© Original content written by James R. Carlson
Samuel Morris or Prince Kaboo
The modern Pentecostal movement began in the early 20th century as a sovereign move of the Holy Spirit. The early days of the Pentecostal movement can be tied to at least 2 men, Charles Parham and William Seymour, who were led by the Holy Spirit in their ministries. Although Parham’s role preceded Seymour’s, the work that Seymour did expanded the Pentecostal movement beyond the influence of Parham. But prior to both men is the work of one young man in the 19th century – Samuel Morris, who preceded and influenced them both.
As a young boy, he was known as Prince Kaboo from his tribe in Liberia, Africa. His boyhood was tragic in that he was captured during a war between competing tribes and was held hostage for ransom. His captors never accepted final payment and planned to kill the young prince but God intervened.
While tied to a post one night a divine light shined onto him and released him from the bonds that held him. Prince Kaboo heard a voice telling him to run into the forest, which he did. And he kept running until he found his way to a missionary village where they taught this young boy about Jesus and the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Prince Kaboo was overjoyed and hungry for the Word of God. While there he received a new name – Samuel Morris.
You can read more about Prince Kaboo in the following booklet: Samuel Morris: A Spirit Filled Life (1908). Ealier books have been published about him (1896).
Learning more about the God who rescued him, the young prince grew in the knowledge of the God’s Word. He had learned as much as he could at the missionary’s table and wanted more training in God’s Word. He was told he would have to go to school in America to get better training so young Morris decided to go to the United States.
Upon his arrival, he met many people who helped him find his way to Taylor University in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Established by the Methodist Episcopal Church. He spent hours in prayer before God and encouraged others to do the same. His witness, pure and simple, led people to a closer walk with God. He became a local hero to the students and faculty of Taylor University and the people of his community, white and black.
Sadly, Sammy Morris died in 1893 at the age of 21. Although a tragic loss for those who loved him, his example of following the leadership of the Holy Spirit and praying about any matter of concern lived far beyond the years of his short life. As Taylor University later moved from Fort Wayne to Upland, Indiana, Morris’ influence continued to reach the people of the community. The young African Prince became a legend among the African Americans in the community of Indiana.
William J. Seymour was about the same age of Prince Kaboo. He was born in Louisiana in the midst of racial segregation and left at a time when it was better for him to leave the South and live in the North of the U.S. He eventually made his way to Indianapolis, Indiana in 1895, just a couple of years after Samuel Morris passed away and less than 100 miles from where Taylor University moved to. Seymour attended the Simpson Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church in this community where he turned his life over to the Lord Jesus. Seymour also became acquainted with the Evening Light Saints, which was a part of the Church of God Reformation movement in Anderson, Indiana, less than 50 miles from Taylor University. Seymour would have learned about the young Prince Kaboo and his life journey following the Holy Spirit wherever He led him. Seymour traveled to many states in his life and was in Houston, Texas on the occasion when Charles Parham visited to share an event that occurred in Topeka, Kansas.
Charles F. Parham, born the same year as Sammy Morris and had a background with the Methodist Episcopal Church. His mother was born in Lakeview, Indiana and was a lifelong member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Her father, Parham’s grandfather, was a circuit rider for the Church. Parham later became a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Kansas and from his connections it is likely that he learned of the story of young Sammy Morris.
The ministry of young Parham led to the beginning of the Pentecostal movement in America. On January 1, 1901, in Topeka, Kansas one young lady received the Baptism with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues. Parham was the minister of this group who saw this as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit similar to what was witnessed during the Pentecostal festival after Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection. Pope Leo 8 dedicated the new century to the Holy Spirit and on this same day. The story of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit was taken to Houston where the eager William J. Seymour was working as a janitor.
Seymour listened to Parham’s message through a window of the Church because the Church didn’t allow Blacks into its services. He was deeply affected by this story told by Parham and later moved to Los Angeles, California where he shared this message with people at the Azuza street mission. From there, in 1906, a revival broke out that also occurred in many other places worldwide. The Biblical idea of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit and the gifts that come from that Baptism, firstly the gift of speaking in an unknown language (tongues), were the hallmarks of this new revival. The Pentecostal movement, and the many denominations that claim it as their heritage, point to the mission on 312 Azuza Street where it all began.
But the birth of the 20th century revival may have had more humble beginnings in Africa with the young Prince Kaboo than most Pentecostals know. His story is timeless and serves to remind us that the same God who delivered the Apostle Paul with a divine light also freed the young captive Prince Kaboo with the same light. The prince became a missionary to the United States from Africa at a time when people were hungry for simple faith and sincere religion beyond the hallowed walls of stain glassed windows and padded pews. The witness of Samuel Morris’ life probably affected both Charles F. Parham and William J. Seymour but there are no first person records to establish this. The Pentecostal movement they led and the work of changing lives are what is important. Only God knows the details.
Pray this prayer:
God of heaven, I believe in Jesus Christ and what he did for me on the Cross. I believe that He paid for the penalty of my sin, which I admit I have done. I ask for your forgiveness of my sin and thank you for your love. I ask that Jesus become Lord of my life and lead me in my life’s decisions by the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Please bring me closer to you so that I may know you. By your Holy Spirit, please make in me a clean heart, a renewed spirit, and a right mind that I may do those things that are pleasing to you. Thank you God, Father of my Lord Jesus Christ and now my Father in heaven. Thank you!