Frank Sandford

Frank Weston Sandford (October 2, 1862 – March 4, 1948)[1] was a charismatic American religious leader who attained notoriety as the founder and leader of "The Kingdom".

Frank Sandford
Frank Sandford.jpg
Frank Sandford in 1909
Frank Weston Sandford

(1862-10-02)October 2, 1862
DiedMarch 4, 1948(1948-03-04) (aged 85)
Resting placeHobart, New York, U.S.
Other namesF. W. Sandford
OccupationReligious leader, preacher, founder of the Kingdom
Spouse(s)Helen Kinney Sandford
Criminal chargeManslaughter, cruelty to children
Penalty7-year sentence in Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary

Sanford was born in Bowdoinham, Maine to a farm family. In his thirties, he was exposed to premillennialism, the Higher Life movement, the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, and divine healing. In August 1891, after performing an exorcism and claiming to hear the voice of god in a forest warn him of "Armageddon", he established a commune called the "Shiloh" in Durham, Maine. Commune members were forced to fast, pray for hours-on-end, and obey his orders absolutely. After commune members disagreed about his biblical interpretations he instituted a chain-of-command in which his commands were limited by only by those of God and Jesus Christ. Eventually he declared himself the incarnation of the prophet Elijah and King David, and founded "The Kingdom"–an apocalyptic Christian sect.

Considered by former members and many of his neighbors to be an autocrat who insisted on unquestioning loyalty, Sandford regularly starved his followers, which resulted in deadly outbreaks of smallpox, diphtheria, and other infectious diseases. The death of 14-year-old Leander Bartlett lead to Sandford's conviction for manslaughter and cruelty to children in 1904, though a 1905 Maine Supreme Court ruling reversed the convictions. Sandford then sailed to Jerusalem on multiple missionary voyages. In 1910, he traveled aboard the Kingdom, to Africa with more than seventy men, women, and children. In March 1911, the Kingdom went aground and was destroyed off the coast of French West Africa, an event that inspired Sandford to sail to Greenland in an attempt create a mission station there. Because Sandford knowingly sailed with insufficient food and supplies, six crew members were stricken with scurvy and died on his return to Portland.

Sandford was detained by authorities and sentenced to seven years in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. While there, he sent letters to his followers that were distributed among members of his commune. In 1918, Sandford was released on good behavior and returned to the "Shiloh", resuming his responsibilities after previously attempting to install his son, John, as leader. Nevertheless, two years later, the death of another commune member led to "The Scattering". After the commune was evacuated by law, he moved to New York's Catskill Mountains to be closer to God. On March 4, 1948, Sandford died and his body was secretly buried by his followers. All of his belongings burned in various house fires. Although his absence retarded the growth of the small sect, it survived, in attenuated form, into the 21st century with the creation of the Kingdom Christian Ministries in 1998.

Early life and educationEdit

Sandford was born in Bowdoinham, Maine, the tenth child of a farming family.[1] As a young man Frank was a natural leader. An early companion recalled that he was always the one who "drove the horse and steered the boat"; if they played ball, "he was always a captain."[2] His father died when Frank was fourteen, and by sixteen he was teaching school during an era in which physical prowess was often necessary to establish classroom discipline.[3]

During his second year of teaching, Sandford reluctantly attended a revival meeting at his mother's Free Baptist church and was converted on February 29, 1880. He threw away his tobacco and announced his conversion publicly, not only at church but also at Nichols Latin School, where worldly cosmopolitanism was the preferred pose.[4]

Entering Bates College on a general scholarship, Sandford was elected class president and served as both coach and catcher of the baseball team.[5] He graduated in 1886 with honors and was chosen to give a commencement address. For a summer he captained a semi-pro baseball team and was approached by professional scouts. After a teammate ridiculed him for attending church on the annual State of Maine Fast Day, Sandford returned to Bates to attend Cobb Divinity School.[6]

Frustrated by the seminary's mixture of formalism and religious modernism, Sandford later said that God had addressed him directly with words from the gospel of Matthew, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." For the rest of his life he distrusted academic religion.[7] Soon thereafter the twenty-four-year-old dropped out of seminary after he was called as pastor by the Freewill Baptist church in Topsham, Maine.[8] Sandford was frenetically energetic, and within three years his revivals resulted in three hundred conversions and more than a hundred baptisms. Besides serving as pastor, he became principal of the Topsham schools and organized sports programs for both local children and workers at a paper mill.[9]

Early travelsEdit

Beginning in 1887, Sandford's religious views changed dramatically. In July, he attended Dwight L. Moody’s "College of Colleges" at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Northfield, Massachusetts, the second annual meeting of the Student Volunteer Movement.[10] The college men who attended represented a revival of interest in foreign missions among more privileged Americans.[11] Moody himself provided Sandford with three important religious ideas: personal holiness, living by faith, and informal preaching.[12] Shortly thereafter, Sandford read Hannah Whitall Smith's, The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life (1875).[13] Smith was an exponent of "higher life" Christianity; but what most attracted Sandford was Smith's "emphasis on action, on a life that acts on faith, that obeys by doing."[14]

Later that fall Sandford was present for a religious conference that featured the Rev. A. B. Simpson, who had come to Maine specifically to organize the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Simpson's ministry emphasized not only missions and deeper life holiness but also faith healing. (At the latter meeting Sandford also met Helen Kinney, the daughter of a wealthy cotton broker, who had surrendered a career in art to become a foreign missionary.)[15] Finally, in the summer of 1888, Sandford attended the Niagara Bible Conference, which emphasized the imminent, premillennial return of Christ.[16]

These diverse, yet related, strands of late 19th-century evangelicalism came together for Sandford after he accepted the pastorate of a more affluent Free Baptist Church in Somersworth, New Hampshire. Following a period of emotional depression—perhaps a nervous breakdown—he was temporarily released by his church after the denomination invited him and another young minister to travel around the world.[17] Sandford visited Japan, China, India, Egypt, and Palestine. In China he toured the China Inland Mission of Hudson Taylor, where he noted with admiration that "all depend upon God for support and divide their supplies equally"—a model for his own Shiloh.[18] Visiting the Holy Land, Sandford developed a lifelong passion for more knowledge about it, but he nearly died when his steamer sank off Jaffa.[19]

Pre-Shiloh activitiesEdit

After his return to America, the pastorate seemed tame, his congregation narrow-minded. In August 1891, Sandford had two strange experiences: he tentatively, but (at least according to his own testimony) successfully, cast demons out of a friend; and the following morning, he heard whispered in the trees the single word, "Armageddon." Shortly thereafter, Sandford convinced Helen Kinney, whom he had met again as a missionary in Japan, to marry him. When he suggested leaving the pastorate and preaching the gospel without visible support, she replied, "I think it would be lovely."[20]

On New Year's Day, 1893, Sandford told his church that God had told him, "Go." He resigned his pulpit and gave away his savings in the teeth of an economic panic and depression.[21] Sandford and his wife then began holding meetings in rural Maine—at the beginning with virtually no congregations and no financial support. But Sandford continued to preach.[22] Eventually he achieved some success among people in the coastal hill regions of Maine, and contributions now came in plentifully, although Sandford did not solicit money or even pass a collection plate.[23]

By the fall of 1894, Sandford believed that he no longer bore responsibility for his actions, that he need only respond to the movings of the Holy Spirit.[24] Thus abandoning the Free Baptists, he began to issue a monthly magazine in which he advertised for other workers to join him in his ministry.[25] A year later with a small but committed following of young people, he announced the opening of a school, soon given the name "Holy Ghost and Us Bible School." The school charged no tuition, offered no courses, and had no teachers except Sandford and no textbooks except the Bible.[26]


In 1896, Sandford became convinced that God had told him to build a home for the Bible school on a sandy hill near Durham, Maine.[27] At that moment Sandford had three cents in his pocket. Nevertheless, he had plenty of faith that God would provide the means of putting up a building without his explicitly asking for money. Although Sandford eventually decided that publishing a list of needs in his Tongues of Fire would be acceptable, the manner in which the money and volunteer labor was provided by supporters was nearly miraculous in any case.[28] Sandford had intended to name only the main building "Shiloh" (after a place in the Bible), but the name "Shiloh" was obviously more mellifluous than "The Holy Ghost and Us," and it became the informal name of Sandford's movement.[29]

Shiloh (c. 1901)

At its height, the Shiloh had more than six hundred residents who attempted to "live in the supernatural." None worked for pay, and all depended on God to supply their material needs. To live at Shiloh meant to "be in a constant state of readiness for the 'Holy Spirit's latest,' as Sandford put it. This meant no settling into ruts of any kind. It meant being ready to do any job, especially those you were least adept at....It meant being open to last-minute changes in schedule."[30] There was a typical schedule: one or two hours of private devotions in the morning, breakfast and kitchen chores, prayer at 9 AM, classes until noon, lunch before personal household or office duties. But the schedule might be interrupted at any moment by some special request for prayer. "God's work could not be crammed into a human schedule, and fussy ideas about order were not appropriate."[31]

Theological developmentEdit

Except for celebrating Jewish Feasts and keeping the Sabbath on Saturday, Sandford's theology was, at this point, not far from mainstream evangelicalism. Nevertheless, because Sandford believed that Thursday was the day on which Jesus was crucified, he and his followers prayed for six hours (from 9 AM to 3 PM) on that day.[32] In the summer of 1896, Sandford publicly discussed the two prophets mentioned in the Book of Revelation who would appear before Christ's Second Coming, and he declared that his school would "stand by and if need be die" with them.[33] When Sandford's son John was born shortly after the dedication of Shiloh, Sandford said that (like John the Baptist), the boy had been "filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb."[34]

British IsraelismEdit

By 1898 Sandford had found additional spiritual and material support among Higher Life Christians in Boston and London, and he concluded that God now wanted him to establish an outpost in Palestine. Visiting Jerusalem for the first time, he dashed off a paper announcing that the Ten Lost Tribes were England and America, blood descendants of the ancient Hebrews who had been carried into captivity by the Assyrians in 721 BC.[35] British Israelism was a religious version of ideas about Anglo-Saxon supremacy that were common to the contemporary English-speaking world, and the doctrine made the Bible all the more relevant because its prophecies seemed to apply to the people of Shiloh and the nation of which it was a part.[36]

Divine healingEdit

By the early 20th century, the doctrine of divine healing had become an important part of Sandford's teaching. Initially skeptical, Sandford had resolved to “preach that part of the Bible” after attending an 1887 meeting where A.B. Simpson had spoken on the subject. In 1897 Sandford also witnessed and praised the miracles of contemporary faith healer John Alexander Dowie.[37] Soon Tongues of Fire reported healings of pneumonia, cancer, diphtheria, catarrh, "sick headache," sprained wrist, dropsy, typhoid, mental derangement, broken bones, and "utter exhaustion."[38] A local three-year-old girl who had been pronounced permanently blind by medical authorities suddenly regained her sight after prayer was offered for her at Shiloh.[39] But the most spectacular case was the "resurrection" of Olive Mills, who had been seriously ill, perhaps with spinal meningitis. Told Mills was dead, Sandford found her without breath or pulse. In desperation he shouted, "Olive Mills! Come back! In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, come back!" Almost immediately, Mills opened her eyes, and within a few hours she was out of bed and dressed.[40]

Sandford believed the Epistle of James compelled Christians who were sick to call church elders for prayer and the laying on of hands. Sandford criticized Christians who sought treatment from physicians. He believed that illness might be the result of either discipline from God or an attack of Satan; but casting out demons required “prevailing prayer,” an exercise that included such protracted fervency and shouting that one skeptic became apprehensive as what sounded “like a hundred people talking at once” concluded with a woman’s screams piercing the din.[41] In 1899, Sandford received a divine message to complete a hospital in a hasty building drive—a technique frequently employed at Shiloh—but it was a hospital in which doctors were permitted only for diagnoses and consultations. No medicines of any kind were provided.[42] Among those influenced by these early religious developments at Shiloh were A. J. Tomlinson, founder of the Church of God, and Charles Fox Parham, one of the founders of the Pentecostal movement.[43]

Acting for GodEdit

By end of the century Sandford became convinced "that as the passive agent of God's will, he could require exact and total obedience." Furthermore, as Hiss has written, to skeptics "Sandford's language vibrated with blasphemy, for in describing his own prayers as God's actions, he seemed to regard himself as having divine powers."[44]

Inevitably Sandford encountered opposition. A brief follower published an exposé, Sanfordism Exposed,[45] and relatives of converts who wished to deed their property to Shiloh tried to have them declared insane.[46] Although Durham benefited from levying taxes on the residential portions of Shiloh, the town also feared that block voting by Shiloh residents might dominate the town meeting, the school board, or the board of selectmen or, that in the event of bankruptcy, its members might become dependent on town charity.[47]

More serious threats arose from among Sandford's own followers. The movement claimed to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, but conflict developed when members disagreed about where the Holy Spirit was leading.[48] In September 1900 Sandford announced that there would henceforth be an official chain of authority: God the Father, God the Son, the prophet whom God had chosen, ordained ministers subordinate to the prophet, everyone else subordinate to the ministers, with women and children also subordinate to their husbands and fathers.[49] Sandford then instituted an organized purge of members that "incorporated not just confession, but long day and night sessions of open and unrelenting criticism of each other. One's capacity to accept that scouring in a contrite and cooperative spirit, without resentment or defensiveness, was the first step in passing the grade." One by one individuals were then brought before Sandford himself for final scrutiny by "the seven eyes of God."[50]

Sandford also developed a three-tiered membership in his religious system:[51] those willing to be "100-fold warriors" would be supported by 60- and 30-fold members who would live in their own homes and continue to work. In 1901, to make a clean break with the past, Sandford instituted closed communion and rebaptized all local members of his society in the nearby Androscoggin River.[52]

Identification with Elijah and DavidEdit

Shortly thereafter, Sandford announced that God had spoken three words to him "like a thunderbolt": "Elijah is Here!" And it was as Elijah that Sandford now called down God's judgment on "every lying pen," editors who had written critically "about this man of God."[53] As usual Sandford was also making an eschatological reference. Sandford believed that he, as Elijah, would be one of the "Two Witnesses" of Revelation 11, who would be martyred and rise from the dead in Jerusalem before the coming of Christ's kingdom.[54] The "Elijah" announcement was met with increased ridicule from the press and led to the breaking of all ties with followers of Moody and A. B. Simpson.[55]

In 1902, after once again visiting Jerusalem, Sandford received a divine message that indicated that in some way, he was also the biblical David. Sandford had a portrait of himself printed encircled by the words "David careth for the Sheep," and he immediately renamed his movement "The Kingdom."[56]

Manslaughter trialEdit

Sandford returned to Maine to find his community at what he considered a low spiritual ebb and with many members ill, most fearfully with smallpox. Peers were encouraged to closely examine each other's lives for sin, and parents regularly whipped children, a practice Sandford apparently condoned as the "schoolmaster to bring them to Christ."[57] In January 1903, Sandford instituted a "Ninevah Fast" forbidding all food or liquid for thirty-six hours even for infants, animals, and the sick. During that period fourteen-year-old Leander Bartlett, who had confessed to the most serious sin of planning to run away from Shiloh, died of diphtheria.[58] When Sandford's own six-year-old son, John, disobeyed him, Sandford ordered him to fast without food or water until he declared himself glad to be whipped.[59] A prominent defector from the sect, Nathan Harriman, publicized John’s treatment and declared Sandford’s hold over the people of Shiloh a kind of hypnotism, in which God's requirements were "identical with those of Sandford.” [60]

Many local residents took a dim view of Sandford, and the newspapers engaged in "long-running campaigns against Shiloh." One editor denounced Shiloh as " a damnable institution, a hell upon earth and the worst blot that ever disgraced the fair pages of Maine's history."[61] In January 1904 Sandford was indicted by Androscoggin County on charges of cruelty to children and manslaughter—cruelty in the case of his son and manslaughter for his role in Bartlett's death. A jury convicted Sandford on the cruelty charge but was hung on the charge of manslaughter.[62] On appeal, the verdict in the cruelty case was upheld; and at retrial, Sandford was convicted of manslaughter. In 1905, the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine reversed the manslaughter conviction because the trial judge had required jurors to make a decision based on their own belief about the "efficacy of prayer as a means to cure the sick." Another jury trial resulted in another hung jury.[63] Meanwhile, Sandford had his followers sign a ten-foot scroll called the "Pledge of Loyalty," which included among its articles of faith a statement that "F. W. Sandford of Shiloh, Maine, U.S.A." was Elijah and David, and that "I believe in and accept him as such."[64]

Circumnavigation on the CoronetEdit

Coronet (1894)

While his manslaughter case was still in the courts, Sandford purchased the racing yacht Coronet, an extravagantly appointed schooner, for $10,000—raised in the usual Shiloh manner by prayer, "in this case, forty days and nights of it, with shifts for eating and sleeping."[65] Sandford made two quick trips to Jerusalem in 1905-06, but when his legal difficulties had ended, he and his thirty selected crewmen and passengers (including his wife and five children) circumnavigated the globe on what he described as a missionary journey.[66] It was an unconventional missionary enterprise. No one went ashore to preach the Gospel or even distribute religious literature. Sandford intended to "subdue the world for Christ" by intercessory prayer, claiming nations and isles for Christ by sounding brass instruments as they passed by.[67] Oddly, Sandford added a taxidermist to a crew of reasonably experienced seamen, and he included on a ship already filled to capacity both "eyes for stuffed animals and birds" and a large harp on which he took lessons.[68] There were moments of real peril, as when the Coronet fought its way through the thundering seas around Cape Horn and then again after a powerful gale broke the main sheet and (indirectly) part of the mast almost immediately after Sandford had shot an albatross.[69] During calmer periods, Sandford had leisure enough to hunt and receive an occasional vision.[70]

Later sea voyagesEdit

Even before returning to Maine, Sandford heard that Florence Whittaker, a member of his outpost in Jerusalem, wanted to abandon the sect whether or not her minister husband (who had just accompanied Sandford on the multi-year circumnavigation) would leave with her. At this point Sandford decided to bring back all his followers from Palestine, and Whittaker reluctantly agreed to accept passage to the United States on another Shiloh ship, the three-masted barquentine, Kingdom. She was treated with utmost courtesy until they reached the Maine coast, at which point Sandford refused to let her land until she was "adjusted" to her husband.[71] Eventually Whittaker was freed by court order and was then given custody of her children.[72]

The story made sensational newspaper fare, especially when Florence Whittaker sued Sandford for forcible detention. At the time Sandford was aboard the Coronet, and authorities began watching ports to serve him the legal papers.[73] Sandford determined that they would not find him, that a mission station should be opened immediately in Africa and perhaps another in Greenland.[74] In December 1910 more than seventy men, women, and children headed off to Africa, divided between the Kingdom and the Coronet. In March 1911, the Kingdom went aground and was destroyed off the coast of French West Africa. Sandford blamed the wreck on the spiritual impotence of its passengers and crew, but he took everyone aboard the Coronet, which now became fearfully overloaded with people and undersupplied with food and water.[75]

Nevertheless, Sandford heard the supernatural direction, "Continue," which he interpreted to mean to sail on to Greenland. After recrossing the Atlantic to catch the northerly currents, the Coronet passed up numerous opportunities to take on water and supplies, Sandford announcing that God had ordered him not to put into port in the United States or Canada.[76] Finally, on September 6, 1911, there was a "quiet mutiny" of some sort off the Grand Banks, and the Coronet was turned south.[77] Unfortunately, the ship now made little headway, and the passengers and crew were saved from possible starvation only by the fortuitous appearance of the ocean liner, S. S. Lapland, which provided some food—but ominously, no fruit or vegetables.[78]

Almost before they knew what was happening, men began to fall victim to scurvy; and within a few days after the Coronet reached Portland on October 21, 1911, scurvy had claimed the lives of six crew members. Sandford was first arrested on Florence Whittaker's warrant and then, a few days later, for being responsible for the deaths—"unlawfully, knowingly, and willingly" allowing a ship to "proceed on a voyage at sea without sufficient provisions."[79]

Trial, conviction, and imprisonmentEdit

Sandford refused to employ legal counsel at the trial, although he did receive legal advice—which he rejected.[80] In court, Sandford declared that the sickness and starvation aboard the Coronet was punishment from God for refusing to obey his command to continue to Greenland. The jury brought in a guilty verdict within an hour. On December 17, 1911, Sanford was sentenced to serve not more than ten years at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia.[81]

Although Sandford accepted imprisonment as the will of God, he had difficulty at first bending to prison regulations. But with sleep, proper nourishment, and enforced exercise, his health gradually improved. He even insisted that Shiloh residents drop whatever they were doing at 11:30 and 4:00 and exercise with him. He was made a gatekeeper and given a pass that allowed him to spend some time out of doors. He also volunteered to teach a group of prisoners how to read and write and especially enjoyed conducting a weekly Bible class that began with one student and grew to more than a hundred. Eventually Shiloh was allowed to send him a harp, and Sandford was not only able to practice, he gave at least two concerts at the prison.[82]

Sandford had appointed seven ministers to share responsibility for leading the group, but his letters were treated like "a purse of gold." Many of them, even private letters to his family, were printed and distributed. Because prisoners were only allowed to send two letters a month, a sect member moved to Atlanta and took dictation during weekly visits.[83]

Religious downfallEdit

During his imprisonment, Sandford tried to promote his teenage son John as a Shiloh leader, and John seems to have had some success at editing a new periodical, The Golden Trumpet.[84] But when in 1915, John was put in charge of an inquisitorial board called the "Eye-of-the-Needle," intended to probe the souls of Shiloh residents, Sandford himself brought the experiment to a halt when his son incurred resentment and, in any case, proved temperamentally unsuited to the task. Shortly thereafter, Marguerite, one of Sandford's daughters, ran away from the community, a serious blow to Sandford's authority because of his insistence that leaders be able to "handle their children."[85]

Given three years off for good behavior, Sandford was released from prison in September 1918. When he reappeared at Shiloh, he was served a sumptuous meal, although many Shiloh residents had recently suffered serious illness and almost all, hunger. Sandford's return to Shiloh sparked new contributions and new healings, even food enough for two meals a day.[86]

Nevertheless, three days after his arrival, another of Sandford's daughters ran away,[87] and a few months later Sandford left Maine for the sect's Boston headquarters.[88] Furthermore, the sect had conducted virtually no evangelistic outreach since the beginning of Sandford's imprisonment in 1911.[89]

The end of the Shiloh community came suddenly in 1920 after the death of Shiloh resident Elma Hastings and a suit brought by relatives for guardianship of her children on the grounds of non-support by their father. Then the Children's Protective Society of Maine, having investigated living conditions at Shiloh, urged that all minors be removed from the community.[90]

In March 1920, Sandford sent the message, "Work."[91] No one anticipated that this directive would effectively end the Shiloh community within days. Two months later the prayer vigils had stopped, the Bible school was closed, and the Shiloh population had dropped from 370 to a handful.[92] As Nelson has written, once the men went off to the mills, everything changed. With "the assurance that they would never be hungry again," that their needs would be met in the same way everyone else's were met, "there was no reason to stay. They could be ordinary Christians anywhere."[93]


Before Shiloh was finally deserted in May, Sandford heard the heavenly direction to "Retire."[94] For the remainder of his life, Sandford lived in seclusion near the village of Hobart, New York in the Catskill Mountains. He prayed, farmed, raised sheep, studied astronomy, taught small groups, and gradually regathered his scattered followers into centers in different parts of the country. Messages were delivered to the faithful by a smaller inner circle.[95]

Sandford continued to be supported by the tithes of his followers, and his retirement was "satisfying and serene," although his papers and books were twice destroyed in house fires.[96] To some degree Sandford relaxed his earlier rhetoric. On New Year's Eve, 1941, he received a message from God to "remit the sins of each and every person that has been baptized since October 1, 1901."[97] But he never renounced his claim to be Elijah; nor did he ever express remorse for those who had died on the Coronet thirty years earlier.[98]

Sandford's death on March 4, 1948 was quiet and peaceful. His funeral and interment, however, were hasty and secretive. The news of his death was not released to the press for six weeks. Sandford had, of course, not died as Elijah in Jerusalem, but as an unheralded inhabitant of a Catskill village.[99]


The Kingdom continued after Sandford's death under the informal leadership of Victor Abram, his personal secretary, although Sandford never had a true successor.[100] At Abram’s death in 1977, his son-in-law, Joseph Wakeman, became leader but thought of himself "as more of a caretaker." The membership then gradually learned that Abram had had a series of extra-marital affairs while leading an organization that emphasized moral purity.[101]

A successor organization, Kingdom Christian Ministries—reorganized in 1998 after a split occasioned by continued debate over Sandford's theology[101]—has several hundred members at a few centers in the eastern United States.[102] An independent evangelical Christian church, Shiloh Chapel, meets in a remaining portion of the original Shiloh building in Durham, Maine; it is no longer affiliated with Kingdom Christian Ministries.[103] The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its distinctive architecture and history.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Shirley Nelson, Fair Clear and Terrible: The Story of Shiloh, Maine (Latham, New York: British American Publishing, 1989), 27. A second edition (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2016) includes references and an index.
  2. ^ Nelson, 30.
  3. ^ Sandford "learned to get boiling mad with effect—to use his anger to control his circumstances. It worked in a total of seven schools....Work was more fun when he was in charge. His pupils adored him for that. If he was angry, his voice roaring, they did what he said in a hurry. The result was diligence—and immense pride and elation when they pleased him." Hiss, 42-43; Nelson, 31.
  4. ^ Hiss, 44-45; Murray, 33-39. Sandford said he had been struck by the words of an old man who said, "Lord, you know we have no promise of the morrow." Sandford returned the next night and was converted. Nichols was a preparatory school for Bates College and shared its campus. Although the schools were Free Baptist, the student newspaper reported drinking bouts and vandalism, and Sandford was shunned as a "self-righteous humbug."
  5. ^ The Lewiston Journal wrote of "old reliable Sandord," who suffered repeated dislocations of his fingers as a catcher because mitts were unpadded. Sandford's left hand was "gnarled and crooked for life." Hiss, 47.
  6. ^ Nelson, 34-36; Hiss, 50-52. In 1911, the New York Times claimed that Sandford was "one of, if not the greatest college catchers Maine ever saw" and averred that had he "stuck to professional baseball he might have been the idol of thousands of big league fans." New York Times, October 29, 1911. Another report likely exaggerated his prowess when it claimed Sandford played his entire senior year without an error. Hiss, 47.
  7. ^ Nelson, 36-37; Hiss, 52; Matthew 5: 6. Sandford said that this occasion was the first on which God had spoken to him directly.
  8. ^ Nelson, 37-38.
  9. ^ Nelson, 38. Hiss, 53.
  10. ^ Nelson, 45.
  11. ^ Nelson, 45-46. The motto of the Student Volunteer Movement was the "evangelization of the world in this generation."
  12. ^ Hiss, 63. Moody also rested on Saturdays and held a year-end watch service, both practices that Sandford adopted.
  13. ^ Hiss, 63-64; Nelson, 41-44.
  14. ^ Hiss, 67; Everlasting Gospel, (June 1–30, 1901), 177.
  15. ^ Nelson, 47-48.
  16. ^ Hiss, 69-70; Nelson, 49-50; David O. Beale, In Pursuit of Purity: American Fundamentalism since 1850 (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 1986), 22-29
  17. ^ In an interview with Hiss, Frank Murray remembered Sandford saying that he had had "a nervous breakdown, but God wouldn't let me give way to it." Hiss, 80. Sandford's church underwrote part of Sandford's cost for the round-the-world trip.
  18. ^ Hiss, 84. Sandford said that he left Taylor's mission "with a burning desire in my heart to see our own work multiply and spread under just such a system of simple reliance upon God."
  19. ^ Hiss, 80-88; Nelson, 51-54. Sandford became a lasting friend of the Muslim chief boatman who had pulled him to safety despite "the religious gulf between them." Hiss, 88.
  20. ^ Nelson, 54-58. Nevertheless, Sandford's first approach to Kinney was unfortunate. His first written proposal included the line, "I believe our union will mean the marriage of the Lamb and His bride." She tore up the letter as blasphemy—but kept writing Sandford. Hiss, 91.
  21. ^ Nelson, 58; Harold U. Faulkner, Politics, Reform and Expansion, 1890-1900 (New York: Harper & Row, 1959), 141-42.
  22. ^ Nelson, 59-63.
  23. ^ Nelson, 68.
  24. ^ Tongues of Fire 1 (September 1895): 3, quoted in Hiss, 104.
  25. ^ Nelson, 68; Hiss, 107-08. Sandford called this periodical "Tongues of Fire from the World's Evangelization Crusade on Apostolic Principles."
  26. ^ Nelson, 72. One early member recalled that with Sandford's dynamic movements and knowledge of the Bible, "he could inspire a wooden Indian. There was never a boring meeting." Lester McKenzie, quoted in Hiss, 120.
  27. ^ Nelson, 79. Sandford assured a local journalist that he didn't hear voices but discerned words from "inner consciousness." He said that God spoke to many people like that, but the "trouble with most folks is they won't listen." The journalist, Holman F. Day, was a gifted and imaginative man in his own right. Though Day did not become a follower of Sandford, he treated Sandford sympathetically, and the two became friends. Hiss, 128. See Ivan Cecil Sherman, "The Life and Work of Holman Francis Day," MA thesis, University of Maine, 1942.
  28. ^ Nelson, 77-85.
  29. ^ Nelson, 94. "Shiloh" almost certainly had a greater significance to the eschatologically attuned Sandford than simply the town where the Ark of the Covenant had been kept before the building of the First Temple. In Genesis 49.10, "Shiloh" probably refers to the Messiah. As Hiss says,"Sandford too was much happier with this name than with the man-made implications of the 'World's Evangelization Crusade,' which from now on he used infrequently." Hiss, 174.
  30. ^ Nelson, 86.
  31. ^ Nelson, 87.
  32. ^ Rev. Frank Murray, Sandford's biographer, to the Androscoggin County Historical Society in 1967, at Fwselijah website; White, 203: "[W]e had canned meat each Thursday, since no cooking could be done until after three o'clock. Thursday was considered the day on which Jesus was crucified, so religious service was constant from nine o'clock through the six hours of His suffering, thus commemorating His death weekly. These hours were too sacred to permit any ordinary work, such as cooking food, on the Hilltop."
  33. ^ Revelation 11.3-12; Nelson, 82.
  34. ^ Nelson, 85; Luke 1.15.
  35. ^ Nelson, 101-05. Sandford even seemed to believe that his Shiloh in Maine was the Shiloh to which the Old Testament referred. Sandford developed these notions of British Israelism from the writings of C. A. L. Totten, a former Professor of Military Tactics at Yale University. Hiss, 166-170.
  36. ^ Hiss, 170.
  37. ^ Sandford wrote in Tongues of Fire (March 1897): "Dr. Dowie of Chicago prays with or for as many as 70,000 sick people a year, and thousands of the most astounding and remarkable miracles have taken place." Nelson, 113-14; Unity Publishing website.
  38. ^ Nelson, 113.
  39. ^ Nelson, 114-15; Peters, 82.
  40. ^ Nelson 125-26. Mills, describing her near-death experience in the school magazine, diagnosed her own disease based on symptoms of a previous bout of cerebro-spinal meningitis. In 1902, Mills again said she suffered with spinal meningitis. Sandford was shocked at her suffering and delirium, but Mills once more survived. Hiss, 327.
  41. ^ Nelson, 115-17.
  42. ^ Nelson, 119-122.
  43. ^ Charles Parham stayed at Shiloh for a month, held meetings with Sandford in Winnipeg for another and then returned to Topeka, Kansas to found Bethel Bible College, patterned after Shiloh, at which some of the first tongues speaking occurred in January 1901. Hiss, 247. The Lewiston Evening Journal of January 6, 1900 reported that during Shiloh's New Year's Eve prayer and praise service "the gifts of tongues...descended." Sandford said that there were 120 people present, the same number gathered at the first Pentecost in the Book of Acts, but he insisted to the newspaper that the "speaking in tongues" was of foreign languages, not glossalalia. For more on the connections between Sandford, Parham, and Tomlinson see Unity Publishing website.
  44. ^ Hiss, 233-34.
  45. ^ Hiss, 223-28. The author, C. S. Weiss, a former Methodist minister and student at Moody Bible Institute, charged that Sandford raised large sums through threats of damnation, that sickness at Shiloh was caused by short rations and overwork, and that Sandford was dictatorial and given to unpredictable periods insanity. C. S. Weiss, Sandfordism Exposed: A Warning and Protest (Lisbon Falls, ME: privately printed, 1899). As Hiss says, although Weiss ended his book with the silliness of a "phrenological delineation" of Sandford, "an audience ready for exposés of Shiloh created a demand that newspapers and other critics continued to fill." (228)
  46. ^ Hiss, 210, 386.
  47. ^ Hiss, 242-43, 394; Nelson, 139.
  48. ^ Nelson, 144-45. "Higher lines Christians on the whole were not passive sheep, and as a rule they were not expected to be."
  49. ^ Nelson, 146; Hiss, 259.
  50. ^ Nelson, 150. Hiss notes that tickets were printed for those who passed the examination reading, "The bearer 'looketh forth' from the Upper Room 'Fair, Clear, Terrible,'" and the tickets "were often treasured for the rest of the student's life." (262)
  51. ^ Sandford denied that he was starting a new denomination. He said that he was making it possible for "true, higher-life Christians" to leave "denominational apostasy" and "get under the authority and order of the appointed man of God." Quoted in Nelson, 163.
  52. ^ Nelson, 162, 166. Sandford performed another baptism of ninety-eight followers after Thanksgiving—through thick ice. No one ever questioned Sandford's stamina.
  53. ^ Nelson, 165. Sandford's erstwhile mentor, A. B. Simpson, is supposed to have remarked that Sandford would not be "satisfied until he is extra-plenipotentiary with the Almighty Himself."
  54. ^ Nelson, 165. John Alexander Dowie, accused of the deaths of "unhealed" persons, had just recently announced that he was Elijah. When asked about Dowie's claim, Sandford said he knew what God had said to him, and "I presume He knew what He was talking about." Sandford chose his long-time loyal associate as "Moses," the other Witness who would be martyred and rise from the dead before Christ's coming. Nelson, 270; Hiss, 298.
  55. ^ Hiss, 298.
  56. ^ Hiss, 319; Nelson, 177-78, 182. At nearly the same moment Sandford also identified himself with Melchizedek and thereby "in this complicated overlapping of symbols, Sandford, the forerunner of Christ, assumed the qualities of prophet, priest, and king." (180)
  57. ^ Nelson, 206.
  58. ^ Nelson, 201-216. The "Ninevah Fast" was a reference to Jonah 3.7. Nelson dedicated her book to her uncle Leander, "who almost got away."
  59. ^ Nelson, 213-15 and Peters, 84. Although a glass of water was available to John, and a woman later testified that John asked for it "seventy-five times," he changed his mind when the glass was brought to him. For three days the boy tried to take his whipping, but "his father felt he had not gotten absolute victory, and so sent him back to his room." Finally when his father decided the child was spiritually ready, Sandford declared that he would receive "three whippings, one for the Father, one for the Son, and one for the Holy Ghost." Then Sandford declared that the punishment would not be meted out because "Jesus had suffered and died for him." Newspaper and other primary sources about John Sandford's fast are reproduced at the website.
  60. ^ Nelson, 217-224. Sandford replied that he was “heartily sorry” for Harriman, and “so far as I personally am concerned, I do not desire to be the dominant head of the movement . . . . The malevolence of our detractors only shows that the devil fears the work that we are doing and will take any means to balk us.”
  61. ^ Peters, 83.
  62. ^ Nelson, 227-242, Peters 83-85. The manslaughter trial record.
  63. ^ Nelson, 227-56. Sandford's 1905 trial is also covered in Shawn Francis Peters, When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children, and the Law (Oxford University Press, 2008), 81-86.
  64. ^ Hiss, 363-64. There were 507 signatures. The credo included the following: "I believe not only in the Father—the only Potentate—and in Jesus Christ—the King whose millenial [sic] reign is to prepare the globe for the great God—but also in the prophet-prince-priest who is to prepare the Kingdom for the Christ." The entire pledge may be found in The Everlasting Gospel, March 31, 1904.
  65. ^ Nelson, 259-60. Ten thousand dollars in 1905 is easily the equivalent of two hundred thousand dollars a hundred years later. But Coronet was worth far more, having been built in 1885 for $75,000.
  66. ^ Nelson, 285-86.
  67. ^ Nelson, 286-87. Sandford even translated Revelation 6.2 as "a coronet was given him, and he went forth conquering and to conquer."
  68. ^ Nelson, 287-88, 293. The original harp proved unsatisfactory, and Sandford had Shiloh order a new one for the Coronet to pick up in Australia, "the most costly Erard harp obtainable, a No. 7, Louis XVI Model," sheathed in gold and costing a thousand dollars.
  69. ^ Nelson, 289-94.
  70. ^ Nelson, 298-99. Off Africa Sandford saw a vision of John R. Mott, an early acquaintance, telling Sandford that Mott's conversion of African multitudes had been made easy by Sandford's prayers. In fact, Mott was not a missionary at all but a recruiter for the Student Volunteer Movement and a leader in ecumenical Christianity.
  71. ^ Nelson, 263, 295-97, 303-06.
  72. ^ Nelson, 306-07. Whittaker got word to her brother Rufus, who in turn received assistance from the earlier dissident Nathan Harriman.
  73. ^ Nelson, 307.
  74. ^ Murray, 471-74, 914-17. It is quite possible that Sandford had been reminded of the first lines of the then famous missionary hymn by Reginald Heber, "From Greenland’s icy mountains, from India’s coral strand;/Where Afric’s sunny fountains roll down their golden sand." (1819)
  75. ^ Nelson, 313-17, 322. Nelson says that everyone on board knew that Sandford considered the Kingdom's passengers and crew as "second-class citizens" who were "less concerned with obeying God than they were with their physical comfort and who listened to their own thoughts ('silly spawn from men's brains—thoughts') rather than to what God had to say." (322)
  76. ^ Nelson, 321-28. What Sandford announced was that God had ordered him not to put into port at any country for which they had already prayed—which practically speaking meant the United States and Canada.
  77. ^ Nelson, 333.
  78. ^ Nelson, 337.
  79. ^ Nelson, 335-43.
  80. ^ Nelson, 343-44. During the trial Sandford testified that his attorneys had advised him not to tell the jury that he was acting under God's direction.
  81. ^ Nelson, 344-47. Sandford, reveling in his martyrdom, said his "whole being" was "flooded with joy" when he discovered that on the train ride to Atlanta, he was shackled to two thieves. Florence Whittaker's suit for false imprisonment was, of course, overshadowed by the guilty verdict; eventually she received a court-designated award of $2,500 (roughly $50,000 in the early 21st century). Nelson, 348; Portland Express Advertiser, 7 February 1912.
  82. ^ Nelson, 355; Hiss, 487-89.
  83. ^ Nelson, 354-55; Hiss, 516.
  84. ^ Nelson, 359-60.
  85. ^ Nelson, 360-65. Sandford said that he felt "like stone" at his daughter's defection, but he encouraged his followers to consider that they would "laugh and dance for millions of years as we see multitudes worshiping our great God BECAUSE we 'didn't fail or get discouraged' while on earth. Let's clasp hands and ride like lightning on our family charger into the future."(365)
  86. ^ Nelson, 379-84, 393.
  87. ^ Hiss, 529. Sandford disfellowshipped the girls; much later in life they reestablished relations with the Kingdom.
  88. ^ Nelson, 382-83, 394. Sandford said that God had spoken the word "Remove" and that the Holy Ghost had "been dethroned on Shiloh Hilltop." (394)
  89. ^ fwselijah website.
  90. ^ Nelson, 408-11.
  91. ^ Nelson, 411-12. Nelson writes that Sandford was "in no mood to face the courts about anything. Since his release from prison, he had been hearing of efforts to resurrect the indictments in the remaining five Coronet deaths which had been 'continued in 1911."
  92. ^ Lewiston Evening Journal, May 3, 10, 13, 1920.
  93. ^ Nelson, 412-13.
  94. ^ Nelson, 417.
  95. ^ Frank S. Murray, The Sublimity of Faith (Amherst, NH: The Kingdom Press, 1981), 651-909; Nelson, 417; Murray is virtually the only source for these years of Sandford's "retirement" because he was present during most of the period, the movement had no publication, and two serious fires destroyed much of Sandford's own personal writings. Hiss, 543. "Over the next several years, the members were trained to keep absolute silence about the Kingdom's affairs, and never under any circumstances to reveal Sandford's presence." Hiss, 544.
  96. ^ Nelson, 419: "Rested and relaxed, he was something of a lovable curmudgeon, teasing people, insisting that the middle-aged women join in the games of baseball, calling everyone out into a freezing night to look at something he had just found through his telescope, holding a contest for the discovery of the first spring bluebird and winning it himself." Hiss, 582.
  97. ^ Hiss, 586. Nelson also notes that in 1943, he included in the Kingdom Army men such as D. L. Moody, the Booths of the Salvation Army, and A. B. Simpson, whom he earlier would have excluded. Nelson, 421.
  98. ^ Nelson, 421.
  99. ^ Hiss notes than when Sandford's death was clearly imminent, "all were thinking not only of the loss of his ministry, but of the apparent failure of prophecy." (597) Nelson, 423-24. Helen Kinney Sandford had died in 1941 and had been buried in the old Shiloh cemetery.(420)
  100. ^ Nelson, 424: "As for a 'successor,' there was none, and there never would be. The future leadership of the Kingdom would be shared and custodial.
  101. ^ a b "fwselijah website". Retrieved 2011-09-12.
  102. ^ Kingdom Christian Ministries website Archived 2008-07-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  103. ^ Shiloh Chapel website.


  • William C. Hiss, "Shiloh: Frank Sandford and the Kingdom, 1893-1948," PhD dissertation, Tufts University, 1978.
  • Shirley Nelson, Fair, Clear, and Terrible: The Story of Shiloh, Maine (Latham, New York: British American Publishing, 1989). Nelson was the daughter of former members.
  • Frank S. Murray, The Sublimity of Faith (Amherst, NH: The Kingdom Press, 1981).
  • Timothy F. Murray, The Coronet Story: Conquering and to Conquer (Highland Press, 1998).
  • Shawn Francis Peters, When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children, and the Law (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

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