Monday, April 21, 2014

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The Editor’s Eastern Trip


            In the June 1880 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower, Russell announced plans for a month-long speaking tour taking him to nine towns. “The stay at each place will average about two days. I shall expect almost continuous meetings while with you.”

            First on his list was Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. There Henry E. Hoke was in charge of the arrangements. There are several bearing the name H. E. Hoke, (father, son, grandson) and we’re uncertain which Russell hosted Russell. The interest in Chambersburg appears to have been drawn from an Evangelical Adventist conference of nearby congregations calling themselves Messiah’s Church “to distinguish this body from those holding the general name of ‘Adventists.’” Hoke was a member and an agent for The Advent Herald.

Advent Herald – June 11, 1873 [photo]

            It is probable, though not certain, that most interest in Chambersburg area came from Evangelical Adventists. The only point of unity would have been prophetic themes. Evangelical Adventists maintained Millerite hell-fire doctrine.

            The Reading, Pennsylvania, meetings were hosted by Joseph Brown Keim. (His name is misspelled as Kine in the announcement.)We tell more about him in a later chapter. He was already an active Watch Tower evangelist, preaching near his home. We could not identify his religious antecedents. We presume some pre-existing interest in Reading, but cannot prove its existence. Russell was at Keim’s June 6th and 7th, 1880.

            A meeting in Newark, New Jersey, was hosted by Mrs. E. M. Deems. This may have been the wife of Rev. Edward M. Deems, a Presbyterian. If so, she didn’t maintain an interest in Watch Tower teachings. It is, we think, more likely that this is a misspelling for F. M. Deans who occasionally wrote to Storrs. A poem by Deans appeared in the September 1879 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower.

            A Second Adventist congregation in Newark was described as small by the May 2, 1860 issue of The Troy, New York, Daily Whig: “The Second Adventists of Newark still keep up their weekly meetings, and are firmly grounded in the belief that the end of all things is close at hand. The number of believers habitually in attendance at the meetings is but small, but there is no lack of zeal or fervor. “

            By Russell’s visit, there were two Adventist congregations in Newark, The First Society of Second Adventists, apparently a sort of unity congregation hosting both Life and Advent Union and Advent Christian Association believers, met at 12 Academy Street. The were “numerically weak and of slow growth.[1] Church of the Messiah, an Evangelical Adventist congregation, met at 24 Washington Street.[2] More importantly because their theology was much closer to Russell’s, a small One Faith congregation met in a private home. We first find them mentioned in a report about a One Faith conference held in Brooklyn, New York.[3] They seem to have been a committed body of believers, and at least one of their number wrote a tract. Published in 1876 and entitled The True Church, it was based on Matthew 16:16, 17, and meant to “show that the True Church is neither Greek, Protestant, nor Catholic.”[4] Interest would have come primarily from these groups.

            We know little about these three small congregations. In 1874, the One Faith congregation was led by Elder Joseph Chapman. The Newark meeting was by far the most successful, and we will return to it.

            In Clinton, Massachusetts, Mary T. Miner, hosted Russell. She is listed in the 1880 Census as head of household, but we don’t know of she was a widow or separated from her husband.[5] The census tells us she was thirty-eight in 1880. She was born in November 1842 and still living in 1900. We do not have a death date. We can’t identify a religious affiliation. A history of Clinton covering the years from its mid-Seventeenth Century founding to 1865 says: “The Second Adventists also held meetings in Clinton, in the Deacon John Burdett’s Hall. Their meetings were characterized by great fervor, but the Adventists did not attain sufficient numbers or financial strength to build any house of worship.”[6] So there may have been some interest from that quarter. Russell was in Clinton on June 16, 1880.

            He was in Springfield, Massachusetts, two days later. The meeting there was hosted by “R. W. Stearns.” Rachel W. Stearns (1813-1898[7]) was the daughter of Charles Stearns an abolitionist. She was the namesake of Rachael Stearns, a hero of the abolitionist movement. A connection through George Storrs is probable. There were Bible Examiner subscribers in Springfield, and there had been some interest in the Barbourite movement there.[8] He veered northward to Ft. Edward, New York, where J. C. Sunderlin hosted his visit. The next stop found him in Montrose, Pennsylvania.

            Montrose was on his tour’s return leg. His visit was to be hosted by Daniel D. Lathrop. We know scattered details but little else about Lathrop. He was a civil engineer; we have a record of word done for the Montrose water company in 1909. He was commissioned a notary public in September 1879.[9] He was invited to a Shorthand Reporters’ convention in 1880, and it is probably through this connection that he was introduced to Watch Tower theology. Sunderlin was an expert stenographer too. In fiscal year 1876, Susquehanna County paid him $273.76 for his services, a considerable sum for the period.[10] He wrote The American Stenographer: A Work Devoted Mainly to Extended Principles of the Art, Rather Than to the Details of the Whole System which was published in 1880. As were several of Russell’s earliest associates, Lathrop was a member of the Prohibition Party, and served as Secretary-Treasurer of a regional party committee.[11]

            He was secretary of the Susquehanna Farmers’ Club in 1876. Lathrop was appointed guardian of two minor children, relatives of some sort, in 1877.[12] He died in 1912, a short obituary summarizing his life:


The death of Daniel D. Lathrop ends an interesting and useful career. Born Dec. 25th, 1833, in Rush, the 8th son of a family of eleven children, his father being Rev. William Lathrop, Jr. a Baptist preacher. He secured his education at the county schools and later taught several terms. Before the close of the Civil War he enlisted as a ship carpenter, but saw no action. Three of his brothers met death on the battlefield. His first wife was Emma Handrick and he married, second, Mrs. Sallie M. Sherwood. He was one of the first official court stenographers in the county, taking up the study of “phronography,” as it was then called, in 1851. He took up the study of Civil Engineering and as he was a competent mathematician his reputation for care and accuracy in surveying and mapping was soon well established. In recent years he took a special course in mechanical drawing to more fully equip himself for this class of work. In 1902 he started the work, during leisure moments, of writing the New Testament in shorthand, concluding the task in 1907. Thus closes the earthly record of a man who so performed his day of work that when the Master called him from his labor, he responded unabashed and confident.[13] 

            In 1877, Lathrop wrote and published an eight page poem entitled Light and Darkness.

            We know of only one other interested person in Montrose, and then only by their initials. A J.L.F. of Montrose submitted a poem to Zion’s Watch Tower which saw publication in October 1879 issue:



Watchman, on the lonely tower,

‘Mid the desert’s arid sands,

Tell us of the dawning hour,

Tell us of the moving bands. 

Seek they now the shelt’ring palm,

Where the cooling springs await?

Cheered, refreshed, now press they on,

Toward the destined City’s gates? 

When the fierce simoon is near;

Watchman! give the warning cry;

Raise soul-stirring notes of cheer,

As the journey’s end draws nigh! 

J. L. F. — Montrose, Pa


            Russell was unable to speak at Montrose, and we do not know of Lathrop’s interest endured.

            Alexander B. McCrea hosted Russell’s visit to Berwick, Pennsylvania. He was a physician and member of the Columbia County Medical Society. His hobby was ornithology, and we find some letters from him to bird magazines.[14] In March 1872, he was one of the organizers of Knapp Lodge – Free and Accepted Masons.[15] McCrea was born in Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, about 1838. The key fragment of miscellaneous biographical notices we’ve uncovered is that he graduated from Long Island Medical College June 1, 1865. This tells us he was a contemporary and classmate of C. W. Buvinger, and we connect him to Russell and Storrs by this otherwise ephemeral fact.[16] His death notice in JAMA noted Civil War service. He died April 12, 1919, of influenza.[17]

            We do not know if McCrae’s interest endured. As noted in volume one of this work, J. H. Thomas, who rode the backs of Age-to-Come and Christadelphian believers preached in Berwick in 1882, writing to The Restitution that “the believers here are tinctured a little with Russellism, which is subversive of the truth as it is in Jesus.”[18] We have no additional information.

            Russell’s last stop was at Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. There Samuel M. Bond (1852-1936) hosted his visit. Bond was at one time a telegraph operator. We have no additional details.[19] We find him in 1897 advertising his services as a bill poster (broadside poster) and advertising circular distributor. He was for many years a department manager for L. L. Stearn & Son, a department store in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Before moving to Jersey Shore, he was a member of the Odd Fellows’ Lodge in Renovo.[20]

Advertisement – Billboard Advertising, January 1, 1897 [photo]

            Bond seems to have been converted to Watch Tower theology by Russell while he was still associated with Barbour. In 1894, Bond wrote to Russell, saying: “I have been with you in this precious faith while you were with the Herald of the Morning, and ever since the first issue of the Tower.” The earliest notice of him we found is in the money received column of the January 1879 Herald of the Morning. We presume he had been a reader for some time, but we really don’t know.

            Lack of documentation outside the pages of Zion’s Watch Tower leaves us with unanswered questions. We don’t know what the effect of Russell’s visit was, except the one instance of his visit to Berwick. We don’t know if any, except Bond, continued their interest. We wish we did, but we don’t.

[1]           W. H. Shaw: History of Essex and Hudson Counties, New Jersey, Everts & Peck, Philadelphia, 1884, volume 1, page 522. They drop out of the record in 1894.
[2]           Quarter Century of Progress of New Jersey’s Leading Manufacturing Centres, New York, 1887, page 54.
[3]           J. Donaldson: Report of Conference: Brooklyn, New York, The Restitution, November 5, 1874.
[4]           Publications for Sale at the Restitution Office, The Restitution, November 16, 1876. The tract was by William Shepherd.  We couldn’t locate a copy.
[5]           The 1870 Census suggests that she was married to an Edmund Miner.
[6]           A. E. Ford: History of the Origin of the Town of Clinton: 1653-1865, W. J. Coulter, Clinton, Massachusetts, 1896, page 504.
[7]           “Massachusetts, Deaths and Burials, 1795-1910,” index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 06 Apr 2014), Rachel W. Stearns, 24 Dec 1898; citing , reference 71; FHL microfilm 2030961.
[8]           A letter from Randolph Ladd of Springfield appears in the January 1874 Bible Examiner, page 127.
[9]           Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the Session Begun January 4, 1881, page  84.
[10]          Proceedings of the New York State Stenographers’ Association, … Fifth Annual Meeting, Troy, New York, 1881, page 15. Expenditures of Susquehanna County, The Montrose, Pennsylvania, Democrat¸ March 7, 1877.
[11]          The Scranton, Pennsylvania, Republican, May 26, 1894, page 7.
[12]          Farmers’ Club: Business Locals, The Montrose, Pennsylvania, Democrat¸ May 3, 1876. Guardian: Untitled Article, The Montrose, Pennsylvania, Democrat¸ June 13, 1877.
[13]          Reprinted in the Susquehanna County Transcript¸ April 4, 2012.
[14]          Communication: Pennsylvania Medical Journal, June 1906, page 674.
[15]          J. H. Battle [editor]: History of Columbia and  Montour Counties, Pennsylvania, A. Warner & Co., Chicago, Illinois, 1887, page 201.
[16]          Battle, op. cit. page 150.
[17]          Deaths: Journal of the American Medical Association, May 10, 1919, page 1385.
[18]          J. H. Thomas to Editor of The Restitution in the February 22, 1882, issue.
[19]          The Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, Express, August 26, 1963.
[20]          Death notice in The Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, Express, August 5, 1936.

1 comment:

jerome said...

The Divine Purpose book of 1959 relates: "In these first years of 1879 and 1880 they founded about thirty congregations in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Delaware, Ohio and Michigan."

But realistically, these groups did not all spring from nowhere - strangers picking up ZWT and choosing to find other readers - obviously some were already established meetings of some sort who welcomed CTR and in time to come chose to accept the teachings of ZWT over other alternatives on offer.

So this piece of history is very important - to the extent that it can be established.