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.”

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bits of things ...

If you have trouble with the ordering system when trying to order Nelson Barbour: The Millennium's Forgotten Prophet, I would appreciate knowing of it.

We've started on the chapter that details Russell's experiences with Wendell, Stetson, Storrs and others between 1871 and 1876. I've pasted a bit of it below. I'm not happy with the details we've uncovered. Please read what we have (though it's a very rough draft) and leave any comments you think helpful.

2. Among the Second Adventists

Russell’s experimentation with various religions was short lived. As he recounts it:

Gradually I was led to see that though each of the creeds contained some elements of truth, they were, on the whole, misleading and contradictory of God's Word. Among other theories, I stumbled upon Adventism. Seemingly by accident, one evening I dropped into a dusty, dingy hall, where I had heard religious services were held, to see if the handful who met there had anything more sensible to offer than the creeds of the great churches. There, for the first time, I heard something of the views of Second Adventists, the preacher being Mr. Jonas Wendell, long since deceased. …

Though his Scripture exposition was not entirely clear, and though it was very far from what we now rejoice in, it was sufficient, under God, to re-establish my wavering faith in the divine inspiration of the Bible, and to show that the records of the apostles and prophets are indissolubly linked. What I heard sent me to my Bible to study with more zeal and care than ever before, and I shall ever thank the Lord for that leading; for though Adventism helped me to no single truth, it did help me greatly in the unlearning of errors, and thus prepared me for the Truth.[1]

This is almost all the detail Russell provides. He adds in another place that this took place that this occurred “about 1869.” The evidence suggests me meant this happened in 1871. Wendell and Russell would quickly develop a mutual friendship, and Russell remembered him as “my friend Jonas Wendell.”

Wendell was born December 25, 1814, in Minden, Montgomery County, New York, to Jacob and Magdalena Wendell. They christened him in the St. Paul’s Church, a Lutheran Church in Minden Township, on January 22, 1815. Jonas Wendell became a Second Adventist in after the Millerite failure of 1843. He was converted to Adventism not long after accepting Christ’s salvation. A short obituary written by his friend and coworker, George Stetson, says: “He experienced remission of sins in Syracuse, N.Y., about 1843, and united with the M.(ethodist) E.(piscopal) church. About 1845 he came into the truth of life and immortality in Christ only, of his soon coming, and reign with the saints on earth renewed, and the everlasting destruction of the finally impenitent wicked.”[2] Wendell’s conversion to Adventism was through the efforts of Lucy Maria Hersey (Later Stoddard), a Millerite author and evangelist. Her preaching raised the issue of the propriety of women preachers in the Adventist body, and though there was some objection, the consensus was to allow them freedom to preach. Isaac Wellcome recorded, that “Jonas Wendell, and several ministers who are now proclaiming the gospel, state that their conversion was through her preaching.”[3]

Wendell started preaching in Syracuse, New York, in 1847 with some success. He associated with John C. Bywater, a Rochester, New York, minister who in turn was a close associate of Owen Russell Crozier and would advocate Crozier’s “Age to Come” theology. Bywater and Wendell advocated 1850 as the date for Christ’s return, writing articles espousing that view for various Adventist periodicals. Wellcome records it this way:

“Elders J. C. Bywater and Jonas Wendall started specially to advocate that the Lord would make his second advent in 1850. The other papers of the Adventists published the writings of these believers but also gave their reasons why the arguments were not to be relied on as proved. This did not meet their approval and they started a separate enterprise to teach this argument in a form that should not be criticized. This was not the style of 1843 advocates; they allowed the most rigid and thorough criticisms.”

Wendell and Bywater[4] started a small magazine entitled “The Watchman,” that survives as a two issues only. Their preaching “produced results and a small class endorsed the argument as a fact which none could refute. The public were told through press and pulpits that the Adventists had set another time leading many to suppose setting time was their chief business.”[5] Residual resentment lingered even after Wendell’s death. Members of the Seventh Day sect hated Bywater and all his Age-to-Come associates. Thirty years later, the Seventh-Day Adventist ‘historian’ J. N. Loughborough presented their Rochester, New York, meeting place as dirty and dusty and their theology as just as dark.[6]

The failure of his expectations for 1850 did not cure Wendell of the desire to divine from prophetic mathematics the date of Christ’s Second Advent. He was soon as positive about the date 1854 as he had been about 1850. He was “very sanguine in the correctness of the chronological data given, as reaching to ‘the end of the days,’ and the time of the promised blessing. The time passing without a realization of the expected event, his ‘faith failed him,’ as a result of overweening confidence in human computations of time, and human misapplication of data divinely given; and he turned aside from ‘the word,’ and got out of ‘the way,’ and for several years ‘went astray.’”[7]

The 1854 movement was characterized by “Age to Come” views and by a rejection of the idea that the wicked would be resurrected.[8] It was the founding event of the Advent Christian Church, though most of their historians minimize that truth. The primary voice behind the 1854 prediction was Jonathan Cummings who was deeply involved in the Millerite movement. In 1852 Isaac Wellcome viewed the whole matter with considerable distaste:

It would be quite improper to neglect such a prominent point in the history of an institution so important as this has now become because it had a rude beginning, and the task is unpleasant. In 1852 Eld. Jonathan Cummings, one of the ministers of the Advent body in earlier days, claimed to have obtained new light on the commencement and terminus of the periods of Daniel, He was ambitious, aspiring, erratic, with a good degree of eloquence, an air of knowledge and self sufficiency, and a very defiant dogmatic spirit well calculated to gain disciples. He began to teach that the … 1335 days would end and bring the resurrection in a.d. 1854. Those who had long looked and anxiously waited for the return of their Lord and the many who had through their constant labors and God's developments of signs of the impending judgment been brought to unite in the same expectation were interested in any argument which seemed to give evidence as to the time of deliverance and final redemption. A large proportion of them had never gone through a time movement or thoroughly examined a time argument, and but a limited number were competent to decide such a matter after they had heard all that could be said upon it. But the fact that they had ears to hear and hearts anxious to learn what they could about the return of the Lord is highly commendatory to their affections for Christ. They loved his appearing but this fact should not justify any one in tantalizing them with unreliable testimony as to the time of his coming, nor should it deter any faithful teacher from dissuading them from relying upon such evidences as are without foundation. … [The] leaders in this movement were positive beyond the possibility of doubt;’ … Men with such views teach as infallible guides. What they teach must be true for the Lord has given the distinguishing gift and sent them to announce a divine fact, and such were their feelings and the authority with which they taught.[9]

The 1854 Movement was disastrous for many. Wellcome estimated that one in fifty of the fragmented Adventist body participated in the movement. However, he consistently downplays participation in “definite time movements,” and one may safely suppose the percentage to have been much higher. Wellcome recalled that “some of the leading time brethren became doubtful as to the whole theme, and the most of these turned their attention to secular employments while others became convinced that the position occupied by the main body of Adventists was the Scriptural one, viz. that the consecutive fulfillment of prophecy shows conclusively that we are in the closing days of the gentile times.”

Jonas Wendell was among those who faltered. Though he seems to have left no written record of his reasons for becoming inactive, they are plain enough. He invested several years of his life to prophetic speculations that proved unfounded. His own dogmatism in the 1850 Movement and the self-serving identification of Cummings and his principal associates as divinely guided messengers could produce no other reaction in a person with any sense left. Stetson’s obituary of Wendell explains: “He was committed to … ‘the 1854 movement,’ and was very sanguine in the correctness of the chronological data given …. The time passing without a realization of the expected event, his ‘faith failed him,’ as a result of overweening confidence in human computations of time, and human misapplication of data divinely given; and he turned aside from ‘the word,’ and got out of ‘the way,’ and for several years ‘went astray.’”[10]

Even if Wellcome underestimates the proportion of Adventists involved in the 1854 Movement, he does not exaggerate the fanaticism of those involved. A very brief article in the February 24, 1854, issue of The Skaneateles, New York, Democrat recounts a winter-time baptism of the movement’s converts: “The Salem Gazette says that notwithstanding that the mercury was from 6 to 8 degrees below zero [Fahrenheit] on Sunday morning, several converts to the Second Adventists were baptized by immersion that forenoon – sufficient opening in the ice being found between Phillip’s wharf and Hawthorne’s Point.”

Wendell moved to Edinboro, Pennsylvania and settled there sometime before 1865. Wendell descendants would continue to live in Edenboro into the 1890’s at least. C. B. Turner, who had been converted to Adventism by Wendell, “becoming acquainted with these facts … came to Edenboro in the winter of 1864-1865, and proved instrumental in Bro. Wendell's recovery and restoration.” Wendell returned to preaching primarily in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and New England. Notices of his itinerary appear in various issues of The World’s Crisis. He came to Pittsburgh, and Russell found him preaching in Quincy Hall in Allegheny; the Adventists meeting there were one of several groups to whom the hall was rented.

The Allegheny-Pittsburgh Congregation

There is no indication of the Allegheny/Pittsburgh congreagation’s size, but Second Adventists had a strong presence in Pennsylvania extending back to the Millerite Movement. In the first years they faced considerable ridicule from the press which expressed opposition in varying shades. Sometimes satire was used; sometimes outright ridicule or an expression of deep concern for those affected by Millerism was expressed.[11] There is little history for the congregation in Allegheny and Pittsburgh. It comes into our notice in late 1871, when George Stetson was called as its pastor. A letter from Stetson to The Advent Christian Witness dates his service there to about October 1869.[12]

The congregation seems to have been quite small and neglected. Stetson mentions a “schism” in the congregation, though he doesn’t say what caused it. The suggestion that Russell was the cause is made by an opposer with a speculative turn of mind. There is no support for this in the record, and it doesn’t fit the facts as known.

Russell found both the congregation and Wendell congenial company. He plied Wendell with many questions. Some answers satisfied him and some were less than satisfying, even confusing. Their conversations addressed the issue of God’s justice and eternal torment and introduced him to prophetic studies. He returned to his Bible. Here is how he remembered it: “Though his Scripture exposition was not entirely clear, and though it was very far from what we now rejoice in, it was sufficient, under God, to re-establish my wavering faith in the divine inspiration of the Bible, and to show that the records of the apostles and prophets are indissolubly linked. What I heard sent me to my Bible to study with more zeal and care than ever before, and I shall ever thank the Lord for that leading.”[13]

Russell’s statement isn’t as vague as it first appears. His faith in the divine inspiration of the Bible was shaken by his experience with the death of near relatives, including his mother and by the massive loss of life attendant on the Civil War. He saw first hand the results of mass death when the Arsenal exploded. Though is nephew Rufus Wendell was more noted for debating the issue of inherent immortality, Jonas Wendell knew the arguments as well as any Second Adventist. Typically a conversation with a member of the Advent Christian Association or one of the cognate movements was based on a series of questions for which Bible verses provided answers. It is a safe assumption that Russell’s conversations with Wendell followed the same pattern.

Henry Francis Carpenter, who had been briefly interested in the Barbourite movement,[14] produced a guide to Bible questions, and it gives us the best access to what their conversation must have included. It will remind anyone familiar with it of the later Watchtower publication Make Sure of All Things. Some of the questions proposed and then answered with a Bible verse are:

[1] Russell, C. T.: Harvest Siftings and Gatherings, Zion’s Watch Tower, July 15, 1906, page 229.
[2] Stetson, G.: In Memory of Elder Jonas Wendell, The World’s Crisis, September 10, 1873
e Wellcome, Isaac: History of the Second Advent Message and Mission, Doctrine and People, Advent Christian Publication Society, Boston, 1874, pages 305-306.
[4] Bywater also published a booklet in 1852 entitled The Mystery Solved; or a Bible Expose of the Spirit Rapping.s, Showing That They Are Not Caused by the Spirits of the Dead, but by Evil Demons, or Devils (Rochester, N.Y.: Advent Harbinger Office, 1852);. It was an anti-spiritualist publication that attributed the abilities of psychic mediums to electricity and the work of demons.
[5] Wellcome, page 585-586.
[6] .Loughborough, J. N.: Recollections of the Past – No. 2, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, February 12, 1884, page 107.
[7] Stetson, G.: In Memory of Elder Jonas Wendell, The World’s Crisis, September 10, 1873
[8] White, E. G. Spiritual Gifts – Vols. III-IV, Trustees of Ellen G. White Publications, pages 152-153. “Some who were in the 1854 movement have brought along with them erroneous views, such as the non-resurrection of the wicked, and the future age, and they are seeking to unite these views and their past experience with the message of the third angel.”
[9] Wellcome, pages 594-596.
[10] Stetson, G.: In Memory of Elder Jonas Wendell, The World’s Crisis, September 10, 1873
[11] Examples of press opposition in the Millerite era are found in A. Spencer Brahm: The Piladelphia Press and the Millerites, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, April 1954, page 189ff.
[12] Letter from George Stetson: The Advent Christian Witness, August 27, 1872: “It is now ten months since I was called and came to Pittsburgh, Pa. to labor.”
[13] Russell, C. T.: Harvest Sifftings and Gatherings, Zion’s Watch Tower, May 1890, pages 3-4.
[14] Schulz, B. W. and R. M. de Vienne: Nelson Barbour: The Millennium’s Forgotten Prophet, Fluttering Wings Press via, 2009, pages 54-55.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

More on J. T. Ongley

A letter from Ongley appears in the April 1874 issue of Bible Examiner. It shows him to be sharing a ministry with C. F. Sweet. Sweet in turn was a friend of Owen Russell Croizer and both were known to Barbour.

The letter, signed by both Sweet and Ongley, shows that they were engaged in a tent ministry in Pennsylvania and New York. They had just published two pamphlets written by Sweet. Sweets and Ongley also associated with William Spencer of Rochester who also comes in for mention in Nelson Barbour: The Millennium’s Forgotten Prophet.

Request for Help and an Editorial of Sorts

George D. Clowes is a mystery. It took two days to come up with his first name and middle initial. Clowes was a disfellowshipped by the Methodists when he espoused Second Adventist views. He served as Pastor of the small Second Advent congregation in Pittsburgh. He seems to be the same as the George Darby Clowes (senior) who was born in England in 1818, but this is uncertain.

We now need solid information about “brother Clowes.” Is there anyone in the Pittsburgh area willing to look for his obituary? He died January 25, 1889. It should be possible to find it.

We thought researching Nelson Barbour’s history was difficult. Researching Russell’s life between 1869 and 1878 is exponentially more difficult. Material we need is denied us by library policy. I cannot travel. Our funds are limited. We know where some things are, we just can’t see them.

There is key material that should see the light of day. It will enlarge, even change, our view of these years, but we cannot see it because the libraries involved do not loan out microfilms. I understand their caution. It leaves me no less frustrated.

Getting help from another source is even more difficult. I won’t go into that in detail. It’s enough to say that there is a mass of material sitting in file cabinets in an archive “in the east” that few people will ever see.

If one is afraid that a full disclosure of the historical past will damage faith, perhaps one should re-evaluate the quality of their faith. First Century Christianity was not a secretive religion. No Christian body should be secretive. If you feel compelled to hide historical documents and records, your faith is weak. You have moral issues that you should resolve, and you have a self-view that is questionable. That people who formulate a paranoid archival policy are seen as leaders, as pillars, amazes me. I share your faith. But I don’t share your paranoid fears. If you could locate this material, so can I, and I will publish it either on this blog or in print.

In the mean time, I’m rereading issues of the Bible Examiner for 1874 and 1875. I’m interested in the repeated discussion of Universal Salvation. All the issues that plagued the readers of Zion’s Watch Tower in its first decade were current among the larger Second Adventist movement. The history of Zion’s Watch Tower is usually told without reference to contemporary events. This is bad history.

Another problem is that Watch Tower history is usually told from a Russell-centric point of view. This is a mistake. [I’ve been having this discussion with one of my regular blog-readers, so I’m moving it to the posts section.] Because most of the useable material on Russell was written by those who admire him, sometimes inordinately so, these ‘histories’ have omitted key individuals, such as Joshua Tavender and George D. Clowes. (If you don’t read this blog, you will have no clue who Joshua Tavender was or what he did or his relationship to Russell.)

I seldom editorialize. Consider this post an exception. Our research is not meant to undermine anyone’s faith. Our sole interest is in a complete, well-documented story, even if some heroes of faith are revealed to be uncertain, occasionally mistaken, sometimes less than the honorable men we otherwise know them to be. The Bible does not hesitate to reveal faults. No historian should.

The more we research, the more Rachael and I are convinced that Watch Tower history remains un-explored and untold. Isn’t it time to change this?

Monday, September 14, 2009

First bit of chapter two

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

Bridegroom Cometh

Even if the 1860's are mostly undocumented, leaving us with details of his scientific pursuits but not of his evangelism, he tells us that he was actively promoting his millennial views. His message reached a William Valentine of Albany, New York, about 1865 or 1866. One can safely presume that he continued to write letters and engage in personal evangelism, and he probably attended conferences and camp meetings though the earliest reference to Barbour addressing a conference thus far located is a report on The New York Advent Christian Conference held in March 1871.

He wrote something in 1868, apparently an article for one of the Adventist publications because he differentiates it from a later pamphlet. What ever it was he wrote, his reasoning drew muted criticism from William Sheldon. Sheldon, writing the same year, felt that “1873 has less evidence in its favor than 1868.”1

Barbour seems to have also evangelized his professional contacts. Among his followers and associates were at least three inventors, Edwin Lampkin, George B. Stacy, and S. White Paine, and there was apparently more than one physician. Benjamin W. Keith also had some connection to engineering and invention. He witnessed a patent issued to Charles F. Davis of Auburn, New York for improvements in grain-drills in 1868.2 Interestingly, Paine was also a composer and poet.

The Rochester Union and Advertiser biography says Barbour preached in England, and it may have been while back in London in 1864-1865 regarding his invention that he preached there.
One of his British supporters, Elias Helton Tuckett, Baptist pastor of the Priory Church, Exeter, wrote an article entitled “Behold the Bridegroom Cometh” which was published in the April 1, 1865, issue of The Rainbow. The article doesn’t mention Barbour by name, nor does it mention the 1873 date, but later articles connect both Tuckett’s 1865 article and himself to Barbour.3

Tuckett wrote: “The cry is now being uttered throughout all Christendom, ‘Behold, the Bridegroom cometh,’ and in this fact we read one of the especial signs that He will not much longer tarry. ... We believe these last years are imminently impending. There is a growing impression that great changes are at hand; every one feels that the times are critical; society everywhere is disturbed; symptoms of mysterious events meet us on every hand.” He concluded that Christians should entreat the unconverted “to consider these things ere it is too late.”

Other, less defined testimonies came from Barbour and his supporters. “There are other documents, and living witnesses,” he wrote, “that this ‘cry’ has been persistently maintained until the present time.”4

During this period he communicated with B. W. Keith,5 Daniel Cogswell,6 and Millerites he had known as a young man. Barbour contacted Keith in 1867, and Keith was immediately interested. He would write that he had “been studying the time question since 1867, and ... associated with the movement ... since the above date; and still accepts all the legitimate conclusions to be drawn from them.”7 Barbour lectured at North Adams, Massachusetts in 1871 explaining his conviction that the 6000 years of man’s creation and the 1335 Days of Daniel’s prophecy both ended in 1873. John H. Paton, newly switched from being a Baptist clergyman to being an Advent Christian pastor, also supported Barbour, joining the Barbourite movement sometime in late 1873 or early 1874.8

Barbour had two significant problems: There was a growing resistance to “definite time” speculations,9 and there were competing prophetic schemes that had already captured the fancy of Advent Christians and other Second Adventists. Michael Paget Baxter says in his small booklet The Great Crisis at the Period of 1867 to 187510 that there were more than a hundred expositors pointing to Christ’s return between those dates. Illustrative of this dichotomy is an article on the Alton Bay Camp Meeting held in September 1871. A reporter for The New York Times wrote:

The repeated failures of Miller and his followers, in having the earth destroyed on a stated day and hour, has, I infer, made the faithful much more cautious in their predictions of late years. There is still a faction in the fold of those who are called “Time-ists,” some of whom scorn the daily affairs of life, and literally or metaphorically busy themselves only with the preparation of their ascension robes. I must not forget to mention in this connection that, in what appeared to be a large reception tent near the depot, I saw suspended a most curious, cabalistic looking chart, having painted on it in strongly contrasted colors, winged lions and horned lions, rams and goats, stars and crosses, and a seven headed dragon in bright red, all interspersed with words, Babylon, Grecia, Medo-Persia and other names of ancient history, together with many numbers, scripture quotations and chronological fragments -- the whole having evidently been the pet work of some zealous “time-ist.” From all I could learn, however, the great majority of “Adventists” content themselves with the general assertion that the time for the second appearance of Christ is at hand, without attempting to specify its exact date.11

Though the tendency was growing, the Times reporter overstates “Second Adventist” rejection of time speculations. Many of the ‘Time-ists’ drew Second Adventist interest, but Barbour’s principal rival was William C. Thurman.

Unlike Barbour’s speculations, those of Thurman gained almost immediate acceptance. When forced to mention a competing date-system it is Thurman’s that Barbour must refute, though he doesn’t always mention it by name. Sometimes he merely mentions Thurman’s calculations.12

William C. Thurman wrote that he was rescued from “an infidel’s death” by the teaching of William Miller.13 If Thurman meant he participated in or was convinced by the 1843 movement, he was quite young, only thirteen or fourteen.

1. Letter from Wm. Valentine to Nelson Barbour, Herald of the Morning, August 1875, page 47. “Having embraced the substance of your views some ten years since, it is doubly gratifying to me to find one so willing to impart them to others.” Barbour wrote: “I began to publish on these precious themes as early as 1868.” (Barbour, N. H.: Questions and Answers, The Herald of the Morning, August 1879, page 27-28.) He differentiates this from the later publication of Evidence for the Coming of the Lord. -- Barbour, N. H.: “Our Lamps Are Gone Out,” The Herald of the Morning, September 1879, page 34.
Sheldon, William: Adventism: What is it? Its Relationship to Theology and Prophecy, Western Advent Christian Publishing Association, Buchanan, Michigan, 1868, page 233.

2. Edwin Lambkin’s letter to Barbour appears in the August 1875 issue of The Herald of the Morning, page 46. Lambkin held two patents (No. 172456 dated 1875 and No. 223928 dated 1880) for mechanical devices. Lambkin, listed as a farmer in the 1880 Census, lived in Can, Michigan, at the time he wrote Barbour. He was born October 4, 1832, in Vermont and died May 23, 1905, in Michigan. He is listed in Transactions of The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Michigan, 1883, page 144.
George B. Stacy, a Virginia farmer, held two patents (No. 88092 dates 1869 and No.108532 dated 1870) for agricultural equipment improvements. More on Stacy appears later.
A letter from Seth White Paine of Rochester appears in the August 1878 issue of The Herald of the Morning on pages 28-30. He wrote at least one article for The Herald of the Morning. Pain held many patents on items as diverse as shot cartridges, agricultural implements, industrial equipment, and a shoe lasting machine. Pain had been a Millerite; he died August 9, 1895. (Timothy Hopkins: The Kelloggs in the Old World and the New, Sunset Press, San Francisco, 1903, page 430.)
The patent witnessed by B. W. Keith is Improvement in Grain-Drills, Patent No. 74,515, dated February 18, 1868. There is another patent witnesses by a B. W. Keith: United States Patent Office: Stephen A. Morse, of East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Improved Collet. Letters Patent No. 42,592 dated May 3, 1864. The B. W. Keith of Massachusetts was a different individual.
Edward H. King’s letter to Barbour also appears in the August 1875 issue. King was a Homeopathic physician who began his practice in Iowa in 1867, and associated with Dr. C. H. Cogswell. He served as a Lieutenant in Iowa Brigade during the Civil War. (William Harvey King: History of Homeopathy and its Institutions in America, as transcribed at:‑32.htm; Jonathan Pipes - Company “C” 15th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Last Updated on April 15, 2001; retrieved from: http://www.pipesfamily. om/jonathan.htm)
3. Tuckett, E. H.: “The Bridegroom Cometh,” The Rainbow: A Magazine of Christian Literature, April 1, 1865, pages 157-163; The End of the Dispensation, October 1, 1874, pages 457-461. Probable Time of the Second Advent (Part II), September 1877, page 422. Tuckett’s full name appears in the 1881 British Census where he is described as retired Baptist minister. His age is given as sixty-six. He is also listed a one-time pastor of the Baptist Church at Kingsbridge in Sarah Prideaux Fox’s Kingsbridge and its Surroundings, the author, Plymouth, 1874, page 81.
4. Barbour, N. H.: Evidence for the Coming of the Lord in 1873, page 34.
5. Keith saw Civil War service with the 19th New York Cavalry. He enrolled as a sergeant in Company B and ended his service as a command sergeant. (National Archives Microfilm Number M551 roll 74.) He was born in Ossian, New York, August 24, 1835, and married Fanny Foster, August 28, 1867, in Dansville, New York. He is listed as a minister in the 1880 Census. In later life he moved to Harvey, Illinois, where his son was associate editor and business manager of The Tribune-Citizen. (Frederick Clifton Price: Foster Genealogy: Being the Posterity of Reginald Foster, W. B. Coney Co., Chicago, 1889, Part 2, page 629-630.) He spent his last years, at least from 1905, in The Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home in Quincy, Illinois. (Note in Keith’s hand on title page of his personal copy of Emphatic Diaglott, author’s collection.) He died in 1916 or 1917. (Dragoons Together in Annual Reunion, The Rochester, New York, Democrat and Chronicle, September 7, 1917, page 15.) Keith was active in the GAR and held office in the local Grand Army lodge. (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, December 15, 1890.) He was a delegate to a prohibition convention held at Geneseo, New York in 1890 (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, September 29, 1891, page 5)
6. Cogswell was born September 5, 1817, in Oneida County, New York, and died on a trip with Barbour June 22, 1876. Barbour preached at his funeral.
7. Keith, B. W.: Suntelia, Therismos, Parousia, Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, May 1881, reprints pages 222-223.
8. The lecture in North Adams, Massachusetts is mentioned in a letter from H. W. Brown to Nelson Barbour found in the December 1878 issue of Herald of the Morning, page 96.
In an untitled note appended to J. H. Paton’ article “Who Will Raise the Dead,” The Herald of the Morning, March 1879, page 53. Barbour addresses Paton, writing: “You have made great progress in the shining pathway the last four or five years.” Barbour quotes a letter from Paton that appeared in Midnight Cry and Herald of the Morning in fall of 1874 which said he found Barbour’s arguments “at least viable.” This was the first appearance of Paton’s name in The Herald. (Barbour, N. H.: The Elijah Type: Part Second, The Herald of the Morning, April 1881, page 55.) In the March 1898 issue of The Herald, Barbour says, “Eld. J. H. Paton became interested in 1873-4 mainly by reading the papers I sent to him.” (Barbour, N. H.: Parable of the Ten Virgins, The Herald of the Morning, March 1898, page 368.) Paton started preaching as an Advent Christian Elder in 1872 and became a Barbourite lecturer in 1875. – J. H. Paton: Autobiography of John H. Paton, Typescript Manuscript, 1915; The Editor’s Experience as publisher, The World’s Hope Supplement, February 1, 1890.
9. e.g.: “The majority of the Second Adventists, at their late General Convention in Springfield, Mass., agreed on the general doctrine of the second coming of Christ soon, but concluded to give up trying to fix the time.” -- Untitled Article, The Utica, New York, Daily Observer, April 7, 1869.
10. London, 1866, page 1.
11. J. G. N.: Millerite Camp Meeting, The New York Times, September 23, 1871.
12. See these Crisis articles: Barbour, N. H: “Evidences For the Coming of the Lord in 1873,” October 16, 1872; “Bible Chronology - Part II,” November 20, 1872; “Evidences For the Coming of the Lord in 1873,” January 8, 1873. See also Barbour, N. H.: The Jubilee, The Midnight Cry and Herald of the Morning, Volume 1, Number 4, March 1874, page 54, where Barbour outlines some of his specific criticisms of Thurman’s chronological speculations.
13. Thurman, W. C.: To the Christian World, Published by the Author, Virginia, 1877, page 1 as cited by Donald F. Durnbaugh: “How Long the Vision?” -- William C. Thurman and his Adventist Following, Brethren Life and Thought, Volume 46, Numbers 1 and 2, Winter/Spring Issue, 2001, pages 51-79. Much of the material here presented is derived from Durnbaugh’s excellent article. Assume all material on Thurman to come from this source unless otherwise noted.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Extract from first chapter ...

of Nelson Barbour: The Millennium's Forgotten Prophet. Now available here:

1. Inventions and Discoveries

Nelson Barbour’s life spanned a goodly portion of American history. He was born when the last of the Revolutionary War veterans were passing. The house where he was born was lighted with tallow candles or whale oil lamps. Meals were cooked in an open fire place.

When he was born most of the lands of the Louisiana Purchase were the province of native civilizations, with almost no Euro-American settlement. He was not quite four years old when construction started on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. He was about forty-six when the last spike was driven at Promontory Point, Utah, and America was joined coast to coast by rails. When he began his academy education there were twenty-six states. At his death there were forty-five, and much of the wilderness was tamed, farmed, even industrialized.

He was about thirty-eight when the Civil War ignited. He lived through the Hard Times of the late 1830’s, the great post war depression of the 1870’s and the tragic depression of the 1890’s. He saw the labor wars of the 1870’s and early 1880’s. He saw Federal troops fire on American workers during the railroad strike at Pittsburgh in 1877. He saw the industrialization of America, watching it transition from cottage industry and agriculture to become the world’s greatest industrial power.

He lived through the impeachment of Johnson, the scandals of the Grant administration and the torturous Reconstruction years. He saw the gasification and electrification of major cities. He saw the first iron hulled ships and the transition from sails to steam. He saw the first automobiles, and he saw the telephone become common. He saw these events with eyes focused on them as proofs that Christ’s rule was near.

Nelson Barbour’s family settled in New York early in the Colonial Era. Barbour’s father purchased a homestead in Throopsville, near Auburn, New York, in 1801. By the time Barbour was born on August 21, 1824, Throopsville was a small manufacturing village. His closest living relative, a half-uncle lived there, and when Barbour died in 1905 of “exhaustion” he was buried there.

Though the usual references to her are as “Mrs. Barbour” or “Mrs. N. H. Barbour,” he was married in 1876 to Emeline, maiden name unknown. Emeline B. Barbour was born in September 1831 and died while on a trip to Florida on November 20, 1901. The Library of Congress catalogue suggests that his middle name was Homer. This is incorrect. His middle name was Horatio and is so noted on the British patent for one of his inventions.

A newspaper article appearing in The Auburn, New York, Citizen of October 30, 1905, makes it clear that Barbour was related to and probably the younger brother of Delecta Barbour Lewis, the radical anti-saloon crusader. That would make Friend Barbour his father.

Both Friend Barbour and his wife were interested in the Temperance Movement, and letters from and about them appear in various New York newspapers. Barbour’s mother, assuming that the newspaper article hasn’t misled us, was “a woman of remarkable endowments and fine educational attainments.” Noted in her early life “for her accomplishments,” she “became a well recognized oracle in the neighborhood.”

A brief description of Friend Barbour and his family appears in Mary F. Eastman’s Biography of Dio Lewis:

Friend Barbour was one of the largest men, weighing three hundred pounds. He was well-proportioned, of erect carriage, and of great strength of body and mind. His voice was so loud and clear that he never used a horn to call his men, as was the custom, for his shout could be heard anywhere on his farm of seventy-five acres. … Dr. Peter Clark used to say that at a house-raising, when the frame was lifted with the cry of “he-ho heave!” he had heard Mr. Barbour’s voice a mile away.

He was a master builder and pushed work with such vigor that when … he wished to substitute a frame house for the log-house in which he lived, he moved his family into the church across the street on Monday morning, took away the log-house, built a new frame house with three rooms on the ground-floor, and moved his family into it on the next Saturday afternoon.

Other than a family move to Cohocton, New York, when Barbour was young, nothing is known about his life until he is fifteen and enrolled in Temple Hill Academy in Geneseo, New York. The Academy was founded in 1827 and chartered by the New York Legislature. It was “an institution combining classical instruction with that of the useful arts, and at a moderate expense.” The trustees promised “to throw around it those healthful, moral, and religious influences which cannot fail to inspire confidence in the minds of parents and guardians, and make it a seat of Literature and Science, as desirable, as its location is distinguished, for its grand and beautiful scenery.” Temple Hill’s management was eventually entrusted to the Presbyterians. Barbour attended from 1839 to 1842.

From his frequent use of illustrations drawn from engineering, the Doppler Effect, and scientific analysis one can, I believe, conclude that Barbour concentrated on the science curriculum. While there it is likely that he met Owen Russell Crozier who was four years older than Barbour, a school teacher and a student at the Methodist seminary at Lima, New York. Crozier belonged to the Amphictyonic Society, a debating society that met at Temple Hill Academy in 1842, and Crozier enrolled in Temple Hill in 1842.

[Photo of Crozier inserted here]

Barbour left his parent’s Presbyterian religion and “united with the Methodist Episcopal Church” at Geneseo. He began studying for the Methodist ministry “under Elder Ferris.” Elder Ferris is otherwise unnamed, but he appears to be William H. Ferris, a prominent member of the New York Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and a representative to the church’s annual national conferences. Ferris was one of the founders of Drew Theological Seminary and is named in the charter.

[Photo of Methodist Church in Geneseo inserted here]

That William H. Ferris was Barbour’s teacher is only an educated guess. Whoever Elder Ferris was, Barbour’s association with him was brief. “Having been brought up among Presbyterians” a newspaper profile says, “and having an investigating turn of mind, instead of quietly learning Methodist theology he troubled his teacher with questions of election, universal salvation, and many other subjects, until it was politely hinted that he was more likely to succeed in life as a farmer than as a clergyman.”

Barbour told The Rochester, New York, Union and Advertiser that he began preaching independently when he was nineteen. What impelled Barbour into “independent” preaching was conversion to Millerism. There is no detailed narrative of his conversion, and we are left to piece the story together the best we can. Crozier says that a Mr. Johnson, a Millerite evangelist, lectured at Geneseo in the winter of 1842. Though Crozier paid little attention to Johnson’s message, by mid summer 1843, he was actively spreading Millerite end-times predictions, lecturing at the Canandaigua school house and elsewhere. Barbour, and Daniel Cogswell from Dansville, about 21 miles from Geneseo, also spread the Millerite message. It is apparent from the biographical sections of Barbour’s Midnight Cry booklet that Miller’s end-times calculations struck his fancy and convinced him. He saw them as flawless, inarguable conclusions. He memorized the math and the chronology upon which the calculations were based, and for fifteen years after the 1843/4 disappointment he could find no error in them, though the failure was self-evident.

Barbour gives us one snippet of his experiences as an active Millerite. He recalled that every Adventist had a Bible “in his hand or pocket, ready for immediate use. It must have been a small gathering for those days, where, if a preacher quoted or misquoted a text, his ear was not saluted by the rustling of a hundred volumes.”

In 1843, at the time appointed, Millerites in the Geneseo and surrounding areas gathered in Springwater at the home of “Captain [Parker H.] Pierce near the center of the town with its huge lawn.” The group there took the name “House of Judgment.” One source estimates that twenty or more attended the gathering, and, considering Barbour’s close association with H. F. Hill, who was one of the principal speakers, it is likely he attended.

Reports of Ascension Robes are suspect and the incident of the burned haystack is apocryphal, but an article published much later recalled the events this way:

History records that the little band of faithful met and prepared for their ascension in robes of white. The sun went down as usual but many continued to sing and pray far into the night.

Many amusing incidents are related of the event. One concerns a smart prank played by the young men of the village who encircled a farmer in a wide wreath of burning hay as he slept. When aroused by the village urchins, the old farmer opened his eyes and seeing the fire about him exclaimed:

“In Hell. - Just as I expected.”

Millerite opponents reacted violently to the 1843/4 failure. Joseph Marsh reported after the “seventh month” disappointment of 1844, that the Second Adventist Church at Ithaca was burned. In Scottsville, near Rochester, New York, “the seats of their place of meeting were taken outside and burned.” The Adventist Tabernacle at Danville, Broome County, New York was torn down. “Br. Johnson is in Springwater and Br. [Henry F.] Hill at Geneseo, well engaged in comforting the people of God,” he wrote.

Barbour felt the 1843 disappointment keenly. While he doesn’t describe his feelings at length, he later wrote: “We held together until the autumn of 1844. Then, as if a raft floating in deep water should suddenly disappear from under its living burden, so our platform went from under us, and we made for shore in every direction; but our unity was gone, and, like drowning men, we caught at straws.” On another occasion he wrote: “The ‘43 movement ending as it did, in disappointment and fanaticism, has brought reproach,” and he felt as if he were in the “very sink of that reproach.” He wrote of his “long years of disappointment and waiting,” saying they had taught him to “mistrust human ability” to unravel the Bible’s time-prophecies.

[photo of William Miller inserted here]

In one of his more poignant statements on the 1843/4 disappointment, he said: “Disappointments may be bitter; that of 1843 was exceedingly so to me; and I have never seen an argument that satisfied me since then, until the four strong arguments which God has given for 1873. The eating of that ‘open book’ in the 1843 message was sweet. O what love, what unity, what strong faith we then had! But the digestion was to be bitter. The disappointment followed; and those who passed through it will never forget the bitterness of that cup.”

Barbour doesn’t tell us if he participated in any of the time-setting movements through 1854. Though his “we caught at straws” remark suggests that he did, a later statement seems to indicate he remained aloof from them.

He describes himself as “almost in despair,” and as one “who had lost his religion, and been for many years in total darkness.” He meant that he was in darkness as to the time of Christ’s advent, not that he abandoned Christianity. “It seemed almost as if God’s word had failed,” he told his readers. “We were in darkness on this subject; our unity was gone; discord and confusion seemed to reign; and these things have continued, more or less, until the present time.”

Barbour became a physician sometime after the Millerite disappointment. He is listed as a physician in a Rochester, New York, city directory, and he is often called Dr. Barbour. It appears that Temple Hill Academy offered courses related to medicine. A biographical sketch of another graduate mentions his “two year course” at Temple Hill, and says that medicine was “the only profession open to his limited means.” Any course work was followed by training under the guidance of a practicing physician. Another biographical sketch tells of a graduate of Temple Hill following up his education there with a year’s medical reading under a James A. West, M.D. Barbour may have followed a similar course, perhaps studying under Doctor Lewis McCarthy of Throopsville. It is more likely that he trained at the Metropolitan Medical College in New York City. The college provided training in Botanic and Electric medicine. The building that quartered it had a connection to a Second Adventist congregation, and at one point Barbour lived near it.

In the 1850’s Barbour sought his fortune in the Australian gold fields. Other than his trip home, there are no details of this adventure. The only definitive statement on it is found in an 1879 supplement to Zion’s Watch Tower, and all it says is that Barbour was a gold miner and that he was then “entirely uninterested” in Bible prophecy. If Barbour sought his fortune in the Australian gold fields, the results were indifferent. He seems never to have had any appreciable wealth and was, perhaps, not a good steward of the money he had. His disinterest seems to be limited to the scope of predictive prophetic studies. His claim to have preached in many of the Australian colonies fits no other time in his life.

Barbour returned from Australia, setting sail in 1859 and taking the route around Africa to the United Kingdom. For Barbour the return voyage was life changing. He fell into a Bible discussion with a clergyman. “To wile away the monotony of a long sea voyage, the English chaplain proposed a systematic reading of the prophecies,” Barbour remembered.

In Barbour’s assent to the chaplain’s suggestion we see something of the “peculiar combination of the lion and the lamb” in his personality attributed to him by an associate. He “readily assented,” no doubt because he remained interested, but primarily because “having been a Millerite in former years, he knew right well there were arguments it would puzzle the chaplain to answer, even though the time has past.” There is a certain perverse deviousness in his motive, but there may also have been an acute desire to discover wherein Miller had erred.

He took the Millerite failure as a personal failure because he had invested his faith and life in the movement and because he could find no underlying error. He found a sense of personal validity as a Millerite and mourned the loss of significance and belonging it gave him. He suggested that accepting his interpretations re-validated Miller and his movement.

When Barbour and the clergyman read and discussed Daniel 12:7, Barbour felt a sense of revelation. He “saw what he had never seen before, though he had read it a hundred times.”

Nelson Barbour

It's out:

It's a limited interest academic book, hence this form of publication. If it sells well enough to warrant it, it will go on Amazon. Nearly four years of research, numerous cups of coffee and many, may conference calls -- and it's finally done.