'Lost' papers of sect leader come to light

Historic discovery during a house clearance

Medway Messenger, UK/March 14, 2008

Documents which throw new light on a religious sect have been handed over to Medway historians.

They detail the activities of the Jezreelites, founded by former soldier, James Rowland White, in 1875. White then styled himself James Jershom Jezreel, and proclaimed himself the Sixth Messenger of God.

The records, thought to have been lost forever, were contained in two large metal boxes which had been in the possession of a Strood man, who wishes to remain anonymous.

They had been gathered up during a house clearance in Gillingham some time ago and are now at the Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre.

Archivist Stephen Dixon described them as: "One of the most significant archival collections in my 18 years at Medway".

"This gentleman did exactly the right thing by handing them in," said Mr Dixon.


"The documents are in good condition and reveal much of the history of the sect which became prominent, not just in this country but also in America. It's rare we come across such an important find."

White was supported in the venture by his wife, Clarissa Rogers, who had lived on Chatham Hill, and who later took the name Queen Esther.

The pair built up a huge following in Gillingham, and the movement ran dozens of businesses ranging from bakers' shops to blacksmiths' forges.

Most conspicuously they built the Jezreel's Tower on Chatham Hill, which had walls more than 95ft high and 2ft 6in thick. The tower was pulled down in 1961 but the sect had been dissolved more than 40 years before.

The recently-discovered documents include books of preaching notes, lists of members, notebooks from Jezreel himself, diaries of prominent sect members and Queen Esther's diary.

"Until these papers came to light I had assumed any records of the Jezreelites had been lost or destroyed," said Mr Dixon.

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