Alexander Dowie was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, May
25, 1847 and emigrated to Australia at thirteen years
of age with his parents. He found employment with his
uncle who had previously left Scotland for Australia.
After studying with a private tutor for a little over
a year in preparation for the ministry, he returned
to Scotland and entered Edinburgh University. He did
not graduate from Edinburgh University, but was called
back to Australia by his father. He was ordained as
a Congregational minister with his first pastorate
at Alma, South Australia. He remained with the Congregational
church for almost ten years before he began to preach
divine healing. He formed the International Divine
Healing Association in 1886.
Dr. Dowie left Australia and arrived in the United States, via
New Zealand, in 1888 intending to go on to London after a series
of healing missions in the United States. He remained on the
West Coast for two years holding services from San Diego to Oregon.
In 1890, he came to the Chicago area for a divine healing convention.
Dowie changed his plans for continuing on to England when he
was asked to pray for a lady who was suffering from a fibroid
tumor after doctors had given up on her. She was healed after
Dowie prayed for her. Dowie felt that Chicago was where God wanted
1893, with the opening of the World's Fair, Dowie opened
Tabernacle Number One which came to be called "The Little
Wooden Hut" across from the entrance to the Fair. Dowie’s
Divine Healing Association was not recognized as being
a church so he was denied a place on the Avenue of Churches
at the World's Fair. The first year at his mission was
very hard and it was not until the niece of Buffalo Bill
Cody, Sadie Cody, received her healing that the crowds
began to come. He preached in the afternoons not wanting
to interfere with the regular Sunday services of the mainline
churches. Interest in Dowie's sermons was such that he
was able to lease one of the largest auditoriums in Chicago
for six months, from October, 1895 to April, 1896. During
this time, Dowie proposed the organization of a church
based on apostolic principles, and in February, 1896, he
organized the Christian Catholic Church in Zion.
After the organization of the Christian Catholic Church
in Zion, he dreamed of a city where his congregation
would be free from the evils of the world, a city where
God would be the ruler. He first looked for land south
of Chicago in the Blue Island area, but the land was
not suitable so he looked north of the city. In the fall
of 1899, Dowie visited the land north of Waukegan and
envisioned what he would come to name "Zion City". After successfully
securing options on approximately 6,600 acres of land,
he unveiled his plan for Zion City at the Watchnight Service
the eve of the New Year 1900. It would be a city where
his congregation could worship, work, and play free from
the temptations of the world. Zion City was the only city,
besides Washington D.C., that had plans completed before
the first spade of dirt was turned. There would be places
of employment - he imported a lace mill from England — schools,
and recreational facilities, all controlled by John A.
Dowie. The land would be leased to the people, with definite
restrictions, for 1,100 years. Dowie reasoned that Christ's
return was to be within 100 years and then the millennium,
after which there would be no need for leases.
would share in the profits of the industries in Zion
City and the profits, tithes, and offerings would be
sufficient for the support of the Christian Catholic
Church in Zion.
On July 14, 1900, hundreds of people came to what would
be Zion City
for an all day affair which culminated in
the dedication of the City to God.
The next year was spent
surveying the city, laying out all the lots, planning
for the utilities, and preparing for the opening of the
City to the people. July 15, 1901 was the date that the
City lots were made available to the public. The first
house was built shortly thereafter in August, 1901. Dowie
and his family came to Zion City from Chicago in July,
1902 and moved into Shiloh House, his newly constructed
Zion City never reached the potential that Dowie dreamed
of having suffered financial troubles early on. In September,
1905, Dowie suffered a stroke and never fully regained
his strength. While in Jamaica trying to regain his health,
Dowie recalled Wilbur Glenn Voliva from Australia to
be the Deputy General Overseer giving Voliva full power
of attorney. With Voliva’s arrival in Zion City,
he became aware of the dire financial condition of the
City. He took steps to relieve Dowie by exercising the
power of attorney given to him by Dowie. Dowie was asked
to quietly resign from his office of General Overseer.
Dowie chose not to relinquish control and a court battle
ensued. The court ruled that the people could choose
the successor and the great majority chose Voliva. Dowie
was deposed and spent the last year of his life at Shiloh
House surrounded by a small group of loyal followers.
He died at Shiloh House in March, 1907, a few months
before his 60th birthday. He is buried in Lake Mound
Cemetery, Zion, Illinois.