Monday, November 30, 2020

Bernhard's book

If you recently bought Bernhard's book on Bible House, there is now an extra section of material that will be incorporated into future editions, relating to different items found in CTR's study. It totals nine pages.

If you would like to contact Bernhard direct (his email is on the title page of the book) he will send this additional material to you.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Separate Identity

 I hope you are all reasonably well. I'm somewhat better, but some surgery is needed. I'm told it's minor and will keep me in hospital no more than a day or two. That's tentatively scheduled for March or April next.

Now, to the point of this post. SI vol 2 has yet to receive an Amazon review. You materially help me when you leave an honest review. I'd love five star reviews. But your honest review is welcome. Also, if you haven't reviewed volume 1, please do so.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Popular Symbolics

 I hope everyone is well. You may find this book useful:

Popular Symbolics: The Doctrines of the Churches of Christendom, 1934, Concordia Press. It has a section on Russellism fairly typical of opposition writing in that era. I am not recommending their point of view, which should surprise no-one.

You can download it from

There is an original on ebay, though I think it is over priced. I paid ten dollars for my copy, and I think that figure more inline with reality.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Old Hymns

 So many memories. Some of this is well done. Some not so much. But enjoy:

Monday, November 23, 2020

Update on my email situation.

 The email I posted earlier is unsatisfactory. For now, address me at . 

The strange story of Miracle Wheat

Adapted from a chapter in a future book

A somewhat bizarre sideline in Watch Tower history is that of Miracle Wheat. It was a product mentioned in the Watch Tower magazine which was to draw criticism, both at the time and in subsequent years. The Watchtower Society has addressed the subject on several occasions. For example, there is a Watchtower magazine Questions from Readers from May 15, 1953, and then it is covered in the history of the United States of America in the Yearbook for 1975, pages 70-71.

Both these accounts are accurate, although the Yearbook quotes from a government report that we are going to question in this article. However, no-one could have known of the problem at the time.

This article is revised from a chapter in a forthcoming book on United Cemeteries. This was property owned by the Watch Tower Society in Ross Township near Pittsburgh, and neighboring farmland was used to grow the wheat. The full story is one of good intentions and misadventure.

The Miracle Wheat story starts in 1904. It was a type of wheat first discovered by a farmer named Kenton Ballard Stoner (1839-1924) in Virginia in that year. He found a strain of wheat growing in his garden, which allegedly had an unusually high number of stalks producing fully matured wheat.

Stoner cared for it and two years later in 1906 it was dubbed “Miracle Wheat.” If the story in the Perry County Democrat for August 31, 1910 is to be believed, it was Stoner who named it as an answer to prayer.

Stoner’s tale was that he found the wheat in his garden and nurtured it; it then produced a wonderful crop, which allowed him to make a lot of money to look after his family. In the newspaper account, Stoner was backed up by a government report. We will come to that shortly. However, it should be noted that in examination and cross-examination in court in 1913, Stoner denied ever makng it a matter of prayer. He also denied naming it “Miracle Wheat” although he couldn’t remember who did.

Miracle Wheat received a considerable amount of publicity.

Even critics admitted it was a great producer, but questioned its capacity to make decent flour. Supporters countered with tales of blending the wheat to come up with – what we might call in modern parlance – the best thing since sliced bread.

A key selling point in most accounts was the government report that Stoner mentioned. It was made by one H. A. Miller. Some have questioned who he really was. What we can say is that Miller really did exist, he really was a government official and he really did visit the Stoner farm.

Miller was an Agricultural Economist. He had a particular interest in tales of high yielding crops, as shown in this Farmers’ Bulletin from February 1916.

His visit to the Stoner farm was widely reported. A typical example is from the Hutchinson News for September 26, 1908.

Numerous newspapers published these positive comments on the wheat, and continued to do so for the next eight years, up until 1915.

That cut-off date is significent, because in 1916 the U.S. Department of Agriculture finally published its own 28-page report entitled Alaska and Stoner, or “Miracle” Wheats. This cast serious doubt on Miller’s report as presented. The publication dealt with claims made for two strains of wheat and devoted over half its length to the Miracle Wheat story thus far. What follows is taken from this official government publication.

One of the first things the paper established was that Kent Stoner was not quite just a folksy farmer who found a new strain of wheat. Stoner was a businessman who worked hard to market his wheat. In 1907 he made a deal with a company in Philadelphia to promote “Miracle Wheat.” The next year he also made a deal with a seed company in Indiana but this time called it “Marvelous Wheat.” It was also named “Eden” and “Forty-to-One.” The Department of Agriculture preferred to go back to basics and called it “Stoner Wheat.”

In fairness to all concerned, comparing varieties of wheat was not always an exact science. Depending on soil, climate, location, time of year and seeding techniques employed, the results could be variable. My “miracle” could be your “problem.” After extensive trials their considered judgment on page 27 was: “It is not as good as some and is somewhat better than others.”

However, under the subheading “Exploitation in Philadelphia” on page 17 the report had this to say:

“In the early spring of 1908 the promoter organized a company to exploit the wheat and a 20-page illustrated circular was issued. Plausible in most of its language, the circular contained several erroneous statements. For instance, it contained what was said to be the report of the Government agent who inspected the fields of Stoner (Miracle) wheat. The language was so changed, howcver, as to alter entirely the meaning of the report. The statement that in one field the Miracle wheat had yielded from 3 to 5 bushels more than other varieties on the same farm was made to read “two to three times the yield of other varieties.” In like manner, the figures for the average number of heads to each plant in the field and in the breeding nursery were greatly exaggerated.”

They did not go as far as accusing Stoner of dishonesty; for one thing, he was still very much around at the time. Nonetheless, somewhere along the line and quite early on, Miller’s words had been changed. It seems strange that no-one noticed before (including Miller) and the glowing testimonial was just accepted and repeated at face value from then on.

When the Watch Tower Society became involved, no-one could accuse them of dishonesty; they simply reprinted what everyone else had been saying for some time.

The wheat appears to have come to CTR’s attention in early 1908. The word “Miracle” probably caught someone’s eye. In line with hopes of restitution of mankind and the earth being transformed into a paradise he made a brief comment in The Watch Tower for March 15, 1908. In the “Views from the Watch Tower” section of the magazine he commented on a current news item:

The short article had a few extracted newspaper comments, all positive, along with Miller’s report, which in the version then in circulation used such expressions as “its quality seems to be as good as, if not superior to, other varieties of winter wheat,” and “excellent results.”

Apart from the “earmarks of truth” comment in the opening paragraph (was that an unconscious pun?), the only other personal comment CTR made was in the final wrap-up.

That was it. Under normal circumstances, it would have been an end to the subject, a passing paragraph in a Watch Tower article. Enter United Cemeteries and the Cemetery Superintendent, John Adam Bohnet.

The land the Cemetery Company owned totalled ninety acres and only eighteen of them were ever used for the cemetery. This meant that there was a large swathe of adjoining farmland that could be used for other purposes. Bohnet had farming experience because he had worked on a farm until the age of twenty-four. According to Bohnet’s own account (which we will come to later) an agent for Kent Stoner called on CTR after hearing about the Watch Tower reference. It wasn’t Stoner himself; CTR and Stoner only met for the first time at a subsequent trial. The agent showed CTR a sample of the wheat in the hope that he might give it more publicity. At that time, CTR didn’t. When the agent shut the sample case, some chaff blew out and apparently two grains of wheat with it onto the carpet. CTR had no known farming experience, but he picked up the seeds and later, at Bohnet’s request, gave them to him. Bohnet then sought permission from Cemetery Manager, Walter Spill, which must just have been a formality, and attempted to grow it there. From his personal experience, as he saw it, the yield was exceptionally good. So he purchased more seed and donated some of the new crop to the Watch Tower Society.

This is where the problems arose. Three years after the initial reference, Bohnet suggested a fund-raising exercise. Many Watch Tower readers were small-scale farmers. They could buy the seed on the understanding that they were really making a donation to the Watch Tower fund. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Bohnet announced that he had bought more seed at one dollar twenty-five cents a pound, so he proposed offering it at one dollar a pound. Other Bible Student farmers including a Samuel J Fleming of Wabash, Indiana, joined him in this. It was claimed that the same wheat seed was then being sold by others at this figure or higher.

This announcement was made inside the front cover of the June 1, 1911, Watch Tower magazine.

There was another brief announcement about shipping inside the cover of the August 1 issue of the magazine, and that was it. There were no further references to it in any Watch Tower magazine throughout 1911. It was hardly a big campaign and a casual reader of the paper could easily have missed it.

Unfortunately, three months after the above announcement was made, the price dropped elsewhere. In September of that year Stoner and his business partners found they had a glut of seed, so drastically reduced the price to five dollars a bushel. (For wheat calculations, a bushel is sixty pounds). However, in a sense this was irrelevant; the original Watch Tower deal was simply adherents buying the seed but understanding that in so doing they were really making a donation to the cause. As the Watch Tower notice commented, Bohnet would give “the entire proceeds to our Society.”

Then the accusations started.

The basic charge was that CTR had claimed that a strain of wheat was miraculous, had marketed it at inflated prices to a credulous public, and then had personally pocketed the proceeds. This had to be fraud. It was hedged a little more subtly than that; the lawyers had gone over it first, but that was the basic drift.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper had a history of attacking CTR. They attacked the idea of Watch Tower being behind United Cemeteries and suggested that respected Pittsburgh clergy were “conned” into supporting it. This is not our subject here, but we should note that the clergymen in question were never asked for money and frankly must have been rather obtuse if they didn’t notice who they had signed up with. But the Eagle’s agenda was quite plain.

The best policy might have been to ignore the newspaper. Yesterday’s news tends to be ephemeral by nature. People, then as now, read a newspaper that panders to their prejudices, and generally forget the details when the next issue appears. The problem with “Miracle Wheat” was that CTR and his associates didn’t ignore it. The story might have faded into obscurity had they done so.

The catalyst was a satirical cartoon. Below is from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper for September 23, 1911.

Image taken from trial transcript exhibits (Google Books)

The reference to the Onion bank was a reference to the Brooklyn Union Bank. It had recently gone bankrupt, and the Eagle had conducted a campaign against it accusing its directors of fraud.

CTR sued. The transcript of the court case has survived and the testimony is fascinating. But he lost the case.

The case came to court in January 1913. The trial soon got bogged down on testimony on how good the wheat was. It was a case of you call your experts and I’ll call mine. Dozens of satisfied farmers waxed lyrical about it, a government official was more neutral. The testimony veered off into other attacks on CTR. His estranged wife Maria came to Brooklyn and turned up in court, appearing for the Eagle. All she supplied was that CTR held the majority of voting shares in the Society, which was a matter of public record anyway.

On its own it was a non-event, but maybe it had a bearing on why CTR, who was present in court, did not give evidence personally. One can just picture him and Maria watching each other across the courtroom. As his counsel J F Rutherford would later note in his booklet A Great Battle in Ecclesiastical Heavens, it wasn’t CTR’s wheat. He had no first-hand information on it. He didn’t discover it, didn’t name it, and received no personal benefit from it. The Society received the donations, and CTR had a controlling interest in the Society, but these donations were for its religious work.

It was also argued by the Eagle’s lawyers that the Watch Tower Society’s reputation had not suffered by the newspaper’s attacks because its receipts, provided by W E Van Amburgh, had consistently risen over the previous three years. All in all, the argument that CTR had suffered loss as a result of a cartoon did not go well.

After the Canadian Ross libel trial, CTR commented in the Watch Tower for October 1st, 1915: "We are not certain that we did the wisest and best thing – the thing most pleasing to the Lord in the matter mentioned." On reflection, CTR might have said much the same for the Miracle Wheat case.

The aftermath was that all who had bought wheat were advised they could have a full refund, and the total proceeds, about $1,800, were kept in a special account for that purpose. No-one charged CTR with fraud and no-one asked for their money back. They had been happy to donate in the same way that John Adam Bohnet had originally been happy to donate the seed.

A few years later, Bohnet wrote up his experiences in an article in The Golden Age magazine for April 9, 1924. Some of his article is a polemic against clergymen who had chosen to attack CTR, not on doctrine, but on a sideline like “Miracle Wheat.”  However, by extracting the relevant paragraphs, this is how he told the story in his own words:

“Facts about Miracle Wheat

Much has been said and written about Miracle Wheat and its superiority over the more common strains of wheat; and people in general were thought to be quite well informed on the subject. And not only are they neglecting to preach the gospel, but they are engaged in evil speaking.

It seems, however, that some ministers are not informed and are given to misleading utterances to their congregations instead of adhering to the delivery of the gospel message.

Pastor Russell Had No Wheat

In the first place, Pastor Russell never sold a pound of Miracle Wheat, and never even had a pound of it to sell. Here are the exact facts:

Pastor Russell learned that a Mr. Stoner of Fincastle, Virginia, had some Miracle Wheat, that the original stool had 214 stalks, and that Mr. Stoner was raising this strain of wheat with a view to selling it for $1.00 per pound. Pastor Russell therefore made mention of it in his journal, The Watch Tower. When some time later the agent of Mr. Stoner out of courtesy for the Watch Tower article, called upon Pastor Russell and showed him a sample of the wheat, two grains of the wheat fell upon the carpet in Pastor Russell’s study. These grains were picked up by him and on request were handed to the writer.

I planted the two grains in my garden, and raised from them 1,312 grains of wheat. These I planted in turn, and raised five and one-third pounds. I in turn planted the same and raised eight and one-half bushels. Then I wrote to Pastor Russell, telling him that I wanted interested Watch Tower readers to have each pound of this wheat for their planting, and suggested that $1.00 per pound should be charged for it, and that every Watch Tower reader who had ground space would gladly pay this price to get a start. “For,” said I, “they will send in a dollar or more, anyhow, for the spread of the gospel; and thus the wheat will be broadcast fairly well; and whatever money may be received for these eight and one-half bushels of wheat I want placed in the general fund of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society for the spread of the truth.”

To this Pastor Russell readily agreed, and placed in his journal a notice of Miracle Wheat securable at $1.00 per pound. The wheat was mine; I, J. A. Bohnet, set the price at $1.00 per pound; Pastor Russell had nothing to do neither with the price-making, nor with the sale of the wheat, except at my suggestion to make mention of it in his journal.

I then purchased a peck of this wheat myself and planted it for other sales which I made; and I paid $1.00 per pound. So I was not charging others any more than I myself was willing to pay.

The Yield from One Pound

The lowest yield from one pound sown that was reported to me was eighty pounds, and the highest reported was two hundred and twenty pounds from one pound sown. Therefore the wheat was miracle sure enough.

Wheat Testimony in Court

When nine of the thirty Miracle Wheat growers at the court trial had given testimony in favor of this wheat, the presiding judge stated in substance that the superiority of Miracle Wheat over all other strains of wheat had been so thoroughly demonstrated that any further testimony in favor of Miracle Wheat would be superfluous. The other twenty-one Miracle Wheat growers were therefore not called upon to give testimony.

People do not like the name "Miracle,” Therefore in various parts of the country this same wheat goes by the name of the man who introduced it there; as for instance, in Tennessee it is called ''Hobbs wheat"; in Maryland, "Weber wheat"; and in some places "Stoner wheat." Nobody has called it "Russell wheat" that I know of; nor has it been called ''Bohnet wheat." But the preachers delight in slapping at Pastor Russell about Miracle wheat, when in reality he had no connection whatever therewith.

Miracle Wheat of Superior Quality

Wherever Miracle Wheat has been shown in competition with other strains of wheat at the state and county fairs, it has always taken first prize and the sweepstake prize. The Webers of .Maryland hold the silver cup of three successive years of prize winnings with this wheat over all other wheats.

The chief difficulty with Miracle Wheat growing is that the farmer sows it too thick. In this case it will not stool. The wheat must be sown very sparsely. When rightly sown, it stools out wonderfully. I have frequently found thirty straws from one grain sown. I have found often fifty straws, all of good heading, from a single grain. I have seen as many as ninety stalks from one grain, and the same six feet tall.

Mr. McKnight, the wheat expert, who traversed every wheat district in Europe, testified under oath that in all his life he had never seen as many as four stalks from one sown grain of wheat, excepting Miracle Wheat. This testimony the writer personally heard in the court room.

Miracle Wheat is all that Pastor Russell proclaimed it to be. If anyone is at fault for charging $1.00 per pound for the Miracle Wheat, it is the writer. Those who paid a dollar for one pound never made a "kick"; they paid it gladly.”

Bohnet worked hard in his article to take full responsibility for what happened. Of course, it must be acknowledged that CTR as Watch Tower editor had published the original story and had also agreed to the fund raising exercise. But Bohnet claimed it all as his idea; there was no fraud intended and none established.

Bohnet’s reference to the wheat being renamed by other growers ties in with a news item in the New Era Enterprise newspaper for October 19, 1920. Here the reference is to prize-winning “Weber Wheat” as grown by the H. Weber and Sons Company of Maryland. The company had been founded by Henry Weber, a former vice-president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (although not the first vice-president as the article suggests). This Enterprise article was also written by John Adam Bohnet.

Looking back, CTR probably wished that Bohnet had kept his bright ideas to himself. As an early reader of this chapter commented, it would have been far better if Bohnet had just sold the wheat direct and then made his own personal donation to the Society and its work.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

"New" photographs from Cedar Point, Ohio (1922)

Correspondent, Tom S. kindly sent me some photographs from the 1922 convention with permission to post. The one of J F Rutherford is probably the one with most historical interest.

A photograph of the pierhead where people could go swimming, and from where the baptism took place.

Here is a queue from that convention. It has been speculated that this may be some of the candidates queuing for baptism.

J F Rutherford photographed.

I remember this song book, do you?


My email

 I'm slowly transitioning from yahoo to protonmail. New email is bwschulz [at] I will continue to check yahoo from time to time until the transition is complete. 

If you use yahoo or another service that abuses advertising, protonmail is free and advertising free. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

L. E. Froom

Froom's Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers is available on ebay as complete sets or partial sets. Froom was SDA, but if you research Watch Tower antecedents, you need these.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The funeral of Charles Taze Russell

Adapted from a chapter in a future book

Anyone writing on Watch Tower history must of necessity cover the death of the first president of the Incorporated Society, Charles Taze Russell. He had been on speaking trip out West in the United States. The last speaking assignment he was able to fulfill was at Los Angeles on October 29 and his travelling companion, Menta Sturgeon, had to deputize for him several times on this occasion. Gravely ill he tried to get back to Brooklyn but died on the train on October 31, 1916.

This article is specifically about the actual funeral arrangements. There are newspaper accounts of the day of variable quality, but basically there are two primary sources for the details. One is the special issue of the Watch Tower for December 1, 1916. This was a memorial issue, which covered CTR’s life as well as his death and funeral. The other, probably more interesting today, is the Bible Students’ unofficial newspaper, The St Paul Enterprise. The editor, William Abbott, attended the whole funeral, first in New York at the New York City Temple on November 5; then after an overnight train journey, in Pittsburgh on November 6. In Pittsburgh, Abbott was at both Carnegie Hall in the afternoon and then at the cemetery at dusk. He wrote a series of extremely candid and personal letters back to his wife, May Laura Abbott, about events and personal difficulties he faced. He had disagreements with certain well-known names in New York and felt he was being pressured not to publish funeral details before the Watch Tower did. Whether he originally meant his letters for publication is debateable, but his wife published them anyway, starting in the November 7, 1916, issue, and thus stole a march on the special Memorial issue of the Watch Tower.


Most newspapers said CTR died of “heart failure” which is a bit of a catch-all. Everybody dies of “heart failure,” but what caused it? He had been failing in health for a while, and according to an article John Adam Bohnet wrote in the Enterprise for November 14, 1916, for some time had been unable to deliver a lecture without medication first. The same article commented that CTR’s father, Joseph Lytle, looked younger and fitter at the age of 84 than CTR did at 64. Bohnet could make such an observation because he’d known Joseph personally. Although Bohnet didn’t elaborate, chronic cystitis was a major factor in the death; a very painful condition that can sometimes lead to renal failure and sepsis. A letter in the November 21 St Paul Enterprise from a Samuel Pearson, Congregational Pastor in Waynoka, Oklahoma where the death was certified noted:

This was confirmed by the Enterprise editor in the November 14 paper, when he borrowed Bohnet’s desk to write home and “could not fail to see on the burial permit that the cause of death was given as “Cystitis.”” Returning to Bohnet’s article, he concluded his description of CTR: “He literally wore himself out in the interest and service of truth and righteousness.”

CTR’s last will and testament was written back in 1907. In it he wrote: “I desire to be buried in the plot of ground owned by our Society, in the Rosemont United Cemetery.” Whether the exact spot was already mapped out at that early date is not known, but it would not include the grave of William Morris Wright, a former Watch Tower Society director, who had been buried there a year earlier in 1906. The area was further down the hill from Wright’s obelisk, and various plans subsequently took shape. In 1912 a Memorial pyramid was mooted for the center of the special site, and then came the first burial in 1914 at one of the corners. Then of course, CTR died and was buried there in 1916. Finally, the pyramid monument was completed in early 1920.

It was reported that CTR had chosen his own burial spot, in the middle of the top row of the site. There was speculation as to who might eventually be buried next to him. Ultimately, his sister Margaretta Russell Land was interred alongside him.

A number of photographs were taken on the day of the funeral and just before.

The first photograph is looking down the hill over the site of the grave. The superintendant’s office (the old Weibel farmhouse), where Bohnet lived at the time, is clearly seen. Two small grave markers can be seen in the grass. These were for Bible Students Arabella Mann and Mary Jane Whitehouse and their graves mark the bottom edge of the special Society plot in the cemetery. The three large headstones in front of the house are not marking actual graves, but were there for dispay and purchase.


The next picture is very poor quality because it is taken from the front page of the St Paul Enterprise newspaper for November 21, 1916. It is captioned: Grave of Pastor Russell, Showing House of Bro. Bohnet.

Then the picture below was dated November 6, the day of the funeral, but obviously was taken quite early in the day.


There is a grave to the right of the picture, actually from the row in front. This would be the grave for John Perry, who died in December 1915. His grave marks the side edge of the Watch Tower’s special section in the cemetery. 

Another photograph shows, amongst others, John Adam Bohnet, the main cemetery supervisior in its history and Andrew Pierson who looked after the floral arrangements.


Bohnet is on the right, his familiar bald head covered by a hat, and Pierson is second from the left with the goatie beard. John Perry’s grave can again be seen in the right of the picture.

Several photographs were then taken of the final stages of the funeral, which happened as dusk approached. First, there is the actual grave in readiness. The figure facing the camera is most likely John Adam Bohnet again.


Second is a photograph of some of the crowd of people as they waited for the coffin to approach.

Finally we have the coffin arriving. The light was now fading. There is only a short time between the previous photograph and this one.


A key point to note about the above photograph is that it appears to include CTR’s estranged wife, Maria.

It was stated in the 1975 Yearbook (page 68) and repeated in the Proclaimers book, that Maria Russell came to the funeral service at Carnegie Hall in Pittsburgh. Quoting from the 1975 Yearbook:

‘Anna K. Gardner, whose recollections are similar to those of others present, tells us this: “An incident occurred just before the services at Carnegie Hall that refuted lies told in the paper about Brother Russell. The hall was filled long before the time for the services to begin and it was very quiet, and then a veiled figure was seen to walk up the aisle to the casket and to lay something on it. Up front one could see what it was—a bunch of lilies of the valley, Brother Russell’s favorite flower. There was a ribbon attached, saying, ‘To My Beloved Husband.’ It was Mrs. Russell. They had never been divorced and this was a public acknowledgment.”’

A similar account can be found in the Watchtower magazine for October 1, 1994. In a life story account from someone else who attended the funeral, the author wrote:

“Sara Kaelin, a well-known colporteur in Pittsburgh, knew the Russells personally. At the funeral she saw Maria Russell place some flowers in the casket with the note, “To My Beloved Husband.” Though she had separated from him some years earlier, Maria still recognized him as her husband.”

The Russells’ marital difficulties are not the subject here, but it should be noted that they were never divorced in the sense of a complete dissolution of a marriage. Legally this is called a vinculo matrimonii (abbreviated to a.v.m.). This might help us understand Anna Gardner’s perception. The action taken by Maria was something different, officially called a mensa et thora (divorce from bed and board, or a.m.t.) which is defined as “a legal separation.” (See Grounds and Defenses to Divorce in Pennsylvania and by Robert A. Ebenstein, in the Villanova Law Revew Volume 15, issue 1 (1969) article 8.)

Newspapers loved the word “divorce” when linked to a religious figure, far more then than today, but using the word “divorce” for the Russells without qualifying what is meant could be misleading. The a.m.t. arrangement was far easier for a wife to achieve because it was very one-sided, her own conduct was not questioned, but it allowed neither party to ever remarry. CTR and Maria remained legally tied together. Extra support seems to have been Maria’s motivation. CTR continued to have financial responsibilities towards her, because an a.m.t. allowed her to seek permanent alimony. A “divorce” in the usual sense of the word would not have allowed Maria to pursue him for more money, which she continued to do even after his death if the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper is to be believed in its byeline for November 29, 1916.


The Eagle characterizes “Mrs Russell” as the “wife” not the “ex-wife.” However, all we are really concerned with here is proof that Maria, perhaps with happier memories of times past, attended part of the funeral.

This testimony of the above witnesses at Carnegie Hall is also reinforced by William Abbott’s letters home to his wife. In the St Paul Enterprise for November 14 (page 3) he wrote:

“At the grave, two heavily veiled ladies followed the coffin, one on the arm of Brother Pyles of Washington, the other on the arm of another brother – I think it was Brother Driscoll. One of the ladies was Mrs Russell – a widow indeed and I shed a tear for her.”


This is supported by the last photograph. Although it was getting dark because of the time of day and time of year, one can make out the two veiled figures. They are identified with two arrows in this selective enlargement.


The second veiled figure was probably Maria’s sister Emma, the widow of Joseph Lytle Russell. The two women had lived together on and off since the turn of the century and would continue to do so until Emma’s death in 1929.

John Adam Bohnet supervised the lowering of the coffin into the grave. It was buried in its outer packing case, and the whole incased in cement. This was managed by Andrew Pierson who also supervised the extensive floral tributes.

The funeral took place in November 1916. It was to be nearly four years before a permanent marker for CTR was erected for his grave. A temporary marker was in place for a photograph in a 1919 convention report. In February 1920, The New Era Enterprise newspaper (the former St Paul Enterprise) reported that a permanent memorial stone was in production. It was certainly in place by 1921 because it was featured on the cover of the program of the Watch Tower Society’s annual meeting in Pittsburgh in late October of that year.

The picture that would eventually appear on the front of the grave marker was given away as a supplement to the Watch Tower magazine with its issue of November 1, 1918.


Visitors today will see a different picture on the gravestone. Vandals have chipped out the picture on more than one occasion over the years, and the current replacement photograph today is not the same as the original one.

Night photograph courtesy of WAHT Publishing Company 

Due to vandalism, the photograph on the rear of the stone has also been replaced on more than one occasion, but always with the same picture.

 This photograph had been taken by William Roy Mitchell on September 10, just seven weeks before the death. It was taken in the Mitchell Photographic Studio in Los Angeles when CTR was there at a convention chaired by J F Rutherford, part of a series with long distance trains organized by Dr. Leslie Jones. But no sooner had CTR returned to Brooklyn than he started out on his final tour which took him back to Los Angeles.


I have been asked about the photographer, William Roy Mitchell. Mitchell (1867-1934) was a Bible Student whose business address was 619 S Broadway, Los Angeles. Below is a sticker from a Manna book for him.

The May 1902 date refers to his becoming a Bible Student. Mitchell produced a number of studio photographs of CTR at different times, and also at least one photograph of J F Rutherford.

Monday, November 2, 2020

A Review

Long time researcher and friend of this blog, Bernhard Brabenec, has produced a complete book on the Bible House of Allegheny, the first custom built headquarters of the Bible Students. It is over 130 pages in length and profusely illustrated with diagrams and photographs. Below is a graphic of the cover along with a facimile from part the foreward.


The foreward gives good reasons for owning this volume. The history of the first custom built headquarters for the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society has a lot of interest for anyone who is ever likely to read this blog. Who worked there? A comprehensive list is provided taken from city directories over its 20 year history. What were the various offices like and how did they work? Familiar photographs are provided with a clarity many will not have seen. Some are colorized, and others provide names of the specific workers. There are photos of the first Watch Tower directors and the personal histories of C T Russell’s private secretaries. The building was so large that initially some space was rented out to businesses, some connnected with the Bible Students, some not. These are described. Gradually the work expanded to take over the whole building and prompt a move to Brooklyn. The building survived until the 1960s and its post-1909 history has Bible Student links. So the book contains all of this, and more.

I can sincerely recommend it to all. Links are notoriously unstable, but if you go to Amazon for your particular country, use the search terms "The Bible House in Allegheny, Pittsburgh, PA" or "Bernhard J. Brabenec". The Amazon site will allow you preview some of the pages, which will give a better idea of the book than this review can.

Bernhard has produced several books of interest. Another recent one is the Photo Album of Charles Taze Russell. This is nearly all photographs, the best copies available and that is reflected in the price of this volume.  

Bernhard has also written a very detailed history of the Bible Students in Austria. Unfortunately the latter is only available in the German language at present. But if you follow the trail to Amazon for the Bible House book you will also find links to these other works.

Friday, October 30, 2020

The Story Behind a Picture

supplied by Moses G.


A post a month or so ago promoted an interesting response from correspondent Moses G. He had photographs of the theater where the Photodrama was shown at the very end of January and beginning of February 1914, one of the very first showings in four parts. He also has correspondence about the showing and people who were there.

The Camden-Post newspaper (Toledo, Ohio) for February 2, 1914, carried the story.

First, the venue was generally called Burts Theater, in Toledo, Ohio. Here is a postcard from that era showing it.

It still exists today. Here is a more recent photograph of the venue.

Most likely attendiing that very early showing was a young colporteur, Walter Kessler from Auburn, Indiana, who wrote a letter to Wayne Brooks from Oil City, Pennsylvania. Moses has a collection of letters stretching from 1905 to the 1940s, showing these men and others working as colporteurs, working in the Bethel Home, and also working with the Photodrama of Creation.

Walter lived from 1892 to 1973.

The letter relating to the Photodrama indicates that maybe Walter was one of those in the photograph of the people in front of the theater in the original post. It is dated February 27, 1914.

 In the letter, Walter writes that he saw the Photodrama at Toledo three weeks before. So far we do have not have a photograph of him to try and pick him out from the group photograph. What we do have is his draft registration card when he was called up in 1917. It shows he claimed exemption as a minister with the IBSA. Sometimes these forms have a photograph attached, but sadly not in this case.


Returning to his 1914 letter, it is full of news about different individuals and thus is a store of information about names from the past. One hopes that Moses can make more of this material available at some time.

Walter indicated that he supported his colpoteur activity for a short time by working for a new automobile company called “Imp Auto Cycle.” It operated in Auburn, Indiana, for only two years, 1913-1914. Here is one of their advertisements.


One final thought from his letter. He mentions a Brother Higbe from Toledo using his auto to advertise the Photodrama. Perhaps it looked like the model in this 1914 photograph.