Monday, September 25, 2017

Update of Sorts

            We’ve revised our outline, dividing a chapter finished in rough draft in two and enlarging the new chapter. This is difficult writing, so you won’t see much from me for a while. We’re raising issues that some will find ‘sensitive.’ And we’re incorporating material we intended for volume three, shortening the discussion to a few paragraphs.
            Our goal is to clarify the nature of the earliest congregations and fellowships. Most groups were small fellowships, a few individuals who met together, often without clear leadership. We will explore how Watch Tower adherents viewed Russell before 1894. Research has led us in a new direction; or I should say it has taken us into a wider field.
            If you want to help, scour the letters in the early issues of Zion’s Watch Tower of comments about Russell or praise for the Tower and Russell’s other writings – Millennial Dawn, Food for Thinking Christians, Old Theology Quarterly, etc.
            It is essential that we be absolutely accurate. If you can help, that would be stellar.

Saturday, September 16, 2017


by Jerome

(Republished and updated from Blog 2)

The Bible Students embraced the new medium of motion pictures to spread their message. This article is about six examples that were released between 1914-1922. Some of this information has already been presented in more detail on this blog in years gone by, but this will present a brief overview and give links to where a modern viewer can see in whole or part, five of the six examples.

Photodrama of Creation

This approximately eight hour production, normally shown in four parts on consecutive weeks or evenings, will require no introduction to readers here.

There are a number of places on YouTube where you can watch it, including some surviving films of CTR in action. Sound was on disc so CTR mimed to the recordings, not always with complete success. There are also a number of places where you can buy a DVD set of the production. However, it must be noted that all the work of restoration over the last 40 years has really been performed by one person, Brian K. This has been a labor of love and the work is still ongoing, and an even better version in Blue-Ray will appear in due course.

Unfortunately, because the source material is out of copyright, others have felt no qualms about copying earlier restorations (perhaps from inferior VHS videos) and marketing them commercially. Leaving aside the ethics of this, if you want the very best version possible from surviving material, you really need to obtain one that bears Brian’s name.

Here is a link to one of the films of CTR.

Restitution - Mena Film Company

This writer plans to do a whole article on just this film and its history one day. But in brief, the company was put together by Bible Students in 1917. It had no direct connection with the Watch Tower Society, although the original Photodrama was briefly sold to Mena by the Society before everyone thought better of the deal. Unlike the Photodrama this was commercially produced, and needed to be shown to paying audiences in a commercial setting to succeed. By all accounts, it didn’t. It was shown to a non-paying audience at an IBSA convention in Seattle in July 1918, but then with the difficulties of the day - the Society directors jailed, others leaving association with the IBSA - it sank. It was reissued commercially under a new title The Conquering Christ and by the end of the 1920s one of the former Mena directors, Leslie Jones, was selling off 16mm prints in seven minute segments as a serial, now rebranded as Redemption. Just one of those segments has recently been rediscovered.

The sequence is Herod’s plans to massacre the innocents. While still primitive by modern day standards, film technique had advanced considerably since the Photodrama of Creation. The director, who obligingly also cast himself as Jesus Christ, had worked with D W Griffith on his epic Intolerance.

But enough of such details for perhaps another time. Here is the clip that only recently has been put on YouTube.


Moving forward from 1918, we come to Kinemo. The Society produced a series of three films on the soon to be doomed 17.5mm gauge, and sold them to Watch Tower readers and the public in general via the Kinemo Company. Three were produced. The history and description of this venture, with its ups and downs, has been described in past articles on this blog and can be checked there. They were filmed over 1920-21 but not sold to the public until the fall of 1922.

Here are links to all three films. The Imperial Valley one is missing a bit of footage, the other two appear complete. All three films include footage of J F Rutherford. Perhaps the most entertaining is the end of the pyramid film. It must have been like a furnace inside the Great Pyramid, and JFR apparently ventured inside wearing a three-piece suit. Watch him as he leaves! (15:28 on the video)

Cedar Point

One final film completes this article, but alas, has not come to light. The Kinemo system of 17.5 mm film offered a film from the 1922 Cedar Point Ohio convention. The panoramic view of the audience out of doors hearing J F Rutherford speak includes a film crew. Here is a close-up from that photograph.

The subsequent films were offered for sale in the New Era Enterprise newspaper.

The same paper (October 31, 1922) also mentioned that the original Kinemo films had been shown on a large screen at the Cedar Point convention, along with footage of “the Bible House and other organization buildings and offices in Brooklyn, the Bethel Home, etc. the printing and binding of booklets and pamphlets etc.”

I know for certain that the modern Watchtower Society has no copies of any of this material, and I suspect had never heard of it until it was brought to their attention. While it would be silent footage, it would of great historical interest to see it. That is, of course, if it still exists.

Come on now. Anyone out there?

The Changing Faces of the French Watch Tower

by Franco

The first issue of the French Watch Tower was printed in October 1903 and was identical to the first issue in Italian. It was called:

Messager de la Présence de Christ "

The second number was printed in January 1904 and was thereafter published monthly.  (The Italian edition remained a quarterly).

From the January 1905 issue an "et" was added before "Messager" and "LE" was removed before "PHARE."   It now became:

Messager de la Présence de Christ "

This title remained until June 1909. Then in July 1909 it became:

Messager de la Présence de Christ "

This had 2/3 different covers. This title was used until December 1912.

In January 1913 the magazine changed its cover again and before the title was added a "LA." It was now called:

Messager de la prèsence de Christ"

This is the cover design that will be familiar to most readers.

(edited by Jerome)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

French Watch Tower


(previously on Blog 2)

A 1904 edition of Divine Plan of the Ages with the prospectus for all six volumes bound as the covers.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Henry Grew

We need a readable scan of Grew's Bank Street tract from 1836. Anyone?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Up to adventure, the challenge of research ??!!

I'd accept a well researched article on Russell's Jewish mass meeting .... Even two or three if they're well researched and footnoted. Up to it?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Someone in the Pittsburgh area ...

This may be of doubtful worth but we'd like a copy

In the Peter E. Soderbergh Collection of Jehovah's Witnesses Materials, AIS.1972.08, 1914-1995, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh.

Box 1

Item 1 Jehovah's first witness: Pastor Charles Taze Russell, by Peter A. Soderbergh, 1966

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Claude Brown

Do any blog readers have any information about Claude Brown, outside what can be found in the Society's Watchtower library? He was a Jamaican, a conscientious objector during WW1 who served time in a British prison (Wandsworth) and went to Africa to support W R Brown (Bible Brown) in missionary work in Nigeria, Gold Coast (Ghana), Liberia, Sierra Leone, etc.

We need this and can't afford it. Anyone have it?

Friday, August 11, 2017

S. O. Blunden

From: The Independent Press and Bloomfield [New Jersey] Citizen, November 1915.

The Independent Press [Bloomfield] May 23, 1913

On Blog 2

For those readers who have access to the restricted blog, there is an article up there now called Pictorial Memories. This is made up from photographs (with a bit of text) that have recently come my way relating to individuals in the UK. Since there might just be the potential for privacy issues with individuals and descendants, I have put it there rather than on this open blog.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

From Roberto

Roberto continues to research the events of 1881:

Barbour, Russell, and the year 1881, another point of contrast.

Barbour and Russell finally separated in June 1879 over the doctrine of the ransom. They had another point of contrast over the year 1881. With the article “THE PARALLELS” published in the June1880 Herald, Barbour denied the thought of an invisible Parousia. According to him the second presence didn’t begin autumn of 1874, nor would there be a later invisible presence. Jesus would personally come in the Autumn of 1881, not seen by the world, but seen by his true disciples, that is, the Herald of the Morning believers.

Russell immediately replied with the July issue of the Watch Tower, confirming his belief that Christ’s invisible presence began in October 1874. Here’s extracts from the two magazines.

Herald of the Morning, June 1880, pp. 85-86, “THE PARALLELS”

“The scapegoat work in cleansing the sanctuary, is an invisible work, seen only in its manifestations; but the appearing of our High Priest, “unto them that look for him,” is never spoken of directly or indirectly, in a way in which we have the least authority to suppose that he will come in an invisible manner. But always the contrary; “He will appear to (optomai, be seen of) us;” he comes in the manner they saw him go, etc. It is true. He will not show himself to the world, when he comes to his church, but he will “be seen” by them that look for him, is the teaching of the law and the testimony.
I warn our readers not to be deceived in this matter; Christ left the church as her High Priest; and he returns to her as such. And after ascending into the presence of God there is no intermediate personal coming in any way, to his church, until he shall appear to them that look for him, Heb. 9:28.
Again, there was a separation of chaff and wheat, and a gathering of the wheat out of the rejected Jewish church, after the crucifixion: and there was a remnant of time still due, for that purpose. And although the half week was left obscure, and there is an equal want of absolute Scripture here pointing us to the end of this last half of the harvest, still the parallel, and the clear indication that the work belonging to this part of the harvest is in process of fulfilment, in the cleaning of the sanctuary, not only by the separation of wise and foolish virgins , but between the letter and the spirit, in all our views; is, all together, evidence enough to make us “look for him, to appear to us in the autumn of 1881.”

Herald of the Morning, July 1880, p. 4, “HAS CHRIST COME?”

“The Parousia, or presence of Christ, when “he shall appear (optomai, be seen),” by “them that look for him,” demands his personal presence; and this is his return in, not the invisible antitypical scapegoat work, but as the High Priest in person. And this coming of Christ, or his parousia, we have reason to expect, will occur in the autumn of 1881. That he did not come, in the autumn of 1874, or at the beginning of the gospel harvest, as we once supposed, is as certain as is the word of Jesus himself.”

The Watch Tower July 1880, p. 2, “AS THE LIGHTNING”

“ … the Lord informs us that there will be in these "days of the Son of man," false teachers who will be very powerful and exercise much influence upon the church, . . . We believe we find them in those who claim that Jesus is to appear shortly in the wilderness of Judea (Palestine) and that all who love him and expect to be part of his kingdom should go there and be on hand to receive and welcome him. . . . But there is to be more than one of these deceiving teachers; While one says He is coming in the desert, another says: "Behold he is in the secret chambers." Do we find teaching of this kind now, in the days of the Son of man? Yes, it seems to us that this is being fulfilled; a brother whom we knew well and loved much, thinks that God has given him what he terms "New Oil" (perhaps he does not notice that the virgins of Matt. 25, do not get any new oil; it is the same oil they had at first). But this brother is we think fulfilling this scripture. He is teaching that after 1881, Christ will appear in the flesh secretly, to be seen only by himself and those who believe exactly as he believes. This teaching not only leads to unscriptural expectations, but seems to open the minds of those who receive it to a perilous snare of the devil, which snare is referred to in the "Three Worlds," a book written by this very brother, in 1876, now out of print but possessed by many of our readers, extracts from which will follow this article. The wide diversity of views as stated in that article, and his present view as stated above seems to make good his claim that he has new oil; but it does not commend itself to us as being as good as the old "The old is better."

Thursday, August 3, 2017

An Obituary

(revised from material first published on Blog 2)

When John H Paton died it was to be expected that the local paper, The Almont Herald, would publish an obituary. Unfortunately the Almont library holdings are missing the key year 1922. However, it has recently been discovered that the obituary was picked up and re-published by the Yale Expositor (Yale, Michigan) on Thursday, September 21, 1922.

There is one piece of information this supplies that was previously unknown, namely that George L Rogers conducted the funeral service. This makes a lot of sense, as noted in the paragraph below from an old blog article about the township of Almont and its connection with both Watch Tower and Universalism.

(quote) As John H Paton’s Universalist ministry wound down another Scots immigrant living in Almont, George Lawley Rogers fired up. Rogers had been a Baptist minister in Almont but then supported the Concordant Publishing Concern, a Universalist group which attracted a number of former Watch Tower adherents. These included Fredrik Homer Robison (who lived at Brooklyn Bethel with CTR and was imprisoned with JFR in 1918), Walter Bundy (one time Pilgrim) and Menta Sturgeon (CTR’s traveling companion on his last journey). Robison and Rogers became friends and often spoke on the same Concordant platform over 1923 and 1924. (end quote).

(Note: Robison shared the same address for a number of years as CTR, and Rogers took the funeral of Paton who had officiated at CTR’s wedding way back in 1879. It’s a small world sometimes. No doubt Robison and Rogers had a number of things to talk about.)

To read the full article about all these connections you can go to:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

1881 - The coming of Christ

"Chicago Daily Tribune March 21 1881"

Several people in America and all around the world expected the coming of Christ and the Millennium in the Autumn, 1881. Rev. Rounds, an Adventist, was among them. Russell had a very different point of view about that year. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

George Stubbs, Sr - Click Image to see full view

From the December 16, 1910, Oceana Herald.

Back to George Stubbs

Can you add more?

George Stubbs, Jr. was born April 18, 1855, in Fullarton, Ontario, into an English immigrant family. He was the second of eight children and seems to have lived an unremarkable life. We know he married Harriet Cole and that they had four children but little else. His father, George Sr., moved the family to Shelby, Michigan, in 1867. According to his obituary George Sr. was noted for his piety and studiousness:

No extended eulogy is deemed necessary of this good man that has lived so long in our midst – certainly no more than has often been said of him in life. Converted at an early age, his character appeared to become more beautiful as the years lengthened. A deep student of the Bible his delight was to expound the beauties therein which are hidden from the casual reader. Withal his christianity [sic] was a practical every day kind. ... This influence will live after him.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Unless ...

Unless important, new information shows up in my inbox, we think this is 'final' in rough draft; Thanks to Jerome and Bernhard for contributing data.

New Castle, Pennsylvania

            The New Castle congregation had its start in a book canvas by John Adamson. Writing to Russell in late June or early July 1887, he said:

I am having grand experiences every day. It seems impossible to get through New Castle. Yesterday took 46 names and left in afternoon train for home. In no other town have I got in so many books to the square, and I have excellent talks. Some careful thinkers are investigating, and awakened sleepers by the dozen. Of course there are bitter opposers, but as far as noted people are willing to investigate for themselves, and I have fruit already and expect much fruit. You may increase the order to here to 300 copies.[1]

            A small congregation formed by late 1889, the local newspaper reporting that “a comparatively new form of religious belief has recently obtained among certain people of this city.” They had, the newspaper claimed, “very decided and definite opinions as to the date of the millennium.” They met in the office of Andrew Lewis, [1834-1916] a dentist with offices at 2 Washington Street, “for the study of the Bible and for prayer, and the discussion of the millennium.” They claimed to have “Biblical authority” for believing the millennial reign of Christ near at hand.[2] Lewis came out of the Methodist Church, where he had been “a charter member.” His obituary does not mention his association with Watch Tower belief and implies that he died a Methodist.[3] This may not be true. We’ve encountered other obituaries prepared by relatives ashamed of Watch Tower adherence that omit or misrepresent. His last provable year of adherence was 1891. His father’s funeral was conducted by a “Rev. [William A.] Wallace” of the Millennial Dawn congregation.”[4]
            Wallace, a former phrenological lecturer, preached in areas near his Ohio residence. He was an effective colporteur and speaker. A letter from him to Russell shows him to be a determined evangelist who did not let obstacles stand in his way. He was “Church Leader” at East Liverpool, Ohio, in 1894.[5] Wallace enters the record through the 1889 Lord’s Memorial Annual Convention held at Allegheny where he was one of the speakers. Russell’s convention summary says:

Brother Wallace illustrated his method of presenting the outlines of the Plan of the Ages to the audiences he meets. Bro. W. was a traveling lecturer and professor of phrenology before the harvest truth reached him. When he received it, he began to mix with phrenology the good tidings of great joy for all people; and now as the truth has reached his mind and heart more fully, it has so quickened his zeal in the Master's service that the old profession is almost crowded out, except as it serves to pave the way for the glad tidings which now fills his heart and overflows at every opportunity. His talent is for public speaking, and after every lecture the DAWN is presented as a further elaboration of the great subject to which he has called attention. To illustrate his lectures, he has had the Chart of the Ages (from DAWN Vol. I.) enlarged and painted on canvas, and ornamented with pictorial illustrations of the various ages; and above all a beautiful symbolic sky representing the changing conditions of the various dispensations, from Eden to Paradise restored.[6]

            While Adamson may have sewn the seeds, the congregation owed its existence to A. C. Wise, once a United Brethren minister. United Brethren were a German speaking church with doctrines similar to the Methodist Church. Their clergy were untrained, and Wise was uncomfortable with public speaking. When speaking briefly at a Bible Student convention in 1907, he remarked: “I have been placed on this program without any consultation, and I am not engaged much in addressing the public, but more from house to house on the great Plan.”[7] It was through his house to house ministry that the New Castle congregation was formed. The New Castle, Pennsylvania, Daily City News reported: “One Dr. A. C. Wise, of Neshannock, Mercer county, [sic] is a leader in the new doctrine, the theories of which he obtains from a book called ‘The Millennial Dawn,’ for which he is agent.”[8]
            Wise [1845-1932] was no sort of doctor. The Daily City News appears to have ‘played it safe’ by calling a clergyman “doctor.” Instead he was Aaron C. Wise, a farmer by trade and an itinerant Brethren preacher with no discernable education. Wise was one of the organizers of a United Brethren congregation in 1863. He left the Brethren about 1886 or 1887 to spread the Watch Tower message.[9] An obituary said: “He was born on a farm within less than two miles of where he spent his entire life. Mr. Wise was widely known throughout the United Brethren Churches in Sharon, Sharpsville, West Middlesex and other valley communities. For the past 45 years he was a member of the International Bible Students Association, and took an active part in the organizations work.”[10]
            He was new to the work. In a letter to Russell dated to May 1894 he says he had been in the work about five years.[11] That takes us to this period. He explained his view of ‘the work’ in that same letter: “The work, as I understand it, is to find the ‘wheat’ class, and with the present Truth intellectually seal them and thus separate them from Babylon. In doing this, many DAWNS are sold to others who may not now appreciate them, but who thus assist in bearing the expense of the laborers; and they will be read by and by.” He reported lecturing “some and quite acceptably, but have no ambition to make that a special work.”
            Wise loved humor, incorporating it into his evangelism. We cannot place as to time or place the one example he left, but that seems not to matter. This was his preaching method:

The Scriptures show us that having ... having thus consecrated our wills, we may be able to be of service to our fellow beings, neighbors and friends, and might by the Lord's grace, impress these precious things on their hearts and minds. How many of these incidents have come to our attention in our service of the truth! I remember working in a town where they said, “If you will see a man down there he will talk the Scriptures to you.” And towards evening I called on him, and this is what occurred. I am a little humorous in my way of approaching people and I said, “I understand you are quite a teacher of the Bible and understand it.”


“I have come in to run you in a corner.”

“Every time you do you will get a five-dollar note.”

And I gave him a little talk on the divine plan of the ages from the chart, and when I got through he says, “Do you believe that?”

“I certainly do.” And he had not a word to say. Thus was I instrumental in impressing on his mind the great and glorious truth. I did not see him afterwards, but I learned he came into the truth.[12]

A. C. Wise – 1911 and
 later in life

            The New Castle paper described Wise as “chuck full of the ideas of the book he is selling.” It reported that he “succeeded in inculcating the doctrines pretty deeply where he has been at work.” The paper said that a “J. C. McCombs” was “one of the most zealous ‘Millennial Dawn’ disciples. McCombs, a shoemaker, was, the paper said, “a deep thinking man and a member of the Methodist church” from which he had withdrawn over doctrinal difference. City directories suggest that this was Joseph A. McCombs who in addition to running a shoemaking business owned other business as well. Nothing is firm here. John C. McCombs was Joseph’s son, and the local paper consistently confused them. It appears that both were adherents.

New Castle News – June 19, 1915.

            The Daily City News said the “object of the millennium expectants is not to organize or to form any settle or distinct denomination, but the principles are to be maintained and supported by individual rather than collective belief.” The paper called the believers in New Castle “earnest and zealous in their convictions.” As did most Watch Tower adherent congregations, the first years’ growth was slight. The New Castle paper, with its customary inattention to detail and poor grammar, reported:

A little congregation of about 14 people in the Seventh ward firmly believe that the end of the world is near at hand and that according to their interpretation of the Holy Book the world is now passing through the period known to seers and wise men as “God’s Harvest.” ... The believers in the near approach of the Millennial morning claim that the harvest of the Lord commenced in the year 1874 and that the end of the world will come during the year 1914, 40 years being allowed for the preparation. Those following this faith believe that there is only one church – the church of the people of God – and that all who do not repent and become ... sanctified in the grace of the Master will be lost in the fire. There is no ordained ministers among the sect, the exhorters being known as pilgrims and travel among the faithful seeking no reward other than the blessing of the faithful.[13]

            Interestingly, the article reported as a visiting speaker from Youngstown, Ohio, a “Mrs. T. B. Hewitt.” T. B. Hewitt is Thomas Bolton Hewitt.[14] We have one short letter by him to Russell appearing in the May 1, 1901, Watch Tower. It says he was from Ohio, but it contains no biographical information. Since Hewitt did not marry until September 1906, the newspaper’s “Mrs.” appears to be a misprint for “Mr.” By 1915 there were about 28,000 people in New Castle and about 40 adherents, and by 1906 the congregation was called The Watch Tower Class.[15]

[1]               Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, July 1887, page 2.
[2]               Wiggins New Castle City Directory: 1879-1880, page 37. Census records give Lewis a birth date of November 1834. Other records vary but fall near that date.
[3]               Dr. Andrew Lewis Called by Death, New Castle, Pennsylvania, Herald, December 5, 1916.
[4]               A Long Fast End, The New Castle, Pennsylvania, News, August 5, 1891. Wallace was a chronological lecturer turned Millennial Dawn canvasser prominent in the work in the 1890s. He was “church leader” in an Ohio congregation. Later in life he was a news agent, a seller of newspapers and magazines.
[5]               Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, June 1889, pages 2, 8; Voice of the Church, Zion’s Watch Tower – Special Issue, June 11, 1894, page 178.
[6]               C. T. Russell: View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, June 1889, page 1. Wallace maintained his interest in phrenology into later years. See The Phrenological Era, April 1913, front matter unnumbered page.
[7]               Souvenir Notes from the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society’s Conventions of Believers in the Atoning Blood of Jesus Christ: 1907, part two, page 81.
[8]               Not so Very Far, The New Castle, Pennsylvania, Daily City News, December 5, 1889.
[9]               History of Mercer County, Pennsylvania: Its Past and Present, Brown, Runk & Co., Chicago, 1888, page 593. Date of Watch Tower adherence: Undated obituary in descendents’ possession. Wise was born July 29, 1843, and died March 30, 1932. [Death Certificate] He remained Watch Tower adherent until his death.          
[10]             The Sharon, Pennsylvania, Herald, March 31, 1932.
[11]             Letter from Wise to Russell found in Voice of the Church, Zion’s Watch Tower, Special issue, June 11, 1894.
[12]             A. C. Wise: Temperance, 1911 Convention Report.
[13]             The Millennial Dawn, The New Castle, Pennsylvania, News, May 19, 1905.
[14]             Thomas Hewitt was born September 20, 1873, in Ohio. He married Ellen Grace Cooksey September 4, 1906. There was a Bible Student adherent named E. Cooksey whose death in 1950 is noted in the May 1950 issue of Herald of Christ’s Kingdom. His Ohio death record shows him to be a resident of Youngstown and thus ‘our man.’
[15]             Life of 76 Years in County Ended, New Castle, Pennsylvania, Herald, September 7, 1906.