Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Finding things the hard way.

When many willing hands help locate a document:

Dear B. W. Schulz:

Prior to 1985 the Archives of the Episcopal Church was managed by the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church. Since that time the Archives has been incorporated separately and has been called simply the Archives of the Episcopal Church. You can find information on the Archives and its holding at The document for which you search should be located there. See the correspondence below.


Bob ****


I confess that I do not know this document.

I have done some research in the matter. BPL does have a Jocelyn Murray’s abridgement of David A Shank’s Prophet Harris, the ‘Black Elijah’ of West Africa , 1994, the source of the original inquiry. In its list of abbreviations, it states ECHS stands for Episcopal Church Historical Society. Consequently, ECHS Archives would mean Episcopal Church Historical Society Archives. Unlike most of the repositories listed in the abbreviations section, the location for ECHS is not given.

In the Shank’s preface on p. xiv, however, it states, “The research service of Joyce L. White provided many of the sources in the Episcopal Church Historical Society’s archives in Austin , Texas .” That tells me the repository sought for "A Letter to the Churches, Cape Palmas , 28 July 1888, in ECHS archives" is the Archives of the Episcopal Church, Austin, and I have copied them on this email to allow them to commence their reference assistance.

It is possible the difficulty at the commencement of this chain of inquiry was bred by Google Books. Portions of Shank’s Prophet Harris is available through that tool, including some pages that have ECHS Archives in the footnote. The pages available on Google Books, however, do not include either the list of abbreviations or the preface to allow someone to track down the repository. Once again, one needs to have the printed volume in hand! By the way J. Robert Wright would have encountered difficulty addressing this question, as the GTS copy of Prophet Harris is unavailable in offsite storage.



*****, Archivist
Bishop Payne Library
Virginia Theological Seminary

From: Bob ***
Sent: Wednesday, December 09, 2009 9:44 AM
To: ***, Julia
Subject: FW: question


Does this document sound familiar to you?


From: Susan ***
Sent: Tuesday, December 08, 2009 11:55 PM
To: **
Subject: Fwd: question

Dear Robert,

I sent this to Bob Wright and he suggested the request was more suitable for you to answer. So, I am forwarding it to you at his suggestion. I hope you can be of assistance to Mr. Schulz.

Thank you,


Begin forwarded message:

From: Bruce Schulz
Date: December 8, 2009 4:24:42 PM CST

Subject: question

My writing partner and I are researching Samuel W. Seton, at one time a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Liberia . He founded his own church in 1887, and Bishop Furguson and others sent out a four page tract or letter to denounce the new religion which had Russellite leanings.

Shank and Murray cite this letter in their book on "prophet Harris" as "A Letter to the Churches, Cape Palmas , 28 July 1888, in ECHS archives."

Is this something you have? We can't identify ECHS archives based on the few photo copied pages we posses. Can you guide us? If this is your archive, please tell me how we can obtain a photocopy of this letter/tract. We would be interested in any additional material you have pertaining to Seton and his associates, especially material that shows what the Episcopal Church response was.

We're writing a follow-up to a recently published history of the Barbourite movement of the late 19th Century.

Best regards,

B. W. Schulz

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Work in Liberia

Food for Thinking Christians reached Liberia by 1884. By 1885 there was a small group and by 1888 they had formally organized a congregation. Many of the earliest adherents came out of the Protestant Epicopal Church and included some of the most prominent members. The work was strongly opposed by Bishiop Samuel Furgeson who organized an inter-faith conference to deal with what he saw as a flood of Millennial Dawnism.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More from Hymns of Millennial Dawn

Song 27: Originally titled "Children of the Heavenly King," but retitled Always Rejoicing. Written by John Cennick in 1742. Listen to it here:

Song 28: Said to be by Frances Ridley Havergal a prolific female hymnalist. Biography is here:

Song 29: Originally titled The Morning Cometh, but retitled Dawning Day. By Isaac B. Woodbury. Brief bio here:

Song 30: Originally titled Christ is Coming, but retitled Christ is Come! Original by John Ross MacDuff. Hymns of Millennial Dawn alters the first verse from "Christ is coming" to "Christ is Come." In a bit of plagerism, the song is attributed to Jessie G. Herr, a Bible Student. Listen to it here:

Song 31: Originally titled Christ the Lord is Risen Today, but retitled Christ's Resurrection. Original by Charles Wesley in the late 1700s. Some reworking in Hymns of Millennial Dawn. Listen to it here:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More from Hymns of Millennial Dawn

Song 23, Original title was Blessed be the Tie that Binds but retitled Christian Fellowship. Listen here:

Song 24, Original Title Blow Ye the Trumpet, Blow but retitled The Year of Jubilee. By Charles Wesley, 1750. Listen here:

Song 25, Original Title: Bride of the Lamb Awake! but retitled Hope's Consumation. By Edward Denny, 1837. Listen here:

Song 26, Original Title: By Thy Birth and By Thy Tears but retitled Saviour, Help Us. By Robert Grant,1815. Listen here:

Back ... Sorta

I'm up and arround in a limited way. We're still resolving some personal issues, but my computer should be back and healthy sometime this week.

Things you may enjoy:

Hymns of Millennial Dawn, Song 2: Remember Me. Written by James Montgomery and first published in 1825. Listen to it here:

Hymns of Millennial Dawn Song 5: Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed? Isaac Watts. Listen here:

Song 6, A Little Flock is by Horatius Bonar and appeared in Hymns of Faith and Hope, 1866.

Song 8, Originally titled All for Jesus, All for Jesus. Listen to it here:

Song 10, Originally titled "All Hail the Poer of Jesus' Name," Words by E. Perronet. First published in 1779. Listen here:

Song 11. Listen here:

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Bruce is doing some better. Unfortunately, uncle Bruce and aunt Shirley have continuing problems. Their car died. Bruce's computer crashed, and we lost all the chapters for the new book.

Fortunately almost all of that is saved as hard copy or is posted on this blog. It will take time to recover what was lost. A chapter on the events of 1881 is lost and will have to be recreated. Two other chapters are permanetly gone. This is a major blow to our research. We're both discouraged. Of these one will be easy to rewrite; the other will be very difficult to recreate because it was based on material we could not copy, only read on site. There are files of notes that have disappeared as well. There is no hope of recovery; so we'll repeat the very difficult research.

Our focus is on getting aunty and uncle back on their feet and functioning. We're trying to turn some of their small assets to cash. [This is NOT a request for money.] They need a servicable car, and there are about 140.00 in repairs to their computer.

Our thanks to those who expressed sympathy.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pittsburgh and Allegheny City - 1874

Answering a recent email ...

I'm answering a private email in a public forum. I've deleted personal references but retained most of the body of the email. The questions have been asked privately by several. Consider this my answer to all:

I've ordered your book and am looking forward to receiving it ... I guess your next book is about Russell's early days?

Thanks. I hope you enjoy it; more, I hope you find it informative. And yes, the next book is about Zion’s Watch Tower’s early days, Russell’s youth included, and will take us up to about 1887.

I've read your comments at your blog, complaining among other things of the difficulties you have to access some source material. It is frustrating to read about "a mass of material sitting in file cabinets in an archive “in the east” that few people will ever see." I'm very intrigued; could you tell me what exactly you wanted to know? What do they fear to disclose?

There is no explanation for paranoid behavior. With the exception of the Vatican, every major and many minor religious movements maintain archives to which they give public access. Only the totally paranoid or someone uncertain of their faith would fear disclosure. I cannot answer for any organization that approaches their religion this way.

What do I want to know? The facts. All of them. I expect a scholarly approach to history. I want to see sources and standard footnotes.

I'm with you, I just want to know the true historical facts whatever they are. Although on the other hand I think I understand the position of those people "in the east". There are lots and lots of enemies throwing bites like piranhas even with very very little evidence to support them, or none at all. If the brothers have any information that could be easily interpreted or manipulated in a negative way or that could be difficult to explain, that will be used against us.

You’ve made a presumption as to whom I meant that may not be correct.

And the problem is not that a couple of opposers repeat that information in their websites or visit forums to have debates, the problem is that any negative bit that can be said against us will be used to try and ban us in certain countries of the world, or to give us bad publicity which makes unbeliever husbands or fathers feel justified to put pressure on our sisters or brothers, or to win children custody cases, for example.

No sensible person should fear debate. Debate is healthy and often leads to new discoveries. If one believes their religion God directed and God protected, there should be nothing to hide. Humans do stupid things. Even faithful people do stupid things. Moses did. Jonah did. The Apostles did. Some of their stupidity made it into the divine record. It provides object lessons and guidance to us. It does not undermine the authority of God or the fact of his intervention in human affairs.

My faith would remain exactly the same if I discover that Russell mocked a blind old man when he was 20, if you know what I mean, but it could entail a lot of problems for other brothers. So I'm not sure which is the most prudent position here.

If we’re dealing specifically with Watchtower Society practice, I suggest we’re mature enough to give scholars the same kind of access that Advent Christians do or that Seventh Day Adventists do. Either we have an honorable past or we do not. Hiding aspects of it only makes us look paranoid and afraid.

However, I'd love to know all that historical information, so I dare to ask you to let me know more about it. Thanks

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Help with this would be appreciated ...

We're researching Caleb Crandell. The only place he is mentioned in connection with Watch Tower history is in a Yearbook article. We lack details, and we're unhappy with the state of our research. Here is the rough draft. If you can add details, please do so.

Rough Draft

The 1979 Yearbook says that Caleb Crandell of Crandell Corners, Ontario, was contacted by colporteurs in the late 1880’s. The Yearbook’s account says: “He accepted Bible literature and entertained the visitors in his home .... No study group was formed there at the time, but we know that Caleb made at least one trip to hear C. T. Russell speak at Massey Hall in Toronto.”[i] None of this is verifiable from issues of Zion’s Watch Tower, and one presumes that it is the product of an interview with family members. Family memories can be inaccurate, and the date assigned to his introduction to Zion’s Watch Tower may be too early. The known colporteur activity in Ontario dates from the early 1890’s.[ii]

Caleb was born July14, 1830, in Reach Township, Ontario, and died January 8, Jan 1907. He was the fourth son of Reuben and Catherine Crandell, the first white settlers in the Reach Township. The 1881 Census lists him as farmer, but “in reality he was a prosperous land owner having inherited much of the original land purchased by his father Reuben. He lived in an impressive house which still stands.”[iii]

A brief biography of him says: “One of Port Perry's oldest residents at the time of his death, he was the most extensive property holder in the town. He had been retired for about 40 years when he passed away, and had lived in one of the most commodious homes in the town. Caleb Crandell was for many years a member of the village council, and was always an enterprising and respected citizen. He was one of the Charter Members of Warriner Lodge, No. 74, Independent Order of Oddfellows.”[iv]

He was active in local politics, and when Port Perry, Ontario, was incorporated as a village in 1871 he was chosen as one of the counselors.[v] He had one adopted daughter, Nettie or Nellie Crandell .

The Crandell family was not a happy one. They disputed over money, property and other issues. Law suits followed, and one of the brothers accused Caleb of causing his arrest to prevent him from testifying in lawsuit over debt and property. The issues are vague and plagued the courts for several years. It is impossible to comment on the merit of much of it, including the accusation that Caleb bribed a magistrate to have his brother Benjamin arrested. All of this precedes his introduction to Watch Tower theology by at least a decade and may be irrelevant. It is simply impossible to say because they sole source for his history within the movement is a Yearbook article which cites no sources.[vi]

[i] 1979 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, page 79.
[ii] Extracts of Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, September 1890, page 8. Letter from S. Webb to Maria Francis Russell: “We expect Bro. Z. to-morrow on his way to Ontario to being the colporteur work.” (not in reprints.)
[iii] Crandell Street: How it Got it’s Name, retrieved from October 2009.
[iv] Port Perry/Scugog Township Heritage Gallery:
[v] Farewll, J. F.: Ontario County: A Short Sketch of Its Settlement, Physical Features and Resources, Ontario, 1907, page 84.
[vi] George F. Harmon and Christopher Robinson: Reports of Cases Decided in the Court of Common Pleas of Upper Canada, Toronto, 1880, Volume 30, pages 497-515.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The S. S. Centennial in Dry Dock

Charles Strand was Captain of the S.S. Centennial.
See the chapter below

Foreign Language Fields within the United States

A request for a German language tract “setting forth the glad tidings” was sent to Russell in late 1882 and it appears in the December Watch Tower. Russell called for “a German brother with the necessary ability” to translate the October 1882 issue, a missionary issue, into that language. He also remarked that “a Swedish translation is also much called for. … Here is a place in the harvest field for someone.”[1]

Financial problems delayed the work in both languages. Russell explained:

As will be seen below, the Fund is in debt over $2,500, and of course no further work can be undertaken by the Fund until this debt is paid. We regret this exceedingly, and partly because in our last issue we held out a hope to some, who have long desired it, that we would soon issue the October Tower in German and in Swedish.

A plan suggested to us is the only way out of the difficulty which we can see. It is this: We can start two sub-funds, one for the German and the other for the Swedish papers, and those desirous of contributing specially to these can thus do so. A Swedish brother has already sent $8.50 for the latter, and a German sister $3 for the former fund. When either of these funds shall amount to $200, we will commence to print and go as far as we can. Meantime we will, by the assistance of brethren, have translations prepared.[2]

Contributions to the Swedish and German Tract funds came slowly. This isn’t surprising considering the difficult financial condition of most recent immigrants. In June 1883 Russell reported: “Our regular Tract Fund is still behind and the special Swedish Tract Fund, started some time since, has not flourished thus far and contains less than thirty dollars. It would require about three hundred dollars to issue a proper edition. Our Master is rich -- he owns the cattle upon a thousand hills, as well as the hills themselves, and all the gold and silver are His. If he deems the work necessary he will make the necessary provision. The German Fund has made even less progress, but as the interest in that direction is less we shall for the present be most interested in the Swedes.”[3]

The first significant work among Scandinavians is noted in 1883 with the publication of a letter from a Charles Seagrin, a native of Sweden. There almost no record of Charles Seagrin. Even his name is a puzzle, since it appears to be Anglicized. It may be that his birth name was Carl Sjögren. An individual of that name was born about 1859 in Hellstad Östergötland Län, Sweden and emigrated to the United States. He departed Göteborg on April 15, 1880, bound for New York.[4] There appear to be two or three all of the same name who arrived within months of each other. It is pure conjecture that any of these are the Carl Seagrin mentioned in Zion’s Watch Tower. Of these, the most likely are a man who left Sweden in 1879 bound for Chicago and one who left in 1873 bound for Cleveland.

Seagrin entered the work in late December 1882 or January 1883, “some six months” before he wrote to Russell. He saw a conflict between usual religious doctrine and practice and what he believed the Bible to teach. “Some time ago,” he explained, “finding my Bible teaching one thing and sectarianism quite another, I determined to go out as a lay Evangelist to preach the truth as nearly as I could understand it, among my own countrymen, the Swedes, and in my own language.”

His introduction to Watch Tower theology was by means of Food for Thinking Christians. While in Iowa someone brought him a copy and asked his opinion of it. He tried to explain away its teachings but became convinced instead:

I spent a whole evening trying to explain away its teachings, and afterwards retired to spend much of the night in thinking over the subject. The next morning I got the "Food" and my Bible, and began in earnest to compare the two to see if these things were really true-- after careful study of the Bible I came gradually to see the beauty of this real glad tidings.

I began in my preaching to introduce the teachings; yet to avoid reproach and secure the favor of men, I was tempted to limit or explain away these glorious Bible truths. Once on a text involving Restitution I had begun to explain it in the old manner, but the Spirit cut me off; I then thought to avoid saying anything to the point, but God did not forsake his Jonah-like servant. I saw at once the evil of so doing, and conquering the tempter, I did plainly preach "the restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy Prophets since the world began." I have never since compromised with error.

I find many who will listen for hours with close attention. Some reject the truth, but many hear with joy. Some that I thought slow to receive it were only trying the foundations thoroughly, and some of these are becoming its most firm and able defenders, many of these humble teachers with their Bibles in hand, are able to overthrow the wise and learned preachers of traditions. For nearly a year I have preached this truth with more or less fullness as I gradually came to a knowledge of it.

I have suffered much reproach and some trials and persecution for the truth's sake, but never since the time mentioned have I faltered or mixed truth with error to make it palatable to formal Christians. I find some infidels who, hearing the truth, are beginning to think the Bible is true, and some have accepted the truth and are telling the good news to others, showing that the Bible is reasonable when understood.

During the time that I have preached this truth some two hundred Swedes have received it and are rejoicing in it and telling it to others.[5]

Seagrin asked that translations into Swedish progress as rapidly as possible. Of Seagrin himself, nothing more is heard. There is no indication that he persisted as a Watch Tower evangelist, and his association appears short-lived.

It is difficult to read motivations into one hundred year old correspondence, and even more difficult to find clues to personality in a single letter. However, at the risk of falling into the trap of psychoanalyzing the dead, Seagrin’s letter impresses me as the writing of a less than stable but zealous preacher. More documentation is needed, and I would be happy to revise this opinion if it is ever forthcoming.

When publishing Seagrin’s letter, Russell explain that the Swedish Tract Fund had not prospered. The fund contained less than thirty dollars, he said, far less was needed “to issue a proper edition.”[6]

Still, the Swedish tract work came to fruition first. In October 1883 The Watch Tower requested the names and addresses of “of all the moral and religious Swedes and Norwegians you can gather; for samples of the Swedish paper.”[7] When a list was compiled, Russell announced the publication of twenty thousand copies of a sample issue of The Watch Tower in Swedish:

The Swedish tract fund reached such a sum as to justify the publishing of a sample copy of the Tower in the Swedish language, to be used as a tract, among the Swedish and Norwegian Christians, here and in Sweden. The notice in our last issue, that we were ready for lists of addresses of religious Swedes and Norwegians, brought to us many responses, and we will be mailing sample copies to the same, about the time you receive this paper. Whether there will be in the future, a regular edition of the Tower in Swedish, will depend upon the interest awakened amongst that people by these sample copies and upon the supply of needful means for the additional expense involved.[8]

Exact details of the first Swedish Watch Tower are lacking. It was issued irregularly. In February 1884, Russell reported that requests for the paper continued to arrive in his office, but said he couldn’t publish it regularly “until about 1,500 subscribers are pledged.” He reported that they had “plenty of sample copies … so continue to send for them.”[9]

By October 1884, Russell found interest among Swedish immigrants gratifying. He reported that “thousands of papers in English and Swedish are printed and sent forth continually. We mention this that you may know that you have a supply to draw from so long as the Master shall supply the funds. Order as many ‘sample copies for distribution,’ as you think you can use to advantage in preaching the ‘glad tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.’”[10]

The work entered Sweden through the irregular publication of the Swedish language Watch Tower. In October 1884, a Swedish immigrant woman wrote to Russell asking for three copies of each issue so they could forward them “to Sweden, to some persons whom I know for sure are thinking Christians and Bible students.”[11]

By January 1885, Russell could report that they had published “four numbers of the same size as the English Tower, containing selected articles—translations from English numbers.” He said there were about eight hundred interested Swedish immigrants interested in the work, but “the number of … would not justify … the regular publication of the Tower in that language.”[12]

An urgent request for “some Swedish brother, whose heart is filled with the love of the truth and with a desire to serve it, who … has no family; one who has a good Swedish education and a fair understanding of the English language” appeared in Zion’s Watch Tower in January 1886. One presumes this was to fill the need for continued translation and evangelization among Swedish speakers in the United States.[13]

As with the British and American fields, most missionary activity was informal, a point Russell makes frequently. His view of the work was that every child of God would use every opportunity to speak the Good News. The letters he selected for publication often reflect this. For instance in the September 1886 Watch Tower, he wrote: “The Lord wanted to gather some saints in Sweden, and he raised up some earnest Swedes in this country, who by private letters and translations communicate the good tidings to other Swedish saints.”[14]

Those efforts produced fruitage. None of the names of those in Sweden who expressed interest in the 1880’s survive as far as I can tell. Yet, Russell mentioned letters of interest from Sweden[15] One such letter signed only as M. N. O. appears in the February 1887 issue of The Watch Tower.

While Russell intended the Swedish material to address the needs of Norwegian immigrants too, it failed to do so. What ever led him to that idea, a letter from Charles A. Strand, [16] a Norwegian resident in New Orleans disabused him of it: “I believe that the Norwegians are a still more religiously inclined people than the Swedes in general. In short, I believe the truth would meet with a still better reception among them. You will probably question: ‘Do not the Swedish publications meet the demand of the Norwegians also?’ I answer, ‘No; the two languages differ so much that the Swedish number of the Tower is almost of no use to the Norwegians, and will hardly be read by any of them.’ There is also a little prejudice existing between the two nations. I pray God to open a way to have it published in Norwegian. The ‘Food’ and the ‘Tabernacle’ would, I know, be a great blessing to the saints in Norway.”[17] Russell’s reply was that translation into Norwegian should be done as soon as possible, but it would be some years before Norwegian publications were available.

Never-the-less the Watch Tower message reached Norway through letters from interested Norwegian-Americans. Strand wrote again, saying: “The ‘Plan of Redemption’ has met with a joyful reception in my Norway home. I heard from my father a week ago. He sends his thanks and warm greetings to you all. He says that it is not entirely new to him, having discerned from the Word the outlines of the plan; but he rejoices now ... in being more fully able to see the plan clearly, being aided by my translations from the Watch Tower and Food, together with long letters that I write. ... Others besides himself are also getting interested, to whom these translations and letters are read, as the epistles of old, to different little congregations.”[18]

It is impossible to tell what fruitage was born by Strand’s letters to Norway. Those responsible for the history of the work in Norway appearing in the 1977 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses quote from Strand’s first letter without attributing it to him, and reference none of his subsequent letters. This is regrettable, since it appears that the work in Norway was begun through them.[19]

Data conflicts create uncertainty, but the basics of Charles A.[*] Strand’s life are known. Strand was born in Norway in September 1852.[20] Census returns give him conflicting immigration dates, 1861 and 1880. The 1880 date is an obvious error. He was in New Orleans in 1879 and married to Annette, maiden name unknown.

Though not verifiable at this time, there is some indication that Strand saw Civil War service as a boy aboard the USS Pittsburgh, a stern wheel Mississippi River gunboat. The 1880 Census tells us he was a “mate” He worked on tugboats for a while too. In early 1886 he wrote to Russell, reassuring him of his continued interest: “I have not had a chance to do much work in the vineyard of late, as I am working on board a tugboat. The Lord has given me the two men – two brothers – I am working with. They are Italians by birth, and are very earnestly interested in the glad tidings, although raised in the Church of Rome.”[21]

Later that year he wrote more about his work with tracts and circulating The Plan of the Ages. He expressed his interest in the Lord’s poor, saying that his wife Annette looked after that part of their work:

Inclosed [sic] please find P.O. Order for ten dollars, for which please renew my subscription for the Watch Tower (three copies), and send another copy of Millennial Dawn. What is over use where most needed. The money I send I received in answer to prayer. I have been desirious to send my subscription and something for the Lord’s work, but somehow was not able to spare it out of my wages. Yesterday I asked the Lord to help me get it. Today my employer handed me twenty dollars as a present, which seems to me a direct answer to my prayer

I have been since asking the Lord to make plain his will to me regarding it, which I believe to be this, to give ten dollars for clothing and feeding of the spiritual man, the other ten I give to my wife for her part of the work, namely, supplying the physical necessities of the Lord’s poor around us.[22]

By 1886 he had his captain’s papers.[23] His letters to Zion’s Watch Tower taper off in the 1890’s, though not from lack of interest. Though still seeing New Orleans as his home port, he was in the Seattle-Alaska-San Francisco trade by 1900, first as captain of the Santa Ana, then as captain of the aging Centennial. He captained the Centennial through dramatic events during the Russo-Japanese war. The 1910 Census still lists him as an active steamship captain.

Strand organized the first New Orleans congregation affiliated with Zion’s Watch Tower and introduced the magazine’s message to Norway. He actively evangelized, especially among Norwegians until going to sea in the Pacific Coast trade. His name appears for the last time in Zion’s Watch Tower in the July 15, 1908 issue.[24] Much of his history with Zion’s Watch Tower is best told in another context, and we will save further details for a more appropriate place. Charles Strand died in New Orleans in 1914.[25]

German Language Immigrants

The first interest noted among German speaking immigrants is found in the December 1882 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower. Apparently in response to the November issue, a special missionary issue with a printing of 200,000 copies, Russell noted that “one German brother” sent one hundred dollars to support the work. The same issue contained a letter from Bern, Pennsylvania, requesting a German language tract.[26]

Plans for sample or missionary issues of Zion’s Watch Tower in both Swedish and German did not materialize as hoped. Russell started the tract funds for each language in January 1883. The German fund grew very slowly. When presenting Charles Seagrin’s letter about his work among Swedish immigrants, Russell remarked that “The German Fund has made even less progress, but as the interest in that direction is less we shall for the present be most interested in the Swedes.”[27]

In August 1883, Russell printed a letter from a young German immigrant then living in Omaha: “I have a perfect knowledge of the German language, and I am meditating upon what I could do. When the German people are won, they are faithful. I am assured there will be a way opened to them by our divine Lord somehow.”[28]

Even though no German language publications were forthcoming, small German speaking groups existed. In November of that year Russell, citing Amos 8:11, suggested that the German brethren were suffering from spiritual famine. “We shall give some special attention to the German Fund,” he wrote. “It will be remembered that this fund was started some time ago and then permitted to rest until the Swedish Tract-paper should be issued. Now we are ready, so far as in us lies to preach the glad tidings to our German brethren and sisters also. The German Fund contains about $25. When it grows to about $300, we shall begin to make a start, in this direction.”[29]

The German fund continued to languish for the next two years. In January 1885 it contained only $126.54, about a third of the Swedish tract fund. “We published nothing in German,” Russell explained, “the fund being insufficient for even a start, but, growing gradually, it may be of use some day; meanwhile, we have obtained the addresses of some, able and willing to assist, by translating, when we are ready.”[30]

Russell’s accounting of the German tract fund drew at least one contribution from a German speaker who had been reached with Food for Thinking Christians. He sent a contribution to be used to address what ever need Russell felt most urgent, and he expressed himself as ready to preach the message:

How I long to have all the back numbers of the Tower. Is there no way of procuring them? Any price! I am preparing to work among my (German) countrymen, and would like to have them on that account.

The glorious truth which since a year ago shone on my heart through the “Food,” becomes brighter and brighter. I had the “Food” three years in my possession, but never found time nor opportunity to read it, but always saved it. Last winter I got poor and lean and all creeds and dogmas seemed to leave me. I searched and found “Food.” No book ever took me like that. I forgot meals and all. I could not sleep for joy. O, the blessedness I have enjoyed since then. God is still revealing more and more to me by the Tower and Scriptures. Diaglott and Young's Concordance are great helps to me. I would like this glorious truth to be spread among my people. I find much opposition with some, but some take it readily. I am still in the Methodist Church (German), but preach and talk in private and openly of the glorious truth. What will become of me the Lord knows--I expect to be thrown out. I would much like to see you personally and talk to you about plans which I have. If any way possible, I will see you.[31]

Russell wanted to have the October 1882 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower translated into German for use as a missionary tract. This never happened.[32]

In March 1885 The Watch Tower printed a letter from a German speaker who was preparing to work among his countrymen. Neither a name nor a location is attached to the letter so there are no clues to this person’s identity. They were still associated with a German Methodist church but said they “preach and talk in private and openly of the glorious truth.” They expected to be expelled from that church and wanted to meet Russell and discuss their plans for German language evangelism.[33]

The message reached Otto Ulrich Karl von Zech, an Evangelical Lutheran Clergyman,[34] in November 1885. Von Zech was born in 1845 to Karl and Berta Franziska Louise von Zech and was “a member of a landed family from Thuringia who immigrated to the United States to escape military service in 1865.”[35] He became a German Evangelical Lutheran pastor, apparently after immigrating.

Zech was the pastor of Saint Paul’s Congregation Evangelical Lutheran Church in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, founding the congregation in 1871 with twenty members. He returned again as its pastor in 1883, serving in that capacity through 1884 when he moved to Allegheny.

He received the Watch Tower message through a gift subscription. In late 1884 or early 1885 Russell started sending the magazine to all the clergymen in Allegheny, and von Zech was included in the list. He regularly discarded it until the November 1885 issue, “to which his attention was called providentially,” caught his interest.

Russell issued Zech’s statement to his former church which was published as a special eight page booklet and sent out as a supplement to the December 1886, Zion’s Watch Tower. It was entitled Erklärung: Warum der Unterzeichnete seine Verbindung mit der ev. Luth. Kirche, Respective mit der Synode von Ohio und seiner Gemeinde lösen musste, nebst Angabe einiger Gründe.

His open letter explained his new doctrinal stand and opened with the statement that he felt explanations were owed to his former associates in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Ohio. It was a scriptural due, he said, in the light of 2 Peter 3:15. A note at the end of his Explanation directed readers to Zion’s Watch Tower, giving the 101 Federal Street address.

The record of his troubles drew some sympathy from Watch Tower readers. A brief letter from a sister in Texas asked Russell to “please present the enclosed amount, $5.00 in the name of our dear Lord and Master, to our brother, Otto Von Zech, who has left all to follow Him.”[36]

Von Zech assumed responsibility for the German language work, preparing several issues of Zion’s Watch Tower for use among German speakers, and the first issue was ready by January 1886:

We take pleasure in announcing to our German friends, that we have commenced a German edition of the Tower, the first number of which goes forth this month. It will be a monthly, of eight pages, smaller than the English edition: price, 25 cents per year. The Lord seemed to set before us an open door in this direction, and to the extent of our ability we go forward to enter it by starting this paper. You also have a privilege in connection with this work. It is for you to scatter sample copies, and to awaken an interest in it among earnest German Christians. Do your part well, and while you pray, labor also and sacrifice in the spread of the “glad tidings.” Send in subscriptions and orders for sample copies at once.[37]

The April 1886 issue encouraged their use: “We have now issued several numbers of our German edition, composed in the main of translations from the English edition, by Bro. Von Zech. We want to get it into the hands of all the truthseeking Germans possible. You can thus help in ‘bearing up’ and ‘washing’ and making ‘ready’ the members of the body among these. Will you do it? Order all the sample copies you can use judiciously--Free. Those who are canvassing with sample packets of ‘Food’ and Tower should have samples of the German with them for such.”[38]

With the August 1886 Watch Tower, Russell urged his readers to send in the names of those who “might have a hearing ear for the truth, for samples of English, German or Swedish Towers.”[39] The German language version of The Watch Tower edited by von Zech never had a large circulation, reaching only about six hundred by 1894, and some of those were English language readers who subscribed to help forward the work.[40]

When Millennial Dawn: The Plan of the Ages was released, von Zech translated it as well. A notice that he was “now engaged in translating it” appears in the August 1886 issue of The Watch Tower, but his translation wasn’t released until 1888 as Millennium Tages-Anbruch: Der Plan der Zeitalter. He also prepared and published his own material. A letter printed in the February 1886 Tower suggests as much when it thanks him for two printed sermons he sent to the writer. No copies are known to exist.[41]

Enough German language interest followed von Zech out of the Lutheran Church that at least by August 1886 meetings were held in the G.A.R. hall over the Third National Bank at 101 Federal Street in Allegheny City. The German group met at 1:30, followed by two English language meetings.[42]

[*] The Watch Tower consistently gives him the middle initial ‘A.’ A newspaper reference gives ‘F’ as his middle initial. The Watch Tower errs enough on names to make this uncertain. Handwriting was as indecipherable in the 19th Century as it can be today.


[1] View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, December 1882, reprints page 415.
[2] Watch Tower Tract Fund, Zion’s Watch Tower, January 1883, page 2.
[3] View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, June 1883, page 1.
[4] Swedish Emigration Records, 1783-1951, found at
[5] Brother Seagrin’s Letter, Zion’s Watch Tower, June 1883, page 1.
[6] View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, June 1883, page 1.
[7] See untitled announcement on page 1 of that issue.
[8] View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, November 1883, page 1.
[9] Requests, Zion’s Watch Tower, February 1884, page 1.
[10] View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, October 1884, page 1.
[11] Extracts from Interesting Letters,. Zion’s Watch Tower, November 1884, page 2.
[12] Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society, Zion’s Watch Tower, January 1885, page 1.
[13] Untitled announcement, Zion’s Watch Tower, January 1886 page 8.
[14] Seed Time and Harvest, Zion’s Watch Tower, September 1886, page 6.
[15] Answers to Your Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, February 1887, page 7.
[16] Letter from Charles Strand to C. T. Russell found in Encouraging Words from Earnest Workers, Zion’s Watch Tower, August 1, 1892, page 237. Strand was born in Norway about 1853. The 1880 census incorrectly has him born in Louisiana. That’s corrected in later census reports. He was a mate on a steam ship in 1880. Later he worked on tug boats.
[17] Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, January 1885, page 1.
[18] Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, September 1885, page 2. Not in reprints.
[19] 1977 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Watch Tower Society, Brooklyn, New York, page 194.
[20] United States Census for 1900: New Orleans Ward Three, New Orleans, Louisiana, National Archives Roll T623-571, page 20B, Enumeration District: 27.
[21] Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, April 1886, page 2. Not in reprints.
[22] Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, February 1887, page 8. Not in reprints.
[23] Soards” Directory of New Orleans, 1886, page 757.
[24] Many More Advice They Have Taken the Vow, Zion’s Watch Tower, July 15, 1908, page 219. Not in reprints. Pacific Coast service: Captain of the Santa Ana Finds a Deep-Sea Mine off the Nome Beach, The San Francisco Call, October 10, 1901; Steamer Oregon is Safe at Nome, The San Francisco Call, July 1, 1902; Two Kinds of Dredging, The San Francisco Call, September 20, 1902. Russo-Japanese War: May Have Been Captured, The San Francisco Call, July 30, 1905; Saved by the Fog, The San Francisco Call, August 30, 1905; Fog and Nerve Saved Vessel, The Pensacola, Florida, Journal, August 30, 1905.
[25] New Orleans, Louisiana, Death Records Index: 1804-1949.
[26] View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, December 1882, page 2.
[27] View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, June 1883, page 1.
[28] Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, August 1883, page 3.
[29] View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, November 1883, page 1.
[30] Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society, Zion’s Watch Tower, January 1885, page 1.
[31] Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, March 1885, page 1.
[32] Watch Tower Tract Fund, Zion’s Watch Tower, January 1883, page 2.
[33] Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, March 1885, page 1.
[34] Von Zech was born December 4, 1845 in Kleinballhausen, Kingdom of Saxony. He immigrated to the United States, settling in Pennsylvania. He died March 5, 1908, in Philadelphia.
[35] Charles H. Lippy and Peter W. Williams: Encyclopedia of the American Religious Experience, 1988, page 630.
[36] Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, January 1886, page 2.
[37] The Tower in German, Zion’s Watch Tower, January 1886, page 1.
[38] The German Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, April 1886, page 1. Not in reprints.
[39] Untitled Announcement on page 1 of that issue. Not in reprints.
[40] O Give Thanks Unto the Lord, for He is Good, Zion’s Watch Tower, June 11, 1894, special issue, page 165.
[41] The Trial of our Faith Necessary, Zion’s Watch Tower, February 1886, page 7.
[42] Pittsburgh Church Meetings, Zion’s Watch Tower, August 1886, page 8. Not in reprints.

Stray thoughts.

Consider this a continuation of my earlier “editorializing.” This is really not an editorial, of course. It’s a series of more or less disjointed thoughts.

Yes, we know there are typos in our Nelson Barbour book. Unfortunately the wrong file was uploaded. Most of them are easily ignored. Please do so. Unless it sells exceptionally well, we are not revising the master print file anytime soon. At this point it is not an easy process.

We have revised our outline for the follow-up book, deciding to include material we intended to omit. We felt that the references needed were not available to us. This situation has changed enough that we can now tell those parts of the story in a connected way. We think we can present enough detail to be more accurate and present a more rational story than that now available. This will add three, maybe four, chapters.

We’ve had long and intense conversations about the meaning of a quotation, more accurately about the writer’s intent. The meaning is clear, I think. The intent is not. (Confusing, huh?) It can be approached in three ways: 1. It’s an outright lie; 2. It’s dissimulation by means of selective ‘truth;’ 3. It’s an attempt to escape sharing someone else’s reputation, but phrased in such an awkward way that the truth of the statement can be questioned.

The problem is unresolved. A good rule of thumb is to attribute the best possible motive to everyone’s statements and acts. In this case my personal opinion is that we’re dealing with a blatant lie. It’s a tough call, and we’re still sorting things out. Rachael doesn’t share my opinion. More research and more conferences are in order.

A stray thought: Being published opens one to the odd in human behavior. When Pixie Warrior, Rachael’s novel, was published, she acquired an online stalker. We’ve both had online marriage proposals, though not as a result of the Barbour biography but as fan mail response to our fiction. I think our mates would object if we said yes. I know my wife of forty years would object – after she finished laughing. Let me tell you: I’m old. I’m fat. I’m balding. I’m sick. I’m cranky. I am married to a woman who’s put up with me for forty years. So, No. Thanks, but no.

I enjoy my privacy.

And ... you might consider some counseling. Just a thought, that – but it’s a good one.

So, now, back to our work in progress: A section that was essentially an orphan, not long enough or detailed enough to be anything but an after thought has now become a chapter in its own right. It’s amazing what following hints and clues will do.

Our thanks to a “volunteer” who wishes to remain anonymous for some recent research! The documents are invaluable to us.

Some views of Watch Tower history have the character of religious myth. They’re firmly believed though lack documentary foundation. It is painful to see long held visions of history give way to what is sometimes a harsher reality.

A recent example comes from an email. In our book on Nelson Barbour we demonstrate that the idea of a two-stage partially invisible parousia predates the 1820’s. We quote Isaac Newton. Yet, the email I received insisted that the idea comes from Irvingites and Plymouth Brethren. Yes, they held these views. They did not originate them. Finding a source that says they did merely means you found a source that is in error. Also, Keith was not the first in America to present those views. We don’t say that; we tell you otherwise. Reread that chapter.

We also received a suggestion that we alter the spelling found in one quotation. That’s unethical. A quotation should preserve the original words.

What will you do when you discover that the idea of a totally invisible parousia in the sense taught by Zion’s Watch Tower isn’t a modern day Revelation of some sort? That idea has a history too. We include endnotes for you. Follow them to the sources. Check for yourself. Emailing one of us to support an exploded claim by someone else won’t change the facts.

We sift through oral traditions passed down as history. Some are worth reporting, even if they are unverifiable. There are two we feel (with reservations) deserve to be taken as factual. We’ve satisfied ourselves, though just short of historical verity, that the Russell’s Federal Street store was called “the old Quaker” store, even if it wasn’t named that. We are inclined to accept a report that Russell’s conversation with an “infidel” took place in a pool hall as probable, though unverifiable. The report fits in with the nature of YMCA and Evangelical Alliance tracting in Allegheny City.

Other oral traditions are just wrong. See our earlier post for an example.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A discussion from the posts - 1876 Centennial and the Russells

This is a comment from an earlier post:

"More on Philadelphia - Russell had a store at the exposition in 1876 in Philadelphia, was likely there several months, met Barbour there. He says in the Watch Tower that he remembered hearing Peyton Bowman preach, an Adventist, in Philadelphia. This possibly occurred in 1876, but possibly before that. Bowman had connections also with Restitutionist Adventists."

The only place we've seen this asserted is in the special history issue of The Herald of Christ's Kingdom published back in 2002. Brian Kutscher wrote:

"After seven years of study, while attending a display for his father’s business at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, Russell’s attention was drawn to a magazine entitled The Herald of the Morning, published by Nelson H. Barbour. He arranged to meet Barbour in Philadelphia and saw merit in Barbour’s interpretation of chronology."

This statement is flawed in several respects. An email from Brian attributed the point about the Russell exhibiting at the Centennial to Carl Hagensick. An email from Carl said, "The information about the Centennial exposition was by word of mouth passed on to me from Br. John Meggison who, as you know, was a pilgrim in Br. Russell’s day. I mentioned it once in conversation to Br. John Reed, Pastor Russell’s personal singer, and he did not disagree."

Oral reports are notoriously wrong. There are numerous lists of exhibitors for the 1876 Centennial Fair. There is no listing for J. L. Russell & Son in any of them we consulted. Many of them are searchable through a database. There simply is no record of the Russells exhibiting.

There is an alternative explanation. Russell says he had business in Philadelphia that fall. That's all he says. The Russells owned property in Philadelphia. Philadelphia was a clothing wholesale market. Either of these is a suitable explanation for Russell's business.

The statement is also in error when it discusses how Russell came upon the Herald of the Morning. Barbour mailed it to him. We have Russell's plain statement to this effect. The paragraph is a combination of a garbled oral tradition and the misstatement made by Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose. When we wrote Nelson Barbour: The Millennium's Forgotten Prophet, we allowed in a footnote for the possibility that the Russells may have exhibited at the Centennial. See page 172, end note two. Since then we have searched catalogues of exhibitors to no avail. This is an example of a few facts being garbled and transmuted into a new story. This is not sound history.

Prove me wrong. I'd be happy to use this. It's colorful and interesting. However, our research leads us to reject this story as unfounded. The simpler explanation given by Russell stands. He had business. Period.

Oh, a mystery ...

Anyone pin this down to C. T. Russell?

The Chicago Daily Inter Ocean, Saturday, 17 Sep 1881, p. 14
Advent Christian Church, No. 91 South Green street.
Elder Russell will preach in the morning.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Benjamin W. Keith

Keith is in these two photos. We haven't identified which of these people he is yet. That may not be possible. But ... he is in these photos.
GAR gatherings in Dansville, Livingston County, New York

Capn' Strand ... the basics

Strand Was Master of the Steam Ship Centennial

Charles Strand was born in Norway. There are two immigration dates. It may be that he arrived as a boy with his father, returned to Norway and then later re-immigrated to the United States.

He was responsible for organizing the first congregation in New Orleans. Letters from him appear in Zion's Watch Tower from 1883 to the 1890's.

In the 1890's he was sent by the shipping company for whom he work to command ships in the Seattle - Nome - San Francisco trade. He remained at sea through most of the decade 1895-1905. He was involved in gold dredging, at least two high seas rescues and got caught in the middle of the Russo-Japanese war, narrow escaping from a Japanese attempt to capture his ship.

He, not the person mentioned in the 1977 Yearbook article, is the first one known to have introduced Zion's Watch Tower teachings into Norway by translating articles and sending them to his father. His father, who already held restitutionist views, circulated Charles' letters among several groups in Norway.

His final relastionship to Zion's Watch Tower is unknown.

Nelson Barbour: The Millennium's Forgotten Prophet is available here:

Sunday, October 4, 2009


I need help identifying Charles A. Strand. Strand was a Norwegian immigrant who was in New Orleans by the mid 1880's. He may have lived in Minnesotta first, but that is uncertain. He was responsible for introducing Watch Tower teachings into Norway in the early 1880's.

Any help?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Another view of Watch Tower History

As long as I’ve been ‘editorializing’ lately, I might as well continue.

What passes as Watch Tower history seldom makes an attempt to connect the story to its environment. An example is Russell’s tracting work in the 1860’s. You’ve probably read the story about him chalking scriptures on sidewalks and walls where people were likely to read them. He wanted to save as many as he could from the fires of hell. But do you know what Allegheny City and Pittsburgh were like in the mid to late 1860’s?

There is a census of whores in Allegheny City and Pittsburgh. Prostitution was rampant, and in Allegheny City many of the shop girls were part time whores because they couldn’t live on the substandard wages paid by the small shop owners and cottage industries that characterized that place. Within easy walking distance of the Russell home were numbers of whore houses.

Murders were not rare. In 1872 an especially bloody murder was perpetrated just doors from the Russell residence. A man found his married sister sleeping with someone other than her husband. He broke in the door and stabbed the man to death with a short-bladed knife. His only regret was that he didn’t have a longer blade. It wouldn’t have been so difficult to kill the man if his knife had been longer.

Several tracting and missionary programs targeted Allegheny City. The Evangelical Alliance had one. The description of Allegheny given in the magazine article that profiled it (1857) is lurid. The YMCA had a tracting and Sunday School program. They provided Sunday School teachers and superintendents to local churches. Note the connection to Russell? Yet, none of those who profiled Russell ever bothered to record this. Why not? It’s easily found. It connects him to his environment and explains much of what he did.

As far as most of what passes as Watch Tower history is concerned, Pittsburgh of today is no different than it was 150 years ago. They do not remind you that the world has, to quote a Stephen King character, ‘moved on.’

I’m only scratching the surface here. Do you know what the streets were like in Allegheny in the 1850’s? There was no garbage pickup. You were as likely to step in something you’d rather avoid as to encounter a dead horse abandoned in the street. Anyone tell you this? And if you knew it, did any of the Watch Tower historians you read remind you of it. Why not? This is a vital part of the story.

I’ve had my say, not that it matters. I wish a more talented and younger person had taken this on. It is an injustice that those who should be most interested in this history have covered over or neglected more than they’ve told.

Friday, October 2, 2009

We don't always find photos ... but

James E. Anger


DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER RUSSELL:--I have been intending for some time to write you, but hitherto have had nothing new to add to the same old story of the amazing love of God for man. I am still holding on the same place of anchor--the ransom for all, the rock Christ Jesus. For the past six years I thought, like Elijah of old, that I was the only one in this place that cared for God, and that (typically speaking) many were seeking my life; but the good Lord has shown me that I was mistaken. During last Summer brother Wiltze moved to this town, and we at once met regularly for communion and study. Through him I learned that one of the members of the official board of the Methodist church with me when I resigned from the board and withdrew from the church was now reading DAWN and quite interested in its teaching. This brother had the DAWN at the time I left the church, but on the advice of the Minister he laid it away as a dangerous book. I called to see him and found both him and his wife much interested. After that they met with Bro. Wiltze and myself until they removed to near Boston, and I am informed that they meet regularly with the brethren in Boston. This greatly encouraged us to persevere in the work.

Two weeks ago I stepped into the butcher shop of a stranger to me to purchase a piece of meat, and while getting it ready he asked me if my name was Anger. I said, yes. He said he had heard of me as a reader of MILLENNIAL DAWN and that he had also been reading it. I asked, How do you like its teachings? His reply was that it was the only satisfying explanation of the Bible and the plan of salvation. His wife came in, and I was introduced to her. She was very enthusiastic, and I learned from her that her father had been a reader and believer of DAWN and its teachings for eight years, that her brother and sister and others of the family were also believers. On my way home I called upon her father and found him strong in the faith, and another daughter as enthusiastic as the father. After exchanging views for some time I invited them to come to our meetings at my house, and the next afternoon the daughter and her husband came out and we had a profitable time. I should have mentioned that before I knew of these brothers and sisters a son of the brother above mentioned had also become a believer, and was meeting regularly with us and is making rapid progress in the truth.

One week ago to-day our little company numbered eleven, all but three of whom I believe are true believers, and the others not real opposers. To-day there were only five present, but one of them was a new convert to the old gospel. And so the Lord is leading and we are rejoicing and beginning to understand why he has prevented us from closing up our affairs in this town in order to get out of it over a year ago. Some time ago we came to the conclusion that the Lord had a work for us to do here, but we could see no opening, for the ministers had effectually closed the door against us by warning their people to avoid us as dangerous persons to talk to on religious subjects, as hot-headed persons, religious cranks and disbelievers in God's Word. When these things came to us, we rejoiced that we were accounted worthy to suffer with Jesus, for in his day he was regarded very much the same by the religious people of that time. "Blessed are ye, when men shall speak all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." (Matt. 5:11.) But none of these things move us, for we know in whom we have believed, and that he is more than all they who are against us.

It is a strange thing that our opposers do not try to show wherein we have retrograded in life and action, but put forth all their efforts to show what a fearful thing it is to leave the church. To leave the church is a sure passport to perdition, and a man must be bad when he leaves the church, altho he neither swears, deals falsely with his neighbors or in any way deviates from the best standard of correct living, but on the other hand has an increased love for and faith in God's Word, diligently studies it to find out God's perfect will and earnestly strives daily to bring his life and conduct to harmonize with that Word. Yet herein is [R2142 : page 124] the evidence that human nature is still the same, perverted and unregenerated and far below the standard of perfect human nature.

What a glorious reality is the religion of Jesus Christ!--glorious in its contemplation, glorious in its possession, glorious when we can get but one to espouse it, yet more glorious in its after-fruits, when we (the Church) shall have the privilege of instructing, guiding, controlling and leading our friends (now enemies) back to righteousness and to God during the space of a thousand years. We are content to do the Master's will in any way it may be required, and are rejoicing at the prospect of the progress of truth, and if need be are willing to suffer for it. May God keep us humble, willing and obedient.

Your brother in Christ, an ardent follower of the Lamb,


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Scranton Tribune, May 1, 1897

Author of Millennial Dawn
C. T. Russell to Speak in Scranton Next Wednesday Night

The Scranton, Pennsylvania, Tribune
May 1, 1897

Scranton readers and students of the “Millennial Dawn,” series of Bible helps, and all others who are interested in the subject of the pre-millennial advent of the Lord have a rare treat in store for next Wednesday evening. C. T. Russell, the author of these words has consented to come to Scranton and deliver an address on “Why Christians Should Take a Lively Interest in the Second Coming of the Lord,” in the Green Ridge Tabernacle on May 5.

Mr. Russell’s avowed object to writing “Millennial Dawn” was “to vindicate the Divine character and government and to show by a recognition and harmonizing of all the Scriptures that the permission of evil, past and present, is educational in its character and preparatory to the ushering into the golden age of prophecy in which all the families of the earth will be blessed with a full knowledge of God and a full opportunity for attaining everlasting life through the Redeemer, who will then be the great Restorer and Life Saver. (Acts iii, 19-21).”

Mr. Russell stands free from all creeds and sects of men and is therefore able to give an unbiased view of every phase of Scripture truth and it is believed that all classes of honest thinkers who read his works will be enabled to realize the Bible as indeed God’s word and to recognize his plan therein revealed as one sublime exhibition of justice, wisdom, love and power. This is born out by the fact that “Millennial Dawn” has been the direct means of conversion of hundreds of life infidels.

The Green Ridge Tabernacle, where the address is to be given Wednesday evening, is on Jefferson avenue, near the Dunmore Suburban trolley line. The admission will be free and there will be no collection

Anyone have these?

Gilbert Love, "It Started Here" [Jehovah's Witnesses], Pittsburgh Press, 14 November 1958.

George Swetnam, "Pastor Russell: 1200 Congregations; 30,000 Sermons: North Side Youth Helped Launch Chain Store System, Then Abandoned It to Become One of the World's Most Controversial Religious Teachers," Pittsburgh Press, 23 August 1953, 6(Sunday Magazine).

We need a clear photocopy of scan. Can anyone help?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Old Quaker Shop - Challenges - Documentation

Thanks in part to two very kind and helpful interested parties, we're making progress with two chapters on Russell's early years.

We're still trying to trace down the origins of the name "Old Quaker Shop." Someone (and I've very thankful for their help) sent me a bit from the Pittsburgh Press of June 15, 1967, where this claim is made: "Mr. Russell's business was known as 'the Old Quaker Store,' from the picture signboard, of a type often used here and elsewhere when many people were unable to read."

This sounds reasonable. I would like contemporary documentation. The closest we have gotten to contemporary is the 1919 Convention Report. I'd be much happier with something published while Russell was still alive.

I desperately need the November 1, 1877, Herald of the Morning. We never located this issue when researching the Barbour book, but it wasn't as big an issue for that book as it will be for our work in progress, which will detail more closely Russell and Barbour's association and separation. Anyone know where we can find this?

I'm very interested in Russell's presentation of his childhood. We think it refelects his view of his ministry. When we document it, we will present it that way. By 1881 Russell saw himself as God's instrument. The development of his personal view of self can be told only partially in our next book. We stop with 1887 or so. Most of that story will be in book three, if I live long enough to complete that one. If not, someone else can tell it.

I see this as becoming progressively more difficult. The resources required are harder to find and will continue to become difficult. There are also growing issues of interpretation. One should, I believe, put everyone's motive in the best light unless there is reason not to. We have some close calls to make in this new book. There are so many conflicting emotions displayed. Some of the statements by the principals must be read over and over to understand them. Some people are just obvious. I wish they all were.

The most obvious is Albert Delmont Jones who was vain, a thief, and responsible for another's suicide. Jones was a villain pure and simple, a modern day Judas. But Jones is also a complex man. (Aren't we all? - complex I mean.)

At a certain point every historian must make decisions on how to portray those whose life he chronicles. Our preference has been to let them speak for themselves; so we tend to use quotations more than most historians would. If anyone comes off well, it should be based on what they really said and did. The inverse is true too.

Another issues is that some with a partisan spirit wish to see some of the principals as nearly perfect. Partisan spirit arrays itself on various sides. Alas, no human approaches perfection. If you idolize a man, you will be disappointed. Without exception, none of those involved in the Watch Tower movement in the period we now consider were flawless. All were flawed in some way. That's how people are. That's how they were.

We're not writing a eulogy. We're writing history. Expect us to tell an accurate story, even if it makes someone you admire appear less than attractive in one or two circumstances. That's a general statement, and it covers all those involved. At least human faults make for interesting history.

It pleases me to see that the two ratings given to our book are both the highest possible. Thanks to whoever rated our book!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Rules

Calling me at home to "discuss" my book is a no-no. This blog exists as a forum for you to ask your questions and make your comments. I will not engage with you over the phone; I will not debate the merits of your theology or mine via the phone either. You most certainly may not call me or Miss de Vienne. There is nothing you have to say that can't be said in an email or blog post.

If you have comments or questions, you may post them here or use the email given on this blog. We will not respond to questions about our personal life. Our religious beliefs are not the subject of this forum. Watchtower history is. That this blog is named "truth history" should give you enough of a clue as to where I stand on most issues.

You will not find your chances of engaging me in dialogue improved by using as a reference the name of a person whom I neither trust nor respect. It is very unwise to name drop. You may not like my reaction if you do.

I don't know how I can make my position clearer. I am only interested in an accurate presentation of Watch Tower history. Our research and writing forwards no agenda except a clear and accurate presentation of history as it can be known.

As heartless as it may sound, I'm not interested in your beliefs, complaints, or theological speculations. Both Rachael and I have our own. We share them in other contexts. This blog is about history -- accurately presented, well researched history. We are not interested in polemics and we're not interested in your theological views. All are welcome here as long as they behave. Consider it our “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Unfortunately, I am not able to provide copies of the references we used, except on a very limited basis. I am - to put it bluntly - old. I'm in declining health, and I have limited funds. I do not have enough money to return long distance calls, and I find calls to my home to be rude and intrusive. As a young man, my long term goal was to grow up to be a cranky old man. I finally made it. I’m not going to spoil it by taking your uninvited telephone calls.

To recapitulate (because some people just don't get it the first dozen times): 1. Do not call my house. 2. Do not call Rachael's house. 3. If you have comments or questions, post them on this blog. 4. Do not presume that I agree with you. I probably don't. 5. If it isn't about 'truth history,' I don't want to hear it. 6. We're not a resource for your unfounded, poorly researched, ill considered polemics. Don’t ask. That’s not why we're here.

My resources and stamina are limited. I usually cannot make photocopies, even if you offer to pay. I tell my students that they must do their own research. If I make my students do that, guess what I’m going to tell you. ...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bits ... and some help, please ...

This is the photo mentioned below. This is the best quality I have. Can anyone do better?

Bits of things have come our way, some the result of our own research and some from interested blog readers. As with most fragments of history, they raise some questions.

The 1919 Convention Report says that Russell store was called “The Old Quaker Shop.” I can’t verify that from any of the Pittsburgh Directories. Fahnestock’s Directory for 1850 simply lists J. L. Russell as in the dry goods business on Federal Street in Allegheny. It does not name the store. The only name for their clothing business I can find is J. L. Russell & Son. Obviously this is not the original name. We would like to verify from another source that the original name of the Russell’s store was “The Old Quaker Shop.” Anyone?

In 1865 J. L. Russell is living on Wylie Street and is listed as a salesman. Did he go out of business for a period? Anyone know?

Joseph L. Russell was exempted from Civil War service because of some sort of disability. The Rebellion Record of Allegheny County has him in the exemption lists, where his exemption is noted as “d. c.” or “disability certificate.” Anyone know more?

I wonder what it took to obtain a disability certificate. We’ll make that a bit of research.

Can anyone send me a clear scan of the photo of Russell and his brother that’s in the special issue of Zion’s Watch Tower for 1912? I have a very poor scan of that. It’s not usable. Can anyone do better?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A historian's rant ...

Some of those who read this blog do not seem to understand how history is researched and written. Some explanations may help.

Research is guided serendipity. It’s a series of progressively more educated guesses that lead one to new resources. The most frustrating part of research is being denied access to material. We know that key events that do not appear in any history of the Watch Tower movement are discussed in Pittsburgh newspapers between 1877 and 1883. We have references to those articles from other sources. The Pittsburgh Public Library does not send out microfilms through Interlibrary Loan. We haven’t found the material elsewhere yet. We keep chipping at it. One of the articles was picked up by other papers, and we found it reprinted in a Chicago newspaper. But there is an interchange between Russell and a clergyman, controversial material connected to a series of lectures, and other mater we have yet to see.

Does this mean we “don’t write” until we see this material. No. That’s would be silly. Writing up what we have found helps us organize our thoughts and plan additional research. Our newly released book on Nelson Barbour started life as a short article for a history journal. It was supposed to be less than ten thousand words long, not counting end notes. Four re-writes later, it was apparent that we had a book developing. We abandoned the article and focused on the research. The original article became two chapters, then three and finally the 176 page book.

Writing isn’t a one shot process. It’s a series of re-writes followed by additional thought and additional research. One asks themselves, “Why don’t we know this?” or “Where can I find that?” Old conclusions melt away or go up in smoke. Cherished stories are sometimes found to be myth. One finds unexpected insights into personalities.

Inexperienced writers see their words as their children. Neither Rachael nor I are inexperienced. Rachael writes fantasy fiction. I write young adult fiction under another name. (No, I won’t tell you what name. Let’s not cloud the issue with extraneous things. Both my fiction and my history stand on their own.) Words are tools, not children. You don’t murder your child when you edit out a word, a sentence, a paragraph, or most of a chapter. Editing is part of writing. Rethinking historical issues works best if you write up what you know. You may dump it all into a shredder as your research progresses, but it helps you think.

That’s why you see preliminary snippets on this blog. We’re thinking it through. You get to see where we are. We get your input, though most often our posts just sit here with no comments.

We get just enough input to be helpful. A photo of Calista Downing, the first Watch Tower missionary in China came our way through a blog comment.

We do not question your beliefs. Some of those who read our blog are Bible Students –Russellites, to use the pejorative term. Some are Jehovah’s Witnesses; some were Jehovah’s Witnesses but are not now. Some readers have anti-Russell agendas. Some don’t. This blog isn’t here to support a party. It’s here to support what we see as the first real effort to document Watch Tower history in a public and professional way.

Some do not see our efforts in this light. Rachael was attacked on one of the forums for even considering writing about Barbour because he was a villain and not worth notice. Brother Russell said so. A person whose articles you may have read in a well-known religious periodical no longer counts me as his friend because an accurate history portrays ‘the truth’ in a bad light, as less than divine. At least that’s his opinion. I’ve been disfellowshipped from his email list. In his view, if I’m not a dangerous apostate I soon will be because I dare to write a detailed history of Zion’s Watch Tower’s early years and discuss influences on and the back ground to the acts of early believers.

I am no such thing, of course. But he thinks I am. In his view the only proper thing to do with my research is to write it up and send it to the publishers of his magazine where it can be filed with other similar research reports.

A few anti-Witness readers do not have their comments posted. They’re obnoxious and stupidly uninformed.

So, we’ve managed to upset people from every interest group. We must be doing something right.

Our sole interest is in an accurate presentation of Watch Tower history as it can be known. We limit speculation, and if we choose to include it, we label it as such. There are any number of suppositions we will not include. For instance, we suspect on what we feel is sufficient grounds that two of Russell’s early associates had a years-long extra marital affair. We do not have definitive proof – only hints from circumstances and documents. We will never include this unless we can irrefutably prove it. I believe it happened. It’s not history until we can document it. Because of the nature of hidden affairs, we will probably never have more than a suspicion. We won’t name names, though they’re both dead for nearly a century.

Watch Tower opponents puzzle me the most. I’m writing narrowly of those who produce anti-Russell propaganda. We find contrived quotations. We found one book, now out of print, that ends a quotation from one of the Watch Tower publications in the middle of a sentence, changing the meaning of the paragraph. This is wrong. Worse, it’s silly. If you want to oppose, feel free to do so. Debate is a healthy thing. You automatically lose the debate when you lie. Sooner or later someone will ask you where you found that ‘quotation.’ Alas, you made it up. Bad boy.

I don’t mean to denigrate the efforts of those who produced the various ‘histories,’ but most are partisan efforts. Some of them are fable; some are polemic; most are self-serving. All of them omit key facts, and it is often the omission the skews the story. I usually avoid naming names. I won’t break that rule in this post, but I will say that there are two writers out there with history degrees whose books on the early history of Zion’s Watch Tower and it’s more modern adherents (Witnesses and Bible Student groups) do not deserve the name of ‘history.’

There are sociological studies, recent and quite old, that would not pass muster as a first year paper in any reputable university. If you’ve read Stroup’s book, you know what I mean.

Our goal is to tell the history as accurately as possible and with sufficient detail that a clear picture of it can be seen. (Yes, I know that’s a mixed metaphor. Sometimes you have to break some eggs to stir the pot! – You may laugh at that. The joke is intentional.) We’re not writing to support your faith or tear it down. We do not write to feed your anti-Witness propaganda mill. We do not write to hold Russell up as the Faithful Slave. We do not write to prove your religion true or false. We only write to tell the story in a way that allows us to say, “Yes, that’s how it happened, and to the extent we can know it, that’s why it happened.”