The House of David

INTRODUCTION

The House of David was a religious colony in my hometown of Benton Harbor, Michigan.


When I was a boy I was mesmerized by the magical, mysterious House of David.


My father grew up around the House of David, and he told me many stories about its past.


In high school I wrote a highly praised history of the House of David after spending hours reviewing microfiche from the local newspaper, the Herald Palladium, in the Benton Harbor library.


That paper is lost to time, and I've decided to write once more about the House of David.

KING BEN PURNELL
KING BEN PURNELL
ONE OF THE MANSIONS BUILT FOR KING BEN
ONE OF THE MANSIONS BUILT FOR KING BEN
HOUSE OF DAVID DIAMOND HOUSE
HOUSE OF DAVID DIAMOND HOUSE
HOUSE OF DAVID PAMPHLET
HOUSE OF DAVID PAMPHLET
ENTRANCE TO THE HOUSE OF DAVID
ENTRANCE TO THE HOUSE OF DAVID

KING BEN PURNELL


The "Israelite" House of David was a religious commune founded in Benton Harbor by "King Ben" Purnell, his wife Mary, and approximately 200 of their followers in 1903. They were affiliated with a Christian sect known as the "Flying Rollers." King Ben claimed to be the "Seventh Messenger" sent from God to save the world and also the younger brother of Jesus Christ.


To join, you had to hand over all earthly possessions to King Ben and vow to a life without meat, alcohol, tobacco, violence, shaving, haircuts, and sex—even with your wife. But King Ben could have sex with your wives. And he had to "purify" or deflower your daughters once they hit about fourteen.


King Ben amassed a fortune estimated to be in the vicinity of ten million dollars. It's rumored that he also buried millions of dollars that have never been found. He lived in magnificent mansions while his followers lived in minuscule cottages.


King Ben was brought up on morals charges in 1910, 1914, and 1922—and acquitted each time. In 1923, The Detroit Free Press ran a series of articles about his sexual peccadilloes with young girls, prompting the State of Michigan to file charges against him again. Going underground, literally, he went into hiding in the secret chambers he'd had built underneath the colony, but a stool pigeon ratted him out and he was arrested while in bed with several minor females.


In all, 13 girls came forward to testify against him. A sensational trial ensued, but it ended before a verdict could be reached; King Ben died, and the trial was over. Mummified and enclosed in a glass coffin, King Ben is ensconced in a place known only to his followers. They confidently predicted he would rise from the dead. But he never did.


As salacious as all that is, that is not the most amazing part of our story by any means. That would be the tale of the colony itself—split into two after his death.


After lawsuits flew, a settlement was reached by which the man who had been managing the affairs of the colony, Judge Dewhirst, took over the original House of David along with half its properties, while the wife of King Ben, Mary Purnell, started up the new "City of David" next door with the other half of the colony's holdings. The members could choose to go with either side, and they divided up up roughly 50-50.


HOUSE OF DAVID VIDEO

HOUSE OF DAVID


The House of David was completely self-sufficient.

By the 1930s, its then 1,000 members owned and operated vineyards, farms, a huge cold storage facility, extensive greenhouses, a dairy, stone quarries on their own island (High Island, MI), forests for timber, a foundry, factories, a machine shop, a printing press, a tannery, a woodshop, a school, a hospital, and of all things: an Oldsmobile dealership.

They completed their self-sufficiency by generating their very own electricity.

Their agricultural prowess made the Benton Harbor Fruit Market the largest in the world. But none of this is what the House of David was famous for.

I haven't gotten to that yet.

HOUSE OF DAVID COLD STORAGE WAS THE LARGEST BUILDING IN BENTON HARBOR AND ST JOSEPH
HOUSE OF DAVID COLD STORAGE WAS THE LARGEST BUILDING IN BENTON HARBOR AND ST JOSEPH
HOUSE OF DAVID OLDSMOBILE DEALERSHIP DOWNTOWN BENTON HARBOR
HOUSE OF DAVID OLDSMOBILE DEALERSHIP DOWNTOWN BENTON HARBOR
HOUSE OF DAVID ZOO HAD LIONS AND CHEETAHS!
HOUSE OF DAVID ZOO HAD LIONS AND CHEETAHS!
HOUSE OF DAVID GRANDE VISTA MOTOR LODGE AND NIGHTCLUB
HOUSE OF DAVID GRANDE VISTA MOTOR LODGE AND NIGHTCLUB

THE HOUSE OF DAVID

The House of David had a beautiful motor lodge with a famous nightclub frequented by such celebrities as Clarence Darrow and George Raft. It was home to one of the world's first vegetarian restaurants, which proved extremely popular. Its baseball team toured the country and played in exhibition games against major league teams, such as the Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, and St. Louis Cardinals. It also had a basketball team that barnstormed the nation, even hosting the Harlem Globetrotters. These teams were a sensation as people flocked to see the long haired, bearded wonders. Joe Louis and Jack Dempsey (for the heavyweight title) boxed at the House of David. The baseball team hired ringers, whom they put in fake beards and wigs. Among them were Babe Ruth, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown, and Satchel Paige. Yes, that Satchel Paige. The House of David fielded the first baseball team to play against Negro league teams, and it was the first team to roster a black player. They also hired and employed the first professional female baseball player in history to play on their team.

The House of David was most well known for its amusement park, The Springs of Eden, which attracted 500,000 visitors per year during its heyday. The park featured a world-famous aviary and a zoo, with lions and tigers and bears (OH MY!). They built the first miniature trains, on which visitors could take a tour through the facilities. Especially popular with tourists was the gift shop, known for its hand-crafted statues, leather goods, arts and crafts. Walt Disney was a visitor at The Springs of Eden, and while there purchased one of their trains. It became a prototype for the future Disneyland. The Springs of Eden finally closed in the 1970s. I visited the park many times.


HOUSE OF DAVID BASEBALL TEAM
HOUSE OF DAVID BASEBALL TEAM
HOUSE OF DAVID BASEBALL PARK
HOUSE OF DAVID BASEBALL PARK
MANNA WOODWORTH AS I KNEW HIM
MANNA WOODWORTH AS I KNEW HIM

WHITE SUMMER AT THE HOUSE OF DAVID

My father often took me to concerts at the House of David Beer Gardens. Top big bands used to play there, such as those of Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. The House of David had its own famous blues and jazz bands that played the national vaudeville circuit. Their artisans even made beautiful musical instruments. My own band, White Summer, was the first rock band to ever play at the House of David, in 1971. And we were the last band of any kind to play there, in 1987. In regard to the latter, to get permission to spruce up the long closed Beer Gardens and play there, my friend Gary Allison, a descendant of a House of David member, arranged for me to be interviewed by the famous orchestra leader, Manna Woodworth. He had to like me first. And he did.

HOUSE OF DAVID BEARS
HOUSE OF DAVID BEARS
HOUSE OF DAVID FOUNTAIN
HOUSE OF DAVID FOUNTAIN
THE HOUSE OF DAVID
THE HOUSE OF DAVID
THE TRAIN AT THE HOUSE OF DAVID
THE TRAIN AT THE HOUSE OF DAVID
MARY'S HOTEL IN DOWNTOWN BENTON HARBOR
MARY'S HOTEL IN DOWNTOWN BENTON HARBOR
HOUSE OF DAVID LADIES BAND
HOUSE OF DAVID LADIES BAND
THE FIRST AUTOMATIC PINSETTING BOWLING ALLEY IN THE WORLD
THE FIRST AUTOMATIC PINSETTING BOWLING ALLEY IN THE WORLD
LATER EDITION OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID TRAIN
LATER EDITION OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID TRAIN
THE TRAIN AT THE HOUSE OF DAVID
THE TRAIN AT THE HOUSE OF DAVID
HOUSE OF DAVID RESTAURANT
HOUSE OF DAVID RESTAURANT
RACING CARS BUILT BY MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID
RACING CARS BUILT BY MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID

HOUSE OF DAVID

Now, some remarkable firsts. House of David members invented the automatic pinsetter for their bowling alleys in 1910. They played the first ever night baseball game in 1930. They invented the veggie burger. They invented the sugar waffle ice cream cone. They were the first to bottle and sell mineral water in the United States. They operated the first cruise ships (on Lake Michigan).

Future House of David members, the Baushke Brothers, built the first American automobile in Benton Harbor in 1894.

It is mostly all gone now. There may be a handful of ancient members left. I must say that they were known to be extremely long-lived. Sadly, the celibacy clause meant that they didn't have children, and so the House of David died as its members died. Are you listening America, Europe, and Japan?

One of the few things they could not make for themselves was auto parts. My family was in that business for generations and while working in the family auto parts store, I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with several members of the House of David. They were sincere, honorable chaps.

HOUSE OF DAVID COTTAGE
HOUSE OF DAVID COTTAGE
BABE RUTH WITHOUT HIS HOUSE OF DAVID WIG ON
BABE RUTH WITHOUT HIS HOUSE OF DAVID WIG ON
CONCERT AT THE BEER GARDENS
CONCERT AT THE BEER GARDENS
FUTURE MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID BUILT THE FIRST AUTOMOBILE
FUTURE MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID BUILT THE FIRST AUTOMOBILE
HOUSE OF DAVID DAIRY FARM
HOUSE OF DAVID DAIRY FARM
THE STONE HOUSE AT THE HOUSE OF DAVID
THE STONE HOUSE AT THE HOUSE OF DAVID
NEWSPAPER ADVERTISEMENT FOR MY BAND WHITE SUMMER APPEARING IN CONCERT AT THE HOUSE OF DAVID BEER GARDENS WITH BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS (5500 ATTENDED)
NEWSPAPER ADVERTISEMENT FOR MY BAND WHITE SUMMER APPEARING IN CONCERT AT THE HOUSE OF DAVID BEER GARDENS WITH BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS (5500 ATTENDED)

IN CLOSING


One last sidebar: King Ben's grandson, David, murdered my gorgeous babysitter, Janet Uland, in 1971 with a golf club after she refused his sexual advances. As his defense, he claimed that the ghost of his grandfather told him to do it. He lived out his life in prison, dying in 2007. I was interrogated by the police for the crime because David Purnell had a similar car to mine, a Shelby GT. I was sixteen years old.


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Comments 232 comments

Rex T Nelson 3 months ago

It is too bad that you are such an idiot that you have to call this man by the hyped up media name that was given to him during the trial. His name was BROTHER BENJAMIN PURNELL not that insane name of King Ben. It is too bad that in all of your research that you did that you never came across the decency to call him by his given and proper name. I think that we should start calling you POTTY MOUTH James A Watkins. That fits you a whole lot better then anything else that I could come up with. Maybe when you get older you will get to know the proper respect for people and their proper given name.


Lisa 11 months ago

Did Purnell or others make any WW2 era prophecies regarding Roosevelt leading the world into war, or Hitler coming to a mysterious end?


senlow10 17 months ago

I had family members that moved there in 1906 and resided there until 1920. A couple went back there in the late 1950x, I think but were there for sure in the 1980s. I have copies of some pictures. A great aunt played trombone in the women band! My grandaunt was on the Rising Sun when it sunk. She reported they lived on High Island. My mother was close with her cousins, Anna Lucretia (Lewis ) Martin's sons. I grew up hearing about the House of David. Funny, I never heard anything about the rumors surrounding the immorality of Ben and find it very curious that Anna would return.


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James A Watkins 2 years ago from Chicago Author

Thank you very much for your fascinating comments. I enjoy hearing your perspective. The whole thing was a bit eerie all right. I appreciate the feedback.


Anna Knapp Vogt 2 years ago

I knew of Janet Uland who was murdered by David Purnell and I attended most of the trial. I never heard anything in the trial about David saying his Grandfather told him to do this. The defense brought out that David had been mentally abused by his ex-wife and that she and her new boyfriend even asked him to be in their wedding. He had been devastated at her divorcing him. David's father testified from a wheelchair and stated he saw King Ben (his father or grandfather I don't remember) but he said he shrunk down to the size of about 12 inches or something ridiculous like that. It was really errie.

I enjoyed many ice cream comes at that place and concerts, the train rides etc. But we must rememer, this was a religious cult. The Benton Harbor Library a few years ago opened up a room where they opened up all the transcripts from King Ben's trial for people to read. It was interesting, but also creepy. Things went on there that were unspeakable, and while I knew a man who grew up there that said if it wasn't for the House of David he wouldn't have learned his tool and die trade, these cults can be very dangerous.


fozziebear 2 years ago

I was born in Benton Harbor in the 40's at Mercy Hospital. I grew up in St. Joseph in the 50's & 60's. I knew the House of David well. Went to the zoo, rode trains and had a ball. My father was a Refrigeration man, and him and I worked on the refrigerators there for years! He used to ask the people in charge when ole Ben was coming back. They would always say he was soon. David Purnell was a friend of mine, and we went to school together. He lived in South St.Joe off of Lincoln Ave.I lived in South St. Joe also. He had a bit of a temper, and knocked down one of our friends once when we were walking somewhere because he did not like what he said. I was SHOCKED when they picked him up for murder of that poor girl, and could not believe it! I remember him saying that his Grandfather told him to do it. All a bunch of BS! I think he went to Jackson Prison. Never knew what happened to him until I read an article some time back. Years ago, the House of David was a Great Empire. My mother would take me every week to the Dairy in Benton Harbor for milk and Butter milk. It was quite a place back then!Some good memories, except for David!


Carl Payne 3 years ago

James, I'm so sorry that you had to write this article without properly looking into the real history of the House of David. First of all there was never a "King Ben". Members never referred to Brother Benjamin as "King Ben". Although when you joined the colony, you would give your belonging over to the church and live communally, you did not give you belongings to "King Ben". Also Brother Benjamin never had sex with the wives of other members and the purifying of virgins is absolutely absurd. Please take some time to look further into our history and you will see all these things to be false. I was a member of the City of David and my family has been a part of the City of David since 1935.


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Solaras 3 years ago

Thoroughly enjoyed learning about the House of David. I had no idea. Thanks for sharing - shared to my friends at FB!


Drive By Quipper profile image

Drive By Quipper 3 years ago from Wrong Side of Town

Give mr your money and your wife . . . I'll lead you to salvation!


Karen VanDerveer Pullen 3 years ago

I remember this place at the end of its hey-day. As a child we ate spaghetti with mock meatballs here, played in that fabulous penny arcade, and rode the train through the park. I still remember the sound of the train's whistle as it echoed through the ravine. They also had ponies for merry go round rides. They were kept at the corner of Empire and M139, where my Mom would let me get out of the car to pet them. I was at that Blood, Sweat and Tears concert, (my Dad owned Fanta-C-Records, where the tickets were sold) and I remember David Clayton Thomas getting mad at the hecklers in the crowd (white jump suits were OUT at the time, especially if you were chubby!) and walking off stage for a bit. This, however, was in 1977, because I was 15 or 16 then. I have walked the beaches of High Island (Grandpa was born and raised on neighboring Beaver Island) and saw the ruins from the community that once was. An absolutely fascinating piece of Michigan's history!


mikellmikell 3 years ago

Wow great to see so much mis information.

No King Ben he died in 1926 before they really took off

Alcohol Ok but not getting drunk

Smoking OK but only for the baseball team or band members

No sex with others wives

It was all about getting their money during the depression


Becky 3 years ago

Enjoyed reading this. My mother grew up in the City of Mary created by Mary after the death of Benjamin. I have recently learned that my great grandmother died there after suffering for days without medical attention or medicine as they did not allow it. It is recorded that her screams of agony could be heard for days. This disturbs me to no end. Just wanted to tell you. Thanks.


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James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

cam8510— Cool! I was up there two years ago when I did the Lake Michigan Circle Tour for the first time. I wrote a Hub about the trip, in fact:

https://wanderwisdom.com/travel-destinations/Lake-...


cam8510 profile image

cam8510 4 years ago from Columbus, Georgia until the end of November 2016.

James, yes, I am from Leelanau County near Traverse City.


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James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

cam8510— Hello there! You are quite welcome, my new friend. Thank you for posting such kind compliments on my work.

I am glad you notified me of your new Hub—"Rising Sun: Story of a Great Lakes Shipwreck"

I am not aware of the story surrounding that, no. I will come by soon and read it. I am sure it is fascinating.

I certainly appreciate you sharing this Hub with your friends. And I am glad to see you hit the 'voted up' button for me too. :)

James

ps Are you a Michigander, as I am?


cam8510 profile image

cam8510 4 years ago from Columbus, Georgia until the end of November 2016.

James, this is a wonderful article. Thanks for writing it. Today I published a hub called Rising Sun: Story of a Great Lakes Shipwreck. I'm sure you are already aware that the ship was owned by The House of David and was carrying member from High Island to Benton Harbor when it ran into trouble. I don't mean to promote my hubs, but you might be interested in reading it. Just visit my profile page and you will see the hub title. Thanks again. voted up and shared.


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James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

Chris Siriano!

What a pleasant surprise! Thank you for visiting and saying hello. You probably know that I had link from here to www.houseofdavidmuseum.org until a few months ago when I was notified that it was a "broken link." As soon as it is up and running let me know and I will add a little something about the museum as well as a link to your website at the end of this Hub.

It is great to hear from you, man. I'm not sure if you remember me; maybe from the White Summer band. We played at the House of David many times in the 1970s. We were the last band to ever play at the Beer Gardens.

Jim


Chris Siriano 4 years ago

GREAT job on doing such indepth research on this fascinating subject!!! The House of David Museum website will be up and running again by the end of this month! We had quite a number of updates and improvements we've made over the past few months, so our webmaster had taken it offline until it was finished! Look for www.houseofdavidmuseum.organd you'll love the new look!! And keep writing these great stories!!!


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James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

Old Albion— Hello Graham! Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I am so glad that you liked it. I very much appreciate your compliments. Welcome to the HubPages Community!

James


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James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

Tom Meldrim— I would like to see that. Let me know if you find a link to it so I can see you. The House of David Museum website I had linked from my Hub is "suspended." :(


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James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

Karen Syed— I am well pleased that you enjoyed my article and the pictures therein. Thank you very much for taking the time to come by and read my work. I appreciate your excellent remarks.

I am afraid that I have no genealogical information about the members of the House of David. You might try the House of David Museum.


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old albion 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

Hi James. Another great hub. I had never heard of The house of David. So informative and well presented. voted up.

Graham.


Tom Meldrim 4 years ago

James;

The link I was referring to that was on your site was the clip from the recent documentary. I was interviewed in the documentary.


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James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

Tom Meldrim— I find it amazing that you know the guy who ran the Back Door all those years ago. It's a Small World after all.

The link I had to the House of David Museum quit working so I deleted it. Not sure what was wrong there.

I would love to see you on some old film footage at the House of David. Do you have it?

I did go over and read your articles on trains and musical traditions. Well done! :D

James


Karen Syed 4 years ago

I have been looking into the House of David and this is by far one of the most informative sites on the subject. It has been rumored in my family that at some point I had relatives who were members of the HoD community. I am doing genealogical research on my history, but cannot seem to find any records of who actually belonged on the community.

I really did enjoy all of the info and images.


Tom Meldrim 4 years ago

Ted Kistler, who ran the Back Door has been owner manager of the New Vic Theater in Kalamazoo for over thirty years. They do a folk music retrospective there every couple of years.

Didn't you have a link to a clip of the documentary on your site before? I played it the last time on the site and saw myself on it.

I have a couple of articles on the trains and the musical traditions on the official HofD web site at israelitehouseofdavid.com.


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James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

Tom Meldrim— Thank you for your further correspondence. Are you a professor at WMU? I used to play a lot of frat parties up there back in the day. And we played many times at the Back Door and Coral Gables and Big Daddys.

I saw your New Town Cryers website. Very nice. I tried to listen to the music but it didn't work. You might want to check the links. I see there that you played at another of my old haunts—Fidelman's Resort in South Haven. We performed there many times, too.

I have never met anyone who knows as much about the House of David as you do. Maybe you should write a book about it. I do not know if you are aware of it but a documentary has recently been filmed about the HOD. Here are links to news about it and an accompanying new book:

http://www.houseofdavidmuseum.org/Documentary.html

http://lakemagazine.com/magazine/article.asp?artic...

http://www.bluestarhighway.com/evt/2010/08/compell...

The information you provided about Jewish tourists at Eden Springs is fascinating. Thank you for sharing that illuminating stuff.

I have never heard of the Idlewild Resort. I just read up on it and it is quite interesting.

I very much appreciate your remarkable remarks.

James


Tom Meldrim 4 years ago

The first time I appeared on the HofD stage was at about 5 yrs old then later several times in a folk group called The Town Cryers who performed regularly at many resorts in SW Michigan and Northern Indiana in the 60’s and early 70’s.

In your picture of the Shiloh communal building (with the central round tower) - the second floor windows in the left corner tower I believe to be the apartment originally occupied by Benjamin and Mary when the building was finish in about 1908. I would assume they resided there until the move to Diamond House several years later. I was told this by a member years ago and have seen myself the special HofD religious iconography carved into the woodwork there which that is not present in other apartments.

The apartment is small – just a couple of rooms like the other apartments. As a communal society members spent most of their time elsewhere i.e. the communal parlor on the first floor, communal kitchens and dining rooms in the basement, business office suite in the Cash House Annex or in other parts of the colony.

In regard to other entertainment facilities I can provide you with a download link to pictures of the Australian Colony, the McAllen Texas resort and also the Buena Vista motel and nightclub complex they operated in nearby Stevensville closer to Lake Michigan.

I do not know of any other pictures from the Australia Colony other than those I donated to the archives at the Benton Harbor Public Library some years ago or those still in my possession. Many people are aware that earlier Christian Israelite Churches from which the House of David drew many members were located in Australia but few know that the House of David also had a colony of its own there.

A few thoughts on the early days of Eden Springs –

In the old days tourists came by the thousands to the twin cities from Chicago and other metropolitan areas. Many tourists – especially Jewish tourists, came on lake steamers to the municipal docks, hopped a Britain Ave. city trolley to the House of David, boarded the miniature trains at the north depot and rode them around to the south depot, then rented a room at the park hotel or one of the cabins for a week or two. They could eat their meals at the park restaurant and take advantage of the many entertainments in the park including riding the trains, bowling, boating, swimming and diving, posing for pictures, visiting the zoo and greenhouse, buying souvenirs, consuming ice cream and confectionaries, as well as watching sporting events, early moving pictures, various musical performances and vaudeville acts. Guests could also imbibe.

Tourism was a big industry in that neighborhood going back to the 1800’s it was a popular vacation destination for urban Jews. When the Eden Springs Park first opened there were still numerous boarding houses within walking distance the catered to Jewish tourists and many of them also spent a lot of time in the park and ate their meals in the vegetarian restaurant there. In later years the City of David also catered to a primarily Jewish tourist clientele with kosher food, a synagogue and the kosher hospital.

I imagine that the early Eden Springs Park played a role for Jewish guests similar to that played for African Americans years later by the Idlewild Resort further north: it was a place where people who were often discriminated against could escape racial/cultural tensions. The neighborhood’s historic Jewish resort tradition, the affinity and sympathy of the accommodating Christian Israelites to Jewish history and traditions and even the physical resemblance of colony members to Hasidic Jews all contributed to an atmosphere where Jewish tourists could relax and enjoy themselves.

Many of the “facts” about the House of David today are hard to substantiate. Much of it sprang from an oral tradition whose early purveyors are no longer available. Information has been lost, changed or invented in the process. Like the bible once things finally get written down they are assumed to be facts. Among these are many I have not myself seen hard evidence to support including: the Disney connection; invention of the sugar cone; the banishment of members to High Island; HofD Vaudeville Band recordings. I had relatives on both sides of the sexual accusations in the 20s and 30s but no proof exists that any of it took place – much heat but little light.

I am currently studying the new 1940 census raw data release and have already identified the pertinent House and City of David member records which should keep me entertained for a while.

Good luck with the work on your book


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James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

Tom Meldrim— Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I must say, you are the most learned man about House of David history from which I have heard. I appreciate your thoughtful and insightful commentary. And I apologize for not responding sooner; I have been away from HubPages for a week working on my first book.

I am well pleased that you enjoyed my Hub. I am amazed that you played on the House of David stage as well. What was the name of your group? I might have seen you there.

Your reflections on the communal buildings at the House of David compound are fascinating and illuminating. I had no idea that "The small cottages were originally built for tourists." I had friends who lived in those in the early 1980s.

I do not recall where I got the information about the High Island stone quarry. I got all my information from the internet, where I found maybe a dozen articles about the House of David, including a few old newspaper articles, and from conversations with my father, who was quite a House of David buff.

I will make the correction on the photograph I misidentified as Judge Dewhurst. It was good of you to educate me on that score, too.

I did know the colony had a strong connection with Australia but the McAllen, Texas part is news to me.

I do not have any particular information about a House of David hospital.

The story of Walt Disney buying one of the trains is mentioned on quite a few websites. I cannot substantiate it.

Your point about longevity is well taken. I had not thought of that angle. I learned much from your remarks. Thanks again for contributing to my knowledge and that of my other readers.

James


Tom Meldrim 4 years ago

I enjoyed your article very much. I too played on the House of David stage several times but in the 60’s. Too bad there isn’t a forum for folk who want to discuss HofD history, etc.

A few reflections:

- The large communal buildings at the House of David compound – The Ark Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Shiloh and the Diamond House were just that – communal buildings. At no time in the history of the colony did Benjamin and Mary have exclusive use of any of these buildings – they just had apartments like everyone else. In the case of their last residence, Diamond House, they did occupy most of a wing but in all cases other members of the colony co-occupied buildings with them. The small cottages were originally built for tourists although members did live in them in the winter months. In later years after Ben’s death and Mary’s exit members did live in them year around as did renters. The same was, and still is true at the City of David.

- Regarding House of David business – To my knowledge High Island was used for logging and farming. That it was used as a stone quarry by the House of David is news to me. I know that there was a promontory in the West middle of the island but have never seen any pictures of stone outcrops. I believe the promontory was a dune. Did you recall where you got that information? Also Judge Dewhurst was never overweight. The picture of the interior of the cold storage plant depicts his son Tom Dewhurst who was heavy set. Tom was one of the baseball players and later the manager of the cold storage plant. After all the original colony governing pillars were dead he was general manager for many years. The House of David also operated a resort in McCallen, TX and had an auxiliary colony in Australia that had, among other things a big equestrian riding academy and a shopping center (I have pictures if you are interested). While the House of David did have a dental office I don’t recall that they ran a hospital. For a short time the City of David did maintain a kosher hospital as it's clientele was mostly jewish. I would be interested in what you might have on a House of David hospital. The mineral water from the Springs in the valley were originally bottled by the Eastman Springs company who operated a resort in the 1800’s from which both Eden Springs and the City of David were later created. I have seen no evidence that it was the first bottling operation in the country. The most famous springs ended up on City of David property and I have seen direct evidence of a bottled water operation there. I have not seen evidence of like operation at the House of David.

- Regarding the miniature trains - I have never been able to substantiate the story about Walt Disney purchasing one of the House of David trains. Of the older Cagney style engines that were sold off after the new prairie style engines were built in the 1940s I was able to track down a couple that were broken up for parts that were incorporated into several 12” gauge engines at the St. Louis Train club and at least one that ended up hauling apples at a large fruit farm. The train that was exhibited at the HofD museum for several years was claimed to be one of the originals but I never saw supporting evidence. The Cagney Engine works made thousands of these engines in the 1800s and early 1900s. The Cagney style engine currently being used on the new south track at Eden Springs is the same model/vintage as the original one the House of David bought at the St. Louis World’s Fair and, I was told, also came from the fair. If you know of any hard evidence about the Disney story I would love to know. I do know the Walt was a park train nut and had an extensive park train system at his home, 12” gauge - not 15” gauge like the House of David system.

- Longevity – years ago I manually loaded the original hand written 1910 and 1920 census information into a database along with cemetery and death records on House of David members. Although they were vegetarians and lead healthy lives there is no evidence that they lived longer than the general population. It only seems so because most people are only familiar with the last remaining members which, of course, were long lived.


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James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

editorsupremo-- Yea, King Ben was very good at taking care of King Ben. :-)

I am glad you enjoyed my Hub and appreciated the pictures.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my article. I look forward to reading your writings, which I will do ASAP.

James


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editorsupremo 4 years ago from London, England

Very interesting hub. I had not heard of this sect before reading your hub. King Ben was a very clever man by all accounts as he made sure he satisfied his sexual appetite to the detriment of his followers. But how could they be so fooled by him? Amazing pics!


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James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

stars439— Happy New Year!

Thank you for visiting my Hub. I appreciate you recognizing how interesting the pictures are. I am thankful for your compliments, my friend. You always uplift my spirit with your words of encouragement.

God Bless You!


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stars439 4 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

A wonderful hub, and so many fantastic pictures of interesting people of the past. Quite and education as is all your work. Impressive as usual, and awesome. God Bless You Brother, and wishing you, and your family a wonderful 2012.


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

djhsdhj— Thank you! Thank you very much. :)


djhsdhj 5 years ago

i'm 9 what is this?


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Ask_DJ_Lyons— You are quite welcome, young lady. :)

Thank you very much for the kind comments and the voted up! I do appreciate it.

James


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Ask_DJ_Lyons 5 years ago from Mosheim, Tennessee

This was a fascinating hub, James. The pictures and videos really enhanced it. Thank you for you sharing! I voted this up.

Best wishes,

Debbie aka DJ Lyons


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Hyphenbird— Thank you very much for reading my articles. I appreciate your thoughtful remarks, too.

I have long felt that the story of The House of David is utterly fascinating. It is strange and perhaps somewhat sinister but at the same time they were incredibly successful at being self-sufficient.

Yes, people always have been susceptible to crazy cults and they still are. I mean, look at Jonestown or the Heaven's Gate Cult.

I am glad you enjoyed the pictures. I have very fond memories of this place from growing up near it as a boy. It was magical then.


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Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

I am forever amazed how people just give their lives and families over to an obvious egomaniac. I had no knowledge of these people or this cult. They built a virtual kingdom. And to think people still fall for these evil cults today makes me very sad. The desire for a spiritual live opens one up to Satan the devil if one does not know the truth. Wow, just wow! You have written a marvelous Hub here, informational and educational. I was saddened about your babysitter. The pictures were a great addition and made the entire account come to life.


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Molly Currey— You are quite welcome. Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I really appreciate your gracious compliments.

I agree with you that there was an incredible and mysterious ambiance about the House of David Park and Beer Gardens. My rock and roll band, White Summer, was the last group to ever play on the stage at the Beer Gardens.

I met quite a few of the members of the House of David over the years. A couple of them used to come down to my family's business, Rex Auto Parts, to buy automotive parts—one of the very few things they could not manufacture themselves.

I have heard that some folks are trying to revive the place. I drove through the grounds this summer to take a look.


molly Currey 5 years ago

Such a wonderful article James, thank you for bringing back so many memories of my childhood. I grew up not a mile from the House of David and the fun of going to the park on Wednesday amateur nite in the beer garden were memories I'll never forget. When the circus came to town, they put up their tents in the HofD ball park . There was an ambiance about the place...train rides through dark lush woods and exciting things to see and do. What great times those were. Visited recently to see they are trying to revive interest in the place and hope they are successful. Thanks for a very nostalgic read.


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Carolyn— Yes, I surely agree with you. Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I appreciate your comments. :)


Carolyn 5 years ago

Ben was indeed a bad, but rich, businessman. The poor children!


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

betty— Hello! You are welcome. Thank you for visiting my Hub and sharing your interesting comments. I do not have such a list. I would recommend contacting the House of David Museum:

http://www.houseofdavidmuseum.org/


betty 5 years ago

Hi, James. I wanted to tell you that my great grandmother was said to be a member of this church. I just yesterday found out that she was supposedly a member and wondered if you have a list of the congregation. Appreciate any information and thanks for the article.


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

fahsion— Thank you!! Thank you very much! :D


fashion 5 years ago

Interesting hub.Really enjoyed it.


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

quester.ltd— You are welcome. I appreciate the kind compliment.

Yes, the colony did do well and they were self-sufficient. I am glad you enjoyed the story. Thank you very much for taking the time to read it.

j


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quester.ltd 5 years ago

I have to agree with DeBorrah K. Ogans - however, the group after k. David seems to have done quite well for themselves - too bad they did not have children.

You told a great story and I thank you

q


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

gina— Really!? You saw us jamming! Awesome. There is a little box on this page (upper right) where you can "contact me" (send me an email it means). I would like to know your full name or who you hung out with so I can see if I remember you. How did you find this article?

By the way: thank you very much for your gracious note.


gina 5 years ago

wow...great storyteller! i have read alot about house of david and this was quite surely one of the best and informative reads!! thank you so much! and...i remember hearing your band play at the sweet cherry resort when i was younger,rock on!!


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

RichardCMckeown— Thank you for saying so. And you are welcome.


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RichardCMckeown 5 years ago

I like the article. Thanks for sharing.


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Stan Faryna— I have bookmarked your page and I will come over during a quiet time to read it and share my thoughts with you about it. I made myself a note to do so as I am forgetful in my old age. Thanks for the link.

I am gratified to read your comments about my article. You perceive it to be exactly what I was shooting for and I thank you for letting me know I hit the mark. It is a mixed message, to be sure. I appreciate the visit and your kind compliments.


Stan Faryna 5 years ago

What a fascinating account of an American cult. Normally, I don't like a mixed message. The moral paradox of evil and prosperity, wonder and horror, and, yes- perhaps also, envy and contempt. But you've written this well and, strangely, without a moral or emotion. Creepy and yet sublime in cool, James...

I'd like to share my novel on the end times with you. I'm working on it, but the sketch starts here: http://wp.me/pbg0R-98


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Laura Minne— You are quite welcome. The House of David is a most interesting subject for both of us, and for many others I see.

I am not aware of King Ben actually killing anybody. I hope that was not the case. I am not familiar with the video you mentioned. I'll have to look that up.

I will look for your book. I would like to read it. Thank you for writing to me. I appreciate your insightful comments.


Laura Minne 5 years ago

Thank you for this article..I can't seem to get enough information on the HOD. My great great grandmother lived with her son Frank (artist) at the HOD, giving up the family fortune. Looking at the HOD Serenadars Video I gasped because one of the pictures shown as part of a poster was the same photograph of a women that I have had for years and did not know who it was. It may be my great great aunt who i was told was killed by King Ben. There is no record of her name though in the Berrien County.

I am just finishing Eden Springs--fictional account with some non fiction included.

So thank you again for writing this.


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

AnnCee— Thank you for taking the time to read my Hub. I appreciate your comment. My, what blue eyes you have!


AnnCee profile image

AnnCee 5 years ago from United States

Wow, fascinating. Never had heard of this at all!


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

scouty— You are surely welcome. It was my pleasure to write about The House of David. Great anticipation is right! You took me back and I felt that memory. A mysterious place run by mysterious people. What a treasure!

I am so glad you found my article and let me know you enjoyed it. As a writer, this is an ultimate joy for me.


scouty 5 years ago

Thank you for doing this story! I have only vague, but warm memories of the House of David from the early and mid sixties when I was 5+ years old. We would drive from the Chicago area in the summer to enjoy the park. I remember the walk up the wide ramp with great anticipation, the strange men with long hair who operated the place, the train ride and the old go-karts that I fell asleep driving as I sat in my Dad's lap while steering.


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Writing_Wine— This story is not well known to those outside my home area. Interesting, though, isn't it?

Thank you for the accocades. Makes a man feel good. :D

I look forward to reading your writings. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community!


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Writing_Wine 5 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

Wow! A piece of US History that I was completely unaware of, told from an insiders insight. Fantastic hub. Fabulous read! Glad I stumbled across you! Can't wait to read more of your work.


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Hello "ModelT" aka GreatGrandma Miller! My mother's maiden name is Miller. Her daddy's name was Grover.

I am so glad you liked my article (Hub). Your post is fascinating indeed. I especially liked the cablegram you provided the link for. Extraordinary!

The baseball players and Kalabarians were very interesting too. Thank you for all of that.

I don't know where Mary is buried but could more than likely find out. I was just up there last weekend and drove through and around the House of David and City of David.

I am well pleased that you found my Hub. Thanks again for the correspodence and you are quite welcome!

james


ModelT 5 years ago

Dear James---What they all said!! ( So sorry about Janet )

I was squealing like a little girl when your Hub came up on my Google Image search for the HOD (#2)

It was my 3rd serendipitious squeal since a week ago, when I was roaming “Rootsweb World Connect“ looking for dead people to play with and I finally found more info on my

GreatGrandfather's older brother.

WILLIAM GEORGE BULLEY

Birth: 1832 in London England

Christening: 23 Jan 1833 St, Leonard's Shoreditch Middlesex England

Father: JOHN BULLEY

Mother: JANE SUSANNAH SUMMERFIELD

This was all I knew…but thanks to “peggsun“ I discovered he had immigrated to Australia and then led 15 members of his family to the HOD at Benton MI in 1905!!!! (He had 8 children so I guess he’d “been there/done that” so what’s a little celibacy!)

Cablegram Oct 3 1904 http://www.adkinandadkin.com/?page=HODI&inset=5

WHO KNEW!! His parents John and Jane S Bulley are buried in ABNEY PARK http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abney_Park_Cemetery

in London Eng. the “non-conformist Cemetery….but William Bulley took non-conformistism to new heights.

A HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN ISREALITE CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA

http://www.cichurch.asn.au/publications/lr31supp.p...

pages 13, 14, 15, 16 (Geelong, Melbourne, Collingwood, Fitzroy)

Colony members, William George Bulley's sons;

John http://www.peppergame.com/players/PlayerInfo.asp?I...

Joseph http://www.peppergame.com/players/PlayerInfo.asp?I...

and Edmond Bulley http://www.peppergame.com/players/PlayerInfo.asp?I...

played for the House of David Baseball Team

Déjà vu All Over Again!

Two of MY Uncles (Bulley side) joined “The Kabalarians” http://www.mmoutreachinc.com/cult_groups/kabalaria...

in Vancouver BC c. 1947 Leader Ivon Shearing 1997 :( http://skepdic.com/kabbal.html

Two of THEIR Uncles had to flee to Oregon from Victoria BC in 1903 when they led a Union steamship strike against the Canadian Pacific! (“Don’t spit into the wind, Don’t tug on Superman’s cape”)

Note: The other side of my Mother’s Family were also missing for 100 years and I found them about 2 years ago also living in Michigan. One even “invented the internet” (no, not Al…but he never claimed he did….he introduced the Bill!) that I’ve used to find all you awesome people living and dead!

IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTERALL!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxvlKp-76io

Celibacy? HOD Amusement Park existed and WDL/WDW exist because of the amazing little human beings produced by the Anti-celibates……Hip Hip Hurray!! OK, I know none of our Mommies and Daddies ever did THAT! ;)

Questions--Do you know if the Bulleys went with Mary and where would they have been buried?

Thank You for your amazing HOD history.

Sincerely, GreatGrandma Miller


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James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Edward Scwartz— Thank you for this great note. I too have many fond memories of the House of David. I have been in those little cottages, too. I appreciate this visit and your comments.


Edward Schwartz 5 years ago

Back in the 1940s our whole family,grn parents aunts,cousins would go to the House of David for two weeks evey summer.We all stayed in little cottages.We traveled from Chicago via South Shore train,than took the Bluebird bus that stopped in front of the HD restaurant. Lots of fond memiores.


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James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

Larry Jackson— Welcome to my Hub! It is a pleasure to meet another person who has actually been to the House of David, and shares lovely memories of it with me. I guess it was 1960 the first time my dad took me there. It was magic. Like no place else on earth that I have experienced since even.

Thank you for visiting and sharing your memories. I appreciate it very much.


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James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

Coming of Age— No, it hasn't. That's a darned good question though.


Larry Jackson 6 years ago

I was doing research on King David and ran across this write up. What memories it brought back. As a child in the 1950s I remember my dad and family going to the House of David park. I dove my first ever car there. The minature cars were driven by the riders with no guiding track to keep you going in the right direction. For a ten year old it was great fun. It would be a wish to still see this facinating place still open as it was fun entertainment for all.


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James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

kirky— You are most welcome. I am well pleased to hear from a fellow Benton Harborite. I was around the House of David during the same era as you. It was magical!

Thank you for reading my article. It was my pleasure to put it together. Feel free to come back as often as you like. Tell your friends too! :D


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Coming of Age 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

I don't suppose your research has given you any insight as to where the missing money might be?


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James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

Denise Handlon— No one I admire more than a nurse. Thank you for all you do to alleviate suffering and anxiety among the sick.

Your folks may have heard of the House of David. It isn't a well known story outside of my hometown but I find it a fascinated story on many levels.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I also appreciate your kind compliments. :-)


kirky 6 years ago

I grew up in BH, thanks for the nice story and history. We frequented the HOD park for pony rides and arcade (penny) value.

The train whistle could be heard from our house. This was in the 63-70 era. We did not know of the sex issues back then or at least we were to young to hear about it.

I remember climbing in the little stone replica house and the bowling alleys, all neat stuff from my child hood. Thanks for posting. I will now read it again and again.


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Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

Wow, wow, wow! I grew up in Michigan (east side) and never heard of the House of David, nor do I recall my parents mentioning it. I wish they were still alive so I could ask them about it. What a fascinating bit of history. I'm so glad I happened to catch it highlighted as a feature story.

You're an excellent writer. I'm amazed that you were involved at the level that you were...no wonder you wanted to write about it in high school and now. What a piece of life story!


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James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

Kathy Hall— Thank you! I have fond memories of the House of David, too. Tons of them.

It is a pleasure to receive your comments. Thank you for reading my article. And you are welcome. :)


Kathy Hall 6 years ago

What a thoughtful summary of the House of David. I have fond memories of the train rides, ice cream cones and penny arcade games from my youth. Many of us from that era recall the faint sound of their train horns at night. Thanks for the remembrances.


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James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

Ray Thoughts— Thank you very much for taking the time to read my piece. I agree with you. I appreciate your comments.


Ray Thoughts profile image

Ray Thoughts 6 years ago from The East Coast

Wow! That's all I can say. Definition of a Cult- when only the leader knows the answers. Watch out for people like that.


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James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

onegoodwoman— I am glad you found this to be fascinating, my dear. Not many people know about this little tale outside my home town, and memory of it is fading there. Thank you for visiting and commenting. It is always a pleasure to see you.


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James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

kenu12maller— You are welcome. I am sorry it took so long to respond to your comment but it was in my spam folder for some reason. I only saw it there today and approved it.


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onegoodwoman 6 years ago from A small southern town

What a fascinating read of modern history.

I had no idea of these things....

It was my pleasure to find this,

even after your publishing it

months before......


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James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

DavePrice— Thank you! Thank you very much. :D

Welcome to HubPages. I look forward to reading your Hubs tonight.


DavePrice profile image

DavePrice 6 years ago from Sugar Grove, Ill

First hand knowledge is always the most fascinating - this is a terrific read, thanks.


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James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

kenu12maller— You are welcome. I am pleased that you liked my Hub. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community!


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kenu12maller 6 years ago from United States

Thank you for this amazing hub i really seen this kind of knowledge first time.


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James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

ladyt11— I am glad you found this Hub interesting. I grew up around this colony. It was magical to actually be there as a boy. Thank you for visiting and commenting. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community!


ladyt11 profile image

ladyt11 6 years ago

How very interesting! There were some gruesome things going on at the house of david and at the same time they had so many grand things as far as entertainment, parks, fabulous places to dine, etc. I can't believe this man was never imprisoned for the horrible things he did. This was very interesting, good hub!


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James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

D_D_Brown— Thank you for your kind compliments! I am well pleased that you found this article to be interesting. :)


D_D_Brown profile image

D_D_Brown 6 years ago from Evansville

Wow, nicely written and researched. I never knew there was a House of David, or if I did it was just in passing with not understanding what it was.


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James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

drpc— Thank you. I appreciate the advice in your first comment.

It was fantastic fun to go to the House of David for me as a boy. It was truly special. Happy times and good memories for me, too. And I agree with you, the old scandals were not talked about much, being forty years in the past by that point. My dad flew out of that airport for years. I'm trying to picture a motel out there.

I appreciate the visit and the comments. Thanks again.


drpc 6 years ago

We are from the Chgo area and use to visit my Dad's sister and family in Benton Harbor/St. Joe. I use to spend summers there when I was young, helping out at my aunt and uncles motel near the airport and mostly just enjoying the summer with my cousins. The beach was a popular destination, and no summer visit would ever be complete without a trip to the House of David. There were no talk of scandals then, it was all about the train, the minature race cars, the zoo, and the home made ice cream cones. What a pleasure. We would also go to listen to the music where a cousin would sometimes play in the band. Famiglia,happy times, All good memories . . .


drpc 6 years ago

James A Watkins-get a life . . .and one that counts.


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James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

green tea-cher— You're quite welcome. I had no idea this Hub would prove to be as popular as it is. One never knows. I appreciate your laudations. Thank you for visiting. :-)


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green tea-cher 6 years ago

What great research and your writing is fascinating. It never ceases to amaze me how a single man can get so many people to follow such a ridiculous set of rules, so willingly. I had never heard of the House of David prior to this reading. Thank-you so much for such an entertaining read.


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James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

Allan McGregor— Thank you, kind sir. And this one is not fiction. :)

I surely agree with your brilliant conclusions.


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Allan McGregor 6 years ago from South Lanarkshire

An excellent expose of the benign facade of the cultist.

But the litmus test is Scripture, because Religion always seeks to control and profit from others, whereas true Christianity only ever seeks to liberate and facilitate.


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James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago Author

Carol Harper— It's nice to hear from a fellow Benton Harborite, past or present. It was a wonderful city when I grew up there and the House of David was a big part of it. Thank you for visiting and I appreciate the congrats. :D


Carol Harper 6 years ago

I grew up in Benton Harbor, Michigan. My best experiences were the miniature train, the waffle cone and the best homemade icecream, the bowling alley and just a general feeling of goodness within these people. Congratulations for a great article.


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