One interesting life which God used in the foundations of the Azusa Street Revival was that of Lucy Farrow. We do not know much about her early life other than the fact that she was born in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1851. She also happened to be the niece of Fredrick Douglas, the famous abolitionist. She was an African-American woman and there is at least one picture which includes her, surviving today. Her past can be sketchily traced to her living in Mississippi in 1871. Here she had a son and was presumingly married. By 1890 she was living in Houston, Texas, was a widow and had borne seven children, only two of whom were alive.
In Houston, Farrow pastored a small mission-church. Her connections to Azusa began with her association with William Seymour. Seymour attended her church in Houston and was given leadership of it for a season while Farrow moved east to Kansas. Farrow left for Kansas to work in the Bible college of the controversial early Pentecostal leader, Charles Fox Parham. At Parham’s school she heard his teaching on the baptism in the Holy Spirit being evidenced by speaking in tongues. In one of Parham’s meetings, Farrow had this spiritual experience of being baptized in the Spirit and she spoke with other tongues. She is the first recorded black person to have had this experience.
After having this wonderful spiritual experience of Holy Spirit baptism, Farrow returned to Texas to pastor once again. Here she told Seymour and her congregation about her experience. She would later introduce Seymour to Parham. It is through Farrow’s and Parham’s association with Seymour that Seymour came to a Pentecostal understanding of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This teaching and experience would become a major feature of the Azusa Revival.
Farrow was fifty-six when she came to Azusa. Some historians disagree about whether her ministry in Los Angeles began with Azusa or with the earlier Bonie Brae Street meetings. Whichever is the case, Farrow was mightily used of the Lord. She laid hands on many, praying for them, and they would receive this same experience of Spirit baptism. At Azusa she did much teaching as well.
Farrow did not stay at Azusa indefinitely. She ministered throughout America, holding meetings in Louisiana, North Carolina, Virginia, New York, and even in England. In Texas she worked with Parham’s ministry once again. Farrow continued to lay hands on people and see them come into the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. An early skeptic named Howard Goss heard Farrow speak at Azusa and became convinced of the experience. Later, as he saw Farrow ministering to others and they experienced this baptism, he said that his “heart became hungry again for another manifestation of God. … So I went forward that she might place her hands upon me. When she did, the Spirit of God again struck me like a bolt of lightening; the power of God surged through my body, and I again began speaking in tongues.” 1
Farrow was mightily used of the Lord in the city of Portsmouth. She saw about two hundred come to Christ and most of these spoke in tongues. Farrow continued on and went to Liberia, Africa. Here she worked with Julia Hutchins. It was reported that she was supernaturally enabled to speak to the Kru people in their own language. She even ministered to the king of the Kru. Reports came back of Liberians becoming saved and baptized in God’s Spirit.
Upon leaving Liberia, in 1907, Farrow returned to the United States. She held one revival meeting in Littleton, North Carolina. Soon, in May of 1908, Farrow was back at Azusa. Here she ministered from a “small faith cottage” at the back of the Mission, where people came to her for prayer. The Apostolic Faith magazine reported:
The Lord had baptized a number in the little faith cottage back of the Mission. He has used our dear Sister Farrow whom He sent from Texas at the beginning of the outpouring of the Spirit in Los Angeles. In her room in the cottage, quite a number have received a greater filling of the Spirit and some have been healed and baptized with the Spirit since she returned from Africa. 2
Farrow later returned to Texas to live with her son. In 1911 she contracted tuberculosis and died at the age of sixty. Her life was full of God’s power and the lives of many were touched by her ministry.
Alexander, Estrelda. The Women of Azusa Street. Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2005.
Robeck, Cecil M. Jr. The Azusa Street Mission and Revival : The Birth of The Global Pentecostal Movement. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2006.
1 Howard Goss, quoted in Ethel A. Goss, The Winds Of God (New York: Comet Press Books, 1958), 56.
2 Anonymous, quoted in The Apostolic Faith Vol. 2, No. 13, May, 1908 (Los Angeles: The Apostolic Faith Mission, 2.