East face of the pyramid showing the names of Grace Mundy, Lorena M Russell, John Perry, H L Addington and Flora J Cole.
There’s a famous line in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Butch and Sundance are being chased by an unknown posse, who are only seen in the distance to begin with. The line that almost becomes a mantra throughout this sequence is “Who are those guys?”
It is a good enough opening line for this article (the first of two) which is about a group of people who have remained unknown and for any sufficiently curious, somewhat mysterious, for around one hundred years. Hopefully, in some cases, it might rescue their stories from obscurity.
In the Rosemont United Cemetery in Ross Township, Allegheny, there is a burial plot originally intended for Watch Tower supporters who either worked at their headquarters (Bethel) or who travelled from congregation to congregation (Pilgrims) or who acted as colporteurs along with their family members. CTR in his will specified that he should be buried in this cemetery, and the idea was for others close to him and his work to be buried nearby in the years ahead.
Previous articles on this blog have dealt with the actual site with a pyramid at its center – covering its history, the number of plots planned and how this was revised, who actually are buried there today, and also the mystery of the hidden box of publications sealed inside the pyramid that, alas, is there no longer. This article deals with those whose names were originally inscribed on the monument. For all the grandiose plans, only nine names ever made it on the pyramid sides.
This article may be considered a work in progress, because while some of these individuals were easy to trace, others were very illusive. Other researchers may be able to add to this information, and I would be happy to have their comments, and even publish a revised article (with acknowledgments) if sufficient extra material comes to light.
This first article deals with the five individuals whose names are recorded on the east face of the pyramid as shown in the photograph at the head of this article. They are listed under the carved heading Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. Below is a plan of the complete lot where they are interred (Section T – lot 33) which also shows where CTR and his sister are buried (in their case, actually in Section T – lot 35). The plan shows where the five graves are in relation to each other at the far corner of the whole site. (All the Bible Student burials, apart from CTR’s, appear to be working from the extremities of the site inwards.)
Grace Mundy was buried in the same row as CTR, but at the furthest corner of the site. According to her death certificate she died on December 4, 1914, aged 25, and the interment took place on December 8. She was the first to be buried on the Society’s site. Sadly, she made the front page of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle when she was fatally injured.
The Eagle for December 4, 1914 carried the heading, WOMAN IN FLAMES RUSHES INTO STREET – Miss Grace Mundy Perhaps Fatally Burned – Neighbors Beat Out Fire.
The story tells how the street was greeted by a “flaming apparition” as Grace rushed into the street, and several bystanders were burned trying to extinguish the flames. Grace’s father was away at the time, her mother was ill in bed, and she had been cleaning feathers in the kitchen in their home on the fourth floor of 539 Throop Avenue, using gasoline. She got too near the stove and the fluid ignited and set fire to her garments. She managed to get down three flights of stairs and out into the street but was severely burned. She was taken to St John’s Hospital, where she died.
The story makes no connection with the Bible Student movement, but the death certificate confirms that this is the Grace who was the first to be buried at the Society’s plot. She may have been a colporteur, and her parents, Peter and Sarah, may have been too. They had lived in Throop Avenue for three years at the time of the accident. They were not mentioned by Menta Sturgeon when he detailed who was part of the regular Bethel family in January 1913. (See trial transcript Russell vs. Brooklyn Eagle, 1913). The 1910 census has the family living in New Jersey, with the father a carpenter and Grace’s younger brother, George, a machinist in an auto factory. Grace was born in Missouri, and the census has her down as a step-daughter, with the original surname of Wilson.
The trail ran cold for me at this point. However, Grace and/or her family must have been heavily involved in the work of the IBSA for her to be given the ‘privilege’ of being the first to be taken all the way from New York to the United Cemeteries in Pittsburgh. No other family members were to be buried near her.
Lorena May Russell
A year went by without any further interments, and then two happened in quick succession in December 1915. The pyramid records the death of Lorena M Russell. She was living and working at Bethel, but was not listed there when the New York census named all the regular inhabitants on the snapshot day of June 1, 1915. According to her death certificate she was 40 when she died. She is named as Lorena on the pyramid, Lorna on her death certificate, and Laura in her obituary (see below). Even with this information, there are just too many L Russells around in the records to track her history with any certainty, but her death was mentioned in the St Paul Enterprise, the unofficial Bible Student newspaper of the day. No connection with CTR was ever suggested.
A letter from J H Coyle (John Coyle who worked in the Bethel laundry in 1915) dated December 17, 1917, read:
“Dear Brothers in Christ – Perhaps it would interest many to note that Sister Laura May Russell of the “Bethel” died December 11. Funeral service by our dear Brother Rutherford in which he noted her fine Christ-like characters, the largeness of heart and nobility of soul, the warmth and graciousness of her spirit and her earnest devotion and tender love to the Master and disciples. Pilgrim Rutherford lovingly called attention to the fact that our departed sister had the great honor of being the first from Brooklyn “Bethel” to meet and greet the Risen Master, even as did Mary of old.”
Two things we might glean from this. Lorena, Lorna or Laura was sufficiently well known in the Bible student community to make such a letter have any point, and also it shows that J F Rutherford was in Brooklyn (or at least as a Pilgrim travelled to Brooklyn) in December 1915.
On December 13, 1915, John Perry died – our third name on the east face of the pyramid. The same letter from John Coyle continued:
“Two days later brother John Perry of “Bethel” also died. Funeral by Pilgrim Van Amburgh. His discourse was touching as he reviewed the faithful, devoted and blessed consecrated life of this very dear and saintly brother. Brother Perry had finely wrought qualities of heart that endeared him to all at the home. Like a shock of wheat he was fully ripe, and he has gone to meet the Saviour whom he loved so well!”
John Perry was listed in Menta Sturgeon’s January 1913 list as part of the Bethel family, and he was also in the June 1915 New York census at the Columbia Heights address. He was 70 years old at the time, and while many of his companions told the enumerator they were a missionary, evangelist, or minister of the gospel, John put himself down as a helper, and his occupation - housework.
We learn more about him from a letter in the January 7, 1916 SPE which gives his history. It was written by W H Bradford (Wesley Haven Bradford, who wrote several collectible booklets).
Before becoming a Bible Student, John Perry had been “a horse dealer in the vicinity of Bismarck, North Dakota, a very rough and profane man, not able to read or write, although a shrewd and successful horse raiser and trader, and possessed of a small fortune accumulated in trade.”
The account tells how he came in contact with “the teachings of Pastor Russell and was at once under conviction of them. He was unable, however, to read either the Studies in the Scriptures or the Bible itself, being illiterate...So he began on a task that most men of his age would despair of at the start. He used the Bible and the Divine Plan of the Ages as his text books, and actually learned to read from them.” He moved to Chicago where he became an active volunteer (and where Bradford first knew him). “He sold out his interest in the horse business, and...gave the proceeds to the Bible House for the furtherance of the Light.”
Bradford’s account concludes: “He was very clear on all the essential doctrines, being able to quote Scriptures fluently to support them, and it was impossible for men of education or argumentative skill to tangle him up. I have often thought, when pondering on such a life as Brother Perry’s, What hath God wrought! The Divine Potter indeed hath power out of ordinary clay to fashion a vessel unto honor. In the light of such a life, who should not have faith?”
One gets the picture of a rough diamond who donated his assets to the cause and was probably given a home at Brooklyn Bethel as part of that arrangement.
H L Addington
In his day, Henry Lawrence Addington was probably one of the best known of the names on the pyramid. Other than CTR, he was the only person named on the pyramid to receive an official obituary in the Watch Tower magazine.
Addington served as a Pilgrim and as his itinerary was regularly listed on the back page of the Watch Tower magazine. In both June 1919 issues it notes that he was booked to speak at Mansfield, Ohio, on July 4. He was killed en route to that speaking engagement.
His obituary was published in the July 15, 1919, Watch Tower on page 217 under the heading: “Sown in Weakness, Raised in Power.” It reads (in part):
“Brother H L Addington, member of the office staff and also of the Pilgrim force, suddenly finished his course on the morning of July 4 at Mansfield, Ohio, when he and four other friends, three from Cleveland and one from Mansfield, were killed by a special Pennsylvania train. Eight friends were seated in an autocar and were being driven to picnic grounds nearby, where meetings were to be addressed by Brother Addington during the day. Five friends were killed practically outright; three were injured.”
The obituary noted that Addington symbolised his consecration in Pittsburgh in the spring of 1914 and joined the Bethel family in February 1918.
The accident was reported in the July 5, 1919, New York Sun as “Five Die in Motor Crash - Pastor is Among Victims on Way to Bible Students’ Picnic” and also in both the Loudonville, Ohio, newspapers, the Advocate and Democrat, on July 7, 1919 – headlines “Five Killed” and “Another Awful Auto Accident.” They all misspell Addington’s name and initials as the Rev. H A Haddington. He was 38.
Apparently the level crossing gates at the East Fourth Street crossing of the Pennsylvania railroad at Mansfield were not down, and as the car attempted to cross it was hit by a special train taking fight fans from Pittsburgh to Toledo. The gateman hadn’t seen the signal from the next station of the train’s approach, and neither had he heard it. He was arraigned on the charge of manslaughter and at the preliminary hearing it turned out that he was (quote) “quite deaf.”
Before becoming a Bible Student, records shows Addington to have been born in Darke County Ohio, some sources gives 1881, others 1882. He married Edith C Woolley (or Woodley) in June 1909. (It was Edith’s second marriage and she married a third time after Addington’s death, and lived until 1945). The 1910 census shows Lawrence and Edith living together in Allegheny, Pittsburgh and him working as a telegraph operator.
Flora J Cole
The final name on the east face of the pyramid is that of Flora Jane Cole. There is a link here to the present today for, as we shall see below, her son James was mentioned in a modern Watchtower magazine in 2012. Flora died in Manhattan, New York on June 8, 1919, aged 70. George Swetnam’s 1967 article about the pyramid gives her age as 78, but this is a misreading of a by now none-too-clear inscription. She was buried next in the row of women that started with Grace Mundy and Lorena M Russell.
Flora was born about 1849, and as Flora J Loomis married John Cole in 1870. In the 1880 census, John is an engineer, and they have three young sons, James, Herbert and Alfred. Eldest son James was born in Kansas in February 1872. In the 1900 census, Flora is a widow living in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, with two sons, James, an electrician, and Alfred a book-keeper. By the 1910 census we find just Flora and James together in lodgings in Detroit City. They both now give their trade or profession as colporteur and the general nature of their business as Bible studies.
In Menta Sturgeon’s January 1913 list, a Mrs Cole was part of the Bethel. Moving forward to the June 1, 1915 New York census, Flora J Cole is still listed as living at Bethel. Her relationship to the rest of the family is “helper” but her occupation is “missionary.” That would identify her as a colporteur.
As noted above, Flora’s son James has been mentioned in Watchtower literature in very recent years. The February 15, 2012, Watchtower magazine, had a feature article “It Made Me a Little Conspicuous.” It described a contraption used by colporteurs called the Dawn-Mobile. This was designed by James. It was a frame with two wheels attached, one in front of the other, which could be fixed to a suitcase. It enabled colporteurs to transport large amounts of literature to people. It was especially appreciated by female colporteurs and the Watch Tower actually offered these free to women in full-time colporteur work - see for example WT June 15, 1908, reprints page 4195.
James Cole from a 1915 convention report
There is an entertaining article in the 1908 convention report from Cincinnati, Ohio (pages 79 and 80), where James Cole (with A H Macmillan as helper) demonstrated the new Dawn-Mobile to the colporteurs at their special meeting. While “Dawn-Mobile” was the official title, nearly everyone at the time called it the “Cole-Wagon.”
So Flora J Cole was James’ mother. And hers was the last name to be found on the east face of the pyramid. When James eventually died he was buried in California. You can find him on the Find a Grave site.
If the stated plan had been followed all of the above would have had small grave stones, 12 inches long by 6 inches high. However, no stones for any of the above five now exist. Still, their names are preserved on the pyramid.
The next article in this series, when ready, will discuss the remaining individuals remembered on the north and south sides of the monument: Charles T Russell, John Milton Coolidge, Arabella Mann and Mary Jane Whitehouse.