Henry Yaple ’63

Henry recently completed a 30-year labor of love: a bibliography listing the thousands of works printed by a celebrated religious commune formerly located in Benton Harbor, Michigan. In the early 20th century the Israelite House of David (founded by Benjamin and Mary Purnell) was known for its semi-professional baseball team, whose players sported long locks, flowing beards, and major league talent. The Benton Harbor House of David was later re-organized by Mary Purnell as Mary’s City of David.

Yaple earned his bachelor’s degree in English from K and a Master of Library Sciences degree from Western Michigan University. He began his professional life as a librarian and bibliographer at Michigan State University. He retired as Librarian Emeritus from Whitman College (Walla Walla, Washington) and did much of his compilation work during retirement.

According to Sue Moore, who wrote a story about Yaple that appeared in South County News, “The idea for researching and compiling a bibliography stemmed from his studies as a librarian. The sect headed by Benjamin and Mary Purnell, who had only an eighth grade education, realized that it could attract converts with written material outlining its beliefs. They didn’t attribute or date most of their works but published thousands of titles. The published works helped to attract large numbers of men and women to become members, some from as far away as Australia.

“According to Mary’s City of David web site, the sect published The Star of Bethlehem and by 1910 it was in its third edition, having circulated around the world to the churches and followers of the former six Israelite messengers. Their “Eden Springs Park” was in its second successful season in 1910 and on its way to become America’s premiere pre-Disney theme park. The House of David schools would provide education and recreational activities for its children, who soon developed into legendary barn storming baseball teams, known to Satchel Paige as “Jesus boys”, and traveling jazz bands that would catch the attention of America in sweeping nationwide vaudeville circuit tours throughout the 1920s. By the mid-1920s, and in spite of the worldwide economic depression, the Israelite House of David and Mary’s City of David would come to dominate southwestern Michigan’s economy, tourism and agricultural industries.”

Yaple’s retirement activities are not confined to academics. He is an avid skier, and has also published two works on that avocation. He and his wife, whom he met skiing, live out west in ski country.

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