THE CORSICANA ENTHUSIASTS: A PRE-PENTECOSTAL MILLENNIAL SECT
Northeastern Seminary (Rochester, NY)
Most Holiness-Pentecostal historians interpret their tradition as a convergence of radical doctrines nourished in the Holiness/Higher Life movements of the late nineteenth century. While the Topeka and Azusa Street Revivals mark the birth of Pentecostalism, several earlier outbursts of ‘fanaticism’ signaled sporadic ‘false labor’ in holiness revival meetings. One episode that deserves closer study emanated from revivals in Texas and widely discredited the terms ‘holiness’ and ‘sanctification.’ Labeled the ‘Corsicana Enthusiasts’ by its opponents, this sect blended radical doctrines into an explosive mixture that foreshadowed the eruption of Pentecostalism in the next century.
Named for the community in which their radicalism became most notorious, the ‘Corsicana Enthusiasts’ exerted most of their influence in Hill, Ellis, Freestone and Navarro counties in Central Texas. Originating in holiness revival meetings, the sect attracted widespread attention through its activities in Corsicana, the county seat of Navarro County. A small town surrounded by ‘blackland’ prairie, Corsicana would become one of the world’s greatest petroleum centers only after 1894. And while agriculture suffered severe drought and economic depression in the next decade, nothing in extant resources supports a ‘deprivation theory’ to account for the religious manifestations that shocked the countryside at the close of the 1870s. Only one thing stands out as a factor for the appearance of the Corsicana Enthusiasts: Central Texas became the scene of some of the earliest holiness revival meetings in Texas.
When the earliest holiness evangelists came to Texas in the late 1870s, revival congregations often regarded the doctrine of entire sanctification as novel. However, some Methodists received the message as the renewal of primitive Wesleyanism, and rejoiced in the abundant harvests of holiness revivals. The newness of the message doubtless exposed its adherents to misunderstanding, especially in church contexts outside the Wesleyan tradition, and the public perception of the ‘holiness people’ rested largely on oral communication and newspaper accounts. Since the holiness message initially entered Texas through scarcely a half-dozen evangelists who worked within a restricted geographical range, public opinion was correspondingly limited. Small numbers disproportionately influenced the movement’s destiny, and uproar over scarcely a hundred radicals widely discredited the very words ‘holiness’ and ‘sanctification.’
Among the earliest published notices were church periodical accounts that gave the Corsicana Enthusiasts their enduring name. Methodist correspondents who favored the holiness movement sharply contrasted the ‘fanatics’ with revivals that sought to restore primitive Wesleyanism. Since the public learned the term ‘sanctification’ at the radicals’ behest, Methodists strove to distinguish their own heritage from the innovations.
An article in the Texas Christian Advocate entitled “The Corsicana Enthusiasts” disavowed any connection between the fanatics and a camp meeting conducted by the Texas State Holiness Association, whose constitution consisted of John Wesley’s A Plain Account of Christian Perfection and the New Testament.
They had no possible connection with what was called the “holiness campmeeting,” which was held by Rev. Dr. Brush, of the M. E. Church, North. They are “Second Adventists,” and called themselves in the organization formed February 7, 1879, when they formally disclaimed all connection with any existing church, “The Temple of the Coming Lord.” Personally, they bore irreproachable Christian characters.
Calling the fanatics ‘Adventists’ whose deception consisted of setting the date for the return of Christ, Methodists emphasized the orderly nature of their own meetings as well as their salvation-oriented agenda. Aware of public distaste for radicalism, church leaders affirmed revivalism as the evangelistic medium of choice while distancing their members from its ‘misuse.’ Because Methodism identified closely with American culture, its leaders disavowed countercultural teachings such as premillennialism.
Like the Millerites of 1846, these Corsicana fanatics ventured to fix the exact day of Christ’s second coming, and of their translation. But He failed to come, and left them to their chagrin. They still look for extraordinary providential events to prepare the way for the coming Savior.
The Corsicana Enthusiasts thus brought holiness and premillennialism together to form a millennial sect that closely resembled Pentecostalism. They blended primitivism, an emphasis on spiritual gifts for all believers, leadership of Christians by impressions, revivalism, divine healing through the Atonement, as well as glossolalia, and thus formed a pre-Pentecostal, ecstasy-seeking sect that sharply distinguished itself from the rest of society. Convinced that the gospel of the New Testament had been restored among them, the enthusiasts pointed to extraordinary manifestations in their midst as incontrovertible evidence that Christ would return at any moment.
The services held in the tabernacle occupied by this band consisted in prayer, singing, reading the Scriptures, etc., and were of a very devotional character, as reported through the papers. . . These enthusiasts not only claimed the “communion of the Spirits [sic]” but claimed the extraordinary “gifts” bestowed in the apostolic days. They could speak with tongues; heal the sick; had direct and frequent revelations.
The correspondent associated the sect with Edward Irving, an early nineteenth-century English religious leader whose ministry was characterized by outbreaks of glossolalia and an intense expectation of the return of Christ. Contemporary scholars have often characterized Irving as a forerunner of twentieth-century Pentecostalism.
The Corsicana Enthusiasts seriously disturbed regional Methodists, for the Texas Christian Advocate carried several articles concerning this ‘wildfire’ in November 1879. These articles reveal Methodism’s ambivalence over holiness, for while the article dated 15 November 1879 sharply denounced the doctrine of entire sanctification as connected with the “holiness bands,” the article dated 22 November 1879 distanced the holiness meetings of the Methodist-affiliated associations from those of the ‘fanatics.’ The Texas Christian Advocate blamed much of the ‘fanaticism’ on evangelists who defied church authority and spread the holiness message at will. Moreover, correspondents attacked the evangelists’ teachings, especially their specialized understanding of the doctrine of entire sanctification, and even characterized the latter as a fanaticism that attempted to set some church members above other Christians.
Sanctification is a work over and above regeneration—it is instantaneous—essential to salvation and pivots upon faith as its condition. . . This mistaken view of sanctification forms the basis upon which these fungus formations of holiness bands and clubs rest and spread themselves. To become a member of such a band or club, is openly to profess that I am better than my brethren generally—I am advanced to a more elevated platform in Christianity—I am SANCTIFIED, while they are only regenerated. I am holier than thou!
The correspondent connected these “holiness bands” with George Bell and Thomas Maxwell, whose fanaticism “gave Mr. Wesley so much trouble.” While affirming Wesley’s doctrine of Christian holiness as “attainable—in a scriptural sense—in this life,” the writer dissociated the “holiness bands” from Methodism. Even at this early date, when holiness evangelists had scarcely entered the state two years earlier, the revivalists in Corsicana had seriously marred the reputation of any movement that emphasized ‘holiness’ or ‘sanctification.’ The church periodicals henceforth labored strenuously to exercise damage control.
It is worthy of note that Second Adventism, Holiness-bandism, and Tramp-evangelism have not originated in Methodism. It is true that some Methodists have been caught in the maelstrom and have been swept away from their doctrinal moorings into these wild fancies and speculations, but they did not originate in Methodism. They came out of the Calvinistic churches. From the late Adventist Convention in New York to the late abortive monstrosity of Haynes and Goodnight, and from Moody all the way down to Penn, Grant, Williams and all others of which we have knowledge, all were Calvinists. If not in full, at least in part.
Here the article points out the conjunction between holiness and premillennialism as an irregular mixture of Methodist soteriology with Reformed eschatology. Haynes and Goodnight, Cumberland Presbyterian ministers who were leading figures among the Corsicana Enthusiasts, cross-fertilized traditions through eschatological expectation. This heightened expectation may explain their propensity for radical doctrines and ‘scandalous’ conduct. To a Methodist correspondent, their extreme teachings were nothing short of madness.
I asked Mr. Haynes if the “State Holiness band” set forth the doctrines preached by himself. He answered me in this way: “We are much in advance of them. They are now ready to take another degree higher; that is, a man must be converted—sanctified—instantaneously, be baptized with the Holy Ghost, then the growth in Christ begins; the divinity of Christ permeates the entire physical man until every muscle and fiber is made immortal. Thus we are prepared to spend the thousand years with Christ on earth.
The correspondent called on the Methodist Church to “stop this craze” along with the “skylogical” testimonies. More than any other factor, the radical doctrines and consequent extreme behavior of the Corsicana Enthusiasts severely restricted the effectiveness of the early holiness movement in Central Texas.
However, the newspaper accounts provide little information on this sect that exercised a disproportionate regional influence. The most detailed resource is a small book published about seven years after the height of the movement. Written by Rev. George McCulloch, a Free Methodist minister, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, and the Fanaticism Which Followed distinguished the ‘true’ holiness movement in Texas from the “Haynes Movement,” and defined the former as a revival of primitive Methodism. The most detailed account of the Corsicana Enthusiasts, McCulloch interviewed participants in the controversy but also relied heavily on memory. Since his thesis separates the ‘fanatics’ from the ‘true’ holiness movement, he views the ‘enthusiasts’ as having been ‘sidetracked’ by the devil. Yet his account, although biased, sheds considerable light on this obscure sect.
At the heart of the controversy lay the divergent picture of the sanctified believer brought out by opposing sides. McCulloch described the doctrines taught by the evangelists who first brought the holiness message to Texas, elaborating on them “in order to show that the fanaticism which followed never sprung out of their teaching.” He emphasized that “the doctrine of entire sanctification as taught by these evangelists was the same as taught by Wesley, Fletcher, Clark [sic] and Watson, and all the other standard authorities who agree with God’s word.” The evangelists taught the doctrine of entire sanctification as a second and separate work of grace that was never received in conversion, but was received “instantaneously, by consecration and faith; and that it might be lost by disobedience, and regained again by faith in Christ.” The evangelists also presented a consistent model of a “sanctified believer”:
His [sic] heart was cleansed from all sin; all the tendency to anger and hatred was taken away; that a sanctified person never got angry; nothing remained in the heart contrary to love; but he would love the Lord with all his heart, and his neighbor as himself; that a perfect christian [sic] was a believer whose heart God had cleansed from all sin, and enabled, through grace, to keep God’s holy law, and sin not.
McCulloch noted the confrontational preaching style of these evangelists, especially that of Hardin Wallace, whose preaching “was sharp and cutting; his style was blunt; he gave sin no quarter. . . The way he went for tobacco, snuff, gold and feathers was appalling; and all the popular sins of the day were handled in like manner.” However, these evangelists always pointed to the “remedy”—“the blood of Jesus Christ.” Their focus was salvation—the forgiveness of sins in conversion and, for sanctification, the cleansing of believers’ hearts from the inclination to sin. McCulloch disavows their concern with anything other than soteriology, implying that an alternative course would divert the movement from classical Wesleyan emphases.
They did not teach that it endued him with any supernatural gifts, such as discerning spirits, or seeing visions, or prophesying, or raising the dead, or looking for the coming of Christ, or getting special revelations from God; but instead of this, they always impressed it forcibly upon the minds of the people that perfect love was the greatest of all the gifts; and any one (as Mr. Wesley says) “seeking for anything else aside from more love was seeking for something wide of the mark.”
In his polemical tract, McCulloch sharply distinguished the Wesleyan holiness movement from the ‘fanaticism’ that became identified with ‘holiness’ and ‘sanctification.’ By distancing themselves from the ‘fanatics,’ holiness leaders believed they could salvage the doctrine of Christian perfection from the disrepute inflicted by radicals.
Scholars often trace the origins of premillennialism and its subsequent adoption by the holiness movement to the dramatic social changes of the latter part of the nineteenth century. The profusion of cities and their ‘wickedness,’ the flood of immigrants, corruption in politics, and laisse-faire capitalism unleashed unprecedented social change in America. In some quarters these sweeping changes tempered public optimism concerning national destiny and engendered a fertile environment for premillennial eschatology, a philosophy of history that fostered pessimism of world affairs and an optimism of supernatural intervention. Several holiness leaders adopted premillennialism after 1890, but in the 1870s the holiness movement in large measure rejected it as a non-essential or speculative matter. The enthusiasts’ adoption of premillennialism at this early date defies standard explanations; rather than social factors, the overwhelming supernatural power experienced in holiness revivals encouraged these believers to adopt a profoundly supernatural eschatology. When the Corsicana Enthusiasts adopted premillennialism in 1878, critics could only respond by calling them “Adventists,” a name that branded them as a heretical sect. The ‘enthusiasts’ were certainly among the earliest adopters of premillennialism in the holiness movement, a radical move that immediately alienated them from other churches.
According to McCulloch, the leaders of the ‘fanatics’ broke away from the holiness movement after having experienced entire sanctification. Some may have been influenced by an evangelist named “Bro. Willis” who “told the holiness people that it was their duty to come out of all the churches, as God could not save them if they remained in them.” One of the leaders, a Cumberland Presbyterian named Robert J. Haynes, attended a revival meeting in Dallas conducted by W. B. Colt and other workers from Illinois. After his experience of entire sanctification, Rev. Haynes became a holiness evangelist but deviated from the Wesleyan position, which brought him into conflict with Methodist-oriented holiness people. Another Cumberland Presbyterian evangelist “by the name of Sims” preached on sanctification in meetings near Ennis, and deviated from the Wesleyan perspective as well. When he held a revival at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Corsicana, Rev. Sims requested aid from Cyrus T. Hogan, a Cumberland Presbyterian in Ennis, who brought a team of workers to the revival in Corsicana. The pastor, “Bro. Goodnight,” soon became another leading figure in the forthcoming controversy, as well as another Cumberland Presbyterian minister who attended this meeting, Richard Groves. McCulloch theorized that the fanaticism erupted among ministers not grounded in the Wesleyan doctrine of Christian perfection.
The cause which led to their great error was mainly an error in doctrine as to the nature of christian [sic] perfection. All five of the leaders of this movement were Cumberland Presbyterian ministers, and, of course, Calvinistic in their belief; and they thought they saw in God’s word a way whereby they could make Calvinism and Arminianism agree; and through harmonizing the two build up one of the grandest systems of theology ever known: There were saved in conversion from the possibility of falling from grace; and in holiness from the possibility of sinning, or ever being tempted, as many of them testified. In fact, they saw in the atonement of Christ a provision made to save them from sin, from sickness, from pain and death; and they become immortal. The perfection they taught was an absolute perfection, the perfection of the glorified state; and they believed it to be their privilege as preachers to have such power as that sinners would fall as dead men under their preaching.
While historian should read this account critically, especially since McCulloch relied on secondhand information, nevertheless this passage demonstrates that the leaders of the ‘fanatics’ were harmonizing their experience of entire sanctification with their own theological tradition, and did this under the influence of intense eschatological speculation. While affirming these five leaders as “good men” who “probably had enjoyed the blessing of holiness, and likely did at this time,” McCulloch states:
Under the great illuminating power of the Spirit in holiness, they imagined that it was the fore-runner of some great event in the history of the church. . . and their minds naturally supposed that it was the closing up of this dispensation, and it was the sign of the second coming of Christ.
Critics loyal to the Wesleyan tradition condemned the innovations as ‘fanaticism.’ Yet the spirit of these ‘enthusiasts’ points to a late nineteenth-century trend toward seeking experience for its own sake, and in the context of intense eschatological expectation led to potent new doctrines of Christian experience.
In many ways the Corsicana Enthusiasts presaged the holiness movement after 1890 as well as Pentecostalism in the twentieth century, particularly in regard to their efforts to appropriate the ‘full gospel’ of the New Testament. Eschatological expectation led to renewed speculation concerning Christian experience, centering on the work of the Holy Spirit. The ‘enthusiasts’ manifested strong interest in appropriating the spiritual gifts of I Corinthians 12—a common pursuit in today’s churches, but in the 1870s this signaled ‘wildfire.’ When the Corsicana Enthusiasts turned to spiritual gifts as a sign of eschatological approach, the leaders allegedly failed to connect them to the evangelistic work of the Church—the central concern of revivalism. Certainly this group presaged the birth of Pentecostalism as an ecstatic movement—but it lacked the “missionary origins” that made the latter a “Third Force” in the Church. Instead, the Corsicana Enthusiasts pursued experience for its own sake and induced panic over the Second Coming. Certainly ignorance and fear gained the upper hand, and the little band of the ‘faithful’ soon disintegrated as its leadership lost control.
After the revival meetings that emphasized ‘gifts,’ the Corsicana Enthusiasts thoroughly scandalized the surrounding region by closing themselves up in a farmhouse to wait for the Second Coming of Christ. Meeting at the house of William Groves, about a dozen men and women stayed together for several weeks, the business of their meeting hidden from the public. The group included Rev. Goodnight, pastor of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Corsicana, who abandoned his invalid wife for this lengthy stay and “caused a great deal of talk, and much reflection on his conduct.” As they sought to “perfect their views and doctrines,” the ‘enthusiasts’ became convinced that the Bible prophesied their imminent translation. While neighbors called them “Adventists” and “fanatics,” and made them the target of malicious gossip and threats, the most distinctive activity of this group was their notion of supernatural communication. Rather than the ordinary means of prayer practiced by Christians, the Corsicana Enthusiasts sought extraordinary direct contact with the divine. More than any other factor, this ‘puzzlement’ may hold the key to understanding their conjunctive tendencies.
In answer to one particular prayer, or kind of prayer, the nerves of the face would twitch around the corner of one eye. Another witness to another kind of prayer was a sudden movement of the muscles in the calf of the leg; and still another witness was a sudden nervous jerking motion in one or other of the big toes on either foot. I believe it was usually through William Groves that their witnesses were received; but they all claimed to receive them at times. How strange that sensible, well educated, earnest Christian ministers could ever be so far led astray by the devil as to recognize such absurdities as an answer to prayer.
While such measures certainly baffled contemporary church leaders, these channels for supernatural contact are comprehensible once they are recognized as spiritualism. While several organizations, through periodicals and speakers, promoted spiritualism in Texas at this time, only a small amount of recorded material remains extant today. However, enough information exists to establish an identity—that the ‘enthusiasts’ employed spiritualist practices to establish contact with God. Historians can only speculate why the Corsicana Enthusiasts diverged so sharply from conventional practice; however, their practices serve as a high-water mark of their religious and social radicalism. Such extremity risked the fear and outrage of the surrounding community, and several holiness ministers warned the ‘enthusiasts’ to break up their meeting or risk mob action. The ministers also threatened to obtain a court order that would include the arrest of the ‘enthusiasts.’ This strategy worked in due time, when the leaders prayed and “got the witness to go home.”
The turn to spiritualism remains the most mysterious aspect of the ‘enthusiasts,’ but it confirms the experimental nature of their radicalism. Under intense expectation of the Second Coming, apparently craving supernatural leadership within a tightly compressed time frame, the sect members endeavored to clarify their eschatology and were desperate enough to adopt the methods of spiritualism. As unusual as it seems, this detail tells more about a vanished mentalitie than any other feature of this story. Casting aspersion on organized religion as ‘Babylon,’ these revivalists chased religious experience with unrestrained passion, apart from its Wesleyan roots, cross-pollinated their ecstatic religion with their own Reformed theology, and adapted other spiritual traditions for eschatological enlightenment—even spiritualism. Profoundly motivated by their embrace of entire sanctification, these revivalists—apprehending the approach of the Second Coming—pushed experience beyond its limits, claiming that the Atonement included not only salvation from sin, but salvation from sickness and even death. Supernatural power pervaded the individual until death was defeated, and communion with the divine elevated to the point that each person could directly communicate with God and glean privileged knowledge about future events. Within the ‘enthusiasts’ the system made sense, but to the public and to religious leaders this new system of theology was utter nonsense that presaged disaster for its adherents as well as the community—unless the latter acted swiftly.
In the summer of 1879, the Corsicana Enthusiasts radicalized their theology—and consequently their behavior—to the point of open conflict with local citizens. According to McCulloch, the source of this radicalism was a periodical entitled “Glad Tidings,” published by Henry T. Williams of Brooklyn, New York. As the evangelists retraced the path of their earlier meetings, their views reached unprecedented extremes. These meetings stressed spiritual gifts as well as the power of the Holy Spirit as signs of the imminent Second Coming. And in many cases, people were delivered from physical illnesses in their meetings. On this score they shared common ground with the divine healing movement in nineteenth-century American evangelicalism that contemporary scholars connect with the holiness and Pentecostal movements. However, their lack of numerous converts, their fixation on the Second Coming, their deviation from Scripture and embrace of spiritualism, their extreme teachings, an unstable leadership and failure to establish a durable organization sealed their destiny as a localized sect that soon vanished. They also did not prove steady in the face of opposition, a key ingredient of the holiness and Pentecostal movements. And unlike the Pentecostal movement, which erupted in Los Angeles—a strategic urban center that sent believers across the country and around the world—the Corsicana Enthusiasts, located in a sparsely populated rural area, never sent a missionary from their ranks.
By the fall of 1879, local citizens were determined to rid the community of religious extremism. The enthusiasts began a series of revival meetings in October, with the intention of converting the world through a new Pentecost. Securing a rented house, they “held their meetings and fasted and prayed until about the 17th or 18th of October.” The meetings reached a fever pitch, some feared Rev. Goodnight was “losing his mind,” while “the people were getting considerably stirred up about the doctrine that Haynes was preaching.” Finally, a “party of masked men” captured Rev. Haynes and took him “a mile or two from town” to be immersed in a pond and ordered to leave town. When Rev. Haynes became numb and speechless from the cold weather, the men returned to town with their hostage and abandoned him on the porch of a minister’s home.
Tragically, the ‘enthusiasts’ fell prey to the stratagems of Henry T. Williams, who lured them to Little Rock as a preparation for the Second Coming. Families sold their farms and other possessions to raise money for the trip, on arrival turned over their money to Mr. Williams and his agents. These people were strongly motivated by fear, even panic, and in their ignorance gave up rights to property and family for the ‘sake of the Kingdom.’ Only after several weeks did the majority recognize the scheme to deprive them of their property, and make the return trip to Navarro County, “poorer and sadder,” but “a wiser people.” Some of the ‘enthusiasts’ organized independent holiness churches among the remnants, and continued to emphasize the ‘gifts’ of I Corinthians 12 along with the doctrine of entire sanctification. These churches demonstrate the durable conjunction of holiness and spiritual gifts, later widely established by evangelists as a hallmark of holiness and Pentecostal theology.
As it struggled to distance itself from the Corsicana Enthusiasts, the ‘true’ holiness movement could scarcely regain credibility in this region. Branded as fanatics, excoriated as ‘Free Lovers,’ holiness adherents were widely regarded as the offscouring of society, people who divided churches—and even worse, divided families over the issue of sanctification. Nearly a decade later, holiness evangelist William B. Godbey observed the legacy of distaste left by the ‘enthusiasts’ as he conducted meetings in this region. Furthermore, the Corsicana Enthusiasts practically ruined the work of Free Methodist missions in that area. When Benjamin T. Roberts met with the fledgling Texas-Louisiana Conference in 1884, he held the ‘fanatics’ at least partly responsible for the damaged witness of his denomination in the region. The Cumberland Presbyterians took the strongest measures to check the influence of the Corsicana Enthusiasts. Revoking the credentials of the ministers who led the sect, the denomination warned its membership away from holiness and premillennialism. The Cumberland Presbyterians took decisive steps to curb the influence of the holiness movement, and brought in prominent denominational leaders to maintain peace. In fact, most churches distanced themselves from the Corsicana Enthusiasts and called their doctrines and practices ‘fanaticism.’ However, the holiness movement eventually adopted several of their ‘fanatical’ doctrines such as premillennialism and divine healing. Classical Pentecostalism comes even closer to their ‘wildfire.’
The ‘Corsicana Enthusiasts’ were thus ‘early adopters’ who put the conjunctive nature of Wesleyan theology to the test, long before social miasma and ecclesiastical policies pressed the holiness movement toward radicalism. After all, holiness revivalism is all about potency, and these ‘enthusiasts’ found the combination of entire sanctification, premillennialism, divine healing, and earthly glorification a volatile mixture. With an arrogance that defied the rest of the world, these ‘fanatics’ could have passed for Pentecostals in the twentieth century.
 For example, see Vinson Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 143. “The Pentecostal movement was first and foremost a product of the spiritual milieu of America’s holiness movement.”
 For an overview of Corsicana’s contributions to the petroleum industry, as well as a detailed description of the region, see Annie Carpenter Love, History of Navarro County. Dallas, TX: Southwest Press, 1933. Although dated, this resource drew extensively from the memories of living pioneers.
 As Lambert states, “One makes generalizations about socioeconomic causes of revivals at his or her own peril.” See Frank Lambert, Inventing the “Great Awakening” (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 126.
 “The pastor of the Milford Circuit in the Northwest Texas Conference reported through the Texas Christian Advocate in 1878 that the protracted meetings on his charge had been especially fruitful because of the holiness emphasis. At the meetings, he said, ‘many have professed entire sanctification. . . I think that the grand results of those meetings are attributable in part to the interest awakened on the subject of entire sanctification.’” Texas Christian Advocate (September 21, 1878) n.p. Cited in Walter N. Vernon, Robert W. Sledge, Robert C. Monk, and Norman W. Spellmann, The Methodist Excitement in Texas: A History (Dallas, TX: Bridwell Library/SMU, 1984), 203. Some leaders of the Corsicana Enthusiasts resided near Milford (William Groves and Richard Groves), and they (as well as other sect members) may have first encountered the holiness message in the Milford revival.
 Extant secular newspaper accounts remain undiscovered, possibly at the Center for American History, University of Texas (Austin, TX). Archives have preserved area newspapers only in partial sets; many have been destroyed by fire and natural disasters.
 Texas Christian Advocate (22 November 1879), 2. Methodists have made a long-standing identification of the holiness revival held by the northern Methodist ‘Dr. Brush’ with the origin of the Corsicana Enthusiasts. Historians can only speculate whether a significant number of these holiness advocates soon identified themselves with the ‘enthusiasts,’ but this seems likely, based on Methodist assumptions and the efforts of holiness ministers like this correspondent, as well as early holiness advocate Rev. George McCulloch, to disavow any association. As late as 1984 Methodist historians were still identifying the two groups. “Certainly the doctrine of perfection carried the danger of excess. One example of this was the development of a holiness colony at Corsicana in 1879. It appeared to have emerged out of a campmeeting conducted by Rev. William Brush, a Methodist Episcopal preacher. . . and found its headquarters in a building formerly occupied by an M.E. congregation. Its experimentation with common life, glossolalia, and faith healing made it notorious in the area, though the individuals were of ‘irreproachable Christian character.’” See Vernon et. al., The Methodist Excitement in Texas, 204. Vernon is citing the Texas Christian Advocate for 29 November 1879.
 Texas Christian Advocate (22 November 1879), 2.
 Although sources often speak of the movement as separate, ‘No-Sectism’ in many cases may have included the Corsicana Enthusiasts. Organized denominations scorned the movement, including the Free Methodists, whose account of the fourth session (1884) of the Texas-Louisiana Conference mentions them: “This year Phillip Allen resigned as district elder, and went with the No-Sect movement, and was ever afterward one of the worst enemies the chruch [sic] had. He went from one fanatical notion to another, eventually leaving his faithful little wife and family. He wandered about as a vagabond, denouncing everything not like himself and his deluded followers, until he became very wicked.” The conference historian further observes, “For twenty-five years we have beheld the works of No-Sect-ism, and testify that we have never seen any good result from it, so far as we have been able to observe.” The Texas Conference of the Free Methodist Church: Its Origin and Present Churches (Texas Conference, 1960?), 10. B. T. Roberts presided over the 1884 session of this conference, and linked the conference’s troubles to a movement led by “Rev. Haines [sic],” one of the leaders of the Corsicana Enthusiasts. See Clarence Howard Zahniser, Earnest Christian: Life and Works of Benjamin Titus Roberts (Clarence Howard Zahniser, 1957), 316-317.
 Texas Christian Advocate (22 November 1879), 2.
 See Larry Christenson, “Pentecostalism’s Forgotten Forerunner,” in Aspects of Pentecostal-Charismatic Origins, ed. Vinson Synan (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1975), 20. Christenson calls Irving “the forerunner. . . of the entire Pentecostal phenomenon of the twentieth century.”
 Texas Christian Advocate (15 November 1879), 2.
 For an excellent discussion of George Bell and Thomas Maxfield, see W. Stephen Gunter, The Limits of “Love Divine”: John Wesley’s Response to Antinomianism and Enthusiasm (Nashville, TN: Kingswood, 1989), especially 215-217.
 Texas Christian Advocate (15 November 1879), 2. The “Adventist Convention” was the Prophecy Conference of 1878, held in New York City, often regarded as the starting point of premillennialism in North America. For a collection of essays presented at the conference, see Second Coming of Christ: Premillennial Essays of the Prophetic Conference, Held in the Church of the Holy Trinity, New York City. ed. Nathaniel West. Chicago, IL: F. H. Revell, 1879.
 For an example of Methodism’s critique of premillennialism, see “Chiliasm,” Texas Christian Advocate (27 September 1879), 2. Biblical literalism was the major point of contention in this article.
 The Corsicana Enthusiasts may have shared the propensity in the South for supernaturalism as manifested in the belief in “remarkable providences and extraordinary manifestations of the Spirit.” Brasher attributes the spread of premillennialism in the Southern holiness movement to this inclination. See J. Lawrence Brasher, The Sanctified South: John Lakin Brasher and the Holiness Movement (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 38. The potent blend of radical doctrines with their revivalism affected the Corsicana Enthusiasts’ perception of religious reality and set them at extreme variance with other churches. For a discussion on religious ‘facts’ in the context of revivalism, see Frank Lambert, Inventing the “Great Awakening” (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 6. Lambert is citing Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Basic Books, 1973), 112.
 Texas Christian Advocate (29 November 1879), 2.
 George McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, and the Fanaticism Which Followed. Aquilla, TX: J. H. Padgett, 1886. For a sketch of Rev. McCulloch’s life and ministry see The Texas Conference of the Free Methodist Church, 19-21.
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 4-5.
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 3. As prooftexts, McCulloch cites Romans 8:7; Romans 6:6; I Cor. 3:1-5; Romans 12:1; I Thess. 4:3; and I Thess 5:23.
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 4.
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 1-2. Such ‘legalistic’ preaching, with its stern denunciations of freemasonry, would have sharply conflicted with prominent Cumberland Presbyterian ministers of this era, many of whom were prominent Masons. For example, see “Young Harrington Hamilton, 1828-1880, Cumberland Presbyterian Minister,” available from http://www.cumberland.org/hfcpc/minister/HamiltYH.htm ; accessed 27 February 2003. Hamilton was a prominent pastor and evangelist in Central Texas, not far from Corsicana, when the ‘fanaticism’ occurred. A close friend of Rev. Allison Templeton, Hamilton “was killed by an accidental fall from a wagon” August 20, 1880. Hamilton was a master Mason, buried with full Masonic rites. “His life work was preaching the gospel, but closely associated with it was his activity as a mason [sic].”
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 4.
 For example, see Donald W. Dayton, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, Studies in Evangelicalism 5 (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1987), especially pages 160-163.
 Scholars often point to the holiness movement’s widespread adoption of premillennialism after 1890. As William Kostlevy states, “The spread of premillennial eschatology in the Holiness Movement coincided with the growing resistance to the holiness messages on the part of denominational leaders during the 1890s.” William Kostlevy, “Nor Silver, Nor Gold: The Burning Bush Movement and the Communitarian Holiness Vision” (Ph.D. diss., University of Notre Dame, 1996), 20. Others have interpreted the rise of premillennialism as a reactionary movement against modern currents of thought. See John Bruce Behney, “Conservatism and Liberalism in the Theology of Late Nineteenth Century American Protestantism: A Comparative Study of the Basic Doctrines of Typical Representatives” (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1941), 2-8.
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 6. Besides the obvious characteristic of premillennialism, Rev. Willis’ use of ‘Babylon’ to cast aspersion on existing churches points to Adventism as a possible source. See Jonathan Butler, “From Millerism to Seventh-day Adventism: ‘Boundlessness to Consolidation’” in New and Intense Movements, vol. 11 of Modern American Protestantism and Its World: Historical Articles on Protestantism in American Religious Life, ed. Martin E. Marty (New York: K. G. Saur, 1993), 81. Seventh-day Adventists sent R. M. Kilgore as a pioneer evangelist to Texas in 1876. See “Southwestern: History: Dortch Pump Organ,” available from http://www.swau.edu/history/dortch/ ; accessed 10 March 2003.
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 7.
 Timothy Smith acknowledged the Cumberland Presbyterians as “fervently evangelistic,” having originated in the “Great Western Revival, after 1800.” With reference to Central Texas, he states: “By the 1880s many Cumberland Presbyterian pastors were stressing the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a second work of grace and supporting holiness camp meetings and revivals in their communities.” Timothy L. Smith, Called Unto Holiness: The Story of the Nazarenes: The Formative Years (Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, 1962), 152. Smith is citing George McCulloch’s History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, but he also cites Cumberland Presbyterian LVI, no. 10 (9 September 1897), 2; and Cumberland Presbyterian LVI, no. 11 (16 September 1897), article by J. B. Mitchell, “The Discussion on Sanctification.” However, as demonstrated in this paper, Cumberland Presbyterians were involved in the holiness movement as early as 1878.
 Though most historical records present him in an unfavorable light, Rev. R. J. Sims became one of the first full-time evangelists in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church after the Civil War, and one of the denomination’s most effective revivalists until his departure in the ensuing controversy. One visitor to a protracted meeting observed that the congregation assembled to hear Rev. Sims was “immense,” and noted that ten pews had to be emptied to accommodate the penitents. See B. W. McDonnold, History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 4th ed. (Nashville, TN: Board of Publication of Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1899), available from http://www.cumberland.org/hfcpc/mcdonold/42-49.htm ; accessed 27 February 2003. If this is indeed the same evangelist, the loss to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was considerable, and partially explains the substantial effort to dismiss the sect as fanaticism.
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 8-9.
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 17-18. According to Charles B. Jernigan, all five Cumberland Presbyterian ministers who led the Corsicana Enthusiasts were well-educated. See Charles B. Jernigan, The Holiness Movement in the Southwest (Concord, NC: Wesleyan Heritage Library [CD-ROM], 1999), ch. 28. Certainly, ignorance does not appear to be a factor among the leadership; rather, the primary ingredient appears to be eschatological expectation of a fever pitch.
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 19.
 “They had the plan of salvation divided into seven steps, which they called seven steps to the throne. The first step was repentance; the second, justification; the third, regeneration; the fourth, entire sanctification; the fifth, the baptism with the Holy Ghost; the sixth, the gift of healing; the seventh, translation faith. Those who obtained this faith could never see death, but would live to see Jesus come in His millennial glory, and be translated at His coming, which would be only a short time off.” Jernigan, Holiness Movement in the Southwest, ch. 28. This is merely an example of typological exegesis, a hermeneutic practiced by countless preachers of this era. William B. Godbey carried out the practice with the same passage, except he affirmed the last step as glorification, a state reached only in heaven. See William B. Godbey, Holiness or Hell? (Noblesville, IN: Newby Book Room, 1974), 92.
 Considering their emphasis on power, the Corsicana Enthusiasts may be the earliest sect to embrace the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a distinctive ‘work of grace.’ Considering their emphasis on additional instantaneous works of grace beyond entire sanctification, the ‘enthusiasts’ resemble the ‘Fire-Baptized’ Movement of Benjamin Irwin. See Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, especially 50-58. His section on ‘Pentecostal Sanctification’ (page 50) resonates with descriptions of Christian experience sought and obtained by the ‘enthusiasts.’ Synan bases his research on Dayton, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, 87-113 and Charles E. Jones, A Guide to the Study of the Holiness Movement (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1974), 283-286.
 See McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 19-21. According to McCulloch, the sect’s leaders “met together at Corsicana, as Bro. Sims was at this time (the spring of 1878) holding a meeting at the Cumberland church in that city. He was preaching on the gifts more than anything else (as recorded in I Cor., 12th chapter) and he invited several forward in order to receive some one or other of these gifts by the laying on of hands.” McCulloch names several individuals who profess to have received a ‘gift’ by this means, but notes that Rev. Cyrus T. Hogan did not profess any such ‘gift’ even after several ‘enthusiasts’ laid hands on his head. “The fact is, Bro. Hogan was a man of too much hard sense to be deceived by any such pretensions,” adds McCulloch. He further points out that “They continued their meeting here for some time on this line; but they had no revival, or any success in saving souls.” McCulloch names “Bro. J. R. Sims” as “the leading spirit in this whole movement from first to last, as long as he went with it; and there is no doubt that he was the great cause of Bro. Haynes and the other preachers being led astray.” For a sketch of Rev. Cyrus T. Hogan—a leading holiness minister who opposed the Corsicana Enthusiasts—see The Texas Conference of the Free Methodist Church, 21-23.
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 21. “They professed to see from the prophecies of Daniel and Joel that the ‘Times of the Gentiles’ was about fulfilled [sic]; and that they were then about the middle of the ‘Gentile week,’ with about three and a half or four years yet to expire before Christ should come; but that a translation of the one-hundred and forty-four thousand would take place about forty-two months before his advent into the world.”
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 25. McCulloch states that the ‘enthusiasts’ provided this explanation to Rev. Cyrus T. Hogan. McCulloch provides additional detail on pages 33-34, when the Corsicana Enthusiasts reached greater extremes at the peak of their influence in the summer of 1879. “They continued from this [time] on to be led more and more by impressions. They would not preach now unless they were impressed to do so. . . And what preaching they did now was but a declaration of their wild, unscriptural doctrines. Wm. Groves was generally the medium through which they had their supposed communication with God. He would get under the power, as they called it, and keep up a jerking motion, and in a minute or two he would give them the supposed answer.”
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 26. Much of the controversy generated in the surrounding community may have occurred over the common habitation of men and women, neither married nor of blood relation, as well as the radical nature of their religious motives. Many residents may have feared the spread of the radicalism to their own households, and consequent disruption of farm labor and domestic relations. This could have brought economic disaster and social ostracism on these households, as it surely did on the Corsicana Enthusiasts.
 Spiritualism should not be regarded as an organized body of teachings, but rather as a type of supernaturalism that swept across America in the mid-nineteenth century. Although much older, the American Spiritualist Movement originated in Hydesville, New York, as a means for communicating with the dead. Obviously, the Corsicana Enthusiasts did not adopt these measures to communicate with the dead, but as an extraordinary channel for eschatological information. Measures included sitting in circles, men and women alternating, with defined bodily movements as the medium. The mood of Spiritualism was highly individualistic, bypassing church tradition and even the Scriptures. This seems consistent with the sect’s rejection of existing churches, anti-ordnance sentiments and extreme inclination toward Spirit-guidance. Moreover, Spiritualism’s liberal notions of marriage coincide with the enthusiasts’ declarations that if husband and wife disagreed over sanctification, the parties were at liberty to separate. See McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 35.
 Some holiness evangelists accused early Pentecostals with spiritualism, which from their perspective was nothing less than communion with demons. “Their invasion of the Holiness Movement by Spiritualism is the most fatal effort which has ever been launched against it by the king of the bottomless pit. . . It has been like bombshells thrown into the ranks from masked batteries throughout the whole earth and consequently breaking out everywhere.” William B. Godbey, Spiritualism, Devil-worship and the Tongues (Cincinnati, OH: God’s Revivalist Press, n.d.), 22.
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 30. Research in several appropriate databases has turned up neither bibliographic information about the periodical nor biographical information about Henry T. Williams. An author by that name published nineteenth-century tourist information about the American West; however, at present nothing conclusive has been found that would tie this author to the Corsicana Enthusiasts.
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 30-31. “They began again to seek for the gifts mentioned in the 12th chapter of 1st Corinthians; and many claimed that they received them; and instead of preaching to sinners to get saved, and believers to get sanctified, they commenced to seek for imaginary blessings. The preachers sought for such power as that everywhere sinners would fall as dead men under their preaching; and yet they claimed that the Holy Spirit was taken out of the world, as Christ had left the mediatorial throne, and was now preparing a people for translation to himself. And they stated publically that from henceforth no sinner ever could be converted to God. They also sought the power that on whomsoever they (the preachers) would lay their hands they should recover. And it is said that they actually tried to bring a dead child to life by laying on of hands, though we rather doubt it. Some of them believed that they had the power to baptize, or anoint, with the Holy Ghost; and many of their followers went forward and professed to receive the Holy Ghost at their hands.”
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 32. “Many remarkable cases of healing are mentioned, that took place amongst them, by the laying on of hands, during this time.”
 For example, see Dayton, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, especially 122-130. However, when Dayton discusses ‘Healing in the Atonement’ (127-130), he discusses sources (A. B. Simpson and A. J. Gordon) dating from 1881 and later. The Corsicana Enthusiasts are without question among the earliest ‘holiness people’ to explicitly embrace the doctrine of healing in the atonement.
 The Corsicana Enthusiasts taught that believers could be delivered from death, even in this mortal life. “They soon believed that it was their privilege to be saved from death; and to prove this they quoted I Cor. 15:22; “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” And again, Heb. 2:14, 15: “That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” And again, 2d Tim. 1:10: “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who hath abolised [sic] death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 37-39. According to Jernigan, the most inflammatory issue in this instance concerned the enthusiasts’ views concerning marriage. “They also taught that in case a man’s wife did not believe as he did it was sufficient grounds for scriptural divorce. This of course gave them room to put into practice their doctrines. Public feelings were outraged and indignation meetings were held, and a committee waited on the preachers and demanded that they leave town or that such teachings be stopped.” Jernigan’s account of Rev. Haynes’ defiance matches McCulloch’s. “Rev. Mr. Haynes defied the whole community, and declared that he was death proof, that they could not kill him with a gun if they wanted to, boldly declaring his purpose to continue as he had, teaching such things as were revealed to him.” Jernigan also provides an account of the capture of Rev. Haynes, but he states that the latter was indeed dunked in water and became “unconscious from the ducking and the chill of the cold.” Jernigan notes that this nocturnal action “broke up the meeting and Haynes soon left town.” Jernigan, Holiness Movement in the Southwest, ch. 28.
 McCulloch, History of the Holiness Movement in Texas, 57-69
 According to contemporary accounts by evangelists, most people who responded to altar calls in holiness revivals appear to be women. While historians can only speculate about their reasons for kneeling at the mourner’s bench, some women may have sought entire sanctification as a morally respectable channel for transcending an oppressive marriage. Anyone who challenged social mores concerning marriage and sexuality would earn the title “free lovers” from critics who used the term to discredit them ad baculum. The holiness movement employed the same tactic against early Pentecostals. Since the groups were remarkably similar, a common strategy involved casting moral opprobrium on opponents. See Grant Wacker, “Travail of a Broken Family: Radical Evangelical Responses to the Emergence of Pentecostalism in America, 1906-16,” in Pentecostal Currents in American Protestantism, ed. Edith L. Blumhofer, Russell P. Spittler, and Grant A. Wacker (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999), 31. The same charges were hurled against nineteenth-century Spiritualism, whose leaders were accused of “Free Loveism” because of their radical notions of marriage and sexuality rather than actual practice of promiscuity. See Mary Farrell Bednarowski, “Outside the Mainstream: Women’s Religion and Women Religious Leaders in Nineteenth-Century America.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion XLVIII:2, 215-216.
 “We found in that country deep and inveterate hostility to sanctification, resulting mainly from a fatal fanaticism which had visited the land in preceding years, preaching a counterfeit sanctification, which required husband and wife to separate.” William B. Godbey, Autobiography of W. B. Godbey (Cincinnati, OH: God’s Revivalist Office, 1909), 328.
 “Mr. Roberts attributed the backwardness of the work to circumstances that were entirely out of their control. A fine impression of holiness work had been created by a holiness camp meeting held five years before by G. R. Harvey and Dr. Bush of the Methodist Church South. The meeting had been eminently successful, resulting in four hundred conversions, and two hundred professions of holiness. People were favorable to holiness, until a Rev. Richard [sic] Haines, of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, who professed and preached the experience of holiness, had followed the above mentioned camp meeting, and preached that people should come out of all the churches, claiming that the church was an instrument of the devil. This man professed unusual spiritual gifts and had indulged in the ‘wildest excesses,’ including waiting in an upper room with some of his followers for translation. He died and his body was kept for days awaiting the resurrection until finally police discovered it and forced burial. Mr. Roberts said, ‘A perfect revolution took place in the minds of the people, and the doctrine of holiness became as unpopular as it had been popular before.’” Zahniser, Earnest Christian: Life and Works of Benjamin Titus Roberts, 316-317.
J. Douglas Brackenridge states: “Occasionally synods and presbyteries warned their constituents to be wary of strange new doctrines taught by various Adventist groups. In 1878 Brazos Synod charged its people ‘to stand aloof from and close their doors against the teachings of the Seventh Day Adventists and Reformed Mormons as being propagated in our country.’ About the same time Texas Synod eschewed any connection with several ex-Cumberland ministers who had organized ‘The Temple of the Coming Lord’ in Corsicana, Texas. Deeming their doctrines ‘heretical and fanatical. . . poisonous and insidious,’ synod leaders charged people to stay clear of such doctrinal aberrations. Colorado Synod lashed out against so-called ‘Christian perfectionists,’ accusing them of advocating ‘free lovism under the garb of the higher life.’ It also condemned ‘new and startling revelations both of prophecy and miracles,’ referring to the many Adventist-oriented groups which were springing up at this time.” Brackenridge is citing, respectively: Brazos Synod Minutes (1878), 87; Texas Synod Minutes (1879), 242; and Colorado Synod Minutes (1879), 234-235, 237-238. R. Douglas Brackenridge, Voice in the Wilderness: A History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Texas (San Antonio, TX: Trinity University Press, 1968), 108-109.
 “One of the outstanding ministers of the Cumberland Presbyterian church [sic] in the early days was Rev. Allison Templeton, who moved from Tennessee to Corsicana in 1879 to bring harmony to the church after a disruption caused by the question of sanctification which at that time was causing trouble to many congregations. He made a vivid impression on the people of Corsicana but unfortunately he lived only three years after reaching Texas, dying June 28, 1882.” Love, History of Navarro County, 161.