The followers of Dowie didn’t die off, nor did MGA predict the death of Dowie. In fact, the Shiloh House is a huge 25 room mansion built by the money of Dowie, it is still in existence and many ancestors of the followers of Dowie work their and thus keep the story of Dowie alive. Kathy Goodwin, who volunteers every week at the 1902 Swiss-inspired chalet that Dowie built at 1300 Shiloh Boulevard, greets visitors with these words before she takes them around the 25-room mansion. Dowie spent $90,000 (about $3 million in today’s dollars) to build it and $50,000 more to furnish it. He brought fixtures from Europe, including a porcelain bath. The house had running water, electricity and phones, a rarity in that time. Goodwin tells visitors about her family’s connection to Dowie. Her grandfather, a master carpenter from Switzerland, and his German wife went to hear Dowie speak in Chicago. Then and there, they decided to follow the preacher to Zion. Goodwin’s grandfather was chief carpenter for Shiloh House and her father, the last of 15 children, ran around the mansion as a child while his dad helped build it. The house has numerous images of Dowie — painted, photographed and woven with lace. Dowie, who was 5-foot-2, had carpenters craft custom wooden step stools so he could reach the top shelves of his bookcases. The house even has on one wall, two framed pieces crafted with Dowie’s hair by his barber. One shows the Dowie’s greeting “Peace to thee” and another is a depiction of the Bible. Goodwin is proud of Dowie’s legacy and wants it preserved. “He believed in love, kindness, helping people,” she said. “I honestly believe people were healed here.” She also believes Dowie, in his later years, “got carried away” and “did things with money he shouldn’t have.” “But he paid for it,” she said. “I’m here because I want his story to stay alive.” Goodwin also yearns to go back to a time when she was a little girl and the city played chimes at 9 in the morning and 9 at night. “People stopped wherever they were and prayed,” she said. “I’m sorry it’s not like that any more.” Mike McDowell’s great grandparents moved to Zion in 1905 from North Dakota because his great grandmother believed Dowie cured her whooping cough. McDowell sits on the board of the Zion Historical Society, which maintains Shiloh House. He is also a city commissioner and pastor at Christ Community Church, the remnant of Dowie’s original congregation. McDowell says his congregation now identifies as evangelical and doesn’t adhere to Dowie’s teachings. But he credits the founder for innovative municipal planning. “He came up with the idea of subdividing the community and making it self-sufficient,” McDowell said. “He created the city’s park system requiring every housing subdivision to have green spaces.” McDowell said Dowie’s downfall began when “he started believing his own press and thought of himself more highly than he ought to have.” He agrees what Dowie said about Muslims and Ahmed was “inflammatory,” but doesn’t believe the founder accepted Ahmad’s prayer duel. “Both men had visions of grandeur about themselves,” McDowell said, “which probably weren’t appropriate.” McDowell is happy to see the new mosque and lauds the Ahmadiyya Community for their many service projects in town, particularly food giveaways that were valuable to many during the pandemic.
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