Following months of waiting on the plane to arrive, not one adult questioned the reasonableness of this adventure ending up in anything other than a peace-lovin’ time!
December 02, 1963
The Brownsville Herald
The Camp Beulah Pilgrims now hope to “hear something” this afternoon about the plane that will carry them from the Rio Grande Valley International Airport to a new life in Paraguay.
Sunday was a day of disappointment to the group. Sunday 10 men waited at the airport through the afternoon and far into the night for the plane that never came. The women and children in the group waited at Camp Beulah, their [home] near Harlingen, for a telephone call telling them to come to the airport.
While a Herald reporter waited with the men at the airport it was learned that the group’s existence in South America is a little more dependent on the capitalistic system and a little less on manna from Heaven and its own initiative than had previously been revealed.
It seems that the group of 14 families, including 78 persons (counting children), is scheduled to work for, or be subsidized by, Pan Western Enterprise, a cooperation which owns Estancia Del Sol, a 250,000 acre ranch stocked with 14,000 head of cattle, located about 364 miles from Ascuncion, the capital of Paraguay.
Owners of the enterprise include Bill Duggar Jr. and Christian Holmes, each of Beverly Hills, Calif., and San Antonio. Ted Bersinger of Beverly Hills, and insurance executive B. P. Johnson of New Orleans, La. Holmes wife is movie star Arlene Dahl.
One Owner on Hand
Also among owners of Pan Western Enterprises is James McRoberts of New Orleans and Ascuncion, Paraguay. McRoberts was at the Brownsville airport Sunday afternoon checking by phone with Miami, Fla., on the arrival of the plane which was due to take the Camp Beulah group to Paraguay. It didn’t arrive, as had several others, and the “pilgrim” leaders returned to Harlingen, but planned to return to the airport at 11 p.m. to see if the plane made a delayed arrival.
He revealed that the group has received extraordinary concessions from the government of Paraguay, for instance, they can bring in many items duty free and are not to be subject to military service.
McRoberts said, “We have prepared 14 homes for them. They are going to work on our ranch in Paraguay and they’ll have their own community and be free to do what they want.
They will have their own schools, churches, etc., and will cooperate in operating his ranch.
Leader of Camp Beulah, James St. John said that the group started forming about three years ago in Tennessee. “I had a small church there and a place to train missionaries. These men just began to gather. We all had a faith in common. We all believed the same.”
‘Lord Leads Us’
Of the plan to go to Paraguay, St. John said, “The Lord leads us there. Our purpose is to go where He told us to go. We are going to work with Pan Western Enterprises. We are setting up our own schools and church.
“It is hard to tell how long we will stay with the Enterprise. There is a possibility that we will just stay with them, or later, we may buy our own land and be on our own.
He said, and McRoberts confirmed him, that heavy equipment such as tractors, bulldozers and printing presses has already been sent to Paraguay by boat.
The Estancia Del Sol ranch is located 5,500 miles inland on the Paraguay River. At present it is understood to be a primitive wilderness, but the river is navigable and timber, grazing land and all the necessities of ranch life are at hand.
I am left questioning a mother’s sanity to continue to a foreign country, without a clue where they were going, what they would do, or any kind of backup plan. “Trust in God.” Seriously? There is nothing wrong with having a few plans and information about where five children are being transplanted to. Thus far, the news articles leave me with more questions than answers. For instance, what could we use bulldozers for since we did not have fuel, electricity, or houses? The huts had dirt floors with thatched roofs. Eventually, people would learn that “doing what the Lord wants” meant, “doing what James St. John wanted.”
The media began calling Camp Beulah Land inhabitants, “the Pilgrims.” The dress code required women to dress worse than Little House On the Prairie. Interesting how religions require so much of women and so little of men. Not knowing anything different, life was “normal.”