Bro. William Sowders
was born in Louisville, Kentucky on September 13, 1879
to Charles & Florence Sowders.
He was raised in Shippingport, Kentucky, an island attached to Louisville,
with his brother, Lynn and sister, Pansy.
He went to the Methodist Church as a child. He was converted in 1898.
He tried to live for the Lord, but when he failed he felt he wasn't sufficient for God, so he went out in the backyard and told the Lord, "I quit." He went out in the world for the next 13 years. During the 13 years he joined the police force. When he saw the corruption of the police force he quit and went to work at Jefferson Boat, where he learned to make boats watertight. He also learned the boat building trade and became very good at it.
He married Viola Coburn at the age of 24. They had two children, James and Gladys. In 1909 he docked his boat at Metropolis, Illinois. He went into town and saw a meeting going on. Bro. Frank Knight was preaching and preached him under conviction, so he went to the altar. He went back to Olmstead and when he retired that night, he start talking to the Lord and was converted while
lying on his bed. It was 1911. A short time after that he was in Olmstead, working on his boat and the Lord began talking to him. The Lord said, "I want you to do something." He asked the Lord what He wanted him to do and the Lord said, "I want you to preach my gospel." He said the voice sounded like a clap of thunder and the force of it about knocked him on his back. He wanted to yell out, but he knew people would think he was crazy, so he stuffed a handkerchief in his mouth to muffle the sound that might come out of his mouth, but he was rejoicing because God had just called him into the ministry.
In 1912, he receive the gift of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues, while on Bro. George Aubrey's gospel boat, that was parked in Paducah, Kentucky. After receiving the Holy Spirit, he studied his Bible for two years night and day.
One night while in a house meeting, he was sitting on the floor and Bro. Bob Shelton started going through a manifestation (rubbing his hands together and making a whistling noise with his mouth) and came over to him, stopped in front of him, raised his hands over Bro. Sowders head and said "My son, this night I ordain thee to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ." He laid his hands on Bro. Sowders head and Bro. Sowders said it felt like liquid fire poured on his head and the power of God filled the room and on everybody that was there.
One night Bro. Sowders dreamed he was working on a building and he was standing looking at a large board with a blueprint. He also had a blueprint rolled under his arm. When men would come to him and ask questions, he would point out what they were to do and they would take the material they needed to put in the place to do the work. Another one would come and ask a question and he would show them on the drawing board what they were to do. They would leave and do what he told them to do. When he woke he asked the Lord what the dream meant?
The Lord told him, "Bob Shelton is the apostle of this movement, George Aubrey is the prophet and you are the teacher.
In 1916 Bro. Sowders went to Anna, IL and held services in a little mission on Railroad Street formerly known as the "Potato House". This is where the Pentecostal movement started in Anna as far as Bro. Sowders
and this body of people is concerned. Bro. T.M. Jolly's father, Henry, rented a large house for $12.00 a month in Anna and put up extra beds to keep ministers when they came there to be with Bro. Sowders.
Bro. Sowders later moved from the mission to a big two story house called the "old academy".
It had been used as a college and was a beautiful old building with fine woodwork. On the first floor was two large rooms divided by a big sliding door. Bro. Sowders took out the door making one large room.
He carpeted the room, put seats in and built a little platform. Bro. Sowders lived in three or four rooms on the first floor located in the back of the building.
The Jolly family lived in the upstairs apartment which had six or seven rooms.
Young Thomas Jolly played the drums in the church.
The first preachers meeting held in this body was by Bro. Sowders at Anna, IL in 1919.
In 1921, Bro. Sowders went to Evansville, IN and there pastored his second church. Then in 1927, he went to Louisville, KY and held a tent meeting.
He had quite a few people that were following him
as a result of the tent meeting, so he rented a empty firehouse at 16th & Market in Louisville.
On February 28, 1928, Bro. Sowders moved to 912 West Market in Louisville.
He wanted to start a band at the church, so he contacted Bro. Len Johnson.
Bro. T. M. Jolly drove Bro. Johnson, his wife, Reba, and his son, Paul to Louisville.
When they arrived in Louisville, the Johnson family stayed in one of the saints homes and Bro. Jolly stayed in a room at the church where Bro. Sowders lived. On March 20, 1933, Bro. Sowders moved the Louisville church to 2111 West Broadway in Louisville. He rented the building. The first service was held on March 26, 1933.
On January 28, 1935, Bro. Sowders bought property (350 acres for $2245.00) at the top of the hill in Shepherdsville, KY.
He and the men cleared the land, built a tabernacle, dining room, cabins, barn and other buildings there. In April, 1935, Bro. Sowders held the first camp meeting there. Ministers and saints came from all over the country
to attend the camp meetings. Many meetings have been held at the camp ground and are still being held there. Along with the tabernacle on Shepherdsville hill, there was also a small church on the camp ground.
Bro. Elmer Carter, who sat next to Bro. Sowders in the local assembly, pastored the little camp ground church for Bro. Sowders on Wednesday nights.
The saints that lived on Shepherdsville hill would drive to Louisville for church
In 1945, Bro. T. M. Jolly talked to Bro. Sowders about purchasing a church building. Up until that time, they had always rented. So, they purchased a church at 1432 South 28th Street in Louisville.
The first service there was December 20, 1945.
They had services on Tuesday evenings, Thursday evenings, Saturday evenings, Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings. They also had three day meetings, called Christmas schools.
In the 1940's and early 1950's many people moved from all over the United States to Louisville, KY so they could be part of Bro. Sowders ministry.
During the 1940's Bro. Sowders began telling the saints that when he passed away, Bro. T. M. Jolly would follow in his footsteps as the moderator and overseer of the general work and that Bro. Sowders son, James, would pastor the church in Louisville. He would say, "You all know that I have a son, Jim, in the ministry whom I would naturally want to take my work on, but the Lord told me it would be Tommy (Bro. Jolly) that would take this Body on, not my son."
When Bro. Sowders was tired or not feeling well, he would have Bro. Jolly take charge of meetings.
Bro. Sowders passed away on November 20, 1952 at the church at 1432 South 28th Street in Louisville, KY.
His understanding of doctrines...perfection, restoration of the Church, holiness, godhead and many others are still being taught today.
The best way to recognize churches that are still following Bro. Sowders calling and understanding is to look for some of the following characteristics and teachings:
Holiness message (not to be partakers of the world in lifestyle...entertainment, words, dress, etc)
Teaching perfection in word, thought, deed and motive.
Restoration of the Church.
144,000 members in the Bride of Christ.
There is one God, which is the Father and Jesus Christ is His (God's) son.
When you receive the Holy Spirit (Ghost) you will speak in other tongues.
Note...We obtained information for Bro. Sowders history from several sources.
We highly recommend a book written by Bro. Bill Wallender, from Louisville, KY.
'WHY THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS POURED OUT IN 1900'.
It is a wonderful book, with a lot of Bro. Sowders history included.