By Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Zion
Dr. Dowie had a dream of building a city free from the many vices of the world. Soon after beginning his ministry he became disenchanted with the established denominations. He then struck out on his own, teaching and preaching divine healing. He traveled more than halfway around the world, first going to Australia, and then finally to America settling in Chicago outside of the World?s Columbian Exposition fair grounds. This was in 1893. After developing a significant following, Dowie, with their encouragement, chartered The Christian Catholic Apostolic Church in 1896.
By 1900 his dream became a reality when he unveiled the map, showing his church members the Coming City. The Rev. Dowie imagined a community of like-minded citizens, where strict regulations regarding societal behavior could be enforced. He would ban liquor, taverns, the selling of tobacco and other merchandise he considered being injurious to the health. He believed in salvation, healing, and holy living, and Zion City was to exemplify these beliefs. By the end of December 1899, 10 square miles of land adjoining Lake Michigan had been acquired. Dowie, with others, dressed as itinerant workers, ?spied out? this particular parcel and choose it when a dark clouded December sky gave way to a bright and beautiful sunny day for approximately 10 minutes and then clouded over for the rest of the day. He took this as a sign of God?s approval of the land.
The 6,400 acres of farmland grew almost overnight. Dowie enforced strict laws and his church controlled all activities. The Church would own all industrial and commercial establishments. Theaters, drugstores (apothecary shops), medical doctors (he considered medicine of the time quackery), and houses of ill repute were prohibited, as well as the sales of playing cards, oysters, clams, rabbit meat and pork. An 11pm curfew for the Hospice residents was observed.
The land could be leased only to the members of the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church. The lease was for 1100 years and carried certain restrictions forbidding the manufacture, selling or use of tobacco, liquor, swine?s flesh, and shellfish. The operation of drug stores, theaters, and dance halls was also forbidden and even drinking coffee and chewing gum was frowned upon.
A civil engineer was given the task of laying out the city. Under Dowie?s direction, the streets were laid out symmetrically, with a great 1200-acre park named Shiloh (The Messiah) to be the fulcrum on which the community turned. At its center was the Temple of the Christian Catholic Church, an
Edifice that would seat 16,000.
From there, boulevards would adiate from four points of the compass, streets emanated outward, easterly were the industries, to the west the farms to supply food, close to the center was the business district, and to the north and south, private residences. Dowie designated landmass and location according to wealth; however, residential property lots would all be laid out east to west to provide ample sunlight to the front of each lot.
Ever the micro manager, Dowie designed Zion?s postage stamp and named every single street. The major thoroughfares were to lead to the temple in the center of the city and each street was to be named for something or someone in the Bible. The street names were laid out in alphabetical order from the east starting with Aaron and to the west starting with Lydia. Damascus, where the Lord spoke to Saul, Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, Gabriel, after the angel himself, Horeb, the mount where the Ten Commandments were delivered, Shiloh which means ?The Messiah?, and many more. Only two avenues did not receive Biblical names; Caledonia, an old Roman name for Scotland, Dowie?s native country; and Edina, an old Roman abbreviation for Edinburgh, Dowie?s birthplace. Even though a few of the boulevards were never fully developed, a map of present day Zion looks much like it?s earliest ancestor. In 1901 the City of Zion was officially founded. The Zion City Land Office was one of the first administrative buildings erected in the community. Many of the transactions regarding land leases and the establishment of business interests was completed in this building.
This building also served as the city bank and post office and in later years as the express office. The land office now stands at 2900 Elim Ave. where it was moved intact and remodeled into apartments.
In 1902, Dowie?s own residence (a 25-room mansion) was built at a cost of $75,000.
Shiloh House was the residence of the founder of the City of Zion, John Alexander Dowie. This stately three-story 25-room mansion was built in 1901-1902. Paul Burkhardt, the architect was born and educated in Switzerland. Consequently the Swiss Chalet design in Shiloh?s upper stories was his personal signature. Remarkably unique, Shiloh House was built by the combined efforts of the town?s craftsmen. The brick masonry, the sandstone construction, the wainscoting and flooring were all contributions of these people. The tile roof is original, and has a distinct design depicting the triangular pattern of the Trinity, or lightning signifying the power of God.
Today, Shiloh House is the headquarters of the Zion Historical Society located at 2500 Shiloh Blvd. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Sites
Dowie Barn, also called Shiloh Cottage or the Carriage House is located at 2413 Elisha, catty-corner across from Shiloh House. It was erected in 1902 at the same time as the house for the drivers and caretakers, horses and carriages belonging to and working for Dr. Dowie. The north side of the barn included the carriage house and stable, with an upper loft where fodder was stored. The barn was quite unique, having four solid oak stalls and a large ventilating shaft that insured a constant circulation of fresh air. On the south side of the building were three floors with apartments for the drivers, caretakers and their families.
In May of 1902 Dowie presented the City with an official seal preceded by an address: (partial excerpt below):
I hold my hand upon the lever of that which is, perhaps, the most important outward sign of a city organization, and that is the seal which I shall presently ask the mayor and the council to accept as a gift from the General Overseer.
?I am glad that we have reached this place, where very quietly the municipal government of the City of Zion can organize, and become a factor, and adjudicate legal government.
?I don?t think that the danger to Zion from without is worth considering. The only real danger that can ever come to Zion is from within.
?With my hand upon this lever, I hand to you tonight and to the generations to come a seal which contains all tha Zion wants to be.
?Ordinance: Corporate Seal ? That the common seal of the City of Zion shall be circular in form and be so constructed as to impress upon the paper the words Corporate Seal above and ?The City of Zion, Illinois,? below in the outer edge thereof, with a Zion Banner in the center, surmounted by the declaration, ?God Reigns,? such banner having the word ?Zion? below, and a dove with an olive branch above; a cross at the left, and a sword and a crown at the right, requiring that the same shall be and hereby is so declared to be the Corporate Seal of the City of Zion.
?Look at the dove, which is the emblem of the Holy Spirit bearing the message of peace and love over the seas.
?The cross represents everything to us in Redemption, Salvation, Healing, Cleansing and Keeping Power.
?The Sword is the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. The crown is the crown of Glory, the crown of Joy, the crown of Righteousness, the crown of Rejoicing.
?I shall pass away ? at the longest it will not be long (he passed away March 9, 1907) but this seal is one that I hope will never pass away from Zion City, until the end shall come and a new heaven and a new earth be created.?
The first city election was on April 7, 1902 after Dr. Dowie had formed the Theocratic Party. ?Theo? from the Greek meaning God, Zion was to be the City of God, for God fearing and Christ loving people, with the slogan, ?Where God rules man prospers.?
Dr. Dowie surrounded himself with men of great talent and financial standings. Many experienced healing episodes and felt indebted to Dowie and his dream. With this support the city flourished. All economic, educational, social, political and religious activities were coordinated through church leadership. Besides resident homes, there was a manufacturing district to the east of the North Western Railway tracks (Bakery, brick kiln, Candy Factory Electric Plant, Lace Mill, Laundry, Lumbering Mill, and Printing/Publishing House (Leaves of Healing and The Theocrat published).
Now, if you can imagine at the same time Dr. Dowie was enjoying this splendor, preaching his message of faith and gaining a great following, he was also delivering a message of hatred and intolerance. In his newspaper, ?Leaves of Healing?, he ironically wrote, ?I think of the falsehood of Muhammad with great contempt?I warn the Christian people of America and Europe that Islam is not dead. Islam has great strength, though Islam and Muhammadanism must be destroyed.
It can be no mere happenstance that during the same years that Dr. Dowie was positioning to declare himself the spiritual leader for the Christian world, that The God had already put into effect a response to his call. In 1889 in a small, dusty Indian town in the Punjab, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad accepted his first covenants of allegiance. On that day 41 people took the covenant though Ahmad had not any inkling that he would later receive the revelation of being ?The Promised Messiah.?
The greatest defender of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the religion of Islam, Ahmad was debating on every front with the Indian world for the abuses and revisions made to the practices of Islam. In 1890, about the same time that Dr. Dowie was arriving in the United States, Ahmad revealed that he had received a revelation from God, that Jesus Christ was not alive in Heaven. The immensity of this statement was as shocking for Muslims as for Christians.
Later, Ahmad also said that not only Jesus was dead, God had also revealed to him that a great reformer would come to the world in the spirit of Jesus. God had told him that he was that chosen person. The exact revelation was, ?The Messiah, son of Mary, Prophet of God, is dead. It is thou who hast appeared in his spirit, according to the promise. And the promise of God is ever fulfilled.? The Muslim divines were outraged and Ahmad was denounced as a heretic, an impostor and an enemy of the Faith. Fatwas (a religious legal opinion or pronouncement) were issued against him from all over India. He was described as ?Dajjal? meaning a personification of all the vices, and the most wicked of God?s creatures.
Utilizing the new technology of printing presses, Ahmad was combating attacks on the religion of Islam from any and every source. His new publication, The ?Review of Religions? was first distributed in Britain. ?The Church Family?, a journal published under the auspices of the Church of England, commented, ?We should make no attempt to refute the literature published under the auspices of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, for he will create such a volume of literature against Christianity as will destroy the authority of the Bible altogether. The ?Review of Religions? co-incidentally has been published continuously since 1902, making it one of the oldest religious journals of the world. As Ahmad refused to let any criticism of Islam go unanswered in India, he now refused to let any criticism of Islam go unanswered in the United States or Great Britain. The first person to come to his attention was John Alexander Dowie.
Dr. Dowie made it no secret that he was a bitter enemy of Islam. Ignoring the lead of the British clergy, he verbally abused both Ahmad, Muslims in general declaring Islam the faith of heathens.
Ahmad rose to the challenge with dignity stating, ?We wish to point out respectfully that there is no need to subject millions of Muslims to destruction for the fulfillment of his purpose?Mr. Dowie need not repeatedly announce his prophecy of the destruction of all Muslims, but should keep me alone in his mind and should pray that of the two of us, the one who is false may die before the other?Mr. Dowie believes in Jesus as God and I consider him a humble creature and a prophet.? ?I have not been the first to propose such a prayer. It is Mr. Dowie who, through his announcements, has put himself in that position. Observing this, God, Who is jealous, has urged me towards this confrontation. It should be remembered that I am not just an average citizen of this country. I am The Promised Messiah, who is awaited by Mr. Dowie. The only difference is that Mr. Dowie says The Promised Messiah will appear within 25 years, and I proclaim that he has appeared already and that I am that person. Hundreds of Signs have appeared in my support in the earth and from Heaven. My Community numbers a hundred thousand and is rapidly increasing.
Dr. Dowie was aged 56 at the time. Ahmad was 10 years older and in poor health because he suffered from diabetes, amoebic, dysentery, migraine and had a blood deficiency, his life did not depend upon the state of his health, however, Ahmad said, but on the command of God. He concluded, ?If instead of the destruction of all the Muslims Mr. Dowie?s purpose can be served by my death alone, he will have established a great sign, in consequence of which millions of people will acknowledge the son of Mary as God. The truth is that Jesus, son of Mary is from me and I am from God. Blessed is he who recognizes me and most unfortunate is he from whose eyes I am hidden.
Dr. Dowie by now claimed to be the Elijah or forerunner of the second advent of Jesus and that his movement would spread throughout the world. He claimed to heal people with his prayers and even with his touch, and told them to avoid the use of medicine. As his following grew he announced that God had sent him to destroy Islam and its followers before the appearance of Jesus.
In response, Ahmad said again that the matter should be settled with prayer. That if God really is the Master of this Universe, and He appoints a man as the guardian of His garden and another man claims that he has also been appointed for the same purpose and disputes the claim of the former, surely it would be right to expect that God would aid and defend His righteous servant appointed by Him, and thus demonstrate to the world which of the two had been appointed by Him and which of them was an impostor. This would be a clear manifestation of God?s attribute of Ownership and Mastership.
In the United States, Dowie continued building his empire even though The Promised Messiah?s challenge received great publicity. ?The Argonaut? of San Francisco, then a newspaper with a large circulation, commented that Ahmad had given a challenge that would be difficult to ignore. Residential pictures of Zion
The prosperity of Zion City caused many to place their faith in Dowie, but for those who sought guidance Ahmad provided an answer. In other writings he stated, this test (proof of validity of claim) does not, however, mean that from the spirit of sincerity and sacrifice of a community we must conclude that the founder of that community is true in his claims and had attained to union with God. A spirit of sacrifice is an indication only that the members of the community have been able to discover nothing in the life of their leader that would stamp him an impostor. If people believe a man to be possessed of good morals, or truthful, it only shows, that either they are not fully acquainted with the details of his life, or, if they have had sufficient opportunity to study every phase of his life, that he is not a deceiver and that he believes himself to be true in his claims. But it is not necessary that every person, who believes himself to be true, should really be true. It is quite possible that he may suffer from some defect in his mind or it may be that in conformity with the views of the group to which he belongs he may believe that whatever he says is from God. Such a delusion is quite possible in the case of persons belonging to communities or groups who do not believe in verbal revelation. When a person belonging to such group or community thinks of the advent of a promised one and sees in himself some of the general signs which may be found in hundreds of men, and is persuaded that he himself is the promised one, it is quite possible, nay, probable that if he is a man of some influence, no matter however small it may be, he may honestly begin to think that the idea which had occurred to his mind was really from God; and thereafter he may seriously look upon himself as the Promised One. As he does not feel the need of verbal revelation it will be open to him to look upon every idea of his as a revelation.
The challenges by The Promised Messiah were issued in 1902, again in 1903 and were published by at least 32 newspapers. Some of these papers commented on it, saying that the proposed mode of decision was just and reasonable. After Dr. Dowie paid no attention to the issued challenge, some American papers began to inquire as to why he had not given a reply. He himself said in his own paper of December, 1903: ?There is a Muhammadan Messiah in India who has repeatedly written to me that Jesus Christ lies buried in Kashmir, and people ask me why I do not answer him. Do you imagine that I shall reply to such gnats and flies? If I were to put down my foot on them I would crush out their lives. I give them a chance to fly away and live.?
But as it had been written so it came to pass; that if he took up the challenge he would be destroyed in the lifetime of the Promised Messiah, and even if he evaded it he would not be able to ward off the calamity, and that his Zion would certainly be involved in it. As quickly as Zion rose to influence it fell. Dowie continued to preach his dictatorial brand of Christianity against what he called hypocritical, opposing clergy, fierce and slanderous tabloids, murderous mobs, and relentless city officials. Thousands followed him believing in his spiritual obedience but his diversion from God?s plan for his life and his embrace of the suggestion that he was Elijah brought his mission crashing down.
Dowie?s concept was to build a city of God, where his people could work and play, polarized from the so-called sins of the world. The dream was far-reaching and most ambitious. However, like the Garden of Eden before, with man by nature weak, in no way could such a Utopian idea survive for long in a materialistic world. Dowie had not dreamed of creating a new denomination, but as the people became interested in his teaching, he and they became dissatisfied with their own denominations and pushed for the creation of a new and separate church?herein their mistake, creating the laws that only God can command.
In July 1986, Fahim Ahmad, son of our late Brother, Hajji Hanif Ahmad, was shot and killed in Shiloh Park. Zion Park rangers arrested a Zion man, Joey Isabell, 33 at the time. Fahim, 16, was killed near a concession stand. He and his family resided at 2712 Gilboa Ave. in Zion. Joey Isabell was charged with two counts of murder, one count of armed violence and one count of aggravated assault. The killing opened an examination of racial tensions in a village long- thought to be peacefully integrated. Fahim, who recently graduated from junior high school, died from a single bullet in the chest fired at close range. Police say the shot was fired with no apparent provocation. Isabell was found guilty, but mentally ill, of the racially motivated killing, he was ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison.
God laid His hand on Dowie. In 1903 Dowie was ridiculed in New York City when he led his ?hosts? there to reform the city, and he was attacked by a mob in London a year later. Rebellion broke out against him in Zion. His own wife and son turned against him, and alleged that while he publicly condemned the use of wine he was secretly addicted to it. Many other charges were brought against him by members of his flock, including fraud, tyranny, and polygamy.
Long standing financial mismanagement overtook the church and swept away the dreams. The 16,000-seatTemple was never built. The industries never flourished. The schools, located for the convenience of the children, graduated only two classes (1905 and 1906) before being closed. Time and catastrophe destroyed many of the treasured buildings.
In 1906 Dowie was terminally ill, and the city/church properties were in receivership. Population was declining and unemployment rising. These crises led to confusion and disagreement concerning the policies of Dowie?s successor, Rev. Wilbur Glenn Voilva. In 1907, the same year that Dowie died, the church filed bankruptcy.
This man who used to live in greater ease and luxury than is available to princes, was now reduced almost to beggary and was not provided even with the necessaries of life. He then had an attack of paralysis and the feet under which he had said he could crush the Promised Messiah like a worm were disabled. His troubles unhinged his mind and shortly after he died in great misery and pain.
His death was commented on by American newspapers:
The Dunnville Gazette:
?Ahmad and his adherents may be pardoned for taking some credit for the accuracy with which the prophecy was fulfilled a few months ago.?
The Truth Seeker of New York
?The Qadian man predicted that if Dowie accepted the challenge, he shall leave the world before my eyes with great sorrow and torment. If Dowie declined, the Mirza said, ?the end would only be deferred; death awaited him just the same, and calamity will soon overtake Zion. This was the Grand Prophecy: Zion should fall and Dowie die before Ahmad. It appeared to be a risky step for the Promised Messiah to defy the restored Elijah to an endurance test, for the challenger was by 15 years the older man of the two and probabilities in a land of plagues and fanatics were against him as a survivor, but he won out.?
The Boston Herald
?Dowie died with his friends fallen away from him and his fortune dwindled. He suffered from paralysis and insanity. He died a miserable death, with Zion City torn and frayed by internal dissension. Mirza comes forward frankly and states that he has won his challenge.?
These events are best summed up with a quote of the Promised Messiah who uses the Prophet Jesus words to shine the light on Dowie?s downfall:
?Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep?s clothing but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.?
Today you will find on the Temple sight a beautiful 1,300-seat sanctuary with a unique structure of a sloping fan-shaped roof and beautiful precast gothic stained glass windows. The Christian Catholic Church is well known today for its performances of the Passion Play each year. This brings to life the drama of the gospel and life of Jesus Christ. The Christian Catholic Church is now in the process of building a new auditorium for this event.
The 25 room, three story pressed brick ornamental tile roof home (Shiloh House) at 1300 Shiloh Blvd. was built by a Swiss architect and styled after a Swiss Chalet for Dr. Dowie in 1903 at a cost of $90,000. This home has been restored to the 1900 era with many of the original items on display. Visitors are welcome on weekends, public holidays and upon appointment. The home was purchased in 1967 for $18,500 by the Historical Society where their headquarters are located.
In 1907 the City of Zion and the Dowie holdings were thrown into bankruptcy. After three years, through Wilbur Glenn Voliva and his followers? efforts, funds were raised and the entire Zion estate again was the property of the Christian Catholic Church.
It was on August 2, 1901 that the first residence located at 2802 Elizabeth Avenue was built.
By winter there were more homes built and Zion had a population of 2,000. The City of Zion was organized and incorporated under the law of Illinois on March 31, 1902. On September 1, 1907 the Lace Factory was purchased by Marshall Field and Company of Chicago and was run as a private operation until 1952. Lace samples can also be seen at the Shiloh House.
Today you will find Zion a modern community with a combined population of Winthrop Harbor and Beach Park of 35,000 and still growing with a bright future. The city government consists of a mayor, four commissioners and assisted by several commissions. Zion has a full time police force and a fire department and a new Municipal building. There are two fire stations in Zion, one at the East and one on the West Side of town. Another growth to Zion has been the Rescue Squad that is ready to answer calls at any hour with qualified men and women on the job.
The Zion Memorial Library is located overlooking the lovely lagoon in Shiloh Park.
After many years Zion welcomed a radio station, WKZN-AM and FM with its offices in the downtown area.
Zion is fortunate to have the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad serving them and going on to the Kenosha area daily. The Waukegan North Chicago Transit Company has a bus route to serve Zion daily and the Greyhound Buses stop in Zion twice daily in both directions. The Waukegan Airport is nearby but for traveling one must go to O?Hare Airport in Chicago. There is also one Taxi Service in the city at the present time.
In early 1954, Zion was hit once more when an entire city block of the downtown district was destroyed by fire. Today a new bank and other enterprises have replaced this devastation. The Zion merchants still remember this fire of 1954 and in February each year they have an annual ?Fire Sale.?
The American Intentional Hospital also overlooks Shiloh Park on the east and is a fully licensed in the Illinois and Lake County Depts. Of Public Health. Other hospitals are located in Waukegan, Illinois to the south and Kenosha, Wisconsin to the north. At the present time Shiloh Towers overlooks Shiloh Park. This is low-income housing for the elderly. A new housing unit is also being built and should be completed in the near future.
Also located in Zion on the shore of Lake Michigan you will find one of the world?s largest nuclear power stations, which supplies billions of kilowatts a year. Along with this you will find a nuclear training school. In the Zion?Winthrop Harbor?Beach Park area you will find 12 public schools, 4 Junior High Schools, Pearce High School and Horizon Campus. There are also some parochial schools in the area. Residents are also fortunate to have the College of Lake County near by and in Kenosha, Wisconsin is Carthage College and Park Side branch of the University of Wisconsin.
A visitor to Zion today will find many other churches besides the Christian Catholic Church, which was renamed the Christ Community Church. There are over 30 churches representing more than 20 denominations.