Friday, October 24, 2008

Joshua Tavender

Tavender associated with Russell from 1878 to his death in the 1890s. He finds some mention in Zion's Watch Tower, but because it is only as "Brother Tavender" no real research has been done. He was a wealthy soap maker.
Extracted from current research project:
Joshua Tavender first comes to our attention in the June 15, 1878, issue of Herald of the Morning where he is included in a list of correspondents sending money to The Herald. The next notice of him is in the May 1886 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower where he is listed by last name only as one of the principals attending the memorial and evangelism conference held in Allegheny that year. With several others, he was a principal speaker on Sunday, April 18, 1886. Each related briefly how he “found the work to progress in their hands and the methods they found most successful in their efforts to ‘preach the Gospel to the meek.’”[i]
The only biographical notice of Tavender that I could locate is an obituary found in The Utica, New York, Weekly Herald of October 15, 1895:
Joshua Tavender was born in Mantecute, Somerset, England, Jan. 6, 1822. He was educated in the common schools at that place and was an apt and intelligent student. In 1849, in England, he married Miss Harriet Maynard, who was a sister of the late Mrs. John Thorn of this city. During the same year Mr. and Mrs. Tavender came to America and settled in Utica. For a number of years they lived on Columbia street, but later purchased the property (at) No. 5 Kellogg avenue.

Mr. Tavender immediately after coming to this city entered the employ of Thorn & Maynard, soap and candle manufacturers on Water street. Later, with William Heath, he purchased the establishment of Messrs. Kirk & Co., engaged in the same business on the north side of Whitesboro street … which was subsequently conducted for years under the firm name of Heath & Tavender. Finally he purchased Mr. Heath’s interest and took into partnership his son.

The Tavenders marketed their soap under the brand-name “Pride of America Soap.” In 1893 it sold for seven bars for twenty-three cents.[ii]
They seem to have been a very religious family. During the Civil War Harriet Tavender was noted for her support of the poor and for her generosity to various causes. Her obituary says she “was a charter member of the women’s Christian association and was one of the most active workers. Many poor families in West Utica have been aided thro (sic) her instrumentality. During the civil war Mrs. Travender was very active in providing supplies for the soldiers on the field of battle. (She) was an exemplary Christian, and her church duties were never neglected. Ever since the organization of Highland Chapel she had attended services in that church. For many years she conducted a Sunday school at her home. At the beginning of the school she had 15 members. Attendance increased until just previous to the organization of Highland Chapel she had about 60 scholars. Mrs. Tavender was one of the organizers of Paxton Hall Sunday School. Her life was a very useful one.”[iii]
Harriet Tavender may not have shared her husband’s beliefs. The Highland Chapel’s first pastor was Charles W. E. Chapin, a Presbyterian clergyman.[iv] This isn’t certain, since many associated with Zion’s Watch Tower in that era attended local churches, but the evidence tends to persuade one that she did not share his views.
Joshua Tavender was equally religious. His obituary says:

His strict integrity won for him hosts of friends in business and professional circles. He was a very pure-minded man and was a firm believer in the Christian religion. For many years he he was a member and for several years a deacon in the Tabernacle Baptist church. His life was ordered by the golden rule. When Faxton Hall Mission Sunday school was in existence, Mr. Tavender served as a teacher and was very deeply interested in the work.

Faxton Hall was established by Theodore S. Faxton “the education of the children of factory operatives by day and night.”[v] He was deeply involved in the Prohibition Party, and was offered various positions in the Oneida county organization but declined them.
His obituary touches on his relationship to Russell:
Of late years, Mr. Tavender was a faithful Bible student and was deeply interested in the study of the sins of the times as indicating the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Bible. He was a great friend of Charles T. Russell, the author of “Millennial Dawn,” who was also interested in “the pan of the ages.” Mr. Tavender visited Mr. Russell at his home on Pennsylvania several times.

Tavender receives little notice in Zion’s Watch Tower. Probably this is due to his quiet evangelism. He caused no controversy, but steadily recommended the Bible’s message as he understood it. He contributed no articles. Additional notices of him all center on his evangelism. The March 1889 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower contains a letter from a Mrs. J.H.P, identified later as Mrs. J. H. Patterson, which mentions his person to person evangelism. Tavender recommended the second volume of Millennial Dawn to her. She wrote to Russell saying: “Mr. Tavender called about two weeks ago and said so much about the book, that I sent right away for a copy and have read it through, some parts twice.”[vi] Another letter from Mrs. Patterson appears in the September 1890 issue mentioning Tavender’s commendation of a Watch Tower article on the Ransom doctrine.[vii] This is the last mention Joshua Tavender receives in The Watch Tower.
Tavender’s attendance at the “annual convention” of the Watch Tower Society in Pittsburgh in 1890 is noted in The Utica, New York, Daily Press of April 2, 1890. He died in his sleep in October 1895.
[i] Russell, C. T.: View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, May 1886, page 1
[ii] See the advertisement in the September 27, 1893 Syracuse, New York, Evening Herald.
[iii] Mrs. Harriet M. Tavender, The Utica, New York, Weekly Herald, January 8, 1895.
[iv] Robinson, Edgar Sutton: The Ministerial Directory of the Ministers in “The Presbyterian Church in the United States” (Southern), and in “The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America” (Northern, The Ministerial Directory Company, Oxford Ohio, Volume 1, 1898, page 206.
[v] Wager, Daniel. Our County and Its People, Part II: Biography, The Boston History Company, Boston, 1896, pages 40-42.
[vi] Mrs. JHP (Mrs. J. H. Patterson ): Extracts From Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, March 1889, page 8.
[vii] Mrs. J. H. Patterson: Extracts From Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, September 1890, page 8.

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