Friday, January 15, 2021

Can you do this?

 I'm reading someone else's nearly complete work with a critical eye. I would like comments on the following:

Define Witness salvation doctrine. What is the 'process' of salvation, and what if anything does God require in return for salvation?

            I am, as almost every reader of this blog knows, a very long-serving Witness. My activity is greatly diminished by health. But my faith is not. I may do better with this issue by telling you how I see divine salvation. And I believe this is what we teach as an organization, though I may use different terms.


            Salvation comes to all men through Jesus’ sacrifice. It is not the sole possession of a small band of Christians, but is meant to bring all men into peace with God. This is the import of I John 2:1-3:


My little children, I am writing you these things that you may not commit a sin. And yet, if anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one.  And he is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.  And by this we have the knowledge that we have come to know him, namely, if we continue observing his commandments.  He that says: “I have come to know him,” and yet is not observing his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in this person. But whoever does observe his word, truthfully in this person the love of God has been made perfect. By this we have the knowledge that we are in union with him. He that says he remains in union with him is under obligation himself also to go on walking just as that one walked.


            John does not teach universal salvation. Instead he suggests that for Jesus’ sacrifice to be effective in our individual cases, we must come to know the Father. [The grammar here, I believe, points to knowing the Father, though in John 17:3 we have Jesus saying: “This means everlasting life, their coming to know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” This verse points to intimate knowledge of both.]

            1 John suggests that for Christ’s sacrifice to be of enduring efficacy we must observe God’s commandments. He points to no other – no man, no organization of men, no self-imposed beliefs. If one knows God, then one obeys God because he has an intimate relationship with him.

            Knowing God is not an instant revelation. The way Jesus explains it in John 17 is that it is similar to making a new friend. This is a path that leads to repentance, confession and changed life. Without defining each, let me focus on confession. In the account at Matthew 3:1-6 we find that repentance leads to confession: “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,  saying: ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’  ... Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea and all the country around the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River, openly confessing their sins.”

            The word translated “confessing/confess” is ἐξομολογούμενοι. Moderate, even elementary familiarity with Koine Greek should give you its definition. It means to speak out in the same way as another, to fully agree. So confession of sins is made to God, has a public element (I used to live that way but no longer), and means that God’s thoughts, commandments, and concepts are adopted as our own, and our former beliefs are abandoned. This is not organizational conformity, and I will not debate that here. A discussion of the verse that says to obey those forging the way in the faith is not appropriate here and will only foment controversy.

            So salvation is not dependent on any work of ours. We can do nothing to obligate God. We are instead obligated to God. So confession and repentance simply mean that we accept Christ’s propitiatory [peacemaking] sacrifice as made for ourselves, and we assume the obligation to obey His commandments. Obedience is the natural result of faith.

            There are many ransom/atonement theories. When Agustus Strong wrote his massive Systematic Theology he presented his readers with a long, tiresome list. Most who define the act of atonement ignore its basis in the Mosaic pattern. Yet, Paul says that the one foreshadowed the other. If we believe what Paul wrote, then we see in the communion sacrifice under the law a pattern for us. The communion sacrifices were a meal shared with God and the sacrificing priest. To sit at God’s table, one must be his friend. To be his friend means to adopt the behaviors he commands and suggests. So acts of faith follow naturally from repentance and confession.

            Witnesses do not ask, “are you saved?” God saved everyone through his son’s sacrifice. It’s an irrelevant question, one designed to divide co-religionists from those who do not accept the questioner’s definition of salvation. Instead, a Witness may inquire about baptism because we see it as a symbol of one’s commitment to accept Christ’s sacrifice and live by God’s standards.


Have I mis-defined Witness doctrine?



Thursday, January 14, 2021

New to My Research Collection

 A huge amount of things have come my way in the last few months, some as scans from other researchers and some I had to grit my teeth and pay for out of household funds. My research funds are at Zero Dollars and will be for a few months, but worth it I think. Among the items that have come my way is the full year 1887 of A. P. Adams' Spirit of the Word and the pamphlet pictured below. [Sorry about the photo quality; best I have at the moment.]

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Help with this?


I'm swamped for time. I have too many projects that I must finish, not to mention [though I am] Separate Identity v 3 which is still mostly research.

I need help finding details about the Women's Religious Publication Society. It's headquarters were in Albany, New York. It was active mid 19th Century.


Depending on your browser, you may have to click image to see it entire.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

A New Book?


Well, it isn’t really, but a print version of something produced some years ago has now been published.

To explain:  I am hoping to use Lulu self-publishing for a work in progress.

But to test out how to use this platform and whether it will be suitable for my needs I decided to publish a print version of something produced back in 2012. This is the Houston-Davidson debate of 1896. It has been available as a free download from Lulu for some time. Having tried it out a “proof copy” it seems to fill my needs, but as it has now been “published” in this form, it is also available to others if they want it.

I am not asking anyone to buy a book. If you want just the background story, see this old post on this blog:

There are parts 2 and 3 that follow it.

If you want to download the complete text this can be done freely from Lulu books. Go to their website, go to Bookshop and type in the search terms Houston-Davidson debate.

 Punch it in, and you will see a Yellow cover and the name “Jerome” attached. The same search facility will also now show a print edition.

The printed version has only one real change, the addition of two graphics from newspapers of the day. These are not necessary for the story at all, but gave me the opportunity to see how graphics would come out in a Lulu printed edition.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

I remember this one, though with slightly altered words. ...


 This song has a surprising history. Anyone care to pursue it?

Monday, January 4, 2021

Friday, January 1, 2021

The Russell Family Tree

by Jerome

Charles Taze Russell (hereafter abbreviated as CTR) plays such a large role in early Watch Tower history it is not surprising that his family history is of interest. This article endeavours to fill in some of the gaps in the usual histories.

Russell is a Protestant name. There were many Russells in what is now known as Northern Ireland at the start of the 19th century. Other common names were Lytle (or Lytel) and Tay or Tays (possibly named after the Scottish river Tay). It was common for a former surname, perhaps of a mother, to be preserved as the middle name in the new generation. This helps explain names like Joseph Lytle Russell and Charles Tays (or Taze) Russell. This can also assist in tracing a family tree backwards. It was also common, as it is today, for forenames to be repeated down through the generations. Of course, when people had large families, they soon ran out of repeatable forenames.

We are told that the Russell family were of Scots-Irish ancestry; early records saying Scotch-Irish ancestry.

The pressure on Presbyterians to join the Church of England caused some from the Scottish lowlands and also Northern England to immigrate from the 17th century onward. The Highland Clearances forced many others in Scotland to leave home, and the British Government was keen to encourage more to move to Ireland with land grants like the Plantations of Ulster. On the one hand it damped down tensions and poverty in Scotland and the borders, and on the other it helped dilute both the language and Catholic faith of the native Irish. The consequences of those policies are still with us today.

The Protestant communities that then developed in Northern Ireland were predominantly Presbyterian from their Scottish roots and as conditions became difficult there more and more went to America. The term Scots-Irish eventually came to be a term used in America to identify these Protestant immigrants. It distinguished them from the large numbers who came a little later due to the potato famine. The latter tended to be Roman Catholic.

So the Russell family may have literally come originally from Scotland, or they may just have been lumped into the catch-all title Scots-Irish. Either way, they were Protestants, Presbyterian, who lived in the region of County Donegal (from Charles Tays Russell’s grave marker) and Londonderry (from Joseph Lytle Russell’s newspaper obituary). Donegal and Londonderry bordered on each other.

A key industry in Northern Ireland was making what is still called today, Irish linen. In the early part of the 19th century Northern Ireland hand-spinning faced severe competition from machine-spinning as the industrial revolution trampled all before it. Even so, prior to the First World War, Belfast was the largest linen producing area in the world, and had the nickname, Linenopolis. But changing times in the early 19th century would cause some in the industry to look to America. So we have Charles Tays Russell who reportedly came to America to work with Alexander Stewart, who made his fortune importing Irish fabrics. One step further on we have Charles Tays’ one time business partner, his brother Joseph Lytle Russell, establishing a haberdashery store – a business that was expanded in due course with his son, CTR.

To establish the family tree of Charles Taze Russell, there are two key documents. First, there is a family tree prepared by Robert Speel. Robert was a descendant of the Russells through CTR’s half sister, Mabel. Mabel, the daughter of Joseph Lytle Russell and Emma Ackley, married Richard Packard. One of their daughters, Mildred, married a Robert Speel. Their son was also called Robert and the family tree most readers here will have seen is credited to one of the Roberts.

It is a labor of love, prepared before the internet provided access to documents. Its main resource, apart from word of mouth of living relatives, was the Last Will and Testament of CTR’s Uncle, Charles Tays Russell. This uncle of CTR (after whom he was named) did not marry and left a number of bequests. His estate was divided out between surviving siblings and in some cases, their children. This document gives us names and also locations for these people in the 1870s.

Understandably the family tree is incomplete. It also contains one glaring error in the first section reproduced below.

2b is listed as Sarah Russell (1799-1846) one of children of Thomas and Fannie Russell.

This Sarah is not one of the Russell children, but was the wife of James Russell, who is listed as 2a. James bought the family cemetery plot in the Allegheny cemetery in 1846, shortly before she died, and she was the first to be buried there. He followed one year later. However, he bought the plot with his wife in mind, not his sister. Realistically that makes more sense. If Robert Speel examined the burial registers at the Allegheny Cemetery he would not have found the correct relationship, because it is not listed. The register only gives her name, and then date and cause of death. Only by visiting the grave site and checking the surviving grave marker can we see that Sarah was the wife of James.

We now know a little more about her. That brings us to the second key document. It is entitled “Descendants of Thomas Russell and Fanny Grier of Londonderry, Ireland, as dictated by Aunt Sarah Russell Morris, Oct. 1900.” This can be accessed on the “Family Search” website under the family of Alexander Russell.

It is a typewritten document with a few pencilled notations on it.It particularly concentrates on the family of Alexander Russell (2e in the Robert Speel chart). The compiler, who is called Aunt Sarah Russell Morris, was born in 1834, so would have met a number of relatives or at least known about them while they were still alive. She was one of Alexander Russell’s daughters, so a first cousin of CTR, although there is no indication that they ever met.

I made contact with living descendants, who gave permission for me to use the document, but who could supply no extra information on the early days. I checked back on what I could, using Ancestry, and was able to independently verify much of the information on Alexander and his descendants. The further back you go and the further afield you go from Alexander and family then it becomes more difficult to find supporting witnesses. However, there is no reason to assume that Aunt Sarah made it all up. The information she provided raises a question or two, but we will raise these issues as we now go through her testimony to provide the fullest account we can of CTR’s extended family.

The family tree starts with Thomas and Fannie Russell (according to Speel) and Thomas and Fanny Grier of Londonderry (according to Aunt Sarah). This information may well have come from the notice of someone’s birth or marriage. Stating they were “of Londonderry” strongly suggests they never made the journey to the United States. Their last child, Fanny or Fannie (who never left Ireland), died in June 1867, aged 55, so was born around 1812. Unfortunately, going back from around 1812 there are a lot of Thomas Russells with wives named Fanny or Fannie in Londonderry, and it has not been possible as yet to establish which couple produced our particular dynasty.

One point of possible note: there was a Rev Joseph Lytle who was Presbyterian Minister of the 1st Letterkenny Presbyterian Church from 1803 to 1841. His Uncle, also a Rev Joseph Lytle, was the previous minister of this congregation but died in 1805 and had no family This Lytle family came from Desertoghill Parish in East Londonderry. The tithe maps show six men named Thomas Russell in the Letterkenny area, so some of them could have been members of that church. Of course, it could all just be coincidence.

Aunt Sarah notes, as we have already, that Russell is a Protestant name. She stated that Thomas and Fanny had thirteen children, three of whom died in infancy.

The surviving ten children in (we assume) order of birth were as follows:

1.      James

2.      William

3.      Charles

4.      Joseph

5.      Thomas

6.      George

7.      Alexander

8.      Ellen

9.      Mary Jane

10.  Fanny


James was the oldest who survived to adulthood, and was born c.1796. His register of death from 1847 simply states that he came from Ireland. He may have been the first to go to America, paving the way for others. His history, as given by Aunt Sarah, suggests a possible trail-blazer, but he ended up in Pittsburgh and died comparatively young, five years before CTR was born. Aunt Sarah tells us that James married Sarah Ann Risk. We learn elsewhere in the document that the Risk family were Episcopalians in Faun, Ireland, and father George Risk (married to a Sarah) was an excise office. We also note from the history of Alexander (below), who married Sarah Ann’s sister, Margaret that James and Sarah were already a married couple in America in Elmwood Hill, New York, by 1832.

James’ history gives us a question for future research. Quoting directly from Aunt Sarah: “James was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, conducted his Collegiate and Commerical Institute at Elmwood Hill, Bloomingdale, N.Y. now included in Central Park near West 103rd Street.”

The question? How did a poor Protestant boy (we assume) get his education at Trinity College, Dublin? The registers of intake at Trinity College are online, and a careful check reveals a number of Russells, but no Thomas. Of course, absense of evidence is not automatically evidence of absense, but it would be nice to track down his movements further if that is ever going to be possible.

By 1832 James is married to Sarah and they are living in Elmwood Hill, New York. Aunt Sarah records that “James and Sarah having no children ‘adopted’ Thomas Russell, son of (his brother) Alexander.” This Thomas Russell was born in 1833.

At some point James and Sarah moved to Pittsburgh. There is a James Russell in the 1840 Pittsburgh census, but no guarantee it is the right one. However, Pittsburgh became a settled home for them because in 1846 he bought one of the first grave plots to go on the market in the new Allegheny Cemetery. Two of his brothers, Charles and Joseph, were living in the same area, and all of them were eventually buried in the family plot. Dying as early as he did, and having no children, James was to be forgotten by later generations.

For the history of this cemetery and the Russell plot see:


The second child was William. All we learn from Aunt Sarah is that he had no children. We assume that means he did get married. He is not mentioned as a beneficiary in the Charles Tays Russell will of 1872 so had probably died by then.


All Aunt Sarah tells us about the third child is that he never married. It would appear that the New York branch of the family (Alexander et al) and the Pittsburgh branch never kept in close touch, at least after James died. Nonetheless, Sarah Ann was named in Charles’ last will and testament.

However, we know quite a bit about Charles Tays Russell because he merited an obituary in the Pittsburgh newspapers when he died and left a reasonable trail of much of his life. Obituaries are always a little suspect because the one person who can verify their accuracy is not there to do so, but this is how his life was reviewed in his obituary from the Pittsburgh Post for December 27, 1875.

The key facts are that he came to New York in 1823. He was involved with A T Stewart as mentioned above. He started a business in Pittsburgh in 1831, eventually switched to brokerage and insurance in 1867. To this we can add that he joined the Third Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh in 1834, was in business with Joseph Lytle Russell for a while, and left a swathe of bequests when he died, which helps us establish a family tree. For further details and to read his last will and testament, see:


Joseph is our main interest in this generation of the family of course. Aunt Sarah only gave him a sentence or two: “Joseph lived in Pittsburgh, Pa. By his first wife had a son Charles who became famous as a leader of the Russellite sect. By his second wife, Miss Ackley, had a daughter, Mabel.”

This suggests that Aunt Sarah probably never met Joseph or his son Charles. It also indicates that by 1900 when she gave her account that the perjorative “Russellite” was in common use.

Joseph’s history, coming to America at the very latest by 1843, joining the Third Presbyterian Church in 1845, as had Charles Tays and Ellen before him, and marrying Ann Eliza Birney in 1849, is all documented here:


All we know about Thomas from Aunt Sarah is that he loved poetry and engaged in sheep raising. He is not mentioned in Charles Tays’ last will and testament, which strongly suggests he had died before 1872.


All we have from Aunt Sarah is a name and no other details.


Aunt Sarah was Alexander’s daughter, so her account of his life and family is the most comprehensive. We reproduce her comments in full.

“Alexander came to the U.S. as a young man and married Margaret Risk, who was visiting her sister Sarah Ann Russell, wife of James, at Elmwood Hill; they were married June 21st 1832 by Rev. Mr. Alburtis at Bloomingdale, N.Y. They lived in a cottage near Elmwood Hill where their son Thomas Grier was born in 1833; they then moved to Patterson, N.J., and lived there seven years where they kept a grocery store. The following childten were born in Patterson; Sarah Ann in 1834, George in 1836, who died in 1843, and Francis Grier in 1839. The family then moved back to New York, living at first at Elmwood Hill, Bloomingdale, where Cornelia Stewart, named for Mrs A.T. Stewart, was born in 1840. Alexander Russell after his return to New York became a contractor in painting houses and churches. The family moved to 26th Street, near Sixth Avenue and lived in the house of lawyer Holt, a batchelor who boarded with them; they later move (sic) to Broadway very near St. James Hotel; they attended the Dutch Reformed Church on Fifth Ave and Twenty-First Street where Alexander Russell was an elder for fourteen years.

Another son, George Alexander, was born in New York in 1845, he died in 1848. Margaret Risk Russell died May 30, 1853, aged 45 years.”

As yet we have not traced a record of his death, but he appears to have died some time between 1872 and 1878. He is mentioned in the Charles Tays will written in 1872, but by 1878 the bequest is being divided between his surviving children.

Here is Alexander’s photograph. His full name was Alexander Grier Russell.


Aunt Sarah’s summary of Ellen’s life reads: “Ellen was governess in the family of Rev. Dr. Riddle of Pittsburgh, Pa.; she moved with them to New Jersey and died in New York City, in Alex’r’s house.” It noted that Ellen never married.

From the mid-1830s through to the 1850s a Rev Dr Riddle was very active with the Third Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, but then later moved to New Jersey. An obituary for David H Riddle (1803-1888) in the Public Weekly Opinion (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania) for 20 July 1888, stated: “Dr Riddle was pastor of the Third Presbyterian church of Pittsburgh for more than twenty years, and afterwards of the Presbyterian church in Jersey City.”

We have already noted that Charles Tays Russell joined the Third Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh in 1834, the year it was founded. The same registers show that a Miss Ellen Russell joined this church on November 17, 1937, by examination. There is a pencilled note in the register that she died in 1860.

Mary Jane

Mary Jane Russell was obviously not Aunt Sarah’s favorite person. Her summary of Mary Jane’s life states: “(her) “hobby” was cats; she kept house for her brother Alexander after his wife’s death; later she lived alone in Pittsburgh and died there. She was peculiar and very strict; she though much of pedigree, etc.”

Alexander’s wife died in 1853. As noted above, Alexander himself died sometime in the mid-1870s. A trust fund was set up for Mary Jane’s support from the estate of Charles Tays Russell, but it ran short and in 1886 there was a need for a family decision to dip into the capital. At this point Joseph Lytle Russell in Pittsburgh took responsibility for managing her affairs, but almost immediately thereafter Mary Jane died. She was buried in the family plot in the Allegheny cemetery, but no grave marker was provided.

For further documentation see the link below:


All Aunt Sarah can tell us is that Fanny married a Mr Harper.

Fanny never left Ireland. When she died in 1867, her death certificate gave her age as 55, so her approximate year of birth would be 1812. Her husband, Alexander Harper, was a farmer and they were then living at Castlefinn, Co. Donegal. Alexander was illiterate and had to sign he was present at the death by making his mark.

Charles Tays’ will in 1872 noted that Fanny had already died and made bequests to six surviving children. It also noted where the six were in 1872, to the best of Charles Tays’ knowledge. Four had gone to America and two remained in Co. Donegal.

See again:


In 1891, CTR, our main subject, visited Ireland. However, there is no indication that he met any extended family members, assuming he even knew who they were by this time.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Urgently needed

I need scans, photocopies or orginals of "Prophetic Times and Watch Tower" all issues from 1879-1885. I especially need the full year 1882. Anyone?

Friday, December 18, 2020

1928 Song Book

You will recognize some of the tunes, though often the words have changed.

Bad manners


            I should not have to elaborate on previous posts about our rules. But apparently I do. 

           The copy function is turned off here to prevent a small group of Russian and Polish trolls from stealing copyrighted content. No, I do not hate Russians or the Polish. But I find those who steal intellectual content despicable.

             If you’ve come here to read, reread and copy Jerome’s Miracle Wheat article, just ask. Knowing who you are, either he or I will send the entire text to you via email. All you must do is ask.

             Frankly, you’re annoying. Your behavior is poor. Secretiveness is unbecoming a fellow Christian. You seriously need to grow up.

             Still, both Jerome and I contribute to essential projects related to you, and we will provide you with the text of any article published on this blog. Just ask: bruce . schulz @ aol. com

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

A. P. Adams

I need some help. I have located some of Arthur P. Adams' booklets. My research funds are too low to purchase photocopies. Is there some kind soul out there who would buy them for me? I hate to ask. It goes against my grain, to use an old woodworking expression. The booklets are: 

Christ's seamless garment. 16 pages.

True basis of redemption. 1894, 52 pages.

Endless torments not scriptural: an examination of the Bible doctrine of future retribution ... with an additional word on the intermediate state and spiritism ... Observer Steam Print House, 1882. 53 pages.

My preference, given the state of my health, is that any volunteer contact the library in person and arrange for the purchase and mailing. Contact me by email for details. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

J F Rutherford. Schoolteacher?

 From the Franklin County Tribune (Union, Missouri) for 15 August 1941, page 1.


Monday, December 14, 2020


 I am interested in well-written, expertly researched articles. I cannot pay you. 

Articles must be footnoted to original sources. They can be on any subject from the Russell era. I'm especially interested in articles about Russell's newspaper syndicate, the Russell era debates, clergy opposition and forgotten personalities. But I am open to almost anything. 

Remember that this is a history blog. A polemic won't see the light of day here. Some of our readers intellectually oppose Russell's belief system, and some see him as a saint. Keep those points of view out of your article. Neither is suitable for this blog.

Submit in Times New Roman, single space. Indent paragraphs with the "tab" key. Do not use the space bar. Footnote style should be

For books: First Last name of author, title in italics, publisher, place, date, page number.

For articles: First Last name, title of article, name of magazine in italics, date of publication, page number.

It is unlikely that a submission citing Wikipedia or any other web page will be accepted. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020


 I expect those who visit here to behave as adults and to have at least some ethical standards. Trying to disguise who you are is unnecessary. I usually only broadly note where visitors live. And some I know by their IP address. Those who read this blog and who work and live in Wallkill or Paterson or Tuxedo Park NY are often people I know. They do not hide their identity behind a misleading IP. This is also true of those visiting from the Watch Tower Society branches in Japan, Germany and Brazil. 

But there is one troublesome individual who lives in Chelmsford who does not live by the same standards as do those I mentioned above. I question his reason for visiting this blog. 

To the person from Chelmsford, Essex, using Talktalk IP I suggest that if you want to know the personal details of those who contribute to this blog, my email is in a recent post. "Spying" is unbecoming a Christian. 

I do not wish to ignite a controversy. I do not want to see condemnatory comments. This post is as it is. 

Can we identify these men?

 Sweden? colporteurs. Names?

Zion's Day Star


Friday, December 4, 2020


 JAMES H WHITMORE The Doctrine Of Immortality, Buchanan, Michigan, 1871 is listed on ebay. Whitmore was party to the 1872 debate mentioned by Paton in Day Dawn.

It is "buy it now" for about thirty-five dollars and postage. If you are interested in the Barbour era, you may want this book.

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

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.