JUDGE H.T. DEWHIRST...Part 1.

THE DEWHIRST FAMILY RAN THE HOUSE OF DAVID LIKE NOBODY ELSE...

JUDGE HARRY T. DEWHIRST & TOM DEWHIRST Legends of our Time. Part 1

Back in California in 1918 Harry T Dewhirst was a high court judge and a very successful one at that. He was a very powerful and influential person for many years prior to coming across the House of David messengers who came to California share the teachings of Benjamin and to try to recruit new members to the colony, especially people like Judge Dewhirst. Prior to the judge making the decision to give up all that he had to come to Benton Harbor Michigan with his two sons and his wife, he had read in great detail, and had accumulated a big scrapbook of news stories about the trials and tribulations of the House of David and Benjamin Purnell. (Back in 2004 when we were doing the Diamond House restoration project we came across boxes of this type of artifact that were safely stored away). In my opinion Judge Dewhirst had carefully calculated out the fact that Benjamin Purnell needed very powerful representation here in Michigan, and what better place to be able to help lead an empire of such a caliber as this, so the decision was made to pack up and head east which they did back in 1918. The Dewhirst family arrived to open arms at the colony, with a big media event and celebration as they landed here in Benton Harbor. I'm sure that the two boys had no clue what was in store for them, since "Tommie" and "Bobbie" were only eight and 10 years old at the time. As their family settled in to call the House of David their new home, the work for the judge becoming licensed here in Michigan began immediately. He was very quickly given a license to practice law in Michigan, more than likely because of his legal connections across the country. And almost immediately upon receiving his license, he began to defend Benjamin in many trials for the next several years. Judge Dewhirst was an extremely successful lawyer here in Michigan, and was able to defend Ben from an army of lawsuits that continued to haunt him and the colony during those early years. Eventually in 1922 Ben went into hiding and didn't surface for another 4 1/2 years. It was during this long absence of Benjamin as a leader, that Judge Dewhirst began to quietly formulate a plan to take over the colony. I also acquired a massive amount of documentation that shows Judge Dewhirst moving gigantic amounts of money to places other than here in Michigan, not to mention boxes of letters from people around the country thanking him for huge amounts of money he had sent them for one reason or another. Just last night I was reading through several letters where people from the area were thanking him for giving them free Oldsmobile automobiles back in the 1930's and 40's that they needed for various reasons. I find it fascinating that once Benjamin went into hiding, the judge took it upon himself to control the wealth of the colony, and ofttimes to his advantage, even though I know he also grew the wealth of the colony drastically during his rule! As I read through the boxes of letters roughly 10 years ago, I discovered that Judge Dewhirst's love for the West had never relinquished, and in fact hundreds of thousands of dollars were moved to investments in Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas and California. At one point he financed from the ground up a huge new venture business which was a fresh fruit juice producing plant that he named "Dew-Kist" and ran for several years before selling it to outside investors. In the mid-1930s he purchased a gold mine in western Oklahoma. And in 1927 he purchased a large resort in McAllen Texas called the Sunset Motel which was a great winter escape for him and his close friends. After the death of Benjamin Purnell it was the judge's time to have the dreams of his life come true, and no one was going to get in his way! He began to send many of the House of David pillars out west during the long cold Michigan winters, to go relax, warm up, and search for Indian Artifacts, one of his lifetime passions. It was during these years that he began to make plans for the "West" to come to him here in Michigan!! In 1933 he visited the Chicago World's Fair, and came home with the plan of building the Grande Vista resort south of Saint Joe. He was able to purchase many train loads of petrified wood, giant crystallized boulders, and rare rocks from out West for use in the construction of the new resort. The resort was a spectacular attraction for tourists from all over America and the absolute pride of Judge Dewhirst. It had a flare of the "Southwest" like nothing else in existence. In my personal opinion that was absolutely unacceptable on many different levels. Not only was he taking massive attention and money away from the House of David amusement park and life there in Benton Harbor, but the focus and attention of much of the colony's members now slowly drifted from Britain Avenue out onto Red Arrow Highway in Stevensville for the next 25 years. Although the amusement park and restaurant/hotel there in Benton Harbor continued to thrive, the new "leader" of the colony was now living out in a large beautiful home on a huge piece of lakefront property in south St. Joe that he had acquired with House of David money. Judge Dewhirst lived in that big turn of the century home for the next 15 years, until he passed away in 1947. After Judge Dewhirst passed, his son Tom moved into the lakeshore home and remained there until he passed away in 1996. (I helped the House of David colony sell the home back in 2006 to Babe Couvelis's dentist son from Chicago after Tom Dewhirst had passed and the colony no longer wanted to own it). Around 1926 Tommie Dewhirst began to play baseball for the House of David. At the age of 18 yrs old Tom was a huge man, and could hit the baseball like nobody else the colony had on their team. His brother Bob, a very quiet and bashful guy, was 16 and also a good ball player. By this time they both had super long hair nearly down to their waist, and were able to start growing whiskers, which was required for the team. While their father Judge Dewhirst was making the House of David enterprises and attention go nationwide, the boys were learning to play some mean ball..!! During the baseball season they traveled the entire country in old Studebaker buses, entertaining the largest crowds ever to attend a baseball game in nearly every city they played in! What an attraction they were!!! I have a huge pile of news clippings stating that the largest crowds ever to attend baseball stadiums all over America were when these whiskered players came to their towns! The stories that I was told by many of the old players would make anyone laugh hysterically (much of which I have on film)!!! Tom Dewhirst had hair nearly 36 inches long and being a man of 6 foot five and over 300 pounds, he was one heck of a sight in a baseball uniform!! He took full advantage of the massive amount of attention that he received everywhere he went!! Howard Crossman was the Business Mgr for the House of David for many years (Tom's personal assistant for 50 years at the Cold Storage Facility). Mr. Crossman shared so much great information with me over a 10 year span of meetings regarding Tom Dewhirst and his playing days!! He said that Tom would demand that the team arrive plenty early to every single town, and that Tom and several of the other players would suit up and walk down main street with their long hair flowing and beards blowing in the wind! Tom would make it a point to always find a barbershop in each town, and get himself and a few of the long-haired players to stand with their backs to the front window of those barbershops and they would swing their hair from side to side to get everyone laughing!!! He said that after all of their baseball games Tom always wanted to sit down at a local restaurant, where all of the men would be dressed nicely, and Tom would stand up and say a very loud prayer and the waitress would call him "Father" as if he were a priest, and Tom would just respond with "Bless you my dear" and then he'd make the sign of the cross!!! He told me that after every single game Tom was the guy to search out whatever news-writer or reporter might be there and make sure their stories were going to add lots of fun and laughs!! Tom absolutely LOVED to laugh!! Tom Dewhirst was unquestionably one big, intelligent, hilarious, super talented man and loved by soooo many! He learned to be extremely business savvy from his father who was the judge, yet he had a kind heart, cared for everyone, knew the teachings of the faith better than anyone willing to talk about it, and was willing to share all that he could with the world around him. Later in life he bragged about the fact that the media quickly began calling him the "Bearded Babe Ruth" early in his baseball career and he loved every second of it!! The story of Tom himself is such a fascinating, in-depth study of one human being that had 1000 different hats to wear during his lifetime. He stepped outside the boundaries of a very humble faith that he was raised in, and went out into the world and received a higher education, became Secretary of Agriculture for the State of Michigan, was for many years the President of the Blossomtime Committee, was President of the Board of Agriculture here in Berrien County, not to mention the Director of the House of David Cold Storage Building, the largest of its kind in the world!! Tom Dewhirst left a mark on the House of David and Southwest Michigan like no one else had ever done since the beginning of the 20th century. I'll go into great detail in Part 2.... 


JUDGE HARRY T. DEWHIRST....THE WHISKERED WIZARD OF OZ MONEY, POWER & THE GRANDE VISTA RESORT...Part 2.

During the times of the Great Depression across America, Judge Dewhirst's business ventures and the House of David thrived like none other. While the majority of people in our country were trying to just find food to eat, and a place to sleep, the judge was beginning to grow the already powerful empire of the House of David to an unheard of level. Here in Michigan, the likes of his success might only be compared to Henry Ford. It was written during the early 1930s, that the House of David empire had grown from a value of around $20,000,000 in Benjamin's time to nearly double that in the 5 short years that proceeded his death (thats tens of billions today). The fact that Judge Dewhirst could possibly have been the most powerful financial person in Michigan is hardly debatable. Much of his actions were done without the approval of the House of David colony, and often without even the knowledge of the folks back in Benton Harbor! He knew how to maneuver his way around the big money business, and in my opinion if he would not have had that huge legal sense that he did, he would have gone down and history as the law abiding version of Al Capone!! As we cleared out rooms of paperwork at the Diamond House Mansion we found boxes of this type of evidence. After the year-long restoration project of the mansion, I took months to go thru and read these fascinating documents that he and his son Tom had thankfully saved. It was absolutely mind-boggling to me to sit and try to digest all that I was reading. Here was the new leader of a religious faith that had demanded ALL of the worldly possessions of its followers for a promise of everlasting life, and yet Judge Dewhirst felt compelled to spend massive amounts of money around the world, far away from "Paradise". During the several years that Benjamin Purnell was secretly hiding in his Diamond House Mansion, Judge HT Dewhirst was taking that time to play out a real-life game of Monopoly with the House of David's money. And it was very shortly after the untimely death of Ben that the judge set out to begin living his dream. Almost immediately after the death of their religious leader, Judge Dewhirst left for the West Coast and several extended stays. His love for life in the Southwest had never diminished, and in fact probably grew stronger in the 9 years that he had been in Michigan. He formulated a plan and in 1927 purchased a place called the Sunset Motel & Resort in McAllen Texas, just across the border from Mexico. The resort was a very well established and successful operation, with beautiful buildings and impeccable grounds with orange groves, banana trees, palm trees, etc. He felt like this was home to him, and that is exactly what he made it during the long winters of Michigan. (I have old film footage of him and his son Tom playing their violins and dancing at the resort, obviously a little touch of alcohol may have been involved!!). Judge Dewhirst then traveled to western Oklahoma around 1929, where he found and purchased a newly established gold mine in the mountains, and quickly turned his investment into a gigantic income producing operation. Around 1930 Judge Dewhirst invested in a large piece of land in Arizona, had it cleared and built a huge new facility and called it "Dew-Kist" to make and sell orange juice and natural juice drinks. Who else in America during this time could have had THIS much money other than Henry Ford? Just after 1929 the judge begin to formulate a plan to build his ultimate dream, a Southwest style resort near the shores of Lake Michigan. He began to send many of the House of David workers out into the west, where their sole job was to acquire trainloads of petrified wood, giant crystallized boulders, and rare Indian artifacts, to be used back here in Michigan on the construction of the Grande Vista. Of course they were extremely successful in doing so, because there was no limit on the money that he was willing to spend! Beginning around 1931 he was able to acquire a giant section of land along Red Arrow Highway, just south of St. Joe, Michigan. The clearing of the land and the construction of the new resort begin with an unheard of amount of laborers, and no bars were set as far as the amount of money and cutting edge technology put into the new Grande Vista. Ultimately the resort turned out to be the most spectacular Southwest style resort in all of America. The media started to immediately call it "America's Largest Tourist Court", and people flocked here by the thousands from all over the country! Judge Dewhurst and his new Grande Vista Resort were a huge part in building traffic along that Lakeshore Drive corridor for the next 40 years. The beautiful resort was all on one level, and each room offered a stone fireplace, its own carport, decorated with beautiful Art Deco furniture, and even finished with touches like House of David pearlized artwork!! The resort had a state of the art service station, a spectacular lounge and restaurant with a lighted ceiling that looked like stars were moving in a dark sky, and world-class amenities throughout. Of course Judge Dewhirst also had his Indian Artifact Museum right there on the grounds of the resort. With huge publicity and connections the judge was able to attract some of the Greatest talents that out America had seen by that time, the likes of which included Louis Armstrong, BB King, and many many famous musicians and performers (many of which had previously preformed at the House of David Amusement Pak). There is no denying the fact that the Grande Vista resort was a gigantic success. A few years after the resort was finished, the judge decided he loved life enough there on Lakeshore Drive that he bought a large home and 16 acres of lakefront property just south of St. Joe and lived there until he passed. Later on his son Tom moved into the home and he too lived out his last days at that lakeshore home. But in my opinion the fact that all of the attention by Judge Dewhirst so far removed from the main property on Britain Avenue drastically reduced the attention that really needed to be happening back at the Benton Harbor amusement park, hotel and restaurant, where the 1,200 colony members had given their life for this cause. The fact that the judge was considered the new "Leader" of this religious colony after Benjamin's death, and he had basically "checked out" to go build his own empire, is absolutely unacceptable to me. For one man to have so much power, success, and knowledge, and to have turned left into a street that should have been heading in a different direction is shocking to me, but it happened. In my opinion the greatest thing that Judge HT Dewhirst ever did was to have a son named "Tommie", who would soon touch the world like no one had before his time from the House of David, with great inventions, unheard of plans for peace, and a dream to keep "Paradise" alive... To be continued..