Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Other Charles T. Russell

by “Jerome”

This is a slightly revised version of an article that first appeared on the Watch Tower History Two blog.

Caveat lector. Let the reader beware.

At the outset, may I state that I cannot supply documentary proof for every detail which follows. However, the article tries to make clear what is verified and what is not. It is presented in the hope that others reading may be able to add to it or substantiate it from their own archives and research.

In the December 27, 1875 issue of the Pittsburgh Post is a small obituary for a familiar name. Reproducing it in full it reads:


Charles T. Russell died yesterday morning, in the 69th year of his age. He will be remembered by our older citizens as one of the most sterling merchants in the city. He began business in Market Street in 1831, where he remained until 1867, since which time he has been in the brokerage and insurance business. He was a native of Ireland, and came to New York in 1823. He took his early lessons in active business from A.T. Stewart, in New York.

This Charles T. Russell was Charles Tays Russell (hereafter shortened to Charles Tays). He was the uncle of Charles Taze Russell (hereafter abbreviated to CTR). His story has a bearing on the history of his famous nephew.

Perhaps at the outset we could consider the unusual middle name of Tays. Where did this come from? In Charles Tays’ will (which will be discussed below) he mentions a sister who never emigrated, Fannie Russell. Fannie married an Alexander Harper, and died in Donegal, Ireland, in 1867. Donegal borders on Londonderry and the newspaper obituaries for CTR’s father, Joseph Lytel, state that he was born in Londonderry. A check on Ancestry shows there was a large family by the name of Tays in that part of Ireland. (One theory is that they were Scots-Irish named after the river Tay in Scotland). So it is probable that the middle name Tays was a family name – a maiden name for a mother, grandmother or aunt.

When Joseph Lytel Russell named his second son Charles Taze Russell, the spelling changed. However, genealogical records from this era often show variations in spelling, particularly in handwritten documents. (Joseph’s middle name for example is usually spelled Lytel but cemetery records have him down as Lytle). Phonetically, Tays and Taze are the same - let’s call one the Irish spelling and the other the American.

According to the newspaper obituary, Charles Tays came to New York from Ireland in 1823, and learned business from A.T. Stewart in New York.

Alexander Turney Stewart was a highly successful businessman in dry goods, who was born in Northern Ireland of Scots Protestant stock – very much like the Russell family. After receiving an inheritance, Stewart came to New York in 1823 to found a store that, amongst other things, sold imported Irish fabrics, and ultimately became an empire. Charles Tays moved to New York from Northern Ireland in the same year and his subsequent career as a dry goods merchant is linked to Stewart in the obituary. There is no doubt a story there, even if it is now lost to time.

The obituary says (quote) he began business in Market Street in 1831, where he remained until 1867, since which time he has been in the brokerage and insurance business (end of quote).

When his younger brother, Joseph Lytel Russell came to America at some time in the 1840s – no doubt as economic conditions in Ireland worsened – it was logical for him to come to Pittsburgh when Charles Tays was already established. Joseph’s own obituary in the Pittsburgh Gazette of December 18, 1897, states that he initially engaged in the dry goods business with his brother, C. T. Russell in Federal Street, before moving to a men’s furnishing store on Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh.

(Note: Joseph Lytel’s own obituary states he came to “this country about1845”. However, when he applied for US citizenship on October 26, 1848, he and a character witness had to swear that he had been resident in the United States for five years. Until someone can unearth the appropriate passenger list this writer is going to stick at “some time in the 1840s”.)

Returning to Charles Tays, according to his obituary, in 1867 he changed direction (quote) since which time he has been in the brokerage and insurance business (end of quote).

The 1870 Trade Directory for Pittsburgh lists two Charles T. Russells. One is a broker at 111 Smithfield (the Uncle) and the other is a clerk at 96 Liberty (the nephew). On the same page is Joseph L. Russell, furnishing goods at 87 Fifth av, n 96 Liberty.

There appears no evidence that Charles Tays took an interest in religious matters, unlike brother Joseph and nephew CTR. The initials CTR have not been found in periodicals of the day prior to when they obviously referred to Joseph Lytel’s son.

On December 26, 1875 Charles Tays died. The cause of death was recorded as chronic hepatitis. According to the death certificate he was aged 69, single, and had lived at 112 Smithfield for the last four years. The funeral took place on December 29 and he was buried in the Allegheny cemetery in a plot originally bought by his brother James Russell back in 1845. Already buried there were James Russell, Sarah Russell, Eliza Russell (CTR’s mother) and three of her children, Thomas, Lucinda, and Joseph Lytel Jr.

After Charles Tays’ burial, only two more family members would be added – his sister Mary Jane who died in 1886, and finally Joseph Lytel when he died in 1897. (For those who wish to check the Allegheny cemetery records the family plot is Section 7, lot 17. All are listed as buried in grave 1.) A headstone for Charles Tays has survived, and is currently laid flat on the ground.

By the time CTR died in 1916 the Watch Tower Society had its own plot in the Rosemount cemetery in N Pittsburgh, so CTR was buried there.

Charles Tays made a will on March 22, 1872 in which he outlined bequests to a number of relatives. The current family tree for the Russell family in circulation is made up to a large degree from information contained in the will and subsequent documents. Where Charles Tays’ siblings had already died, money - usually in thousand dollar lots - was shared between surviving nephews and nieces if there were any. Joseph Lytel and an attorney David Reed were named as executors of the will. In the event, Reed bowed out, and Joseph became sole executor. For those who would like to check the details for themselves, I have transcribed Charles Tays’ will and other related documents at the end of this article.

So in review, there appear to be three ways that Charles Tays (the other CTR) would affect the history of the Watch Tower movement.

First, he seems responsible for other family members settling in Allegheny and Pittsburgh. From here we have his nephew CTR dropping into a “dusty dingy Hall”, and the rest as they say is history.

Second, CTR’s full name is an obvious gesture towards the Uncle.

Third, there was possible financial help for the work, at least indirectly, from Charles Tays.

Charles Tays did well financially, but his death certificate lists him as unmarried. As noted above, his last will and testament left his assets to surviving brothers and sisters and, where they had predeceased him, to their offspring.

There was a thousand dollars for his brother Alexander (although he was to die before Charles Tays did), a thousand to share between the children of his late sister Fannie, a thousand for Joseph Lytel – and then a larger sum of three thousand dollars that the trustees were asked to invest to pay for the support of his elderly unmarried sister, Mary Jane Russell. On her death, the capital was to be redistributed among the surviving beneficiaries. (There is subsequent documentation on how this did not work out as anticipated and the capital fund had to be dipped into to assist with her care).

An internet search will reveal some confident statements about how much CTR inherited. However, until we have verifiable documentary evidence, any such statements remain hearsay. Still, most would agree that CTR was a shrewd businessman who invested wisely. (For example in the 1894 Harvest Siftings page 21 he explains his success in investing in oil wells). However, it does help to have something tangible to work with. In the parable of the talents the men were given a talent to start with.

So in addition to CTR’s own business acumen in partnership with his father, his uncle’s bequests may have assisted at some point towards what ultimately became CTR’s life’s work.

Such is the story of Charles TAYS Russell. A footnote to history.


Transcribed by “Jerome”

Note on the transcriptions below:
Where a question mark (?) occurs, it means there is some uncertainty as to the transcription because I have worked off photocopies. Only a visit to a Pittsburgh record office might solve these issues; however, they do not affect anything material in the document.


Last Will and Testament of Charles T. Russell.

Pittsburgh March 22, 1872

I, Charles T. Russell, of the City of Pittsburgh, County of Allegheny, State of Pennsylvania, do make and publish this my last will and testament, hereby revoking and making void all former wills heretofore made at any time by me.

First, I direct that all my debts and funeral expenses be paid as soon after my decease as possible out of the first monies that shall come into the hands of my executors from any portion of my estate, real or personal.

Second, I direct that executors to convert my goods, chattels and effects into money as soon after my decease as possible.

Third, I will and bequeath to the children of my sister Fanny, who died in the year 1867, and was intermarried with Alexander Harper who is still residing in Donegal County, Ireland, the sum of one thousand dollars.

Fourth, I will and bequeath to my sister Mary Jane three thousand dollars which I direct my executors to put to interest for her during her lifetime and at her death I desire that it shall be equally divided among the heirs mentioned in this will.

Fifth, I will and bequeath to my brother Alexander G. Russell and his children now residing in Orange County, State of New York, one thousand dollars.

Sixth, I will and bequeath to my brother Joseph L. Russell and his children one thousand dollars.

I do hereby nominate and appoint my brother Joseph L. Russell and David Reed, Attorney at Law, to be the executors of this my last will and testament, in testimony thereof , I, the said Charles T. Russell, the testator have to this my will at my hand and seal this twenty second day of March, eighteen hundred and seventy-two.

Attest Charles T. Russell seal

State of Pennsylvania
Allegheny County
Be it known that on this thirtieth day of December AD 1875 before me Joseph H. Gray, register of wills of (?) in and for the county aforesaid, came W. W. Patrick and Joseph Irwin, and they being duly qualified (the former affirmed and the latter sworn) did express and say they were well acquainted with C. T. Russell deceased and with his hand writing and that the signature to the foregoing instrument of writing is in his own proper hand writing as they verily believe.

Sworn under my hand this 30th day of December AD 1875.
Jos. H. Gray, Registrar

State of Pennsylvania
Allegheny County
Be it known that on the 30th day of December AD 1875, letters testamentary with a copy of the will annexed upon the estate of Charles T. Russell died were duly granted unto Joseph L. Russell one of the executors in said will named (David Reed esq. having renounced) who was duly sworn to well and truly administer the goods and chattels, rights and credits, which were of said deceased, and to faithfully comply with the acts of assembly relating to collateral inheritances.

Given under my hand the above date, Jos. H. Gray, Registrar


In Re. Estate of Charles T Russell, Decd.

To the Honorable Mr T. (?) Hawkins Jr. Judge of Alphaus (?) Court of Allegheny County.
Herewith find testimony of Joseph L. Russell, executor, taken at his residence No 80 Cedar Avenue, Allegheny City on Friday April 12, 1878, in accordance with the commission issued to me April 6, 1878.
N F McCook (?)

Mr Joseph L. Russell, (?)
I am the acting executor under the will of my brother, Charles T. Russell, deceased. Hon. David Reed was executor named in the will but declined to act. All the bills against the estate have been paid as far as I know.

The distributions made under the will are as follows:

1st The children of Fannie Harper are:
Mrs F. A. Stewart, Wellsville, Montgomery County, Missouri
John R. Harper, Arlington, St Louis County, Missouri
Mrs Mary Muir, Grand Rapids, Michigan
William James Harper, Broxton, near Castlefin (?) Donegal County, Ireland
Mrs (indistinct – secondary sources say Eliza Nesbitt) Donegal County, Ireland
Thomas R. Harper, Jimason City, Plumas County, California

2nd distribution
Mary Jane Russell, Allegheny City, Penna.

Alexander G. Russell, named in the will as brother of deceased died before the decedent. His children are:
Thomas Green Russell, St Louis, Mo.
Sarah Ann Morris, Montgomery, Orange County, New York
Fanny G. Bond, Plainfield, New Jersey
Cornelia S. Davenport, No. 74 Hicks Street, Brooklyn, New York

(my copy of the document ends here)


Document dated September 2, 1886 relating to Mary Jane Russell’s inheritance.

Whereas the late Charles T. Russell, who died in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, in 1875, bequeathed three thousand dollars ($3000) to his executors in trust, to pay the interest to his sister, Miss Mary Jane Russell, during her lifetime , and, upon her death, to distribute the principal equally among “the heirs mentioned in this will”; and whereas through the inability of his executors to collect certain debts that were due to the estate of the said Charles T. Russell, deceased, the said fund was reduced from three thousand dollars ($3000) to fourteen hundred and eighteen and 51/100 dollars; and whereas the fund so reduced could not be made to yield more than six percent interest, about eighty five dollars per year, and whereas the said Mary Jane Russell is now very aged and infirm and has constantly required more than the amount of the interest of said fund to maintain her, and whereas now much more, she is in need of comfort and attention in her closing years; and whereas it has been found needful to extract certain debts for her maintenance and may require additional debt therefore in the future; Therefore we, Stephen H. Davenport and Cornelia S. Davenport, his wife, in consideration of the premises and of our dollar (?) in hand paid to each of us, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, hereby authorize J. L. Russell, acting executor of the will of the said Charles T. Russell, deceased, to use as much of the principal of the said fund, in addition to the interest, as may be required, in his judgment, to pay the necessary expenses of the said Mary Jane Russell and the debts that have been extracted for her maintenance. And we hereby release and forever discharge the said J. L. Russell, his executors and administrators of and from such part of our share of the said as he shall so expend. It being understood that the balance of said fund not required for the above mentioned purpose shall be distributed in accord with the terms of the will of the said Charles T. Russell, upon the death of the said Mary Jane Russell.
Witness our hands and seal this second day of September AD 1886.
Stephen H Davenport seal
Cornelia S Davenport seal

74 Hicks Street
Brooklyn, NY

Notes on the above
Mary Jane Russell died before the end of 1886 and is buried in the family plot in Allegheny Cemetery.
Cornelia Davenport (a daughter of Alexander Russell) and her husband lived quite near to where the Brooklyn Tabernacle would be. However, she died on October 23, 1888.


Sherlock (JW1983) said...


Would you be willing to compose a short (3 or 4 paragraphs) bio for Charles so I can add it to Find a Grave? I started the listing for him with your photo and data, however I would like you to write it. If you could send it to my emal:, I will add it to his page and give you the credit for it.

Take care


jerome said...

Give me a few days - will see what can do.

jerome said...

Sherlock - please feel free to cut and paste the paragraphs below for Find a Grave.


Charles Tays Russell was an Uncle of the better known Charles Taze Russell (note slight variant spelling) who founded the Watchtower magazine (now the official journal of Jehovah’s Witnesses).

According to his obituary in the December 27, 1875 issue of the Pittsburgh Post, the older Charles Tays emigrated from Ireland to the United States in 1823, taking lessons in active business from fellow Irishman A.T. Stewart in New York. Charles started his own business in dry goods in Pittsburgh in 1831, eventually being joined by a younger brother Joseph Lytel in the 1840s. Joseph Lytel was to continue in the men’s furnishing business while Charles Tays eventually switched to brokerage and insurance in 1867.

Charles Tays died of hepatitis on December 26, 1875, aged 69, and was buried in the family plot the Allegheny cemetery. He was the seventh Russell to be buried there, two more (including Joseph Lytel) eventually followed.

Charles Tays was to have an indirect effect on history. Through him, Joseph Lytel moved to Allegheny, where he had a son, Charles Taze Russell – obviously named after the Uncle. The younger Charles Taze was to visit a small religious group in Allegheny, which started his own religious journey. And the Uncle apparently died unmarried, leaving his estate to brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces. Some of this inheritance likely contributed to the work of his nephew’s Zion’s Watch Tower Society.

Sherlock (JW1983) said...

It's done

Thanks for all of your help, if you want to change anything just let me know.

I also manage, Maria Russell, William Conley, Paul Johnson, Hayden Covington, and William Miller.

Take care


jerome said...

Pleased to be of help. Have checked out all your Find a Grave links some time back. It would be nice if someone could add Benjamin Wilson of the Diaglott to the list, but I suspect he will not have a marker.

Sherlock (JW1983) said...

Someone got to him first, I added a few photos to the current listing.


jerome said...

The Find a Grave entry for Benjamin Wilson gives his date of death but does not say where he is buried. This probably deserves a new post all of its own, but The Restitution for May 16, 1900 page 2 carried an obituary and a review of a well attended funeral taken by his nephew Thomas Wilson. It also quoted from an obituary in the Sacramento Evening Bee for May 9th, which has been reprinted since in COFGC publications.

Benjamin Wilson died on May 8, 1900 aged 83 years, 2 months and 19 days, at the home he made with his only surviving son, Edward B Wilson, with whom he had lived for the past 13 years. The address from elsewhere in the Restitution was given as 1905 G St, Sacramento, Cal. Census and cemetery records for Sacramento may provide more information for any who have access to them.

Nice to see a photograph of Benjamin Wilson on the Find a Grave site.