DOWIE, John Alexander (1847-1907)

DOWIE, John Alexander (1847-1907)
faith-healer and preacher, founder of Zion City
was born in Edinburgh on 25 May 1847, the son of John Murray Dowie, tailor and preacher. In 1860 he was brought with his parents to Adelaide, and later obtained employment in a grocery business. He became a member of Hindmarsh Square Congregational church, and a thorough student of the Bible. From a child he had been interested in religious questions, and when about 21 years of age he went to Edinburgh to study for the ministry. He returned to Australia and became pastor of a Congregational church at Alma, a country town about 50 miles from Adelaide. He afterwards went to Sydney and in 1876 was minister of the Newtown Congregational church. In 1877 he published Rome's Polluted Springs, the substance of two lectures given at the Masonic hall, Sydney. In 1879 he also published at Sydney The Drama, The Press and the Pulpit, revised reports of two lectures given in the previous March. About this time he gave up his pastorate as a Congregational clergyman. and became an independent evangelist, holding his meetings in a theatre and claiming powers as a faith-healer. Coming to Melbourne in the early eighteen-eighties he attracted many followers and was able to build a tabernacle of his own. He had a successful preaching tour in New Zealand, in 1888 went to San Francisco, and two years later to Chicago where he had increasing success. The attempts of the medical profession to stop his work by having recourse to the courts only succeeded in advertising him. In 1896 he organized the "Christian Catholic Apostolic Church in Zion". He was sometimes described as "Elijah the Restorer", "The Prophet Elijah", "The Third Elijah". In 1901 he founded Zion City about 40 miles from Chicago with money contributed by his followers. The title-deeds of the area of 6000 acres were in Dowie's name, and he had complete power as owner of the city and overseer of the church. In April 1906, during his absence in Mexico, a revolt in which his own family joined took place, and he was deposed. Dowie endeavoured to recover his authority through the law courts without success, and now in broken health was obliged to accept an allowance until his death on 9 March 1907.
Dowie when attired in his robes had an impressive appearance. He had great powers of persuasion and a forthright and often abusive style of speaking, which somehow imposed his views on his audience. How far he was himself sincere it is impossible to say, and in his later years he may have been the victim of some form of mania, as during his last illness he suffered from hallucinations.
The Times, 11 March 1907; Dictionary of American Biography, vol. V; A. S. Kiek, An Apostle in Australia. There is a biography of Dowie by Rolvix Harlan which it was not possible to consult.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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