Wyatt: The ‘Jesus Boys’: Baseball and the House of David

From Daniel Wyatt at The National Pastime Museum on November 20, 2014:

In the age before television took over our lives, there was a time when baseball teams would barnstorm across the North American continent, play before enthusiastic, good-sized crowds, and make money at it. It worked for Major Leaguers in the offseason, especially when some big names like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Bob Feller were involved. It worked for Negro League teams such as the Kansas City Monarchs, who brought along their own lighting system for night games. It worked for fastball pitcher Eddie Feigner of “The King and His Court” fame. And it worked for the bearded House of David teams, who also had their own lighting system.

The House of David began as a religious sect in 1903 by Benjamin Purnell, who believed that he and his wife, Mary, and the people whom they had gathered in anticipation of the “End of the Age” in a colony outside Benton Harbor, Michigan, were part of the 12 lost tribes of Israel. Purnell claimed to be the self-appointed “Seventh Messenger” sent from God, foretold in Apostle John’s Book of Revelation, to save the world before the new millennium—in other words, the year 2000. To join this illustrious group, the members had to give up all their worldly possessions and dispense from smoking, drinking, eating meat, shaving, cutting of hair, and sex, even with your own spouse. For the cutting of hair part, Purnell sighted Leviticus 19:27, which stated, “You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.” Male recruits were expected to take on the appearance of Jesus and his disciples.

Despite such strange demands, the colony that called themselves the House of David grew to about 500 people by 1905. Not from sex, but from recruiting, I might add. They lived on 1,000 acres of farmland that comprised orchards, grain fields, a cannery, a dairy, a steam laundry, a printing office, a lumber mill, and its own power plant, among other buildings.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/jesus-boys

Originally published: November 20, 2014. Last Updated: November 20, 2014.