Zion Historical Society

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The museum is located in the former home of the founder of the city of Zion, John Alexander Dowie, who was also founder of the Christian Catholic Church, a Protestant evangelical sect with missions all over the world. Dowie, born in Edinburgh, Scotland, was a disenchanted Congregationalist minister. As he developed his own brand of theology he preached simple Christian virtues and faith healing. When he visited Chicago for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 he acquired a following in the Midwest. Christian teaching, according to Dowie, could help solve problems of alcoholism, drug addiction, out-of-wedlock births and other ills. In Chicago, he was arrested more than 100 times and charged (though never convicted) with practicing medicine without proper license. Ultimately, he resolved to settle in a city of his own, and he founded the ''theocracy'' of Zion, which means ''city of God.'' The museum tells this story as well as others--of the baking, confectionery and lacemaking industries established by Dowie. Zion was also one of the first towns in Illinois that was fully planned. It became something of a resort--the original Elijah Hospice was an inn (later the Zion Hotel--razed in the '70s) and once the largest wood-frame building in the world.