Undeterred by the loss of Bethel Healing Home, Parham saw this as an opportunity to start fresh. He hoped to implement ideas and theology he had learned during his trip east. He rented a large vacant mansion known as Stone’s Folly on the outskirts of Topeka with the intention of starting his own Bible college. Divine healing remained an important aspect of Parham's ministry but at his new Bible college, the primary focus shifted to training missionaries.
History of the Building
Located on the current corner of 17th and Stone Ave. in Topeka, in 1884 Erastus R. Stone purchased 30 acres of land and began building what he envisioned as the most elaborate mansion home in Kansas. At the time, the location was two miles west of the Topeka city limits and surrounded by countryside. Stone was a nurseryman and a real estate promoter.
He patterned the building after a medieval castle with Asiatic flourishes. Each room featured a different type of hardwood and ornate designs. However in 1887, during construction, the real estate market went bust. Only eighteen of the thirty rooms were ever finished. The depression hit just as construction on the third floor was beginning, so none of the rooms on that floor were completed. Stone had already invested at least $30,000. He never lived in the home, and abandoned efforts to finish the interior. Instead, Stone moved his family to California. This earned it the nickname Stone's Folly.
According to deed records, Erastus Stone sold the property to Jesse H. Johnson for $30,000 on August 26, 1890. Jesse H. Johnson then sold it on January 13, 1891 to Mary Craddock of Illinois, again for $30,000. On November 28, 1891 it was purchased by Charles Ganse of Lake Valley, New Mexico for $50,000. New Mexico was experiencing a silver boom; however, within a few months, the price of silver collapsed. Ganse sold the property to Rebecca Heald of Topeka for $10,000. The property was foreclosed on in 1884 and sold at a tax sale for $500 in July of 1885 to the American Sunday School Union of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A few owners tried to rent the building as a family home, but its size was impractical for families struggling through the depression. Instead, it became a kind of "monument to the hope of the previous decade when Kansas had seemed an oasis to a never-ending caravan of western expansionists" (Goff 65). Hence it remained vacant until Parham rented the building from the ASSU.
Bethel Bible College
Parham's new Bethel Bible College opened October 15, 1900, and by December had thirty four students enrolled. The mansion provided both living quarters and classroom space for students. Upon enrolling, students were required to sell off their possessions and donate all proceeds to the running of the Bible College. In addition to their studies, students milked cows, performed household chores, worked on the grounds, and supported Parham's local ministry within Topeka.
The daily schedule was highly regulated and was structured around prayer, class study, routine chores, evangelism, and community service. Parham taught by a combination of teaching the Bible verse by verse and selecting a particular subject and finding verses that discussed that issue. They established a twenty-four hour prayer chain, based out of the tallest tower on the building, where students took shifts sitting in prayer for three hours each. Parham taught that they had not yet received baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Speaking in Tongues
In December of 1900, students took exams on repentance, conversion, consecration, sanctification, healing, and the imminent coming of the Lord. Then they turned their attention to chapter 2 of Acts and the story of the Pentecost. Parham believed that the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as described in Acts, were not just accessible to the Christian apostles but could be bestowed on people in his own time.
In particular, he felt that:
"Any missionary going into the foreign field should preach in the language of the natives. That if God had ever equipped his ministers in that way He could do it today...that anybody today ought to be able to preach in any language of the world if they had horse sense enough to let God use their tongue and throat" (Parham 51).
While there were cases of people speaking in tongues, there was no fixed theology that directly correlated this with Holy Spirit baptism. Parham strongly believed there must be an indisputable act that tallied with the description of the Pentecostal blessings as described in Acts 2.
Parham's belief in the coming apocalypse necessitated a world-wide evangelizing movement. He felt that this process would be greatly aided if missionaries did not have to take the time to learn the language of the people they were trying to convert. Therefore, he was interested in the gift of speaking in tongues.
Glossolalia or speaking in tongues is a phenomenon in which people speak in languages unknown to them. Sometimes a distinction is made between "glossolalia" and "xenolalia" or "xenoglossy", which specifically designates when the language being spoken is a natural language. Both forms of this phenomena are found in the Bible and both are considered to be divine languages. Parham assumed speaking in tongues would be manifested as xenoglossy because that would be what was needed for world evangelizing. In conjunction with the gift of speaking in tongues many also expected to have people given the gift of interpreting the tongue speaking of others.
Before departing for a three day trip to Kansas City, Parham set his students to the task of deciphering the biblical evidence for baptism of the Holy Ghost specifically focusing on The Book of Acts.
1. When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8. And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9. Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10. Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11. both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12. And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
English Standard Version Translation
The term Pentecostalism is a reference to the Feast of Pentecost as described in Acts 2 which is seen as the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus, marking the beginning of the Christian Church. Spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues and divine healing were spiritual gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit on the apostles. Parham believed that the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as described in Acts, were not just accessible to the Christian apostles, but could be bestowed on people in his own time.
Jack W. Hayford and David S. Moore, The Charismatic Century: The Enduring Impact of the Azusa Street Revival (New York: Warner Faith, 2006).