Friday, February 6, 2009

We Need Research Help ....

The text below is from the rough draft of a chapter than considers the cirulation of the booklet Food for Thinking Christians. If you have any additional information about Bailey or McGranor, we would like you to share it with us.

From Commitment and Organization (Tentatively numbered at chapter six):

While the mass distribution of Food for Thinking Christians via messenger service boys and through cooperating periodicals drew the most attention, the work that mattered was done by committed individual Christians. It was this work that set the pattern for much of the evangelical activity that followed.

Few names of the earliest workers survive, and of those names we do have many are now obscure. There was already a very small base of active workers. Sunderlin, Mann, Keith, Jones, and a few others were the foundation of this work. None of them were colporteurs in the sense that they devoted their time to the sale of tracts. They were preachers, lecturers, visiting speakers.

Three others received some mention in the June 1881 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower. Russell mentions two of them in such a way that he seems to have expected many of his readers to know them.

Robert Bailey

Robert Bailey of Howardsville, Michigan, entered the work that month as a “proclaimer of the same ‘Glad tidings’ entirely consecrated to the Lord and his work.”[1] Almost nothing is known of his life. The 1880 Census shows him living Saint Joseph County, Michigan, and gives his occupation as “minister of the gospel.” Bailey was born about 1853 in Canada to an American mother and Canadian father.[2]

A letter from him appears in the July/August 1881 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower. It suggests that he entered the ministry four years previously: “About four years ago I forsook the paths of sin, and gave up all for Jesus; since then I have been striving to follow Him. I studied His word faithfully in order to know my duty, and can say, to the praise of our Heavenly Father, that He permitted me to see many precious promises, and faith claimed them mine.”[3]

He explained that during the year previous to his letter he had prayed earnestly for “greater light” from God’s Word. He felt his prayer was answered by a visit from J. H. Paton in February 1881: “My daily prayer was for wisdom, and an understanding of His Word. … Accordingly, in February, 1881, He sent one of His messengers (Brother Paton,) who, by the grace of God, ‘opened our eyes to behold wondrous things out of His law.’”

That May he was in Pittsburgh for the Lord’s Supper. He was introduced to Russell, Sunderlin, Mann, Jones and to [insert first name] Adamson who like himself was new to the message: “I was privileged to meet and hold sweet converse on these precious and exhaustless themes with our beloved brothers … . It is needless for me to tell you that it was a delightful and profitable season. These precious truths thrill my whole being. I am willing to spend and be spent, in telling the ‘story of Jesus and His Love.’[i] Pray for me, that I may have wisdom to ‘rightly divide the word of truth,’ and grace to enable me to suffer with Christ, and with you share the glories of the world to come.”[4]

The letter was dated at Howardsville, Michigan, a place so small it had no post office of its own. The 1880 Census placed him in Flowerfield, a few miles distant. Frustratingly, a contemporary Gazetteer notes that there were two church organizations in Flowerfield, but neglects to name them. So there is no way to identify Bailey’s previous religious affiliation. He quickly drops out of the record. He isn’t mentioned again in Zion’s Watch Tower, and he isn’t found in later census records.

His preaching seems to have been local to St. Joseph’s County, Michigan. At least one other individual from there expressed interest, though he ultimately sided with Paton and his Universalist sect.[5]

‘Brother McGranor’

In the same article through which Russell announced Bailey’s entry into the ministry he wrote: “Brother McGrannor, [sic] of Pennsylvania, has also gone forth recently to give his entire time and labor in the "harvest" field; may his labors also be crowned with such success as may seem good to the Lord of the harvest and gain finally the ‘Well done good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things.’” [6] Other notices of “Brother” McGranor have his name spelled with one “N”, and that appears to be the correct spelling.

When Food for Thinking Christians was published, he played a part in its circulation, and he is listed as one of the principal evangelists engaged in that work. Russell explained that McGranor was working principally in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio, “distributing tracts … as he goes preaching.”[7]

When Tony Willis, writing as Timothy White, prepared A People for His Name (1968) he seems to have made no effort to discover the identity of McGranor and others.[8] By a process of elimination principally using census records we can identify “brother McGranor” as Patrick McGranor or one of his sons. The most likely of these is his son William J. McGranor. William was born in about 1851 according to the 1880 Census.[9] His middle initial isn’t given in the census record but in a brief newspaper mention in the August 7, 1895, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Progress. The article has him living in Deckers Point, Pennsylvania at that time.[10] Only a tenuous bit of evidence point to him as the “brother McGranor” of the Zion’s Watch Tower article. The article newspaper article continues with a mention of a Mrs. Jerry Keim. At least one from the Keim family was also an active evangelist in the early days of The Watch Tower.
One should not consider the fact that his initials fit those of a contributor to Zion’s Watch Tower as evidence. The W.J.M of the Watch Tower article is a misprint for W.I.M. This is seen by comparing the initials at the end of the initial article signed “W.J.M.” and its continuation which is signed “W.I.M.” for William I. Mann. .[11]

The question of who “brother McGranor” really was, is not resolvable in any sort of satisfactory way without further evidence. When Food for Thinking Christians was published he participated in its distribution. In the October/November issue of The Tower, Russell reported that the tracts “Have … been distributed in the medium and larger cities, and at the principal camp meetings, Brothers Adamson, Keith, Keim, McGranor and others, being still engaged in the work of distribution. Only about 65,000 yet remain.” Tony Willis took this to mean that McGranor and the others took charge of hiring and supervising the boys who distributed the tracts. Russell added: “Brother McGranor is distributing tracts, and as he goes preaching in Ohio and western Pennsylvania. The Lord has been blessing him greatly.” While it appears that McGranor’s preaching was incidental to his tract distribution, nothing in this comment suggests anything more than a personal circulation of the booklet Food for Thinking Christians in the small towns and villages of Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.

This is the final notice of “brother McGranor.” Identifying him further requires a more ingenious researcher than I am.

[i] The phrase Story of Jesus and His love is quoted from the hymn I Love to Tell the Story by A. Katherine Hankey, first published in 1866. It is found in Joyful Songs, Nos. 1 to 3 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Methodist Episcopal Book Room, 1869).
[1] To the Readers of the Watch Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, June 1881, page 8.
[2] 1880 United States Census: Flowerfield, St. Joseph, Michigan, National Archives Film T9-0603, page 331B .
[3] A Letter From Yours and Ours to His and Ours, Zion’s Watch Tower, July/August 1881, page 5.
[4] A Letter From Yours and Ours to His and Ours, Zion’s Watch Tower, July/August 1881, page 6.
[5] Letter from A.P.S to Paton in Extracts from Letters, The World’s Hope, December 15, 1886, page 302.
[6] To the Readers of the Watch Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, June 1881, page 8.
[7] In the Vineyard, Zion’s Watch Tower, October/November 1881, page 5.
[8] White, Timothy (Tony Willis): A People for His Name: A History of Jehovah's Witnesses and an Evaluation‎ , 1968, page 26.
[9] 1880 United States Census: Greene, Indiana, Pennsylvania, National Archives Film number T9-1135, page 238D.
[10] I identify the W. J. McGranor of this newspaper article with Peter McGranor’s son instead of the younger Dr. William J. McGranor, a physician on the basis of where he was visiting. The McGranor family was centered in Indiana County, Pennsylvania.
[11] W.J.M.: The Day of Judgment, Zion’s Watch Tower September 1879, page 8; W.I.M.: Day of Judgment, November 1879, pages 4-5.

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