Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Taking the story further back

from Franco

Above is a postcard dated November 9, 1911, sent from St Peter Port, the English capital of the Island of Guernsey in front of the French coast.

The sender is named Bocolaud (ed. note - checking the U’s and the N’s that may well be Bowland) and the recipient is Adolphe Weber, Tour de Garde, Convers [Canton], Berne, Suisse.

The writer had been circulating copies of the volumes (Studies) in Guernsey.

In 1986 the "Awake" magazine had an article about the Channel Islands. It stated:

Seeds of Bible truth were sown here back in 1925 when Zephaniah and Ethel Widdell arrived from England with their bicycles to organize a regular program of Bible studies. As a direct result of their work, congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses were soon formed in both Jersey and Guernsey.

This is not exactly so, because according to the postcard "Seeds of Bible truth" in Guernsey island were already sown in 1911, if not before…

Editorial notes from Jerome

This is of interest, not just because Weber was a very well-known figure in the continental Bible Student community, but also because it takes a little bit of history back a further 14 years from what has previously been known. The postcard shows there was a Bible Student presence of some sort back in 1911, and probably before that. It speaks of "still selling a good number of volumes," which could well be pre-1911. And it is noted that the writer used English rather than French when writing to Weber.

I could only find one male named Bowland (the variant Boland) in Guernsey in the 1911 census, which was taken in April 1911, living in a street quite near Union Street in St Peter Port, from whence the postcard was later sent that year. This Bowland/Boland is a labourer working in the stone industry, aged 31, with a wife and two children. Of course, there is no guarantee that this is the right person, and the initials don’t seem to match. There is no-one with a name approaching anything like Bocolaud.

As for the Awake magazine (Awake April 22, 1986, page 19) detailing the start of “seeds of truth” for 1925, one must remember that there was never any official attempt to document the growth of interest in places like the Channel Islands at the time. We have to rely on people looking back long after the event. In 1970 the Society sent a lengthy letter to all old-timers asking for their reminiscences. The letters sent by return will have numbered into their hundreds, possibly thousands, around the world, and formed the basis for the various histories that subsequently appeared in the Yearbooks. These covered not just countries like the United States and Britain, but everywhere. This testimony was supported by documented proof in some cases. For example, the son of one of the editors of the St Paul/New Era Enterprise was moved to send his files to the Society. However, in many cases it was simply the anecdotal memories of older people looking back. The account in the 1986 Awake may well date from that 1970 initiative. No-one alive in 1970 or thereabouts had any memory of events before 1925 for the Channel Islands. So the “find” of a post card sent to a well-known figure like Weber is significant as far as Channel Island history is concerned. It shows that even the smallest piece of ephemera is worth checking in the search for completeness.


Edward said...

Take note the quote from AWAKE doesn't say the "first" seeds of truth were sown in 1925. In fact it appears to show that there was already interested ones because it says that Zephaniah and Ethel Widdell came to organize a "regular program" of Bible study. Indicating that there were already interested ones but that they were not organized.

jerome said...

It's a valid point. Although "seeds of truth were SOWN" suggests the start of a process ("I PLANTED, Apollos watered, etc.") as opposed to "seeds of truth were cultivated." But the crucial point is that the start of the "work" in the Channel Islands can be specifically traced back to 1911, and by implication, probably before that.

Andrew Martin said...

What an amazing find, Franco - thanks so much for sharing.

Jerome, I remember I need to contact you back channel with a question. Ponder this in the meantime:

How widespread was use of The Emphatic Diaglott, especially outside of Adventist / Age to Come circles?

I may be on to something.

(or not ... )