The average Davidian at Mt. Carmel Center is firmly convinced that the beginning of the establishment of God’s kingdom in Jerusalem will occur sometime this spring.

They have no further plans other than to just wait for the events to occur so that they can have a part in the establishment of the kingdom.

They are a quiet, almost meek group sincerely convinced that the events will occur.

There is no doubt from the majority of the members, but there is a handful of followers of Benjamin Roden of Odessa, who claims that the whole gathering is exactly one year early. His followers say he is the successor to the prophet Joshua (see separate story). They believe in the prophesies but say they won’t happen until the spring of 1960.

The type of people gathered at the center may be typified by the cars they are driving. They range from old model Fords and Chevrolets to late model Cadillacs and Buicks. From the richest to the poorest, all are plainly dressed. Some of the younger girls are more daring in their wardrobes, but there are no loud or bright dresses.

There are many children at the center with their parents. They attend the meetings with their elders but are surprisingly well-behaved with little coaxing from the parents. The only noise made by children during the services was the restless cry of an infant now and then.

The structure erected for meetings is a large canvass covered building with a floor of sawdust and wood shavings.

The pews are sturdy, impaneled benches capable of seating about 1,200 inside the about 200 by 80 foot structure. Big utility poles support the wooden roof inside.

The minister will ask a question every so often, to which the congregation answers in unison.

There is no working at the center except for general upkeep of the area and preparation of food for the more than 600 people camped there.

James Bowie, 50, of Showbegar, Maine, said he understood there wouldn’t be time to find jobs around Waco, because establishment of the kingdom would come very soon.

“It was a hard decision to leave everything behind in Maine and come down, but there was really never a question in my mind about answering the church’s call,” the dairy worker stated.

“I have turned my life over to the Davidian movement,” Bowie said. “My wife divorced me because of my devotion to my religion, so I have no family. I live in my panel truck. It will do until the kingdom is established.”

“I know how hard it was for me to give up everything and come down here, so I really marvel at how people with children can leave their homes. I know one woman who has 10 children, down here with her.”

Mr. and Mrs. Guilford H. Golf, a middle-aged couple from Albion, Mich., left an 80-acre farm and their jobs to come to Mt. Carmel. Mrs. Golf is a nurse and her husband worked at a school for boys.

“I loved my job,” said Golf, “but I love my church and my God much more, so it was really no decision to come down here. We received the call and we answered it.”

This comment was typical of the Davidians. They are dedicated to their religion and seem to obey orders from their world headquarters at Mt. Carmel unquestioningly.

E.N. Cottman, a dairy farmer from Coldwater, Mich., said he had no doubts whatsoever that the events would occur and lead to the founding of the kingdom sometime this year. As he quoted verses from the Bible to substantiate his belief, a small, thin man, emaciated with age, shuffled past clutching his Davidian literature and a Bible.

“That’s old John Knipple,” said Cottman. “He is originally from Russia, but he was living in California when the call was sent out. He’s about 85 years old, but he dropped everything and made the long trip out here.”

“There are quite a few people out here in their 70’s and 80’s. Most of them come from an old folks’ home in Salem, N.C., which is sponsored by the Davidians,” Cottman added.

There were some skeptics.

John Chizmadia Jr. of Benton, Ark., said he came all the way out here to try to get the Davidians to see the true light.

“I urged them to start using the true name of the Father and the Holy Spirit,” Chizmadia said. “But they wouldn’t listen to me. Most of them seem to be under some sort of spell. I’m going back home now. I feel sorry for them, cause they sure are going to be hurt when the events they expect don’t take place.”

Chizmadia said he used to belong to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, parent group of the Davidians, but he’s not affiliated with any group now.

“The leaders won’t even let the people read any religious literature except the Davidian publications,” Chizmadia said.

The children started school in the McLennan County district Wednesday.

“The law says they have to attend school,” Golf said. “We’re law abiding people, so we’re sending them to school.”

A public address system gives direction to the people.

The children play happily and the adults discuss Bible prophecies.

They are waiting expectantly for the establishment of God’s Kingdom in the near future.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part 2 appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

In 1994, the surviving Davidians went on trial in San Antonio. Over six weeks, more than 140 witnesses testified, with the verdict coming just two days prior to the anniversary of the ATF raid.

The Rodenville shootout and the 1988 trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more stories from deep in the Trib archives.