The leper cult occupied the Blalock Mansion in the mid-1920s. Digging out the background from unreliable sources and circulating rumors, here’s the best I can do to learn the background of this unique branch of Christianity.
(To find other stories about the Blalock Mansion and its background, type Blalock into the search line at the top of the opening blog page.)
Lepers for the Lord originated in Tennessee. Brothers Dagmar and Oliver heard constantly from their single religious mother Angela that worshipping the Lord takes many forms, some less sedate and more bizarre than others. “Open the Bible and let it speak to you,” she’d tell them whenever they needed ideas.
Dagmar opened the Bible and his hand touched the verse that declared the godly person can take up dangerous snakes and not be hurt. We all know where that one led him.
Oliver opened it several times, and over and over hit the scriptures dealing with leprosy. A spark ignited an idea that later morphed into the cult Lepers for the Lord.
He moved north at the time of the world-wide flu epidemic, traveling to live with family members in central Wisconsin. Attending churches in the Wisconsin Rapids area, none met his needs. He befriended cast-offs and loners, and they met as the charter members of Lepers for the Lord.
One of the cast of outcast that came to the meetings was a person of wealth, belonging to one of the papermaking families in Port Edwards. His money helped rent the Blalock Mansion on 7th Street, abandoned after the flu epidemic ended. This huge house stood vacant until the Lepers rented it and moved into the huge mansion in 1922.
By this time Oliver had worked out the theology and tried to construct a base for the unique sect.
Their entire philosophy rested on the idea that lepers in the Old and New Testaments suffered, were persecuted, and became outcasts because of mistreated. That made them martyrs and they thought that they’d suffer but in their misery find a way to love Jesus and get love in return.
They had shipments of the leprosy bacteria, called mycobacterium, which they administered to fellow followers.
More on leprosy in an upcoming post.