Author: William Schwager (article published in 1971)
The corporate seal of any city denotes the stamp of officialdom. Every important contract must carry the seal in order that such a document signifies authenticity. The city of Zion has such a seal. However, in many respects, it does differ from those used in most cities, not so much in makeup but rather in the importance of its real meaning and what it stands for.
The city of Zion was founded by Dr. John Alexander Dowie at the turn of the century. The caustic press at the time called him by many nomenclatures such as charlatan, faker, itinerant preacher and many more. However, he had a strong faith in God endowed with great vision.
Dowie Born In Scotland
Dr. Dowie was born in Scotland in 1847. He received his degree in religion from Edinburgh University.
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 1893.
His Dream Realized
He had a dream of building a city for God free from the many vices of the world. By 1900 this dream became a reality when he unveiled the map, showing his church members the Coming City. It was to be called Zion, located halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee by Lake Michigan. He, with his churchmen, subdivided more than 6000 acres of farmland into residential and commercial sites. The land was leased only to the members of the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church. These leases carried certain restrictions which forbade the manufacture, selling or use of tobacco, liquor, swine?s flesh, and shellfish; drug stores, theaters, dance halls and the like were forbidden. Even coffee and chewing gum were frowned upon.
The following is an authentic report of the speech he (Dr. Dowie) made to the city council on May 6, 1902 when presenting the official seal of the city:
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 that 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 had been a month earlier 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 Godfearing and Christ loving people, with the slogan, “Where God rules man prospers.”
Today Dr. Dowie’s seal is still the City of Zion’s seal. The Temple Site he dedicated in the summer of 1900 before 10,000 followers, on it stands the Christian Catholic Church, which he founded, surrounded by the circle road “Dowie Memorial Drive.” The Dowie grave stone can be seen in Lake Mound Cemetery at Sheridan Road and 29th Street.
Credit is given to James B. Leech of Zion for contributing to this column a transcript of Dr. Dowie’s remarks when presenting the Corporate Seal to the City.