PALOMINAS AREA HISTORY
Some History of Miracle Valley
(The following has been adapted from the November 28, 2001 edition of the Tucson Citizen [Paul L. Allen]. This web adaptation does not include the entire article as there were parts of it that are not relevant to the area's history).
Miracle Valley is located on Arizona State Route 92 within the boundaries of the Palominas Fire District. A photograph of the Bible College is on Photo Gallery Page 3. The property where the Bible College is located is now owned by a group led by a Pentecostal minister from Ohio, Rev. Melvin Harter. The new group wants to run day-and-elder-care facilities, along with the college.
"... Miracle Valley has been home to religious fundamentalists since 1958, when an evangelist bought 2,400 acres in the valley and gave the area its name. The land has changed hands several times through the years, but had not been used as a ministry for nearly 20 years, since the members of a black Christian church from Chicago packed up and left the site.
At the time, church members said they were harassed by sheriff's deputies and by local white residents of the rural area who didn't like having the urban black parishioners nearby.
The conflict exploded in a deadly shooting Oct. 23, 1982, between local authorities and members of The Healing Center and Church.
Three church members were killed - one the son of the church's leader - and two church members and five sheriff's deputies were injured. The shootout brought Gov. Bruce Babbitt and the Rev. Jesse Jackson to the area to try and broker peace ..."
(NOT included in this newspaper article, but seen elsewhere in print and through personal correspondence, it is reported that the Rev. Jackson visited Miracle Valley to investigate the shootings. After four hours, he left the area, stating that the community of Sierra Vista and surrounding areas were racist.)
HISTORY OF MIRACLE VALLEY (From the same newspaper)
Fire and brimstone, faith-healing evangelist Asa Alonzo Allen acquired 2,400
acres in an open valley south of Sierra Vista and dubbed it Miracle
Valley. He had been successful with tent-show revivals around the
country. He sponsored twice-yearly revivals at Miracle Valley that
attracted as many as 3,000 participants.
1970: On June 16, Allen, 59, died in a room at the Jack Tar Hotel in San Francisco. Death was from acute alcoholism, an autopsy found. Allen's associates tried to continue the ministry, but it failed, mired in court proceedings involving claims of misused funds.
Mid-1970's: The property was acquired by another religious group, and sporadic attempts were made to begin another religious operation. Periodic seminars, church services and encampments were held on the land.
1978: The first of a number of members of the Chicago-based Healing Center and Church, founded in 1962 by the Rev. Frances Thomas, began arriving on the land. She was one of the estimated 10,000 ministers ordained by Allen. From the start there was mistrust and dislike between the tough, urban Chicago transplants and set-in-their-ways, rural Cochise County residents.
Late 1980: A series of racial slurs, burglaries and vandalism - each side blaming the other - prompted church members to establish an armed security force to patrol the property.
1981: The deaths of four children, whom state officials said might have survived had the fundamentalist church members not refused to administer medication, prompted authorities to try unsuccessfully to place other children there under state supervision. Church members refused.
Mid-1981: Cochise County deputies were met with physical resistance as they tried to serve church members with traffic warrants. Then Sheriff Jimmy Judd conferred with Gov. Bruce Babbitt and the head of the state Department of Public Safety. Increased patrols by law officers were established.
September 1981: A dynamite bomb exploded in a van driven by church members, killing one and injuring two others. Other bombs were found in the van, leading to speculation the church members might have been headed to Sierra Vista to free two other church members arrested the same day.
May 1982: Gov. Babbitt intervened to arrange the surrender of 14 church members wanted on traffic warrants.
June 1982: Church members filed a $75 million suit, claiming civil rights violations by eight county officials.
October 1982: Church members wielding bats and clubs fought off deputies trying to serve traffic warrants. Three dozen law officers returned the next day to try again, and more violence broke out. Two church members - including Thomas' eldest son - were killed, and two were injured. Five deputies were hurt. Nineteen church members were indicted in shooting-related incidents. Many church members returned to Chicago.
May 1983: Church members vowed they would not return to Miracle Valley.
February 1984: County officials dropped all charges against church members. Later, a $500,000 out-of-court settlement was announced in the church members' $75 million lawsuit against the county.
1987: A church member paralyzed from a bullet wound in the shootout dies,
apparently of complications from that wound.
Miracle Valley Bible College was purchased by Melvin Harter Ministries, Inc, Dr. Melvin Harter, President, in August 1999. Since that time, limited classes have been underway, concurrent with renovation of the buildings, in preparations for full class schedules.
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