Thursday, July 14, 2016

James Augustus Weimar - By Bernard B with English language help from R.



            In the Watch Tower magazine from December 1888, we find a letter written by J. A. Weimar to C. T. Russell. Weimar lived in Connecticut, and as a minister in the German Baptist congregation he was interested in Russell’s book The Plan of Ages, which he received in July 1888 in English and German. After he had studied it, he was convienced it was the truth, and he converted.
            Dr. James Augustus Weimar was an Osteopathic physician. He told Russell that he was a German immigrant and that he studied theology in Meriden. The Watch Tower of April 25, 1894, says that his wife’s name was Elizabeth K. Using these small clues we discover that J. A. Weimar is Jacob (Jakob) August Weimar, born in October 7, 1855, in Unterheinriet (Neckarkreis), Würtemberg, Germany. He was the son of Jacob Andreas Weimar (b. 1815) and Friedriecke Eckstein. They had 4 children, two sons and two daughters. His grandparents were Andreas Weimar (Nov. 30, 1780 - Nov. 9, 1828) and Amona Sommer, and his great grandparents were Gottlieb Weimar and Anna Maria Lang.
            Jacob August emigrated to the United States in 1870, anglisizing his name to James Augustus. He met Elizabeth (Born May 1868, in Pennsylvania) whom he married in 1883, when she was fifteen. In October 1885, Lilly, their first child, was born, and their second daughter, Marie (Mamie), was born in June 1887. They lived in Maryland until 1888.
            He became a zealous evangelist. In 1889, S. D. Rogers sent Russell a report about Weimar‘s work in Detroit (Letter to Russell, WT June 1889). A letter from Weimar appeared in the same issue:
Your lines came duly to hand. I rejoice to know that you are praying the dear Lord's blessing upon me and all. Through the favor of God I am getting along pretty well in the blessed harvest work. Though my feet through the day get sore from walking so much, yet in the morning they are generally restored. I think by and by it will be better as I work myself in. I am determined to endure. My heart's desire is to esteem all things a loss, on account of the excellency of the knowledge of the Anointed Jesus, my Lord. And with my whole being I do desire to press along the line towards the prize of the high calling. My sales for the first ten days run as follows: --22, 24, 19, 18, 29, 24, 18, 18, 31, 30, total 233.

            Commenting on his letter, Russell explained:

Our readers will remember Bro. Weimar as the one who left a Baptist pulpit in Meriden, Conn., recently; going forth to preach the ‘good tidings’ without human hindrance and to a larger congregation, delivering sixteen sermons at a time, by the selling of DAWN VOL. I. His first experience, here related, is remarkably good. We know that his every sacrifice and self-denial for the truth's sake will be amply rewarded by our great Master, both with present joys and future glories.

            In October 1889, John B. Adamson wrote of Weimar: “His family are among the things to be left behind, but when we see how he loves them, his sacrifice, as seen in his long absence from them, is sweet to God.”
            Additional letters from him appear In the Watch Tower, giving us insight into his thinking: For example, he wrote: “As this is a day of rest, I have a little leisure to write. I must let you know that the words of the Holy Scriptures (1 Pet. 4:1-7) which you proclaimed on the first Lord's day of this month [Sept.] are still stimulating me for the service of the Anointed…”
            In autumn 1891, Weimar came to Pittsburgh and visited Russell in the Bible House. Weimar conducted the meeting (Watch Tower November 1891). During the troubled year 1894 when Bryan, Rogers, von Zech, Adamson and others rebelled against Russell, Weimar stayed loyal to him, as many letters in April show. Weimar is last mentioned in the 1894 Annual Report (Watch Tower, Dec 15, 1894):

Brother M. L. McPhail only has been giving all of his time to this work, and he alone has all of his expenses paid out of the Tract Society's fund, the other laborers in this branch of the service, Brothers Antoszewski, Austin, Bell, Blundin, Bohnet, Draper, Merrill, Murphy, Owen, Page, Ransom, Richards, Thorn, Webb, Weber, Weimar, West, Williams, Wise and Witter, being traveling salesmen, colporteurs or business men whose expenses are met by their business or otherwise and who delight to give an evening or a Sunday, as they can arrange it, in serving the Lord's flock--pointing to the green pastures and the still waters and feeding and rejoicing with the sheep.

            Russell saw that Weimar was loyal, zealous, and well-educated man. When (in January 5, 1895) John B. Adamson was removed as a Watch Tower Society director, Russell replaced him with James A. Weimar. He served only one year, resigning January 4, 1896, and Ernest C. Henninges succeeded him. What was the reason? Normally no one was replaced, except at death, like William MacMillan and H. Weber, or he split from Russell, like Mann, Smith.
            One reason might be that he dabbled in Spiritism. In 1897 Weimar wrote a book, which he released in August 1898, entitled The Mysteries and Revelations of Spiritism and Mediumship and Its Kindred Subjects Viewed in the Light of the Bible and Personal Investigation (Press of the Journal Company, Fort Wayne, Indiana). Weimar planned to translate it into German too. Interestingly, he used the name “Jehovah,” and he used Benjamin Wilson’s Diaglott. It shows that he had significant biblical knowledge, and he was familiar with Greek and Hebrew words. But why did he write it? He said in the foreword:

I undertook this laborious work not for my own information merely, but especially for the sake of others, who are exposed to the dangers herein mentioned, and who therefore need a helping hand. In view of this, as much as my study and ability allow, I devoted my time more fully for this purpose; attending séances, private gatherings, public meetings, in different cities and places where the various theories of Spiritism, Mediumship, and kindred subjects were seen put in practice.

            He no longer focused on evangelism, but he wanted help the demon-possessed. To this end, he exposed himself to demonic influences.

             He contacted another religious community “The Koreshan Unity,” a utopian commun formed by Cyrus Teed, who took the name "Koresh", the original Persian of his name Cyrus. The Koreshans followed Teed's beliefs, called Koreshanity. The Koreshan Unity started in the 1870s in New York, where after experiencing a late-night religious vision in his laboratory, Teed first preached his beliefs. During what he called his “illumination,” he saw a beautiful woman who revealed to him a series of “universal truths” which formed the principles of Koreshan belief.
          Weimar joined them; the exact date is unknown. His wife Elizabeth decided to divorce him. The Fort Wayne Gazette, (April 20, 1898, Page 3) said: “In the circuit court a divorce was granted yesterday to the defendant in the case of Elizabeth Weimar and James A. Weimar. The suit was brought by the wife on the ground that he had joined a religious organization believed that matrimony is a sin.” Interesting is that Weimar’s daughter Mamie stayed with him and also lived in the community.

 Mamie (Maria) Weimar

            James Augustus Weimar died October 22, 1919, in Florida and was buried on October 23. He was buried at the Koreshan Unity Cemetery (Estero, Lee, Florida), Horseshoe Bend on the River, lot 6 – Corkscrew Rd.


roberto said...

Thanks Bernard. Very interesting research.

jerome said...

Excellent Bernhard - many thanks.

Andrew said...

I remember reading his letters in the old Watchtowers. I appreciate your research. It is these experiences which make the story you are telling come alive. The stories of early Watchtower adherents are more complicated and interesting that I would have realized. I wish the "official" histories published by the Society would include stories such as these. It helps paint a more accurate picture of the time period and nature of the converts. Thank you for your painstaking research.

One more note:

I am writing a history of my own Witness congregation, and your example of clear and accurate research has made my project much better. For example, you often talk about the importance of using original sources, and writing history that anyone else can verify. It seems so simple, but in several cases, I have found that finding the original sources has led me to modify several key sections of my work, because I was using secondary sources, which were in many cases only partly truthful, and in a few cases were clearly incorrect.

Your example has improved my project immensely. I have had several older members of the congregation react negatively to parts of the project, because what I wrote did not coincide with stories they had been passed on for years. The good news is that in almost every case, when confronted by the undeniable evidence that what I had written was true, they thanked me for clearing the matter up. In one case, another older person who did not believe what I had written is embarking on his own research to try and confirm what he believes to be true. I surprised him by encouraging him to investigate the matter fully. (He expected me to try to dissuade him.)

I want to thank you and your team, not only for your brilliant research, but also for providing me, and anyone else interested in history, an example of how to create accurate and verifiable research. You often say, "Go where the facts lead you," which sounds simple enough. But you practice what you preach, and I am grateful for your good example. And I know of many others who read the blog, but never comment, who would say the same thing.

Andrew Grzadzielewski