Alexander Dowies’ Dream
by William Schwager (article published in 1979)

Zion Historical Society was organized in order to preserve data and physical properties so that in the years to come, the people might appreciate their heritage in Zion. Zion is the result of the dream and work of John Alexander Dowie, a Scotch-born minister of the Gospel, whose travels led him to Australia, to America, and around the world. Dissatisfied with the denominal church of his day, and with a new grasp on Christian living, with the theme, “Salvation, Healing, and Holy Living,” and with God answering prayer on behalf of many who were chronically ill, he came to the United States on an itinerant preaching program. In 1893 he arrived in Chicago and built a little tabernacle outside the gates of the Columbia Exposition, at 63rd Street and Stony Island Avenue — just across the street from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Soon after the meetings started, a cousin of Buffalo Bill, Sadie Cody, who had been sick for some time, was brought to the services. She was prayed for and received immediate healing. Many others came in faith and were healed as Dr. Dowie laid his hands upon them and prayed. The attendance grew so that the group had to move to more spacious quarters. They rented a 3500 seat church at 16th and Michigan Avenue. Later the Chicago Auditorium was rented at a cost of $300 a service. A large office building at 12th and Michigan was leased at $25,000 a year and used as an office, headquarters, residence and school. This building still stands nearby the Illinois Central Depot, on the east side of the Avenue, and can be readily seen on the Boulvard. A school was started here. Several other homes were used as rest homes for those who came to be prayed for. It was soon evident that those who rallied around Dr. Dowie wanted a closer fellowship. Dr. Dowie had not dreamed of creating a new denomination, but as the people became interested in his teaching, they became dissatisfied with their own denominations, and asked that a church be formed. Many who went back to their own communities started cottage meetings, and little churches started to develop all over the world. Formal organization of the Christian Catholic Church was on February 22, 1896, in Chicago. Ministers were ordained, and churches were started in practically every major city and country, with missionaries going to China, South Africa, Switzerland, Germany, England, France, Scandinavia, Australia, Jamaica, Mexico and other places. Dr. Dowie printed a weekly publication, known as “Leaves of Healing.” This gave reports of sermons, testimonies and other points of interest to the fellowship. Dr. Dowie taught clean living, opposing the use of tobacco, swine’s flesh, drugs, alcohol and medical quackery. Because of this, he received the abuse of the medical profession, who claimed that he was operating a hospital without a license. With the assistance of some of the finest men of his day, Dr. Dowie searched for a place to establish the headquarters of the Church. They dreamed of a coming City, and looked for lands that could be purchased where restrictions could be put upon them, to develop a city for God's people. Options were put on land that is now the Blue Island area, but because the area could not be restricted as Dr. Dowie desired, it was abandoned. Upon hearing of a tract of land midway between Chicago and Milwaukee, Dr. Dowie and several of his supporters, dressed as itinerants, traveled to Waukegan where they hired rigs in which to survey the beatitiful rolling farm land six miles north. Finding the location ideal, they later took options on the land, and purchase was made with no opposition except from one farmer, who owned the tract which later became the Temple Site.
A capable city-planner was found by the name of Burton J. Ashley. A topographical survey was made and the land was laid out in subdivisions. Complete water, sewer, lighting and rapid transit systems were developed on the basis of an assumed population of 200,000. An industrial park was projected to the East of the North Western Railway tracks. Mr. Ashley had previously done capable work in Chicago on the Art Institute, the Columbia Exposition, and several other projects. His health had become impaired and he attended Dr. Dowie’s meetings along with his daughter. Both had wonderful healings and were spiritually blessed. His experience became valuable to the work of Zion, and he gave many hours freely to the enterprise. He became Zion City’s Engineer in April 1899. The Business Cabinet consisted of H. Worthington Judd, Secretary and General Manager; Daniel Sloan, Assistant General Manager; Charles Barnard, Cashier; William S. Peckham, Assistant Cashier; Samuel Ware Packard, Legal Counsel; and E.D. Wheelock, Purchasing Agent. Prior to joining Dr. Dowie, Mr. Judd had been a prosperous real estate agent in Chicago. His assistant, Mr. Sloan, had been the Department Secretary for the Y.M.C.A. in Chicago. He was an ordained minister and it was at his suggestion that the beautiful site of Zion had been discovered by these men. In the promotion of Zion (with the assistance of Shirley and Emest Williams, photographers) he visited many of the gatherings of the church in different cities, showing his views with the aid of a stereopticon. Samuel W. Packard, an attorney at law for more than thirty years in Chicago, with a high standing in his profession and of a bold, uncompromising Christian character, wanted to see the doctrines of Christianity worked out in a community in a practical way. The Bible states, “How beautiful it is to see brethren dwelling together in unity.” Such was his desire — to see this community working together not only for their own interests, but for the interests of Christ’s Kingdom on earth.

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