Henry Weber has a special place in Watch Tower history. He was a director of the WTBTS from 11 April 1892 until his death on 21 January 1904 (a total of 11 years and 9 months). On Saturday, 6 January 1894 he succeeded Rose Ball as Vice President of the WTBTS, a position he retained until his death.
Henry’s German name was Heinrich, and he was born on 3 June 1835 in Klein Seelheim (Hessen), Germany. He married Katherine (Katherina) Schultz (Schutz) in 1866. She lived from Feb.1846-1929. The couple had eleven children. The names of ten are known:
Mary Weber 1866-1954
William Weber 1869-1935
Elizabeth Weber 1871-1960
Katherine Weber 1873-1960
George B. Weber 1875-1958
Diana Weber 1877-1971
Edith L. Weber 1879-1970
John W. Weber 1882- ?
Walter Franklin Weber 1884-1910
Ralph Enoch Weber 1887-1981
As so often happens with historical research, some of his children lived until quite recent times, but the opportunity to ask them about their father’s religious activities is alas, gone.
This article will address his secular history first and then his association with CTR.
Weber was a horticulturist, and most of the material that follows is taken from The American Carnation – How to Grow It; Illustrated; by Charles Willis Ward –1903; pp. 273-274.
Henry’s father, John (Johann) Weber, was a farmer who died at the age of sixty-three. Henry Weber attended Government schools until he was fourteen years old, when he was apprenticed to a florist, and a few years thereafter was made foreman of his employer’s gardens and greenhouses. At nineteen years of age he entered the British Army, serving during the Crimean War. During his ten years’ service in the British Army he was stationed at various points in Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
In 1865 he decided to come to America, and with his brother John, who had preceded him, embarked in general farming and market gardening, at Mount Savage, Allegheny Co., Maryland. At the end of five years he sold his interest to his brother, and removed to Cumberland, Maryland, where he established a general market gardening and florist business. In 1879, he bought a tract of land in Garrett County, adjoining the town of Oakland, where he established a florist business specialising in carnations. He became an active member of The American Carnation Society, The Society of American Florists, and other organizations. (Another source states that he was Vice President of the American Carnation Society in 1901).
Shortly after that account was published, Henry died in 1904. His business, H Weber and Sons Co. was directed after his death by son William (1869-1935). The Smithsonian Institute has a collection of business records for the company, which operated up until 1978 when the remaining greenhouses were torn down.
Bible Student history
According to the funeral discourse given by CTR when Henry Weber died, his religious background had first been as an active Episcopalian and Y.M.C.A. worker, before “he was counted of the Lord worthy to know of Present Truth.”
In ZWT for 1 June 1901 pages 190-191 (reprints page 2828) Edna Mary Hammond of Maryland relates how she came to understand “the truth.” She writes to CTR:
I was a very small child (10 years) when your publications were first introduced into our family, through the kindness of Mr Henry Weber, of Oakland, who was then my brother’s Sunday School teacher, and whose name I cannot mention without the sincerest gratitude.
Edna Mary Hammond’s details can be found on Find a Grave. She was born in 1873 and died in 1941. Her younger sister Lulu’s details (1882-1976) state that she was a Jehovah’s Witness.
So if Edna Mary was born in 1873, we would find Henry Weber circulating Bible Student publications in 1883. Edna Mary’s letter specifically singles out Food for Thinking Christians.
Henry’s name first appears in ZWT in 1887. He gave a donation to assist in the distribution of ARP tracts. From ZWT December 1887 page 8 (reprints page 989).
The March 1889 ZWT page 7 (reprints page 1108) carried a letter from Henry in which he described his colporteur experiences, selling 109 books in a little over four days, and expressing how he wished he could give his entire time to “this blessed work.” The letter is prefaced with a comment from CTR that gives a bit more of his background.
[The following is from Brother Weber of Maryland. Though a florist and gardener on a large scale, he is not seeking worldly prominence or wealth, but divine approval and heavenly riches. To do this he uses his garden, hot-houses, etc., as ways and means for honoring the Lord by spreading the truth. He is out as much as possible in the "harvest" field selling DAWN Vol. I. A man of keen business judgment and good address, he enlists his best endeavors in this highest service-- the service of God—and we believe is laying up treasure in heaven.--EDITOR.]
ZWT for 15 January 1893, page 31 (omitted in reprints) contains another letter describing Henry’s experiences and expressing regret that, unlike others, he can’t give his “entire time to this great work.”
In the special edition of ZWT for 25 April 1894, Henry Weber features quite prominently. On pages 17-19 he actively supported CTR in the controversy involving Elmer Bryan and J B Adamson. Henry personally met with both men, the latter together with CTR, to try and resolve the problems. It got messy. Adamson wanted to get the Dawn colporteurs to sell his own publication, using the Old Theology and WTBTS mastheads, but without informing CTR. He complained about the expense he had already incurred and Weber offered to compensate him out of his own pocket. Adamson then publicly accused CTR’s “spokesman” of trying to buy him off. And on it went.
From page 40 onwards, when Elmer Bryan made his list of accusations against CTR, Henry Weber and M M Tuttle were asked by him to be present when the charges were put to CTR. They supported CTR on every point in the dispute. One incidental that came out from the discussion was that it was Henry Weber, and not CTR, who had used his contacts to organize special railroad rates for colporteurs, which was not fraud but open and above board.
In ZWT 15 December 1894 page 393 (reprints page 1746) Weber is mentioned in a list of names of those business people who were current sharing in part-time colporteur work.
In the 1890s, meetings were held at the Weber home. A letter from Henry Weber in ZWT 1 May 1895 page 112 (omitted in reprints) said in part:
DEAR BRO. RUSSELL:--At the request of the Church at Philadelphia, I met with them, after making arrangements with Bros. Gillis and Jackson to be with the little company at our house. At 2 P.M. we met to consider the subject of baptism, and at 4 P.M. we adjourned for this service to a small church building kindly put at our disposal. Four brethren and six sisters symbolized by water the burial of their wills into the will of their Redeemer and Lord. Between forty and fifty participated in the Memorial service, which was preceded by a praise and testimony meeting.
A further letter in ZWT 15 April 1896 page 87 (reprints page 1966) from Henry Weber spoke of a little company meeting at his house in Oakland to celebrate the Lord’s last Memorial supper. There were seven partakers. This suggests that this was quite a small gathering on this occasion.
Henry had a new house built c. 1898 called Seelheim, and it was probably here that a small convention was held in 1901. J.H. Bohnet attended and sent in his report as published in ZWT 15 September 1901, page 301 (omitted in reprints):
Dear Brother Russell:--To my mind the Oakland convention is the best I ever attended, due perhaps in some degree to the fact that it was in the country, amid nature's surroundings, God's own handiwork, instead of being in a city; and again, due largely to the fact that it was at Bro. Weber's home. We have much to be thankful for to the family who did so well by us all, and to the Lord be the praise for his "goodness and mercy (which) shall follow us all the days of our life." I cannot find words to express my gratitude in having been privileged to assemble with those of like precious faith on this blessed occasion…… Your brother in hope, J. A. Bohnet,--Washington.
A letter from A N Pierson in ZWT 15 October 1901, page 335 (reprints page 2897) to Henry Weber was published with Pierson’s permission, in which he thanked Weber for his hospitality at this same gathering.
“I...ask you to extend my thanks to dear Mrs Weber and the girls for all their work of labor and love, also to the boys that were kept so busy.”
Pierson met CTR at the Weber home. He would later briefly become another WTBTS Vice President. Like Weber he ran a horticultural business.
Henry Weber’s house – built c. 1898
Henry died in early 1904, and CTR travelled to his home to conduct the funeral service. The funeral report was in ZWT 1 February 1904 page 36 (reprints page 3314):
The report read (in part):
ENTERED INTO HIS REST.
PILGRIM Brother Henry Weber has passed beyond the vail, to be forever with the Lord. We rejoice on his behalf. He finished his earthly course on Thursday, January 21st, at 2.15 p.m., at his home --Oakland, Md.--and was buried on Saturday, the 23rd. A large gathering, composed of his family, friends and neighbors, was addressed by the Editor of this journal....Brother Weber left a very interesting family--his wife and one of his sons being confessors of the Lord and his Truth. For the remainder of the family we have strong hopes that the good influence of the father's character in daily life may be still stronger with them since his death – drawing them also to full consecration to the same Savior and his "reasonable service."
Henry was buried in the Weber Family Cemetery, Oakland, Garrett County, Maryland, USA. His wife, Katherine, was laid to rest beside him 25 years later. The cemetery is still in use for Weber descendants.
This photograph from the Weber family cemetery shows the headstone for Katherine Weber nearest the camera. It is most likely that Henry’s stone is the one next to her.
(Some additional material researched by Jerome)