The Zion City Independent

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Title: The Zion City Independent IIIF collection link
City: Zion, Ill.
County: Lake
Frequency: Weekly
History: Zion City Independent (1910-1925); Independent (1925-1927).
Available online: 3 June 1910 - 22 June 1917 (342 issues)

Zion City was a utopian religious community founded in July 1901 by John Alexander Dowie, an evangelical minister, and pioneer of Pentecostalism in the United States. Dowie, Scottish by birth, moved to Australia in 1860 and later emigrated from Australia to the United States in 1888, and eventually settled in Chicago where, in 1893, he established a ministry near the World's Columbian Exposition. Central to Dowie's ministry was the practice of faith healing, and it proved enormously popular. He soon formed a publishing company to issue his sizable output of periodicals, books, and pamphlets. In 1896 he began planning a utopian religious community, to be named Zion City, which would serve as a refuge from the many social problems troubling American cities at the time, the same problems attracting the attention of contemporary Progressive Era reformers. Whereas most Progressive Era reformers viewed these problems as evidence of social, economic, and political dysfunction, Dowie saw them as evidence of religious and moral decay. He believed that only complete subordination to religious authority could solve the problems of modernity, and Zion City was planned as a church-state, or theocracy of the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church (CCAC).

After his stroke in 1905, Dowie recalled Wilbur Glenn Voliva from Australia (where he had been the overseer of the CCAC’s efforts there). Dowie became embroiled in a financial scandal after mismanagement of Zion’s finances and was ousted from power in 1906 (later dying in 1907). Voliva was able to bring Zion city under some financial order and continued running the town according to Dowie's religious program, with faith healing as its centerpiece. Voliva also continued Dowie's prohibitions against smoking, drinking, dancing, theater, modern medicine, and the consumption of pork. He also added new restrictions and was neither as charismatic nor beloved as Dowie. Many became disillusioned with the idea of a theocracy, although they still advocated for the ideals of and rules of Zion City, the Independent Party (or anti-Voliva party) of Zion began. They advocated for more individualism and democratic procedures in city politics and used the Zion Independent to broadcast their views.

The Zion City Independent was founded in 1910 and ran until 1925 at which point it became the Independent and ran from 1925 to 1927. The Zion City Independent was the creation of the Independent Party of Zion City, formed in protest of Voliva’s attempts at total control of Zion City. They ran opinion pieces etc. on various issues beginning with a court case around Voliva's attempts to control the various shares that held Zion City (the court ruled in favor of Voliva and the Independents did not take power for some years)

As well as opinion pieces, The Zion City Independent ran local happenings, obituaries, help wanted ads and some world news. Although it initially included the Pen and the Pulpit section which were sermons by Daniel Bryant, it stopped in 1913 and little theology was included after that.

The newspaper also promoted businesses that were afflicted with the Independent Party. As it developed, it reprinted national and international news, announced non-CCAC church meetings, and less and less theology as it progressed.