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.”
December 29, 1963
Pilgrims in Paraguay
Temperamental Plane Takes 76 to Life in Lonely Land
By Bernard Murphy
I have just flown 14,000 miles to bring back the story of one of the strangest pilgrimages of modern times.
It is the story of 76 Americans, most Texans and 24 of them from Houston, who have begun, a back-to-nature life in the lonely region of Northern Paraguay called the Chaco. During the Gran Chaco wars of the 1930s it was called “The Green Hell.”
Here the pilgrims, members of a religious group known as Camp Beulah, Inc. plan to build a church and a mission school and their own self-sufficient community.
Until they can become self-sufficient, they are living on a 249,000-acre ranch owned by an American company, Pan Western Enterprises, Inc. The men are working as ranchers and farmers.
They are housed in crude huts made of palm trees and mud by native labor.
Their encampment is 420 miles north of Asuncion, capital of Paraguay. There are no roads in the Chaco and the only way to reach Estancia Del Sol, the pilgrims’ settlement at Puerto Milhanovich is by river or by small plane.
UNDER THE blazing sun of what is now high summer in Paraguay, the group from Texas is leading a life similar in many respects to that of the Swiss Family Robinson.
The women who [*Unknown word*] washing machines, refrigerators and air conditioning, now wash their clothes in the wide River Paraguay.
Their water, about 70 degrees if drunk immediately, and 85 to 90 degrees if allowed to stand, also comes from the river.
They cook their simple meals on a wood-burning stove.
THEIR HOUSES have windows devoid of glass and floors which are the earth of the Chaco itself.
There are no bathrooms, electric lights, modern sanitation or means of communication with the rest of the world. Transport in the settlement is by oxen cart.
Their neighbors are the Guarani Indians and the picturesque gauchos of this rich cattle country.
Masses of wildlife live in the Chaco around them, including jaguars and pumas and snakes. The river is filled with crocodiles, water [*gs] and other beasts.
James A. St. John, a 3[*] year-old former Baptist minister and rancher, a native of Bloomington, near Victoria, is the leader of the group.
I FLEW TO Paraguay with the pilgrims and lived with them for almost a week in the heat of the Chaco.
In keeping with the strangeness of life of these modern-day pioneers was the flight from Texas to Paraguay in an ancient chartered airliner.
The plane was constantly beset by mechanical troubles. It took us six days and six nights to reach Asuncion. Our flight included an emergency landing at a big U.S. Air Force Base in the Panama Canal Zone and a crossing of the towering Andes Mountains with failing fuel pumps and a radio that went dead. Financial crisis followed crisis during the trip.
In 25 years of flying, I don’t think I have ever met a more reluctant airplane than old ZP.CAS
THIS WAS THE ancient Constellation in which the pilgrims, large dogs and seven puppies flew from Brownsville to far-off Paraguay.
When the plane took off, after nearly a month of delays, most of the pilgrims had been waiting for almost exactly a year to reach Paraguay.
They came together at a missionary training school and boys camp owned by St. John at Coalmont, near Tracy City, Tenn.
Here in December, 1962, says St. John, “God spoke to us and gave us a message to go to Paraguay and do missionary work.”
ST. JOHN SOLD his ranch on which the school, known as Camp Beulah, was situated to buy equipment to take to Paraguay.
He contacted the Paraguayan consulate in New Orleans and eventually got into touch with James J. McRoberts.
McRoberts, an oilman and qualified engineer, is president of Pan-Western Enterprises, Inc., a company with offices in New Orleans and Asuncion, which has extensive land holdings in Paraguay.
At first McRoberts refused to have the Camp Beulah settlers on his lands. But he was impressed with the successful development of agriculture in Paraguay by the Mennonite religious colony at Campo Esperanza. So finally he agreed to provide a camp and to employ the skilled men of Cap Beulah, Inc.
THE WOULD-BE missionaries and their families moved from Tennessee to Harlingen. By May most of them were moved into a former restaurant and tourist camp.
The group grew, as friends said they would like to take the trip.
St. John contacted Hugo Zanelli, a Houston freight forwarder and asked him to arrange for the group’s farm equipment to be shipped to Paraguay.
By the end of October, Zanelli had shipped about 400 tons of equipment for St. John from the Port of Houston.
IT INCLUDED six tractors, three electric power plants, four bulldozers, a sawmill, two boats, food, clothing, refrigerators and three printing presses. With the presses the group plans to print schoolbooks and religious materials.
At the beginning of November, 69 men, women and children were waiting at Harlingen for a plane to take them to Paraguay.
Nov. 7 was planned as the day for take-off. But a suitable plane at the right price could not be found.
Meanwhile, as the group waited patiently at Harlingen, the ranks of the pilgrims grew. Seven new puppies arrived, Gail M. Borden, a 33-year-old Woodsboro cowboy, his wife Mozelle, and two children, Gaylean, 8, and Cheryl, 7, decided to go along. A giant Otoe Indian, Lawrence Pierce Murray of Ponca City, Okla., his daughter, Jacqueline, 4, and son, Franklin, 3, were the last to join.
FINALLY LAPSA, a Paraguayan airline company, agreed to fly the settlers out to Asuncion in a Constellation, which it was leasing at Miami.
For nearly a month the plane was expected almost daily to arrive at Brownsville, Time after time the settlers packed their bags, said goodbye to their relatives and prepared to leave. But no plane came.
St. John became so desperate that he explored the possibility of getting a plane elsewhere. But no other line would fly the group for less than twice the sum quoted by the Paraguayan firm.
WHAT THE settlers didn’t know was that the Constellation stood in a hangar for two years without taking to the air.
It was being overhauled and tested and the mechanics were desperately trying to coax it into the air.
They were encouraged constantly by Lorenzo J. C. Joy, a young Paraguayan travel agent, who had flown to Miami to supervise the trip.
For Joy the next few weeks were joyless. All he had was headaches. But a splendid enforced vacation at Miami was enjoyed by two diminutive and charming Paraguayan air hostesses, Miriam Centurion, 18, and Lidia Gimienez, 22, who had flown out from Asuncion to look after the pilgrims.
McROBERTS wasted about a week of his time trying to get the pilgrims airborne. He flew from Asuncion to Harlingen. After repeated telephone calls to Miami, McRoberts flew down to Florida to see what was happening.
“God is sure handling our journey: Hell send the plane when the time is right,” said the patient, prayerful Harlingen campers.
Capt. Fred Sharrer, a veteran ferry pilot of Miami, took command and at least the unbelievable happened – the plane arrived at Brownsville. The excited pilgrims loaded their baggage, their guns, and dogs onto trucks and drove to the airport.
THEY FOUND Capt. Scharrer and his crew of three, including Frank Crosson, of Miami, the flight engineer, Frank Cardus, a pilot from Paraguay, and another American pilot, resting in a nearby motel.
Sharrer explained that fuel pump trouble developed on the flight from Miami. There would be a delay while another pump was flown out and fitted to the plane.
Praising the Lord for having uncovered this defect in time, the pilgrims returned to their camp to wait still further.
THEY HAD ONLY the clothes in which they stood. Since all kitchen utensils had been packed, they ate only sandwiches.
But at long last, at 6:30 AM on Dec. 5 – a month late – the plane was ready. I joined McRoberts and the 76 pilgrims at the airport in Brownsville.
The plane’s load was so heavy that nearly a dozen duffle bags filled with the pioneers’ clothing, and two German Shepherd dogs, had to be left behind.
THEN THE motors came to life. The passengers prayed and sag, “Launch Out Into the Deep.” The old plane shook as the motors were revved up. For most of the passengers this was the first time in an airplane.
“Sister Long’s eyes,” noted Houston preacher Jack Wood, “are as big as a dollar.”
After seven more hours the plane landed in Tocumen International Airport in Panama. Here there was a three-hour delay while further adjustments were made to the fuel pumps.
At 7 PM a tired band of men, women and children departed again on the next leg of the trip, 1,300 miles to Lima, Peru.
TWO HOURS later, with the fuel pumps giving trouble again, the plane turned back towards U. S. Air Force Base in the Canal Zone.
The travelers stayed overnight at the base while a civilian engineer worked on the fuel pumps.
The next day, with the plane still not ready, the pilgrims obtained special permission to entire the Republic of Panama.
They stopped briefly at the luxurious Panama-Hilton on their way to a Tocumen airport where the plane was to pick them up.
BUT AT THE airfield they learned the fuel pumps still were not working.
So there was nothing to do but to put the whole flock up at one of the finest hotels in Panama, the La Siesta, and pay the bill.
Joy wanted to fly down through Brazil, where LAPSA had bases and credit. Capt. Sharrer had little faith in the state of the plane and thought it
safer to fly down the coast of Peru and Chile, where a sea ditching would be less dangerous than a forced landing in the jungles of Brazil.
MEANWHILE hotel bills, repair costs, and landing fees, and the plane’s huge appetite for gasoline had to be paid in cash.
Joy, McRoberts and Capt. Sharrer pooled their available money to pay the engineer who repaired the plane and to buy gas. St. John went into town and bought 100 oranges at one penny each and as many bananas to feed the group on the flight.
Throughout the day the women of Camp Beulah, Inc., in their old-fashioned long dresses, walked around the hotel’s swimming pool while the less inhibited hostesses splashed in the water and played ping pong in brief swimsuits.
THE PATIENCE of the women and children amazed Joy. “Thank God I didn’t have a load of ordinary passengers,” he said. “I’d have shot myself by now, if I had.”
At each delay the tired travelers contented themselves that this was the will of the Lord.
At 11:05 AM on Saturday, Dec. 7, the plane was again ready for flight and we flew on for another seven or eight hours to Lima Peru
At Lima I made the biggest purchase of gasoline of my life.
We needed 3,000 gallons of fuel to fly on to Santiago Chili and McRoberts borrowed %500 from me to pay for it. This brought us to Santiago, a lovely city surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and a [sic] further forced delay because of fuel pump troubles.
At 8 AM on Tuesday – six days after leaving Brownsville – the Constellation was ready to take off from Santiago on the final 800-mile leg of the flight to Asuncion, capital of Paraguay.
Even Capt. Sharrer, our pilot, isn’t quite sure how the old plane made this last climb over the Andes.
THE FUEL pumps gave trouble again. One went out of action altogether. The radio went dead. But somehow Sharrer got that old plane with its great load over the towering mountains. The plane was not pressurized and therefore we had to fly over the lowest part of the mountains, known as “The Saddle,” where the tops of the hills are only 15,000 feet high.
The weather was rough and the old plane bucked like a bronco but at noon we were there and the nose went down for a safe landing in Asuncion.
[“Aircraft was dismantled at Viracopos (near Sao Paulo) in 1964 after suffering an engine failure and of other problems on a ferry flight as ZP-CAS for Lloyd Aereo Paraguayo on 27 January 1964. http://www.zoggavia.com/c_n_1964.html ]
Dr. Angel De Aldecoa, a French-speaking Paraguayan who is vice president of Pan Western Enterprises, Inc., greeted us. Pan Western had prepared a free luncheon for the pioneers. They ate it after offering prayers for their safe arrival and singing hymns.
Passengers, luggage and the pen-weary dogs and puppies were transferred to two C-47 aircraft and a couple hours later we came down on the rough-and-ready landing strip of Estancia Del Sol, the palm, mesquite, and cactus wilderness which was to be a new homeland for the 76 settlers from Texas.
HOUSTON – (AP) – The golden dream of a group of spiritual pilgrims who left Texas for a “paradise” in the bush country of Paraguay apparently has become somewhat tarnished.
One of the Paraguay pilgrims is in jail and five others were accused of illegally killing cattle.
The Houston Post published a story today of how the pilgrims are faring after having left Texas in December of 1963.
76 AT START
At the start there were 76 of them – many from Houston – but now only 48 remain in Paraguay. The rest, weary and disillusioned, had already given up and gone home.
The result may cause the ill-starred expedition to come to an end, the Post reported.
The Post learned that last month most of the pilgrims remaining in Paraguay took arms against the village of Puerto Guarani and stayed barricaded in a building for five days.
After the conflict ended – without bloodshed – six Americans faced charges of illegally killing cattle.
All were released but the Rev. Jack Wood Jr. of Houston, who was in a federal prison in Asuncion. He was charged with killing cattle and resisting arrest.
McRoberts said the pilgrims, led by James A. St. John, a former Baptist pastor from Bloomington, Tex., have been living in Puerto Guarani, a settlement on the Paraguay River.
McRoberts helped the clan move there shortly after they arrived in Paraguay because the town had electricity and other conveniences.
He said that since then the pilgrims have done “virtually nothing” to help themselves.
McRoberts said police there had been getting reports of domestic cattle were being killed or rustled.
Permission by Pan-Western had been given the pilgrims to kill wild, unbranded cattle, he said, but not domestic animals.
The five men jailed and later released were identified by McRoberts as William Smith and Eugene Couch, both of Houston, and Robert Watts of Abilene, Dwight Townsend and his brother, Calvin.
The townspeople of Puerto Guarani have asked the Americans be made to leave Paraguay.
“The Post learned that last month most of the pilgrims remaining in Paraguay took arms against the village of Puerto Guarani and stayed barricaded in a building for five days.
After the conflict ended – without bloodshed – six Americans faced charges of illegally killing cattle.”
Too bad no one questioned McRoberts’ refusal to pay for services rendered! I may not remember a lot of what went on, my father did not know how to Do Nothing! I’ll never forget McRoberts; he was a “big deal” to the people of Beulah Land. One day I was walking with my mother and sister when a man on a horse approached. He asked mom if I could ride with him and he leaned down to grab my arm so I could swing up behind his saddle. In the midst of swinging me up, I touched the saddle with my foot and he dropped me to the ground, laughing as if he gained pleasure from hurting a little girl.
Jack Wood, William (Will) Smith, Eugene Couch, Robert Watts, Dwight Townsend, and Calvin Townsend were imprisoned after a stand-off with the policia/vigilante because where we lived, dad was concerned that the authorities were so corrupt, the men would likely be hanged if taken into custody. Dad refused to allow the locals to arrest anyone and an armed stand off ensued. I have letters and contracts somewhere around here that explain more of what was really going on. McRoberts is the contractor with Pan Western Cattle Company.
Missionary work had nothing to do with our existence in South America. A contract with Pan Western involved the men of Beulah Land finding wild cattle and driving them across the Parana River, into Argentina or Ascuncion. Why would McRoberts, the contractor, care if the cowboys ate a cow while driving cattle for weeks on end?
The Guaranians cared about us and Mr. Jiminez made certain the women and children were safe when the men were in prison. Our homes were raided while the men were gone. James St. John wasn’t arrested because he was in a neighboring village. The building in the background of where my eldest brother sits on the grass, with Johnnie standing, and a horse eating nearby, may have been the building where we held up. The men busted holes in the inside walls so that we could pass from room to room of the abandoned “hotel” without going outside. The men were outside and I never wanted to know that kind of terror. The kids were in the midst of a war zone and we knew we were in danger.
Together We Heal is for any who suffer from the trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse. We are here to provide a safe forum for survivors of abuse to share, learn and heal, give direction to those seeking guidance and to expose sexual predators for what they are and their methods of getting into our lives.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual crime, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotlines (800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org).