Friday, January 20, 2017

Andrew Pierson

The comment trail for the post on General Hall discussed how Andrew Pierson, who was briefly vice-president of the Watch Tower Society, ended his days in sympathy with a non-IBSA group, who reported on his funeral.

Pierson was a horticulturist by trade or profession, much like an earlier director of the Society, Henry Weber.

When Andrew Pierson died he made the news in the New York post. Two cuttings are below. One shows that George Fisher took his funeral. When the PBI magazine reviewed the funeral, they omitted to say who conducted the service. Maybe thereby hangs a tale. Probably of most interest is the second cutting, which suggests Pierson's beliefs in the early 1920s, somewhat akin to the Millions campaign.


roberto said...


Andrew Martin said...

Sounds as if perhaps Pierson was "on the fence"?

Since the PBI magazine omitted to say that George Fisher conducted the service, did they still view Fisher as firmly in the WT camp?

Or ... did the fact that Fisher conducted the funeral cause him problems later? He did resign from the editorial committee, didn't he? I previously wondered if he and F. H. Robison resigned for similar reasons, but I've never seen convincing evidence of that.

jerome said...

For Andrew

F H Robison left association with the IBSA a few years before this, when he was attracted to the Universalist teachings of the Concordant Bible Society. This was after the Watch Tower Society had handled its translation of the book of Revelation for a short while. To get the Robison story (and even a vague connection with John H Paton) have a look at this blog article from a little while back.

Andrew Martin said...

I remember seeing the announcement in an old WT about discontinuing distribution of "The Unveiling", stating that "the arrangement has not been entirely satisfactory".

Guess not, if association with Knoch, et al, took a member of the editorial board (Robison), Russell's secretary (Sturgeon), and a pilgrim (Bundy), among others!

Thanks for the link!

Chris G. said...

On reviewing the announcement of Pierson's passing in "The Herald of Christ's Kingdom" Dec 1925 issue page 353 some interesting points are made regarding his "association" of sorts with the PBI. The article did confirm that Pierson was on the list of subscribers to "The Herald", and that he had played some role in the funeral in December of 1924 for PBI member R.E. Streeter who authored the two volumes expounding the PBI's views on Revelation. The actions by Pierson in relation to Streeter's funeral endeared him to many in the PBI. What did he do? The article states,
"An incident of nearly a year ago deeply impressed many of the brethren... Brother Pierson on the evening before (the funeral) had loaded one of his large trucks with choice floral pieces and had it driven during the night to Providence. He himself made the same journey of about one hundred miles from his home by auto that night, which was one of the severest of the winter, and was present on the following morning to supervise the placing of the flowers in the church, and took part in the funeral services in the afternoon."
The article also stated that Pierson had contributed toward a special issue produced by the Herald discussing the Bible and Evolution showing some support by Pierson towards the Herald and its message.

This may help us see that the demarcation between Watchtower adherents and those who splintered wasn't always as black and white as we would like to see or feel we need to see in these days looking back. I'm sure it was very difficult and painful to see approximately 1/4 of your former associates (just an educated guess on the number leaving after Russells' death) leave off in their membership with the Watchtower leadership at that time. Pierson strikes me as likely very sentimental and probably still had a form of Christian love for these men who were like brothers to him in the past. This could have made his choices more challenging than we can likely imagine today. I believe it is true he was an official Watchtower member but still kept in contact with the PBI in some ways. "Sitting on the fence" as mentioned by A. Martin in a previous comment may be a simplification of what I'm saying as I'm sure it was much more complex than that, however there does seem to be evidence for this.

Great article however and thank you Jerome for bringing this out. I especially had not known that Fisher conducted the funeral until now.

Andrew Martin said...

Thank you, Chris G., for your input, especially your comment "the demarcation between Watchtower adherents and those who splintered wasn't always as black and white" as most of us have thought.

Yes, it must have been incredibly painful for those in all the various camps to see the fellowship they had once enjoyed disrupted so thoroughly. In such a situation, Pierson's acts of friendship (and possible hope of reconciliation?) would have been quite understandable.

I'm beginning to think some were hoping there would be a way of overcoming all the various differences, and eventually reconciling, either as groups or individuals. Actually, I think there are some "post-precedents" [if anyone can come up with a better expression, please help me out here] for such thinking:

1. According to the 1977 JW Yearbook (pages 223, 227-228), the Witnesses in Norway were in two camps, having divided during German occupation in World War II over how best to carry on the preaching work. In her Life Story (12/1/97 WT, pages 21-25), Ottilie Mydland makes the following comment:

"Thus prominent brothers, who had before cooperated very well and whom we loved so much, were not on speaking terms. The division between them caused me greater pain of heart than has any other situation in my life as a Witness."

The 2012 JW Yearbook, pages 126127 confirms the 1977 account. Evidently William Dey, Nathan Knorr, and Milton Henschel helped resolve situation after the war.

2. Also, the 2012 JW Yearbook (pages 115-117, 145) discusses a much deeper division that developed in Romania under communist rule, when the organization there was split into three parts, largely on the adjustment in 1962 of the application of Paul's writing in Romans chapter 13 regarding the superior authorities". While the majority were reunited after the communist regime fell and freedoms were restored, one major dissident group (True Faith Witnesses) exists to this day.

But my long-winded point here is, that many never gave up the idea of reconciliation with their Christian brothers, and eventually the majority were reunited. Does anyone have any evidence that this may have been the case with Andrew Pierson and maybe others during the fraught years of the 1920s?

Thank you again for addressing this, Chris G. I think now that my terminology of "sitting on the fence" was actually rather awkward, and didn't accurately convey the emotional upheaval that must have existed at that time.

Andrew Martin said...

Correction - the situation in Romania was discussed in the 2006 Yearbook, not the 2012 Yearbook.

jerome said...

Chris and Andrew both paint a sympathetic picture of the difficulties faced by individuals who might have divided loyalties. Did some hope for reconciliation between the Society and those who left it? No doubt. And no doubt some returned to the IBSA fold as is documented in the St Paul/New Era Enterprise newspaper.

One problem facing those who left association with the IBSA was that people just couldn’t agree what to do or where to go. Fragmentation in various ways continued quite quickly. Almost immediately after the PBI was formed, Paul Johnson’s group (later called the LHMM) broke away to emphasize his self-view, which others would not accept. The Standfast Movement broke away over a single issue really, and set up communes, but then fragmented as these failed, leading to other groups like the Elijah Voice Society. There was a group called the Eagle Society that is mentioned in passing in the St Paul/New Era Enterprise. When in 1929 an attempt was made to bring people together in the Pittsburgh reunion convention, the introduction to their report mentioned yet other groups that then existed.

So did the “reunion convention” reunite them? Short answer - no. All that happened was that yet another group appeared as a result - the Dawn. They wanted to proselytize, whereas the PBI were not keen - hence attempt to unite the fledgling Dawn and PBI foundered in the late 1930s. At one point there were two rival groups hiring space in the old Bible House Chapel in Allegheny in the late 1930s, and for good measure, they also welcomed a Universalist Concordant Bible Society speaker (who was a former IBSA adherent). So Concordant was yet another group that seceding Bible Students gravitated towards. Throw into the mix those who sided with Henninges, McPhail and others from the c. 1909 split, who were still very much around, and it gets even more a tale of division. And as soon as a group tried to question or update CTR’s chronology there would be yet more splits. And that is just America!

Obviously individuals could do what they chose. No doubt some shopped around, and as noted above, no doubt some ultimately returned to the Watchtower Society. And no doubt many others didn’t.

But we had better return to the days of CTR for the purpose of this blog.

Chris G. said...

Thank you Andrew and Jerome both for our valued insight.
Chris G