An aged shoemaker wrote to Russell from Delhi, New York, in the fall of 1883. He described himself as over seventy years of age, “a poor man, a shoemaker, or rather a shoemender.” He was raised in the Presbyterian faith, but after immigrating to America in 1839, converted to the Baptist faith “from conviction.” He encountered George Storrs sermons in 1845 or 1846, and would have read Storrs material after his exit from Millerite Adventism. He was convinced by Storrs Six Sermons to abandon belief in inherent immortality and expelled from the Baptist church for it: “The hand of fellowship was withdrawn from me, because I believed I had no immortality now, but rejoiced I had it as a prize before me, and also because I believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. The Bible then seemed to me like a new book, and I bless God it has been brighter and brighter all along.” He also adopted Age-to-Come belief as reflected in Bible Examiner.
He was an active evangelist locally at least by 1882, subscribing to ten copies of Zion’s Watch Tower that he used as missionary papers. He was less successful than he wish, and reduced the number in August 1883: “I find some actually refuse them; others refused to be interested; and as I do not believe in forcing men, nor think it proper to cast pearls in an unseemly place, this year you may send me five copies. It would give me pleasure to increase rather than decrease the number, but when Jesus says, ‘Let them alone,’ I obey.”
Despite the many clues to identity found in his letter, we were not able to firmly attach this letter to a name. However, of our limited choices, we believe the most likely identity of our shoemaker is A. W. Webb. His biographical details fit those of our letter writer. He was an immigrant, born in the United Kingdom in 1826. He came to Delhi in 1840 and was “actively engaged in the boot and shoe business.” He was a temperance worker.