William W. Davies was the leader of a Latter-day Saints schismatic group called the Kingdom of Heaven located in the foothills of the Blue Mountains overlooking Walla Walla from 1867 to 1881.
Davies was born in Wales to a Methodist family. In 1847, he converted to Mormonism, and in 1854–55 emigrated to Utah Territory to join the gathering of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
After the Mountain Meadows massacre of 1857, Davies became disillusioned with the leadership of the LDS Church and became a follower of the schismatic leader Joseph Morris who was challenging the authority of Mormon leader Brigham Young. Following the 1862 Morrisite War in which Morris was killed by authorities, Davies moved with a number of Morrisites to Deer Lodge County, Montana. While in Montana, Davies told of a series of revelations which instructed him to establish the “Kingdom of Heaven on Earth” near Walla Walla.
Davies and forty of his followers moved here in 1866 and eventually established a communal society on 400 acres near the top of Scenic Loop Road at its intersection with the road now known as Mormon Grade. Davies held legal title to all property in the Kingdom of Heaven. He taught his followers that he was the archangel Michael, who had previously lived lives as the biblical Adam, Abraham, and David. When his son Arthur was born on February 11, 1868, Davies declared that the infant was the reincarnated Jesus Christ, and the child came to be called “the Walla Walla Jesus.”
After the announcement, the size of Davies’ followers doubled; most of the new converts came from San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon. When Davies’ son, David, was born in 1869, he declared him to be God the Father, and it is said that he also declared himself to be the Holy Spirit, completing the divine Trinity.
The Davies community’s main compound was located just southeast of the current corner of Scenic Loop Road and Mormon Grade in the foothills of the Blue Mountains east of Walla Walla. In the compound was the Davies brick residence, as well as a temple or central building for meetings, a school, and a variety of more humble homes. The main barn for farming operations was just north of what is now Scenic Loop Road. All of these buildings have long been removed, and the site of the former community is currently open farm ground.
As to the genesis of the community’s beliefs and practices, on January 24, 1866, Davies claimed to have had a vision in which he saw a great white throne in heaven, and learned that God and his Son had chosen him, Davies, to reveal their will to mankind, and to inaugurate “the kingdom of heaven on earth.” When his fifth son, Joseph Bowman Davies, was born on June 17, 1866, Davies announced him to be the reincarnation of John the Baptist, forerunner of the Messiah.
In the spring of the next year, 1867, Davies travelled from Deer Lodge, Montana, along the Mullan Road to Walla Walla, where he declared “this is the place,” and purchased 80 acres of land where he established the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Men and boys of the Davies community wore their hair long as a symbol of strength. Davies claimed the ability to cure disease and prevent death, to lay down his life, and to resurrect himself.
The community sent missionaries abroad and to several areas within the United States, including Portland, San Francisco, and even back to Utah. It doesn’t appear any effort was made to encourage local people to join, and apparently none did. All members were required to surrender their property to the community, and all shared in the work, including on at least one occasion, Davies, who was a brick mason. Some also had to work outside the community to raise funds for it.
It is said that Davies expelled several followers from the community for immorality, and subsequently claimed their wives for his own use. Also, he is said to have set up several women, including the school teacher, in private houses where he would visit them after dark, resulting in several births.
Although Davies claimed the power to raise the dead, the Kingdom of Heaven began to collapse in 1879 when Davies’ wife Sarah died of diphtheria. In 1880, both Arthur and David, members of the Trinity, died of the same disease. Several of Davies’ followers then sued him in Walla Walla County Superior Court for the return of property given to the community, and for fair compensation for their donated work, and won a judgment. As a result, the land on which the community was located was sold at public auction by order of the court, essentially bringing the Kingdom to a close, though some never lost faith.
At the time of its break-up, there were 43 members of the Davies group. Davies then moved to a camp he owned on Mill Creek, where he briefly attempted to revive his following, but eventually gave up and moved to San Francisco with a new wife. Davies returned to Walla Walla shortly before his death in 1906, and is buried at the Lyons Creek Cemetery north of Mill Creek Road. Many of the long-time residents of the Mill Creek area are related to members of the Davies community. A Walla Walla 2020 interpretive sign regarding the community has been installed at the corner of Scenic Loop Road and Mormon Grade.
Additional information on the Davies community is at ww2020.net/history-websites/william-davies-and-the-walla-walla-jesus.