June 16, 1964
Two Camp Beulah Families Complaining about Prophet
A Texas cowboy and his family who went to Paraguay with the Camp Beulah Pilgrims in December to establish a mission and begin a new life are back home, disillusioned and broke.
Gail M. Borden, 33, of Woodsboro said he quit the camp because he couldn’t go along with the ideas of James A. St. John, leader of the Pilgrims and a self-styled prophet.
“St John thinks he’s a prophet,” Banks told Valley Freedom Newspapers over the phone, “but I don’t know how he gots that way. When he wants something done he says God told him to do this and God told him to do that.”
Two Families Return
Borden, his wife Mozelle and their two small daughters returned to Texas last month and are living on the Reach Ranch near Woodsboro.
Lawrence Murray, an Oklahoma Indian, also has left the missionary group. He and his two children are back home in Norman.
The Pilgrims assembled in Harlingen for the trip to Paraguay and lived for several months in the old Stuart Place Clubhouse on W. Hwy. 83.
Borden described St. John as a strict disciplinarian and said he kept his followers subservient by withholding their salary. He said dissatisfaction among members of the camp was evident before he left and predicted the colony would disband within six months.
“The camp wasn’t at all what I thought it would be,” Borden said. “I’ve known St. John for 15 years and he used to be a pretty good boy, but he is trying to set up a colony of his own down there. We went down to establish a mission but that’s not what they’re doing.”
Borden said St. John told the Pilgrims they were in Paraguay to raise one generation, “just exactly like the Bible said to raise them. “ “If a child doesn’t do what he is told to do, St. John believes he should be punished,” Borden went on.
A former Baptist preacher from Bloomington, Tex., St. John’s word is law around camp, Borden said.
He said the Lord told him he was the most righteous man in the group and that he had more practical knowledge than anyone there,” Borden continued.
Borden said St. John is not teaching Christianity “the way I see it.” He said there are 14 families in the camp and that the St. John family is the only one that has an ice box and a stove, both of which operate off butane.
The Pilgrims’ main diet consists of rice, noodles and hard-tack (a hard roll) and a few caned goods, Borden said.
Borden said the trip cost him everything he had accumulated over the last 10 years. “But I can’t complain,“ he said. “I’ve learned a lot and besides you can’t always measure an experience like this in dollars and cents.”
He said he was supposed to get $200 a month but all he ever got from St. John was $12.
“One day St. John said he got some money and told us we could have what we needed as long as it wasn’t too much.” Borden went on, “I got $12, the most money I saw down there.” He said he had to borrow $1,100 to bring his family back to Texas.
Borden said one day two men wanted to go talk with personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Asunción capitol of Paraguay but St. John told them they couldn’t go. “These people don’t want to see you.” Borden said St. John told the men “They think we’re here to evade taxes in the states.”
However, Borden said after he left the camp he stopped by the American Embassy in Asunción and was treated exceptionally courteously. “They told me they were there to help us and would be glad to see us at any time,” Borden said.
76 in Original Party
A total of 76 Pilgrims left Harlingen for Paraguay, among them St. John’s wife and two children. Before leaving, he said:
“We are going into what is virtually a 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.”
But Borden thinks the whole thing is about to fall apart. He said he had heard two other families have had about all they can stand of the camp and will be coming home soon.
“I believe others will follow them and it won’t be long before it’s all over,” he added.
* * END * *
I recall having a fridge, or ice box, and a stove with an oven when we lived in Asuncion. One evening, I was cleaning up the kitchen and at the age of four, didn’t know what to do with the salt and pepper. I decided that pepper is hot, thus it should go in the oven and the salt isn’t hot, so it belongs in the fridge. My mother had quite the laugh when she heard my explanation. I do not know the Borden family but the man supposedly knew James St. John for ten years prior to our traveling to South America. James St. John was as bull-headed as my father. I cannot see a situation where any man would tell my father what to do and actually expect him to follow orders. Dad’s “noncompliant” character would have stood on equal footing with any other man.