Friday, February 13, 2009

A Few Nuts in The Family Tree

As I continue my research into my family tree I have found some really interesting people. Some I am directly descended from and others I share ancestors with. One nut in the family tree was an early-day Jim Bakker.

Mary Stallard was born in Virginia on November 13, 1862. She fell in love with Ben Purnell, a traveling preacher. She and Ben eloped, her family was against the marriage and sent her brother to bring the bride back home. She convinced her brother she would kill herself if she had to return home. So instead of going home she began her life beside Ben traveling town to town holding camp meetings.

In 1903, twenty three years into their marriage Ben created “The House of David.” The members believed that Ben was the voice of the seventh angel written of in Revelation. They began their “ministry” in Brian, Ohio, but were run off due to a law forbidding cults. They then went to Benton Harbor, Michigan, and began a colony that was known for its beauty and majesty.

Members were required to give all their worldly possessions to Ben, but also to become vegetarians, grow their hair and beards, abstain from tobacco, alcohol and even sex—including married couples. The members also had to work at building, farming or religious training. The community sold homemade jellies and jams.

Their self-sustained amusement park attracted over 200,000 a year during its hey-day. The community also sent out a baseball team, a basketball team, and a band.
The “House of David” grew quickly and at one time there were several thousand members in America, England, Canada, and Australia. But the roof began to fall in and by 1927 Ben had embezzled more than three million dollars and began another cult. Mary ran Ben off. The United States government declared it a monopoly . The holdings were broken up and the workers were to receive a salary. This resulted in a name change to “Mary’s House of David.”

The official line is that Ben Purnell died during this time and was buried in Michigan. However, family history tells that a gardener was buried in his coffin and that Ben died in Argentina.

This story caught my attention and I just had to check some of it out and even found an article about the cult in Time magazine from June 17, 1966. You might also want to click on the websites for “House of David” and “Mary's House of David.” They are very interesting reads. The information from the family’s perspective, and what enlightened me about this story, is titled "The Addingtons of Virginia" and was researched by two very thorough ladies—Nancy Clark Brown and Rhoda Roberson.


simplegifts3 said...

Wow! In my dim memory, on one of our family's trailer trips to see the country, we stayed at "The House of David." We were able to park our trailers there, and the three of us children were able to play in an arcade - lots of really fun games, they had there. I'll have to ask my mother where that was, but I am absolutely certain it was called "The House of David."

Mrs.RGS said...

How very interesting. No trickle down of the money though I suppose.

One of my direct grandfathers was part of the founding group of
Mormons. He was a part of the second group to move their families to Salt Lake -- he got as far as Iowa and settled there with other Mormons who felt the call to start a group there.

Mom always said there was a hanged horse thief in the family too but I've never found any evidence.

I'm looking forward to hearing what else you "dig up". It's lots or fun to play with your dead relatives.

Kim said...

SimpleGifts3- It probably is the same "House of David" I really am amazed when I can google a relative from the 1860's and the first link listed is my ancestor.

Mrs. RGS- No money flowed my way. But, these are not my direct ancestors. Also the ones who did have money had so many kids- like 17- that by the time it divided into so many generations there is nothing left to come to us. But, they have left me some great family stories.

Sharon said...

Wow! How very interesting!

Hope you're having a great week!

:0) Sharon