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 If you feel compelled to hide historical documents and records, your faith is weak.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?