Called by His Name
Two issues attached to the earliest congregations and small fellowships: Their self- identity, and how outsiders identified them. Russell and many of his earliest associates came from traditions that rejected any name but Christian or some version of a Bible-based name. They saw sectarianism as of the Devil. That left them nameless. Augustus Bergner told The New York Sun that he belonged “to a company of Christians who have no common name. We are not Second Adventists, and we are not the ‘Holiness’ or ‘Higher Life’ sect.”
Maria Russell said that most if not all early fellowships met in homes. She spoke of the true church as “scattered all over the world, many of them standing alone, and some in little companies, often numbering only two or three, and meeting from house to house.” When Frank Draper, an early-days evangelist spoke at Glens Falls, New York, it was in the home of W. H. Gildersleeve, who was willing to invite the public into his home. Somewhat later the Glens Falls meetings moved to the home of Mrs. C. W. Long, but within two years they returned to the Gildersleve home on Birch Avenue. H. Samson, for a while a Watch Tower evangelist, seldom spoke in a public facility. A newspaper noted that “most of his meetings … have been held in the parlor of some member of the church.” There are many other examples of home-churches, but most of that history is more suitable for the third book in this series.
Individual congregations experimented with names. Most of the congregational names that have come down to us are from outside the period we cover in these two volumes, but we should note some examples. The congregation in St. Louis, Missouri, styled itself “Seekers After Truth.” The newly-formed congregation at Salem, Oregon, called itself “The Church of the Living God,” a Biblical phrase. They met in the Women’s Christian Temperance Hall. Believers in Akron, Ohio, organized regular meetings in late 1902. A representative told a reporter that they “may be called Dawn Students, or members of the Church of the Living God.” Their meetings were held in the homes of members. The Watch Tower congregation in Grants Pass, Oregon, also used the name. The Cedar Rapids congregation used it too, as did the congregation in Saratoga, New York. W. Hope Hay, a Watch Tower representative, used it as well. In Cortland, New York, they called themselves the “Church of the Living God and Church of the Little Flock.” Occasionally, gatherings were described as “a meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.” Though Church of the Living God was appealing because it is derived from scripture, it was also used by a politically radical Black church, and Watch Tower congregations distanced themselves from the name.
Advertisement: Scranton Tribune¸ July 26, 1902.
Church of the Little Flock designated the congregation in Cortland, New York. When R. E. Streeter spoke there in December 1902, it was on the well used topics of “The Coming Kingdom,” and “Restitution of all Things.” An advertisement for his sermons used the Little Flock designator. He spoke in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union hall, and the congregation was still meeting there in 1904 and still using the name. Work of the North Carolina evangelists, many of whom were former clergy, bore fruit, and a small congregation formed in Nicolas County near Elizabeth City. The local paper reported: A new religious sect has been started in the wilds of Nicholas county. [sic] The New sect is called the “New Lights.” The sect is said to have arisen from the influence of Rev. Russell, of Allegheny City, where he conducts a newspaper called Zion’s Watch Tower. The members of the New Light sect profess to believe there is no hell.” The New Light name was reused in West Virginia.
As noted, when the Scranton, Pennsylvania, congregation was formed they used the name The Watch Tower Bible Class. When Russell spoke there, the press release used adjective laden phrasing: “Readers and students of the ‘Millennial Dawn’ series and all others who are interest in the subject of the pre-millennial advent.” When the Richmond, Indiana, congregation was organized by J. G. Wright, a Watch Tower “pilgrim,” it was called The Millennial Dawn Society. A meeting-time announcement for the Richmond, Virginia, congregation called them Believers in the Dawning Millennium. They met Sundays in Marshal Hall on East Broad Street. The announcement did not capitalize as we have, and the name seems more of a description of belief than a title. Using some form of “Millennial Dawn” in advertisements resulted in some calling them “Millennial Dawners.” In Elmira, New York, they were the Millennial Dawn Bible Class. In Flushing, New York, they were “the Millennial Dawn Society.” In December 1900, Russell spoke to the congregation in Washington, D. C. The newspaper ad described them as “Millennial Dawn and Zion’s Watch Tower friends.”
The Washington, D.C., Evening Times, December 1, 1900.
When a Watch Tower convention was held in Philadelphia in June 1900, they described themselves as Believers in the Atonement through the Blood of Christ. A convention held in Denver, Colorado, in 1903 was of “Believers in the Second Coming.” When Russell addressed a convention in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1898, they were simply called the “Believers.” The abbreviation “Believers” was used again the next year in Boston.
The Courtland, New York, Standard
November 29, 1902.
In Albany, New York, Believers in the Restitution met in Fredrick J. Clapham’s home at 288 First Street. Earlier, at least one meeting was held in a “Bro. Fletcher’s home.” Elsewhere the name Millennial Dawn Readers was used. In Omaha, Nebraska, a newspaper called them Believers, without saying what they believed. When a one-day convention featuring C. T. Russell and C. A. Owen, “the local minister,” was announced for Indianapolis, Indiana, they use a long descriptor instead of a pithy name, calling themselves “believers on the lines of Millennial dawn [sic], and of the ransom of the whole human race by the blood of Jesus Christ.”
The Cincinnati, Ohio, congregation advertised meetings as The Church of Believers. In 1891 they met at 170 Walnut Street, Room 8, for “instruction and fellowship.” In late 1891, J. B. Adamson held weekly meetings there. Russell reported that Adamson had circulated “about 4000 Millennial Dawns,” adding that Adamson and wife “have done and are doing a good work –gathering ripe wheat and witnessing to others. Sunday Meetings held by Brother A. help to water the good word of present truth which he scatters during the week by circulating MILLENNIAL DAWN.” By May 1892 the Cincinnati Believers were meeting at 227 Main Street, and inviting people to “free lectures on present truths, in accord with the Bible, explained by Millennial Dawn.” The Believer’s advertisement said that “these lectures show the grand harmony of our Creator’s plan of the ages, the high calling and the restitution of all.”
Adamson found interest in a “Dr. A _____.” While we can’t identify him more specifically, he testified to others in the Cincinnati medical community. An advertisement in the December 27, 1894, Enquirer placed by a W. Val Stark read: “I should like to meet a young man familiar with the ‘Millennial Dawns’ who desires to actively further their notice on the churches.” Stark gave his address as 44 West 9th Street, the address of the Cincinnati Sanitarium, a private hospital treating insanity and addiction. Despite a fairly large circulation of Millennial Dawn volumes, the congregation remained small. Thirty-seven were present for the annual communion celebration; eleven of these were newly interested.
At Los Angeles, California, in 1899 they advertised themselves as The Gospel Church (Millennial Dawn). By 1902 they were using Millennial Dawn Readers, and in 1903 they were Millennial Dawn Friends. There are several examples of Russell suggesting that they were The Christians. For instance, when he spoke for an extended period on Boston Commons in 1897, The Cato, New York, Citizen described him as “the leader of a new sect called simply ‘The Christians.’” An invitation for a Watch Tower meeting late in 1901, described it as “a convention of believers in the great redemption sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” When the Flint, Michigan, congregation listed itself in the newspaper church directory it was as “Zion’s Watchtower People.” In Warfdale, England, they called themselves The Church of Christ. The London Daily News said they were more commonly known as “Millennial Dawn.”
The Los Angeles Herald, December 31, 1899.
The Los Angeles Herald, July 4, 1902.
The Los Angeles Herald, May 10, 1903
The Los Angeles Herald, November 8, 1903
Outsiders were pressed to find descriptors. When Sam Williams, one of the organizers of the Huston, Texas, congregation preached there in 1903, The Huston Daily Post described the movement as “those of Mr. Williams’ faith,” attaching no other name. Earlier The Post described it as Millennial Dawn faith. The 1912 Morrison and Fourmy Directory of Houston listed them as Millennial Dawn Church. This difficulty continued for some years.
Convention Ribbon - 1899 and Convention Program - 1898.
Indianapolis News, February 20, 1897
Identity confusion followed Watch Tower publications and evangelists. A Watch Tower evangelist speaking at Poole’s Hall in Indianapolis, Indiana, included in the newspaper announcement that his meeting was not “Catholic Apostolic.” Another example comes from a period somewhat later than we consider in this book. At the request of a Mrs. A. Axtell, The Perry, New York, Record ran a brief article correcting rumors about a “Millennial Dawn” meeting held in a private home:
Will you kindly give space in your paper for the correction of the rumor to the effect that the meetings recently held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. A. Axtell, were in the interest of Mormon belief?
And let it be known, that instead they were Bible instructions along the line taught by “The Millennial Dawn Series.”
Further, as a correction to one other rumor, let it be suggested that all lovers of the truth read carefully, with an open Bible, Vol. V of “Millennial Dawn,” before coming to hastily to the conclusion that the author does not worship the Lord Jesus Christ.
In 1909 someone asked Russell: “By what name would you suggest that the local classes advertise their meetings, so as to avoid the confusion of a multiplicity of titles, such as: “Millennial Dawn,” “Believers in the Atonement,” “Believers in the Precious Blood,” “Bible Students,” etc.” Russell’s answer is illuminating:
It is a difficult matter to know how to advertise, not for ourselves, but difficult to keep from being misunderstood by the people. “Church of God”; “Church of the Living God”; “Church of Christ.” Any of those names would suit us very well, and we would have no objections to them, but we find that there are various denominations who have appropriated those titles, not that we think they have a right to apply them to themselves, but we would like to live in peace. It is a difficult matter to decide, and each class will have to do that for themselves.
In his view they were to body of Christ, and while true sheep may be found within other churches, the various denominations were not of the Body of Christ. They were false religions. In the earliest period, Watch Tower evangelists never identified themselves with a church. They presented themselves as connected to Zion’s Watch Tower or to the Tower Publishing Company. Or they lectured without suggesting any affiliation, mentioning only the location of their speech. As congregations were formed, an organizational name became more pressing. James A. West, once a Methodist clergyman, lectured in Brooklyn, delivering the first of an eight part series on “the plan of the ages.” A reporter asked him the name of the new church. There was none:
A new church, which puts forth the claim of being The Church, was opened yesterday afternoon in Co-operative hall, Howard avenue and Madison street, up on the fourth floor, in a comfortably and rather prettily appointed lodge room. The minister was James A. West, who was once, it is understood, a Methodist minister in the West. He had an audience of probably sixty people. His discourse was the first of eight lectures on “God’s Plan of the Ages,” taking into consideration the “Millennial Dawn.” A large chart back of the platform depicted the different ages of the world, the birth of the world, its growth, the flood age, the present age, etc. Mr. West makes a decided claim for undenominationalism, saying there is but one head of a church, who is Christ. All churches are wrong in maintaining their different grades and conditions of doctrine, and in this way Mr. West claims for his followers that they are the church.
Russell continued to iterate this concept, and we find it expressed in a September 1901, lecture at Rochester, New York:
We are not a denomination, not a sect. I don’t know how many belong to our church. It is a church where no names are written. Our church consists of those who believe in Jesus Christ as Redeemer and make a full consecration to Him. We are trying to find them. All of our effort is to find who are His. We are not in any list of churches or sects. The true church has never been known by a name. We are satisfied to be known unto the Lord.
 This is true of Russell for the decade he associated with Age-to-Come believers.
 Churchgoers Astonished: The New York Sun, August 15, 1881.
 M. F. Russell: Discipline in the Church, Zion’s Watch Tower, July 1887, page 4.
 Extracts from the Bible, The Glens Falls, New York, Morning Star¸ November 11, 1897. According to the 1870 Census, William H. Gildersleeve was born in New York about 1842, or according to the 1892 New York State Census he was born near 1837. [Census record birth dates often conflict.] He seems to have been related to H. H. Gildersleeve, a cigar manufacturer in Glens Falls. In April 1884, a devastating fire broke out in rental space in a building he owned. [New York Times, April 29, 1884.] A newspaper article [Glens Falls Morning Star¸ January 22, 1895] notes him as prominent in the Methodist Episcopal Church.
 Untitled notices, The Glens Falls, New York, Morning Star, June 26, 1899 and October 21, 1901.
 Untitled notice, The Washington, D. C., Evening Star, August 18, 1900.
 Hypnotism Thinks Boy’s Father, The Cincinnati Enquirer, May 17, 1907.
 All Are Welcome to Attend, Salem, Oregon, Daily Capital Journal, November 2, 1900.
 Dawn Students, a New Religious Sect, In Akron, The Akron, Ohio, Daily Democrat, January 17, 1902.
 Free Lecture, The Grants Pass, Oregon, Rogue River Courier, March 17, 1904. The announcement was inserted by J. O. Sandberg. His first name may have been John. We are uncertain at this time.
 Untitled notice: Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Evening Gazette, March 20, 1901. Untitled notice: The Ithaca, New York, Saratogan¸ January 18, 1902.
 Untitled announcements, The Utica, New York, Press, March 21 and 28, 1902.
 The Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Falcon, Oct. 12, 1888.
 Hessler was born about 1848. The 1880 Census tells us that he was widowed. He subsequently remarried. He was a cabinet maker, and later a contractor. Advertisements for his remodeling and cabinet and flooring business appear in the Scranton Tribune [eg. October 7, 1898, and June 5, 1899 issues].
 End of the World in 1914, The Brazil, Indiana, Weekly Democrat, October 17, 1912.
 The Millennium, The Richmond, Virginia, Times, June 7, 1902.
 Sermon by Pastor Russell, The Bolivar, New York, Breeze, March 11, 1915.
 Millennial Dawn Bible Class, The Elmira, New York, Evening Telegram¸ April 14, 1906.
 Consigned to a Private Hospital, The Cincinnati, Ohio, Enquirer, June 13, 1904.
 Believers in Atonement Services, The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Inquirer¸ June 18, 1900. This name was used for several conventions. Another example is, also from Philadelphia, is mentioned in The Fort Wayne, Indiana, Sentinal, December 30, 1902.
 Millennium in Sight, The Brooklyn, New York, Daily Eagle, July 12, 1903.
 “Believer in Session,” The Omaha, Nebraska, Daily Bee, October 3, 1898; National Believers’ Convention, The Duluth, Minnesota, Labor World, Deccember 23, 1899.
 His Second Coming, The Albany, New York, Evening Journal, May 28, 1900. Various New York State Census records tell us Clapham was born in England between 1833 and 1834. He was a shoemaker. We do not know to what degree Clapham was interested in the Watch Tower message. A newspaper report from 1906 noted that he faithfully attended the Tabernacle Baptist Church “every Sunday but one in seven years.” [Albany Evening Journal, June 11, 1906.] We cannot identify Fletcher.
 Notice, The Minneapolis, Minnesota, Journal, February 18, 1905.
 Untitled notice, The Omaha, Nebraska, Daily Bee, August 23, 1899.
 Millennial Dawn, The Indianapolis, Indiana, Journal, July 13, 1902.
 Advertisement, The Cincinnati, Ohio, Enquirer, November 1, 1891.
 C. T. Russell: Harvest Laborers: Pray for Them, Zion’s Watch Tower, February 15, 1892, page 50.
 See announcement in the May 4, 1892, Cincinnati Enquirer.
 See Adamson’s letter to Russell in Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, February 1891, page 30. [Not in Reprints.]
 Advertisement, The Cincinnati, Ohio, Enquirer, December 27, 1894.
 Letter from E. F. R. to Russell appended to: The Memorial Supper Celebrated, Zion’s Watch Tower, May 15, 1902, page 157. [Omitted from Reprints.]
 Continuous Sermon, The Cato Citizen, August 28, 1897.
 Not Known by Name, Rochester, New York, Democrat and Chronicle¸ September 30, 1901.
 Among the Churches, The Flint, Michigan, Daily Journal¸March 28, 1903
 See the March 7, 1906, issue.
 Untitled notice, The Huston, Texas, Daily Post, May 29, 1901; Evangelist Sam Williams, February 22, 1903.
 The Rumor Untrue, The Perry, New York, Record, July 12, 1900.
 L. W. Jones [editor]: What Pastor Russell Said: His Answers to Hundreds of Questions, Chicago, 1917, pages 7-8.
 The Brooklyn New York, Daily Eagle, November 20, 1893.
 Not Known by Name, Rochester, New York, Democrat and Chronicle, September 30, 1901.