack but were left still more bruised and bleeding.

Hour after hour the siege dragged on.

Herbert went out to the street an hour or two later and mingled with the mob. He was uneasy as he saw that, though smaller, it was more menacing. Those to whom the affair was a lark had tired of it and gone home. They who remained were quieter, but more grim.

In a few minutes he heard hoof-beats of speeding horses and the clang of a bell. Puzzled, he stood lis­tening. The sounds drew nearer. Everyone in the street heard them. Suddenly, around a corner, came


a span of big bays, at a swift trot. Behind them loomed the varnish, brass, and authoritative bell of a police patrol-wagon. Astonishment, unbelief, rage, and bewilderment sucked hissing gasps down a thou­sand throats. Then some of the mob began to drain off into the shadows. Others waited, curious. "My God!" many exclaimed, "they're from Chicago!"

With a magnificent sweep and clatter the wagon swung around and backed up to the curb in front of that little group of battered, egg-soaked Guards on the steps. Ten bluecoats rolled out in majesty. Eight of them drew night-sticks and waved the mob back. Two mounted the steps with a cheery good morning and went up the stairs, Herbert, in a rapture of ex­citement, at their heels. Dr. Dowie was on the plat­form.

"Good mornin' to ye, Doctor," said the leader, saluting handsomely. "I'm Captain Kennedy. The chief sends his compliments and says would ye mind if we gave ye safe conduct back to Chicago?"

That same day the holy warring Scot again made the front pages of Chicago's papers. By evening, edi­torials were demanding to know why the city's po­lice were sent outside their jurisdiction to rescue that "charlatan and adventurer" from a mob stirred up by his own wild speech. Some one should suffer for this decidedly suspicious abuse of authority. But no one ever did.

Before journalistic wrath could be echoed in pub­lic demand, Dr. Dowie set a new fire blazing in the news columns by invading an enemy stronghold in the neighborhood of Cook County Hospital with its



satellite medical schools. Thousands of students rushed to the fracas. Some went into the hall with the audience. Others came later, marching, singing, howling. The ensuing drama was swift and colorful. When the preacher mounted his platform, young medics uncorked their vials of sulphureted hydrogen and flung at the speaker their treasured souvenirs ap­propriated from cadavers--ears, fingers, and even more objectionable bits of human anatomy. They jeered, they laughed, they sang ribald songs.

Outside hundreds of their fellows made bedlam. But Dr. Dowie's good friends the police fell upon fu­ture physicians and surgeons with fists and clubs. The youngsters were game-reveled in a scrap. Before the evening ended, proximity to a hospital was a con­venience to many on both sides of the argument.

But the General Overseer finished his sermon in safety and triumph. He rose to the occasion and fur­nished not a little drama himself. Telling about it later, he wept for Herbert, who had not been there, as he had wept for the boys. Herbert wondered how he did it.

All through October, November, and December the Holy War raged. No week passed without its mob, its violent counter-attack by pulpit or press, its sensational report of something Dr. Dowie had said-or was reported to have said. The city was stirred. Central Zion Tabernacle could not hold half of those who came Sunday afternoons. Letters for and against him swamped the newspapers, not only in Chicago but throughout the country. Preachers everywhere preached about him.


Meanwhile Phil Carter was quietly buying up lake shore property and farms for the site of Zion City. Every week he spent a night in the General Over­seer's office at Zion Home with the General Overseer, Attorney Endicott, Banker Halsey, Engineer Wor­cester, and Real Estater Herbert Renbrush. His prog­ress was even better than they had hoped. Prices were about as Herbert had predicted. At first there had been several owners who refused to sell. This was their home. They had lived here all their lives. Their fathers and grandfathers had lived here before them. They had enough money for all their needs, so high prices could not tempt them. But Phil was tactful, resourceful, patient. At each of these all night meet­ings-to which he came in disguise-he could report that one or more of the hold-outs had loosened his grip.

The farms Phil bought were miles apart at first, and he was so matter-of-fact about his negotiations that he was unnoticed. Then farmers had begun to talk and to wonder why so much land hereabouts had changed hands. The talk spread. People began to ask Phil questions. He shared their wonder. He couldn't tell them anything. He was only carrying out orders from his superiors. Who were they? Why he couldn't tell them that either-against orders. He was friendly, a good mixer, made people believe him and believe in him. All this served to parry questions, but it did not quiet talk.

Toward the end of November he had bought so much land that the Waukegan papers began to take notice and to speculate about the identity and



purposes of his principals. A young reporter or two caught up with him on his rounds and tried to pump him; but Phil was too friendly and guileless even to arouse suspicion. He did, however, make haste to ex­ercise his options and close his contracts.

Along in December Chicago newspapers began to print stories about a vast body of eleven square miles of land some mysterious buyer was acquiring north of Waukegan. There was much speculation about this buyer. It was variously rumored that Standard Oil, McCormick Harvester, the North-Western Railroad, Chicago University, the Steel Trust, or some other big corporation or institution was inter­ested. Each guess brought out a denial from the guessed. No one--even in Zion-suspected that all this was the work of a little bald, tubby preacher who was being mobbed and reviled all over the city and its suburbs.

His "school of red herring" had smothered his trail.






“Oh, Herbie, I'm so happy," said Myra, one Saturday afternoon shortly before Christ­mas, when that young man appeared at his brother's South Side flat for a visit; “Ezra has writ­ten our resignation and sent it to Doctor Dowie. My goodness, but I'm glad!"

Long as he had dreaded this event, Herbert was stunned. He sat down, said nothing.

“Now I can read my Bible and pray again," con­tinued Myra. UI feel as if I'd waked up from a ter­rible nightmare. Ezra, poor dear, is all broken up, but I can see he feels relieved. This thing has been a dreadful load on his conscience for months. He'll soon be his own old happy self now."

“Hm!" said Herbert, with tight-closed lips.

“Oh, I know what you want to say," laughed Myra, ··so you needn't say it. I only hope it doesn't take too long for the Lord to open your eyes too. But, my goodness, I'm just not goin' to worry about that. I've laid it all before the Lord and I've told Him you're His child and that He'll have to take care of you, and I believe He will. I know you want to do His will and I'm goin' to trust to that and be happy."

Herbert smiled painfully.

“Yes," he said, "I remember it was that made you so confident when you were praying that I be led into Zion."


"Throw that up to me all you want to, Herbert; it's my punishment for putting my faith in a man instead of in God alone."

“I'm sorry, Myra. I didn't mean to be cruel. Well, if Ez has sent in his resignation, that settles it. There's no use my saying anything about it. Any plans for the future?"

"Not yet, Herbie. But I'm not worried about that, either. God will take care of us. He always has-and I trust Him more than ever, now that we've had the courage to do right. Ezra'll find something to do."

The next day, at Central Zion Tabernacle, Captain Erdman told Herbert the General Overseer wanted to see him.

"Ah, Herbert, my boy," said the great man, sadly, "I suppose you know this terrible thing your brother has done? I am deeply grieved by it, not so much on your brother's account-for we are better off without such foolish men-as on yours. His folly makes your position in Zion an uncomfortable one. You are a very different man from your brother or I would never have given you the high place you now hold. But I must know how you stand, Herbert. As you know, in order to protect Zion, I am obliged to expose liars and hypocrites who go out from among us, cowards who flee from the face of the foe. I can­not do that with your brother if you are to remain, but I cannot jeopardize God's work by withholding my hand from him unless I am absolutely certain of your loyalty. You see the difficulty of my position, do you not, Herbert?"

"Yes, General Overseer."




"Well, what do you want me to do?"

"I am willing to leave that with you, General Overseer, when I have told you exactly how I stand. To begin with, General Overseer, Ezra is not a liar, a hypocrite, or a coward. I think he is making a big mistake about this, but I know he's painfully con­scientious. His only trouble is that he is too much dis­turbed by little things and can't see the big ones. For my own part, I believe that Zion is God's work, and that He has called you to be the head of it. I want to stay in Zion and do what I can to help in that work. But I do not believe you are perfect-I do not expect you to be perfect, so I'm willing to overlook your im­perfections, as I know you overlook mine."

"And what," asked the preacher, sternly and men­acingly, "do you consider my imperfections?"

Herbert hesitated. His whole future hung on a few words-what should they be? “’Might's well be hung for a sheep's a lamb,' "he decided; "speak my mind." So he said, "You do not always tell the truth. You constantly exaggerate facts and figures about your work."

"No one," said Dr. Dowie, solemnly, "can exaggerate the wonderful work God is doing in Zion. What else?"

"You are unjust to those who displease you. You charge them, without evidence, with being liars, hypocrites, cowards, adulterers, and such like-con­demn them without a hearing."

"Zion's enemies deserve nothing from me. My business, under God, is to protect Zion, not those who would destroy her. Anything else?"



"You are extravagant with money intrusted to you for use in God's work. People give you money to build up Zion and spread Zion teaching, and you spend it on a luxurious private estate."

"Mrs. Dowie and I are and always have been the largest givers to Zion. You are too recent a member to know of our years of work and travel, with no home, no privacy, years when we poured everything we possessed, except just enough for board and clothes, into God's work. We have not complained. We did it all gladly. But Zion's work has now reached the point where I must have a retreat, where I can rest and commune with God and receive from Him new power for the far greater task He is laying upon me. My Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, was wont to go down to Bethany for such a rest and spiritual re­cuperation. Surely, Herbert, you do not begrudge me that?"

"It is not my place or my purpose to argue with you, General Overseer. I only tell you how these things look to me."

Dr. Dowie's eyes were eloquent, his mustache twitched. If Herbert had not felt sure of the con­trary, he would have sworn that his employer was pleased. He was puzzled, but waited calmly for what was to come. At last the great man spoke.

"You are right, Herbert, when you say I am not perfect. There has lived only one perfect man, Jesus, the Son of God. But you do not know my faults. I know what they are and I do not advertise them. But they are not those you mention. Do you go now and



bring Deacon Worcester. We have important work to do which must not be delayed."

Herbert was locked up for hours daily with Dea­con St. John Worcester, Phil Carter, and certain oth­ers, in a big room in the basement of Central Zion Tabernacle. Frequently the General Overseer was with them, especially at night-sometimes all night.

The purchase of farms was all but finished. Luther Nettus had said that he wouldn't sell his farm if of­fered enough to cover it with twenty-dollar gold pieces; but when his old neighbors and his brother sold, he had little heart to remain, so he too yielded.

In a "General Letter to Members and Friends of the Christian Catholic Church in Zion," published in "Leaves of Healing" early in December, the General Overseer told his followers that demand for elders and evangelists was greater than the supply. Groups of true Zion people in all lands were imploring him to send men and women to preach and teach the Full Gospel and pray the prayer of faith that saves the sick. He therefore called for a New Year's gift to Zion of one million dollars-in addition to the regu­lar tithes and offerings. Let every member send his share of this gift immediately.

In the midst of all this the departure of Ezra and Myra Renbrush made scarcely a ripple. True to his custom, the General Overseer refused to accept their resignations and "dismissed them from fellowship for cause." Colorless announcement of this act was pub­lished in "Leaves of Healing," but they were not publicly reviled, as all their predecessors had been.



Zion's atmosphere was tense as the year raced to its end. Three months of Holy War, with added Zion Seventy work, heavy burdens on choir and Guard, riots and excitements, had taken their toll. Nerves were on edge. Emotional control slipped easily. Sus­picion and credulity were freed from restraint. Many old members--even elders and evangelists-got out and were publicly denounced. But more new mem­bers flowed in.

Late hours, exposure, and crowded halls broke down the physical resistance of some of Zion's old stand-bys. They had colds, grippe, pneumonia. The General Overseer was inundated by requests for prayer. In some cases he went personally to the bed­sides of special favorites, laid hands on them and prayed. Elders and evangelists performed the rite for others. Some died. More recovered. Many healings were reported, not only among the sick in their Chi­cago homes, but among the chronic cases that thronged Zion Home from all over the world.

When he went into the dining-room one Decem­ber morning, Herbert felt as if he had entered a tomb. Its atmosphere was clammy. Stony, corpse-like faces hung over the tables. When a few of these turned toward him he saw that they looked out of dead eyes. The silence seemed to suffocate him. No one looked at him or greeted him--except by that ghastly look.

"What's up, Chris?" he whispered to Captain Erd­man.

"Deacon Jenkirk died last night of pneumonia," replied the captain in muffled tones.



Deacon Jenkirk! One of the happiest, most ardent Zion men in the whole Church. He had been healed some years before--his cancer, in a jar of alcohol, adorned the wall of Central Zion Tabernacle--and had managed the book-store for Zion Printing and Publishing House since his healing. Everybody in Zion knew and loved him-everybody admired the fine glow and sincerity of his faith.

Now that he was dead, grief was to be expected. But Herbert sensed something deeper than grief in the dining-room that morning. Looking about, he saw a beaten, whipped look on faces around him. This death was a defeat-a rout-for their side-for them. Added to grief and despair was fear. Where now was their boasted safety from “the pestilence that walketh in darkness"?

Granting all this, Herbert was still puzzled. There was another-a more stifling-quality in the atmos­phere.

What was it?

He learned at the hushed and hurried funeral services in Deacon Jenkirk's little flat that after­noon.

The General Overseer told the widow and friends that their loved one had died because of unconfessed and therefore unforgiven sin!

No one for whom the General Overseer prayed died except because of weak faith or unpurged guilt. Deacon Jenkirk was strong in the faith. Had God not honored his faith by healing him of cancer? And so Dr. Dowie had, so to speak, put the widow through the third degree and had discovered that the deacon



had yielded to importunity and given ten dollars to his old Church-the apostate Presbyterian!

Good Zion people confessed their sins to those they had wronged and to the General Overseer as soon as possible after they were committed-if they knew they had sinned. People who got sick began a search of heart and life. Any word or act even suspected of being sin was confessed.

John Harrow told Herbert next day that some death-bed confessions and post-mortem inquiries were paralyzing. One prominent and revered Zion man close to the General Overseer had told, in his dying moments, of a mistress maintained both before and after his marriage to a Zion girl.          '

Worse than death, worse than the fear of death, worse than defeat of faith, worse than loss of the loved one was dread of what death might reveal!

Thus illness and death added to the strain of those closing days of 1899.

But there was still another cause of excitement.

There were vague whispers about the All Night with God. No one in authority had said any-thing ­would say anything. No one else knew anything def­initely. But there were rumors. Something big! The General Overseer had something up his sleeve. Maybe a downtown hotel purchased for an additional Zion Home. Maybe a prophecy of the coming of Christ. Perhaps some great man coming into Zion. Or it might be plans for sending missionaries to China or India.

Strange, when many of them already had money invested in Zion City and had read in Chicago papers



about a big block of real estate assembled in Lake County, few of them guessed correctly. There was no general expectation of what actually happened. Dr. Dowie's "whole school of red herring" had been ef­fective, even with his own people.