Saturday, March 25, 2017

Research on the wild side ...

            This is really fringe material, but we do need to know. I’m turning to our readers who are probably better at this particular research than we are. We have two lines of research, one fairly urgent, the other important later.
            There is slight evidence that the Russells [or just C. T.] had a son who died in infancy. Yes, I know, it seems improbable given the amount of research put into their life. But we need to confirm or deny this.
            The Internet repeats suggestions that Rutherford had a mistress or two. The ‘evidence’ never seems to reach the threshold of established fact. We need to know.
            We need solid research, even if it only concludes there is no evidence. On the supposed Russell child, we’d need to find a grave or death records that match. He would have died in 1880 or 1881. He might not be buried with the rest of the family. The name may only be “baby boy Russell.”
            I have several reasons for turning this over to our readers. I have a strong point of view on both of these issues. I’d rather the research proceed without a PoV clouding it. We do not have easy access to Allegheny County records, many of which perished in a fire. On the other hand, I do not want to turn this into the wild speculations found on controversialist sites.

Are you up to the challenge?

From Bruce:

We can dismiss the 'hairpin' story out of hand. There is no first hand confirmation of that story which is alternately set in Buffalo NY and in one of the Carolinas but with no firsthand documentation. If a hotel maid [supposedly also a Bible Student] found a woman's hairpin in his bed, there is a simpler explanation. Rutherford was experiencing hair loss. Quack remedies involved soaking your hair in an elixir or emulsion and wearing a cap. My grandfather, Rutherford's contemporary, used Lucky Tiger hair restorer in the vain hope that he could rescue his hair. [When it's gone, it's gone. Believe me, I know.] The cap was secured with "women's hairpins."

Jesus used the phrase 'eye is evil' for greed and evil supposition. If this happened at all, we can point to an evil supposition. Apparently no-one bothered to ask Rutherford about it. [Assuming it happened] But some were willing to believe an evil report when a simple explanation would do. 

This is similar to the photo that supposedly shows a drunk Rutherford that really shows a group of Witnesses sitting by a root beer dispenser common in the 1920s -1940s. They were used to make homemade root beer, using Hires Extract, and then to dispense it.

History is not sourced from "evil reports," but from provable events.

However, I second Rachael's request for additional research by our blog readers.


jerome said...

There is a reference in an article from CTR in the Feb 1881 ZWT page 1 of the responsibility of providing for self and child. However, reading the whole article, CTR details five different characters who have consecrated - the farmer, the merchant, the tradesman and mechanic (he lumps those two together), the housewife and the widow. In each he relates their experiences in the first person, as if it is his own experience. Into this (for the housewife and widow) he mentions providing for self and child. He then ends on page 2, "these five pictures represent persons who have consecrated...."

So I take the reference to a child here as part of those "first person" accounts he has written up of the five different examples of consecrated individuals with different circumstances. I don't take it be his child, in the same way that I don't take his account of a farmer planting to be an actual experience, even though he relates it in the first person, but an example for the article.

The Russell family had a special family plot in the Allegheny cemetery that was used from the 1840s through to 1897 when Joseph Lytle Russell died. There was a detailed article on this on the blog some years ago. See:

The article reproduces the grave plans from the cemetery records and lists the nine burials that took place there. There is no stray Russell child, other than CTR's three siblings who died as children or infants.

Andrew Martin said...

I would never have even considered the ideas of the Russells having a child together. My thoughts on the matter have always been influenced by the following statement on page 17 of "Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose"

"Pastor Russell was married in 1879 to Maria Frances Ackley. No children blessed this union."

To me the expression "No children blessed this union" precludes the idea of their having had one, even one that died in infancy. First, if there had been a child that died in infancy, the above statement would be untrue. Secondly, considered Russell's expansive view on the resurrection, it seems doubtful that even a child that died soon after birth would have been dismissed from his consciousness - and that of his associates - so easily.

I know not all parents are the same, but those I know usually answer along the following line when asked how many children they have:

"We have three children; our first son died young, and we have a son and a daughter who are married.

Andrew Martin said...

After reading the question again, I suddenly noticed the fine point:

"the Russells [or just C. T.] had a son who died in infancy."

The expression "just C. T." hints at either a previous marriage or an illegitimate child. Am I on track here?

Well I suppose it was possible in the period before his marriage at age 27; of course illegitimacy raises the question of whether such a child would even have carried Russell's last name.

Not only the amount of research put into his life, but also the willingness of his detractors to publish any accusation against Russell, no matter how spurious, seems to weigh against it.

If Maria gave birth to the child, surely it would have been known to her extended family, and would have been recounted by them in later years, especially after her separation from Russell. Wouldn't SOMEONE have raised it (legitimately or otherwise) as a possible reason for her later falling out with her husband?

I'm afraid that's all I can contribute at this point - just more questions, but maybe one of my questions will stir someone else's thinking, and they will arrive at more useful conclusions than mine.

Andrew Martin said...

Now, about that hairpin (which I suppose was the 1920s forerunner in sensationalist circles of the blue cocktail dress):

Rhetorical question (and I'm serious) - How many women, when planning a tryst, pin their hair up? Isn't there a reason for the whole illicit affair business sometimes being termed as "letting one's hair down"?

Please don't laugh.

By the way, I too have heard the smoking hairpin story - but I heard it set in a hotel in Europe. Does receiving the same report from three different locations tend to nudge it along the path of "urban legend"?

"a hotel maid [supposedly also a Bible Student]" - quite a coincidence, there. "By Divine Providence, the hotel maid just happened to ALSO be a Bible Student!" Imagine that! Sounds suspiciously like a very negative form of the type of religious fable that has termed as "glurge".

"In ordinary language, glurge is the sending of inspirational (and supposedly “true”) tales, ones that often conceal much darker meanings than the uplifting moral lessons they purport to offer or undermine their messages by fabricating and distorting historical fact in the guise of offering a “true story.”"

I never thought of the baldness quack remedy before - thanks for sharing that. And it's beyond reasonable doubt that Rutherford was susceptible to quack remedies (witness Woodworth's editorship of "The Golden Age").

As far as asking Rutherford ... well, his response to George Fisher's accusation about attending the Winter Garden Theater wasn't exactly illuminating ... but he should have been asked about the hairpin (if it really existed) anyway, instead of allowing suspicions to circulate in dark corners.

Oh, and I never connected the two before, but I suddenly remembered that I HAVE seen men using hairpins - young Orthodox Jewish males use them to hold their yarmulkes on their heads - I first saw this over 30 years ago at a concert, and it was the rabbi's sign who was wearing it. I've seen others wearing them since.

Thanks also for shedding light on that infamous photo. The photo argument was stupid to begin with. No one can even prove WHAT the group was drinking, let alone whether any of them were drunk! And with William P. Heath, the Coca-Cola heir, on the Board, a root beer dispenser would be a fitting explanation. I'm confident you've done the necessary research to confirm it.

I enjoyed your commentary on "evil reports" - Sort of the same thought as the motto of the Knights of the Garter:

"Honi soit qui mal y pense" - "Shame be to him who thinks evil of it"

Chris G. said...

I can only imagine what this request for information will generate but the KEY POINT is "credible" information.

Perhaps with well thought out responses like Jerome's above we may be able to put the Rutherford rumors to rest once and for all (however I had never read anything about this from any credible authors pro or con).

And this is a first for me about a possible CTR child from his marriage with Maria, it was my understanding from 2 sources (Penton, 1985, pg 35, par 2) that theirs was a marriage with no intimacy. If this were true certainly children would never even have been a thought or consideration. The 1906 Watch Tower Reprints page 3815 under the heading "The Court Records" states, "Mrs Russell's bill of complaint admitted that there had been no cohabitation between herself and her husband, and her attorney attempted to make out of this that she was deprived of one of the chief pleasures of life." It appears that this would certainly not have been brought up if not true as it appears that there was no malicious intent on stating it as a fact of their marriage.

Perhaps many readers as well as Bruce and Rachel are well aware of this above reference and if that is the case, my apologies, however it may be good to have this reference here stated early on as I'm sure this topic will pondered much for the CTR historians.