House of David

Where else but in America would a fairly offbeat religious cult become known for fielding a first class baseball team?  Founded by Benjamin and Mary Purnell in October 1903, the Israelite House of David was loosely part of a movement started by Joanna Southcott in1792 who had proclaimed herself the first messenger, the woman robed in the Sun mentioned in Revelation 12:1-6.  In 1895 the Purnells declared that they had been bonded by the Holy Spirit and that the two of them were the seventh messenger mentioned in Revelation 10:7.

The Purnells soon found themselves heading a commune which owned 1000 acres in Benton Harbor, Michigan.  This being America the cult founded several successful businesses.  Mr. Purnell was a sports enthusiast and had his followers play baseball.  In 1913 the cult founded the House of David Baseball Team which quickly achieved fame barnstorming around the country.  The team members played with long hair and beards.

Trouble came to the cult when 13 young women confessed in court that they had sexual intercourse with Purnell while still minors.  Purnell died before he was brought to trial.  Mary Purnell formed the New House of David with a faction proclaiming itself the Old House of David.  Each faction fielded ball teams.  The original House of David team by the late twenties was employing profession ballplayers including Grover Cleveland Alexander, Satchel Paige and Mordecai Brown.  Some of the pros would wear fake beards while playing for the team.  There were several teams claiming the House of David label, including an all black team that played in the Negro League. (more…)

Published in: on January 31, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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