September 4, 2010

Thornton Chase (1847–1912) – A Disciple of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, designated by the Guardian as “the first to embrace the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh in the Western world …”

“The stout-hearted Thornton Chase, surnamed Thabit (Steadfast) by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and designated by Him ‘the first American believer,’ who became a convert to the Faith in 1894”, along with” the immortal Louisa A. Moore, the mother teacher of the West, surnamed Liva (Banner) by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Dr. Edward Getsinger, to whom she was later married, Howard MacNutt, Arthur P. Dodge, Isabella D. Brittingham, Lillian F. Kappes, Paul K. Dealy, Chester I. Thacher and Helen S. Goodall …will ever remain associated with the first stirrings of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh in the North American continent.” These souls “stand out as the most prominent among those who, in those early years, awakened to the call of the New Day, and consecrated their lives to the service of the newly proclaimed Covenant.” (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 257)

Thornton Chase became a Baha’i in Chicago in 1894 through a colleague friend by the name of William F. James --according to his life-long friend Carl Scheffler. Thornton’s friend had apparently met a Baha’i earlier by the name Ibrahim Kheiralla who had recently come to America from Beirut and had settled in Chicago. Thornton was reportedly writing a poem about God when his friend entered his office and intrigued by what he was doing told him of a man who claimed that God recently "walked upon the earth." The person who made such a claim, Thornton was told, was Ibrahim Kheiralla. Ibrahim Keiralla had further indicated to Thornton’s friend that Baha’u’llah was the new Messenger of God and that His coming had fulfilled all biblical prophecies. Thornton became very interested to meet Ibrahim Kheiralla and subsequently joined a small group of Chicagoans to study the Bahá’í Faith with Kheiralla. The class was apparently organized on June 5th, 1894.