Category Archives: Before South America


Bobby and Richard Watts 16
Bobby and Richard Watts 16

The Houston Post Section 1, Page 1, (lost)


Cont. Page

Sunday, October 27, 1963

CAMP BEULAH GROUP (cont. from page 1)

[…] of land it plans to form.

The land has been made available for the group’s use by Pan-Western-Development Co of Paraguay.

IT IS AN AREA covered with palm trees and scrub called monte at Puerto Olympio, 325 miles by air from Asuncion, on the Paraguay River and close to the border of Brazil.

The only way it can be reached is by air or river as there are no roads.

St [sic] John said that Hugo Zanelli, a Houston freight forwarder of the M & M Building, is arranging the shipment of the group’s equipment through the Strachan Shipping Co.

More than 100 tons of machinery and household effects belonging to the pioneers are due to sail from City Dock 21 in the Port of Houston Thursday. It will be carried by the Argentine Freighter Granadero to Buenos Aires, and then by river boat to Puerto Olympio, where the river Paraguay runs through the settlement area at great width and to a depth of more than 60 feet.

WHILE MOST OF the menfolk labored with hammers and nails to crate their goods in Houston, the women and children of Camp Beulah, Inc. waited in a former motel and nightclub which has been rented as a temporary camp at Harlingen.

St. [sic] John said the group plans to fly from either Brownsville or Matamoros to Asuncion around November 3rd in a chartered Paraguayan airliner. The cost of the fares will be $11,200, he said.

He was loading a two ton lathe onto a truck at Big Joe’s machinery shop at 6615 Hurst, in North Houston, Saturday.

With him, helping to manhandle the lathe, which they were taking to Paraguay, was Eugene Couch, a missionary-printer of the 500 block of Columbia St in the Heights. Couch, his wife Eddie Lou, and three children are flying with the party.

HE WILL OPERATE the three presses on which it is planned to print schoolbooks for the children, tracts for the natives, a camp newspaper, and eventually, it is hoped, that a translation of the Bible in Guarani, the tribal dialect of the area.

Otherwise, only Spanish and Portuguese are spoken in this part of the jungle.

Other Houstonians in the group are:

Rev Jack Wood, a former pastor at Birdsall Baptist Church, Columbia St, who is taking his wife, Wyvonne, a schoolteacher, and their five children. Wood, who said that he founded Birdsall Baptist Church is to be the assistant manager of the settlement.

Willie Lee Smith, a parttime preacher of the 1400 Block of White St, his wife Betty, and son.

Vernon Long, a caterpillar and bulldozer operator of North Houston, his wife Caroline and four children.

Lenny Angerstein, a Houston missionary, his wife Hattie Joe, and son, Samuel, age 2 ½ months old, the youngest member of the party.

MOST OF THE members of the group are Texans.

Bobby Watts, a native of Abilene, is going to the jungle’s settlement with his wife Betty, and seven children, Richard, 16, Nelda, 15, Randy, 14, Kathie, 12, Timothy, 9, Dorothy, 7, and Annette, 2.

Two brothers named Townsend, from Corn city near Goliad are both farmers.

Dwight, 23 and his wife, Bertha, have five children while Calvin, 33, and his wife Dora, have seven.

None of the group is more than 42 years old, and the average age is about 30 years.

BOBBY WATTS SAID that most of the group members came together at Camp Beulah, the missionary training and boys camp, St John started at Coalmont near Tracy City, Tenn, about three and a half years ago. He said that Jim MacRoberts, a rancher with a home in New Orleans, who now lives in Paraguay, became friendly with St. John and it was through him that the land in Paraguay had been made available for the group to develop.

“Last December, God spoke to us and gave us a message to go to Paraguay,” said Watts, “and to do missionary work there.”

“Brother St John sold his ranch to raise money for the trip and we are all putting in our own belongings and farm equipment and are sharing in the project. We decided to call the settlement Camp Beulah after the ranch where we mostly all came together.”

“WE HAVE PICKED up a fewer more members on the way. I think all of us, including our wives, will be glad when we get there.”

St John said he had been down to the jungle a month or so to start the natives building houses for the group from palm trees. A mission hall and a church will be built later, he said.

“We are going because we have been re-born and it is God’s will,” he said. “He has so planned things that we have one of almost every skill necessary for survival.

“We have no doctor but there is a Mennonite mission about 100 miles away where there is a doctor and we hope to get a plane so we can fly there with anyone suddenly taken sick.

“Bobby Watts is a qualified pilot and we have ranchers, farmers, a diesel mechanic, a man qualified to run the boat, school teachers, five ordained preachers, and a bulldozer operator to cut the roads. We will grow grain and other foods only for our own use at first, since there is no one to sell produce to but later possible developments will depend on God’s will. We are all happy to accept this challenge.”

Second half of Camp Beulah (1st half is lost)
Second half of Camp Beulah (1st half is lost)



73 Fly from Harlingen to Paraguay

Nov 16 1963 Bernard Murphy
Nov 16 1963 Bernard Murphy


73 Will Fly From Harlingen To New Homes in Paraguay
Post Staff Correspondent

HARLINGEN – For 73 men, women and children camped in a former restaurant and building project near here, Sunday marked the beginning of a great new adventure.

A chartered airliner was to arrive in the United States from Paraguay to take them on the first stage of a journey of thousand[s] of miles to the jungle area of Puerto Olympian of the Paraguay River close to the southern border of Brazil.

The airplane with its human cargo of emigrants was scheduled to take off from here for Paraguay early Tuesday.

THERE, ON A 249,000-acre tract which can only be reached by river or air because there are no roads, they plan to build a settlement and mission.
Most of the pioneers – 24 of them are Houstonians – have been waiting in camp here since mid-May to start the journey they first decided last December to make.

Texans fly to paraguay
Eddie Lou Couch, (unknown), Wyvonne Wood, Bettye Smith

Trim Mrs. Wyvonne Wood, wife of Jack Wood, a Houston missionary, spoke of the coming departure excitedly.

“It’s a wonderful relief to know that at last we are on our way, “ she said. “It’s been a long wait. Since our furniture and household goods went by sea from Houston a few weeks ago we having been living rough, even our beds have gone and it’s been a strain living perpetually as though you were moving house at a time.

Hattie Angerstein with Samuel
Hattie Angerstein with Samuel

WE HAVE JUST heard that the Paraguay river has dropped to only four feet in depth due to lack of rain and it will probably be late January before our goods arrive at our jungle home – so we’ll have to rough it some more, but no one is downhearted.”

Brother James A. Saint John, leader of the expedition said four more persons have joined the group since the Houston Post first reported the plan to build a jungle mission settlement.

“We’ve had our letters from all over Texas, from California, Missouri and Ohio from people wanting to join us,” he said.

“But they had different reasons for going. Most of them wanted to go because they were discontented with life here. But we are going because we believe that in building a self-supporting mission, we are fulfilling God’s will.”

A COWBOY FROM Woodsboro – Gail Borden – who shares our views has joined us with his wife, Mosollo, and his daughters, Gaylean 8, and Cheryl, 7 – so now we are 73 instead of 69. And while we’ve been waiting for transport, there have been additions to the dog population. In addition to the five ranch dogs, we will take five new leopard puppies with us in the plane,” Saint John said.

Saint John, a preacher and rancher from Bloomington, near Victoria, was formerly a preacher in Houston. He said that the plane taking the party to Paraguay was to have arrived Saturday.

JIM EOBERTS, a New Orleans rancher now with the Pan-Western Development Co. of Paraguay, who is making the land available to us, has arranged for a Constellation airliner to pick us up, but it will not arrive until Sunday,” Saint John said. “There will be room for everyone, including the dogs.

“We are also planning to fly in other planes from Asuncion (capital of Paraguay) to our camp instead of making the 425 mile journey by river boat.”

Borden said that he read about the group in the Post. “I’ve been a cowboy and I’ve worked in the oil fields,” he said, “but I felt that I was called to do something else. I’d known Brother Saint John before, so when I read about the trip I decided to go with them.”

THERE ARE NOW 32 adults, 30 children ages two to 12, and 11 babies in the party.

Each member of the group has a different skill, and Saint John said they hope to establish an entirely self-sufficient community in the jungle.

During their wait in Texas, the travelers have been living a communal life, eating in the communal dining hall and joining together for daily prayers.

Where’s the Plane?

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.

Concessions Granted

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.


Pilgrim's Flight Delayed Again Brownsville Herald December 4, 1963
Pilgrim’s Flight Delayed Again
Brownsville Herald
December 4, 1963

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.”

Mom feeding Johnnie outside, next to the dog named Blue.
This gorgeous toddler’s attire had a matching dress for a favorite doll.

Pioneers Head for Remote Jungle In Paraguay

1963, October 29

Del Rio News-Herald

Pioneers Head For Remote Jungle Oct 1963
Pioneers Head For Remote Jungle Oct 1963

HOUSTON (AP) – A modern “Robinson Crusoe” life is ahead for 69 pioneers who will leave next week to live in a remote Paraguayan jungle.

In the group are 30 adults, 28 children, ages 2 to 12 years, 11 babies and five ranch dogs. Twenty-four are from Houston and most of the others likewise are from Texas.

They will depart Nov. 3 by chartered airliner for Asuncion, which is a 425-mile riverboat journey from their planned settlement.

The leader of the group is Brother James A. St. John, a preacher and rancher from Bloomington. His group is known as Camp Beulah, Inc.

A former Baptist minister who has preached in Houston, he is taking his wife Helen and their two children, James, 7, and Martha, 10.

St. John, a 6-foot-3, muscular man, wearing slacks, shirt, cowboy boots and a straw hat said:  “We are going into what is virtually the jungle to build our own self-supporting mission community.

“We will retain our U.S. citizenship, but we have permanent Paraguayan visas and we intend to stay.

“This is the start of a new life for us all and we are taking everything necessary to support us in the jungle—our farm implements, a boat, three printing presses, tractors, a caterpillar bulldozers to build roads and our household goods, including pots and pans. Ten male members of the group were in Houston seeking equipment and stores to be shipped to the $249,000-acre tract they plan to farm.

The land has been made available by Pan-Western Development Co. of Paraguay, St. John said.

It is an area covered with palm trees and scrub called [sic] at Puerto Olympian, 425 miles by air from Asuncion, on the Paraguay River, near Brazil. The only way it can be reached is by air or river. There are no roads.

Bobby Watts, a native of Abilene, is going to the jungle settlement with his wife and seven children.

Most of the party came to Beulah Land, a missionary training camp St. John started in Coalmont, near Tracy City, Tenn., about three years ago.

Watts said Jim McRoberts, a rancher with a home in New Orleans, but now living in Paraguay, became friendly with St. John and it was through him that the land was made available for the group to develop.

“Last December God spoke to us and gave us a message to go to Paraguay.” Watts said, “and to do missionary work there.”

“Brother St. John sold his ranch to raise money for the trip, and we are all putting in our own belongings and farm equipment and are sharing in the project.”

St. John said the group plans to fly either from Brownsville or Matamoros, Mexico, to Ascunción around Nov. 3.

He was in the jungle a month or so ago to start the natives building houses from palm trees for his party. A mission hall and a church will be built later, he said.

We are going because we have been reborn and it is God’s will.” St. John said.”


family to paraguay - Copy

Mom had no idea she needed to obtain separate pictures for our passports. Thinking she could take one picture of the whole Wood crew, the results did not end up in our passports.

Going on a venture

All my life, I have wondered about my life stories. Some are so bizarre, I will include newspaper articles. Documentation provides proof of what went on after my family moved to South America in December of 1963. I don’t have all the details and this is going to be an adventure of finding the truths in my life (my children call going on driving trips with me, a venture).

We will venture into the archives of newspapers to determine when the Pilgrims (media’s label) left, where we went, what went on while in South America, and I am chasing down the people who helped obtain my father’s release from a Paraguayan prison. Without knowing who the President was, I grew up believing the President of the United States freed my father from the hospital he was locked in after the U.S. obtained dad’s release from prison. Dad was imprisoned for cattle rustling and mom left South America, headed to the U.S. Capitol. Without a fence around the Capitol, mom walked up to the receptionist and said, “I need to speak with the President.” She did not know anything about how the government worked; however, she knew who was the top dog and she was determined to free dad. Some Texas representatives assisted mom and one day I will figure out these people’s identity. Maybe you can help me?

First, we’ll start off with traveling from Texas to South America. People always wonder why we went to South America and the answer depends on who you ask. My family went because daddy said we were going. We didn’t ask questions because life with dad was always one big adventure; whether traveling to South America or searching for a displaced calf, life was exciting around daddy.


Before I was born in 1960, dad began pastoring a church, Birdsall Baptist Church, in Houston, Texas. The bus in the background proudly displays the name of the little church off Columbia Street in the Heights.

Daddy and Jo
Daddy and Jo

In 1962, I was a little twerp and loved my daddy more than anyone in this whole wide world. He seemed like a giant man and when dad was around, I was safer and nobody messed with Daddy’s Little Girl.