The Branch Davidians (or the General Association of Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventists) are a religious community which was founded in 1955 by Benjamin Roden. They are an offshoot of the General Association of Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists, established by Victor Houteff in 1935.
Houteff, a Bulgarian immigrant and a Seventh-day Adventist, wrote a series of tracts which were titled the "Shepherd's Rod." The tracts called for the reform of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In 1935, after his ideas were rejected by Adventist leaders, Houteff and his followers settled on a tract of land on the western outskirts of Waco, Texas, where they built a compound called the Mount Carmel Center and began preparing for the Second Coming.
After Houteff's death in 1955, his wife Florence became the leader of the Davidians. That same year, Roden, a former follower of Houteff who called himself "the Branch" (Isaiah 11:1), called for Davidians to come to Mount Carmel Center to hear his message. This was the beginning of the group that would be popularly known as the General Association of Davidian Seventh-day Adventists.
In 1957, Florence Houteff sold the old Mount Carmel Center and purchased 941 acres near Elk, Texas, thirteen miles northeast of Waco, naming the property New Mount Carmel Center. After the failure of Florence's prophecy of apocalyptic events on or near April 22, 1959, she dissolved the General Association of Davidian Seventh-day Adventists in 1962 and sold all but 77.86 acres of the New Mount Carmel property. Roden took possession of New Mount Carmel in 1962 and began his efforts to purchase the remaining 77.86 acres.
On February 27, 1973, New Mount Carmel was sold to "Benjamin Roden, Lois Roden, and [their son] George Roden, Trustees for the General Association of Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventists." From this point on, the property was simply known as Mount Carmel. Upon the death of Roden in 1978, his wife Lois became the next Branch Davidian prophet at the compound.
In 1981, a young man named Vernon Howell, later known as David Koresh, came to Mount Carmel and studied biblical prophecy under Lois Roden. By 1984 the core group of Branch Davidians shifted their allegiance from Lois' son George to Koresh.
The Branch Davidians are most associated with the Waco siege of 1993, a 51-day standoff between members of the sect and federal agents. The conflict ended when Mount Carmel was destroyed in a fire. Ten people were killed during the initial raid by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents on February 28, 1993, and 76 Branch Davidians of all ages died in the fire that was the culmination of an FBI tank and CS gas assault on April 19, 1993.