Parham's Later Life and Legacy

Poster of Baxter Springs in 1871

Illustrated map of Baxter Springs, circa 1878.

After denouncing the fanaticism he saw in Los Angeles, and news of his arrest additional rumors about sexual misconduct about him spreading nationwide, Parham never regained the popular public perception he once enjoyed in his earlier ministry.

Before relenting completely, Parham attempted to raise money to travel to the Holy Land to find the Ark of the Covenant and remnants of Noah's Ark. Not only did Parham believe that finding the Ark of the Covenant would reunite Jews and usher in the eschaton, one can also expect Parham's motivation for his trip was to regain prominence as the leader of Pentecostalism. He exploited the press with grand predictions of what he would discover on his journey for months before his trip, and claimed to have raised the funds needed for his trip. However, once he reached New York, he told his followers that he had been mugged and had lost the money to continue.

Apostolic Faith Camp Meeting at Baxter Springs, Kansas, 1913

Apostolic Faith camp meeting at Baxter Springs, 1913

Flyer for Parham's Speaking Events

Flyer advertising preaching of Charles Parham after his trip to the Middle East, "showing 200 photo slides of the Holy Land. One hundred each night."

Move and Relief in Baxter Springs

In March of 1909, Parham and his family moved to Baxter Springs, Kansas. Parham's move to Baxter Springs signaled the end of a string of consistent failures. Previous evangelism work in the nearby town of Galen provided Parham with an already established group of followers, and his frequent mention in local newspapers increased his prominence within the blossoming town. In the early 1870s, Baxter Springs had been a prominent "cow town," but was later eclipsed by Abilene. It reestablished itself as a lead mining center, and from the early 1870s through Parham's move at the end of the first decade of the new century, Baxter Springs was a growing and prosperous town. 

Parham planed all of his trips and evangelistic efforts from Baxter Springs. He eventually moved his printing operations for his Apostolic Faith publication to Baxter Springs. After Parham's friends offered to buy him a house in Texas if he agreed to live there, people in Baxter Springs renovated what was to be a brewery into a home for the Parham Family. Parham was certainly an individual valued by the community. As a local newspaper stated "while we cannot swallow some of the doctrine preached by the eloquent Rev. Parham, we cannot help but say his meetings have been beneficial to the city and the means of saving many souls" (Goff 149).

Parham continued to preach in Baxter Springs and elsewhere in the country, drawing crowds of two to three thousand in small towns. His later work focused much on the current political climate and eschatology. He wrote two books, A Voice Crying in the Wilderness, and The Everlasting Gospel, both books mostly focused on Parham's eschatology. Although the Pentecostal movement was slowly moving away from a tongues-based mission objective, and away from the "destruction of the wicked," Parham held to his beliefs. In December 1927, Parham traveled to the Holy Land with funding from followers. He did not go looking for the Ark of the Covenant and remnants of Noah's ark, but did bring back slides to use in his preaching to impress his listeners. But Parham soon fell ill in 1929, and died January 29 at age 55. 

Interior of Baxter Springs Apostolic Faith Church

Interior of Baxter Springs Apostolic Faith Church with students and congregants.

Carrying the Mantel

After Parham's death, his wife Sarah became head editor of the Apostolic Faith. Although three of Parham's four sons followed in his footsteps and became preachers, Robert Parham is the only one who took over his father's cross-country ministry. In typical Parham fashion, Robert accepted his call to the ministry at the side of his father's deathbed. Robert Parham would go on to oversee the annual revivals and camp meetings closely associated with Charles Parham's mission. Parham's other sons married and started separate ministries elsewhere.

In 1937, shortly before the death of Sarah Parham, Robert Parham converted the Parham home into a Bible School for the training of preachers. This school still exists in Baxter Springs, appropriately named the Apostolic Faith Bible College. Carrying on Parham's legacy, the college still boasts, like Parham's bible schools, of free room and board. During the Great Depression, Pentecostal churches advocated for a unifying organization, but many followers of Parham declined to organize. This lead to the group soon losing central leadership and falling into disarray, further exacerbated by Robert Parham's death in 1944 at age 38.

Learn more about the Apostolic Faith Bible College: http://www.afbiblecollege.com/#/welcome-to-afbc/history.

Pentecostalism Continues

While many early Pentecostalists, as well as historians, overlooked the role of Parham in the founding of this new religious movement, the distinct theology proposed by Charles Parham led to the creation of Pentecostalism as a denomination and directly influenced  Pentecostal leaders, missionaries, and churches. From this foundation, Pentecostalism continued to expand and transform into the Pentecostal movement as it is practiced today.

Goff, James R. Fields White Unto Harvest: Charles F. Parham and the Missionary Origins of Pentecostalism. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1988.
The Fall of Parham
Parham's Later Life and Legacy