Monday, October 31, 2016

A Cautionary Tale

I recently came across something I wrote about 5-6 years ago for another blog under a different name - on the perils of trying to collect early Watch Tower materials. As a brief respite from all this serious research, I have cut and pasted a little bit that may strike a chord with older readers who have been collectors and researchers from before the internet era.

A number of decades ago, I used to advertise regularly in trade journals for publications of a certain religious group – a key one was called The Watchtower that started in 1879. A dealer contacted me to offer an original volume for 1901-1903. It was very expensive, and I was doing religious work away from home with a companion of similar age at the time. And we were broke. Really, really broke. But I had to have it. Money from necessities was diverted to obtain the prize. Then each day I waited impatiently for the parcel to come.

Finally it did. I ripped open the paper, and there it was – the Watchtower on the spine. Not quite the size I expected, but hey – how much did I know at that time about the shape and size of its past years? I opened the book wide, and there on a full page spread were the immortal words:


Those who may know the journal in question will understand how incongruous that was. I flipped through the pages and – aaagh - this wasn’t MY Watchtower, this was ANOTHER Watchtower – a literary journal published by the Broughton Baptist Church - full of life enhancing anecdotes, and advertisements for patent remedies for the ailing Baptist community of Greater Manchester.

My working partner behaved with true Christian charity.

How much did you pay for it?



Fifty years have gone by since then, but I can still remember as he curled up and pounded the floor in hysterics, as I looked aghast at my prize and thought what I could have spent the money on.

That volume is still on my shelves today. (As is another volume called Awake - a bound volume from the Church Missionary Society from 1902 – and that date really should have been a give-away).

I keep them there as a lesson.

I’m just not sure of what.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

So you know ...

            We’ve added a new chapter to our outline. While this may frustrate some of you who wish for a speedy release of the next volume, we think it is a key and necessary addition. We will present an overview of American and ‘other’ religious and social history. Almost without exception, histories of the Watch Tower movement are disconnected from their social setting. It is impossible to evaluate it without understanding its connection to contemporary events and attitudes.
         This requires fresh research into frequently covered topics. American religious history as commonly presented is revisionist and disconnected from reality. This is particularly true of the interplay between Catholics and Protestants in the United States. The usual presentation of American anti-Catholicism excuses Catholic excesses and blames narrow-minded Protestants. It ignores Catholic machinations, which were quite real and not Protestant myth making. An example of this sort of revisionist history is a lecture by Ryan Reeves, professor at Gordon-Conwell, inserted here.

           Reeves is articulate, presenting an engaging lecture, but his lecture is a white-wash. In key areas what he says is not true, not even close to truth. We have to remedy this fault which is common to recent writers and lecturers, and do it in a clearly documented way.
            Social issues that influenced Russell and Watch Tower readers are ignored by recent writers. This is especially true of Watchtower Society produced ‘histories’, but true of almost every consideration of the Watch Tower movement. We must present these issues in a clear and concise way so that our readers come away from this chapter understanding these issues without being overwhelmed or bored by detail. This is not easy.
            So ... you know where we are.
            You should know that this is a busy time of year for Mr. Schulz and me. I’m in the middle of course work leading to certification. Mr. Schulz is involved with a school district committee that affects his area of expertise. So, while we may wish to be fully engaged in research and writing, we cannot be at this time.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Magnificent Seven

     Well, perhaps not all quite so magnificent, but I couldn’t resist the title.

     When Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society was incorporated in late 1884, there were seven directors. This article is just a brief overview of the original seven. As such, most of the material has appeared in some form before, and for details of the lives of these people you will need to consult the Separate Identity series. Grateful thanks are due to Bernhard who has supplied much of the information here. And in line with a series of past articles based on the indispensible Find a Grave site, as well as giving their dates, this article shows where all these people ended up. Literally.

     But first, here is the list of names from Zion’s Watch Tower for January 1885.

     There are, of course, only six names listed here. However, the original handwritten record of the charter lists a seventh, Simon O Blunden. When the original articles of incorporation were reproduced in the Watch Tower for November 1, 1917, all original seven names were listed.

     We will take them in the order in which they appeared in the 1885 ZWT (adding Blunden at the end) and simply document their births and deaths and when they ceased to be Society directors. In many cases, ceasing to be directors coincided with ceasing active association with Charles T Russell and Zion’s Watch Tower. To illustrate, we will show their final resting places.

Charles Taze Russell (February 6, 1852 – October 31, 1916)

     CTR remained president until his death. He is buried in the plot owned by the Watchtower Society in United Cemeteries, Pittsburgh. Visitors often photograph the pyramid on the site, but this is not CTR’s grave marker. The pyramid was originally designed to list all the names of those buried on site. Only nine names were recorded before the idea was abandoned. For a full history including the history of the “pyramid nine” check back on this blog to a series of articles written in 2014.

William Imrie Mann (January 4, 1844 - December 12, 1930)

     Mann, the original vice-president, ceased to be a Society director on April 11, 1892. He is buried in Grove Cemetery, Trumansburg, Tomkins County, New York.

Maria Frances Russell (April 10, 1850 – March 12, 1938) 

     Maria (née Ackley), the original secretary-treasurer ceased to be a director on February 12, 1900, although she actually parted from CTR back in 1897. After leaving CTR she made her home with her sister, Emma, until Emma’s death, and lived the last years of her life in Florida. She is buried in the Royal Palm South Cemetery, St Petersburg, Pinellas County, Florida.

John Bartlet Adamson (1837 - January 22, 1904)

     Adamson ceased to be a director on January 5, 1895. He is buried in Mount Olive Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. There is no marker, he is buried in a garden lot which is just an area of grassland.

William Cook McMillan (October 10, 1849 - 1898)

     McMillan ceased to be a director on May 13, 1898. He resigned because he was serious ill and died shortly afterwards. He is buried in the Mechesneytown Cemetery, Mechesneytown, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. (The spelling McMillan occurs in the January 1885 ZWT, but MacMillan in the reprint of the association’s articles in the November 1, 1917 WT, whereas the family memorial spells the name MacMillen. All three forms can be found for him in the pages of ZWT.)

Joseph Firth Smith (October 28, 1849 – December 7, 1924) 

     Smith ceased to be a director on April 11, 1892, the same date as William Imrie Mann. He is buried in the Allegheny Cemetery, the same location where CTR’s parents and other family members were buried. For a history of this cemetery and the Russell family’s connection with it, check back on this blog to an article from November 2013.

Simon Osborne Blunden (September 1840 - November 13, 1915) 

     Blunden ceased to be a director on June 6, 1908. He is buried in the family grave in Glendale Cemetery, Bloomfield, Essex County, New Jersey - not to be confused with the more famous Glendale Cemetery of California (Forest Lawn). The headstone reads Samuel Buchanan, who was Blunden’s son-in-law and who died in 1906. Two other family members who died before Buchanan also had their names on the marker. However, when Blunden died later, he was buried in this family plot, but the headstone was never updated.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Italian Work - Article by Roberto with English Language Help by Rachael

1924-5 Conventions.
Italian Watch Tower believers between America and Italy

            An international convention was held at Columbus, Ohio, July, 20 to 27, 1924. It was international in two senses: First, in that it was a convention of Watch Tower believers who spoke various languages; and secondly, people were expected to attend from various countries throughout the earth [1]. The Watch Tower expected that it should be the largest convention of Bible Students ever held on earth [2].
About the foreign-speaking people we read:

In the United States and Canada there is a number of foreign-speaking brethren, Germans, Greeks, Lithuanians, Poles. Ukrainians, Slovaks, Hungarians, Italians, etc. It will be expected that the brethren of these foreign languages will attend, and that all the Pilgrim brethren who serve the foreign-speaking brethren will also attend. Meetings of the brethren speaking each of the languages will be conducted regularly. There will be no distinction in race, color or language, but all will be one in Christ. [3]

            In June, Richard A. Johnson and Rutherford toured Great Britain and parts of continental Europe to advertise the International Convention at Columbus. They hoped that the Bible Students would come from the four corners of the earth. [4]
            Columbus was chosen because of its location, being the most accessible to the largest number of people; because of the transportation facilities and street-car accommodations; because of the number and size of the available auditoriums. They rented the largest stadium for the public witness.

            The Ohio State Journal carried a four-page report daily of the Convention. [5].
            A detailed report of that convention appeared in The Watch Tower of September 1, 1924, pp. 259-264. Three months later the same article appeared in the Italian edition of the magazine, [6] but with a little difference: at page 165 we find a picture of Rutherford together with De Cecca and a group of Italian-American Bible Students. [7]

            The first Convention held in Italy was at Pinerolo, Piedmont, April 23 to 26, 1925. About sixty people attended the convention, five men and eight women were baptized; the speakers were Remigio Cuminetti, G. Maurelli, M. Martinelli and A. H. Macmillan.
A later report reads:

The work continued to expand in spite of many difficulties, and the first assembly was held at Pinerolo April 23 to 26, 1925. Since Brother A. H. Macmillan from the Society’s headquarters was making a series of visits abroad, he was able to be present. The assembly was held in a large room at the Corona Grossa hotel.

It would have been ridiculous to expect the Fascist authorities to give their permission for this assembly. So the brothers disguised the gathering as a wedding celebration. During the assembly Brother Remigio Cuminetti married Sister Albina Protti, one of the Swiss colporteurs. At that historic assembly there were 70 in attendance and 10 of these were baptized.

“Our days were full of blessings, rejoicing and happiness,” wrote Sister Brun, who was present at the assembly. She adds: “The hotel owner brought his other guests and clients into the hall saying: ‘Come and see everybody, we have the primitive church under our roof!’ . . . Everything was well organized and we usually managed to clear the floor and set the chairs out in a flash. Afterward we would put them away again and leave everything in order. We were all happy and willing to lend a hand. It was a great witness.”

Nevertheless, during that first assembly there was a curious inconvenience. “Although we were very different in many ways, we managed to get on well together. However, we did not manage to agree on the singing of the songs. The brothers from the north sang with a lively rhythm, while those from the south sang slowly and with such feeling that it was a pity to make them change. So the presiding brother decided to have those from the south of Italy sing first, followed by those from the north.” [8]

            The presence of Macmillan is confirmed in the original Italian Watch Tower, even though, in the picture taken after the convention we can’t see him; probably he had only just left. [9]

[1]  WT May 1 1924, p. 138, “International Convention”, paragraph 2
[2] WT May 15 1924, p. 147, “International Convention” at Columbus”
[3] WT June 1 1924, p. 164, “Foreign Languages”
[4] WT June 1 1924, p. 171, “The International Convention at Columbus”
[5] WT August 1 1924, p. 226, “Convention Report”
[6] La Torre di Guardia, November 1924, p. 163, “La Convenzione internazionale”
[7] La Torre di Guardia, November 1924, p.165
[8] Yearbook 1982, pp. 133-4
[9] La Torre di Guardia, August 1 1925, p. 121.

Self Exlanatory

The best history teachers are story tellers whose narrative engages the mind as much as good fiction does.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Recent Visits Map

Now if only each visitor would leave a brief comment and make Rachael happy: