Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Early Evangelist and Early Missionary in China

Sometimes one actually does find what one is seeking. One of the first prominent workers was a man named Tavender. His name appears at least three times in Zion's Watch Tower, but never with a first name.

His name was Joshua Tavender. His obituary appears in The Utica, New York, Weekly Herald of October 15, 1895, on page 12. It mentions his connection with Charles T. Russell, the author of Millennial Dawn.

I am in urgent need of the first name of Miss C. B. Downing, the first Watch Tower missionary in China.


Here is her history as I have it:

A letter from Chefoo (now Yantai), China, was printed in the May 1883 issue. Miss C. B. Downing, the missionary who wrote to Russell wasn’t the one to whom an issue of Zion’s Watch Tower was mailed. Instead, it was shown her “as a curiosity.” She read it carefully and with interest, explaining that he (or she) was “somewhat out of the orthodox ruts”:

If you will send me the paper I will try and get the subscription to you in some way--for, though a self-supporting missionary, I cannot quite call myself one of the "Lord's poor" to whom you offer the paper gratuitously, for Our Father has bountifully supplied all my needs, since I gave up my salary, three years ago. I think I can get a few subscribers among my friends in China, for I find not a few who are trying to reconcile the “mercy that endureth forever” with the final irrevocable doom of all who, since the fall, have died without a knowledge of the Redeemer of the world. We have no "Post-Office Order" arrangements here, else I would send the subscription at once. [1]

Her name isn’t associated with the letter; as was most often the case the letter was published without signature. But, in 1900 another missionary, Horace A. Randle, recalled:

There has been in China for years one solitary witness for the present truth, Miss Downing, of Chefoo. This lady was formerly a missionary of the Presbyterian Board and she chanced to meet with a stray Watch Tower, about the year 1883, in which she read an article on restitution, and at once decided to subscribe for the paper. [2]

C. B. Downing was viewed as a bit odd by other missionaries. “Amongst the missionaries of Shantung I am afraid Sister Downing was considered a queer old lady having some odd notions,” Randall wrote.

As with many of the early Watch Tower readers, finding biographical information on Miss Downing is difficult. A Miss C. D. Downing appears in the 1850 Census as a resident of Boston. That Miss Downing was born about 1825. I cannot state with certainty that she is the same as the missionary teacher in China.

C. D. Downing was a school teacher in Red Wing, Minnesota, before becoming a missionary, and as a missionary was supported with contributions from Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis. [3] She arrived in China in 1866 as part of the American Presbyterian Mission, to found a girl’s boarding school at Chefoo which she did by the next year. She continued to run until sometime before 1896. [4]

Downing participated in The General Conference of Missionaries in China. She was a delegate to their convention held in Shanghai May 10-24, 1877. She was associated with C. W. Mateer’s mission in Tung-Chow (now Tongzhou) and assigned to the station at Chefoo at least by 1871 and was still there at the time of the conference. The mission at Chefoo, “the chief foreign port of the province of Shantung” was established in 1862, the year after the mission in Tunchow. [5]

China wasn’t the United States. China’s population lived in abject poverty and superstition was rampant. It was heart wrenching. Probably seeing conditions in China as they were in the mid to late 19th Century had some influence on her ready acceptance of the message of the Millennial Restitution, the restoration of an Edenic earth.

Writing to the journal Woman’s Work for Woman in 1872 she recounted some of the heart-breaking and difficult situations she met: “In my visits from home to home I see many girls growing up in sin and ignorance whom I long to get, but their heathen relatives would ‘rather they starve’ than let them come to use. Many times they reject our offers to train their girls in our school, and sell them for slaves or for worse than slaves. Poor ignorant people. They will not believe we will keep our word with them, but think we want their girls ‘to take to foreign countries or to make medicine of them.’” [6]

Two years later, another letter from Miss Downing addressed the issue of child prostitution and slavery as she encountered it. The letter was addressed to a group that “had undertaken the support of a child in her school.” She wrote: “This little girl was a slave bought from a bad woman who had become ill and sold this child to get money to buy medicine. I do not know, nor does she, what her father’s name was. … I have another little slave girl who is very pretty. Of her parents we know nothing.” [7]

By 1894 at least she was no longer associating with the American Presbyterian mission in China. The Directory & Chronicle for China, Japan, Corea, Indo-China, Strait Settlements, ect. for that year lists her as independent. [8] She moved from principal of the girl’s boarding school to the staff of Temple Hill Chinese College in Chefoo. The educational directory that lists her as on staff says: “This school is not directly under mission control. It is self supporting. The strong religious character of the school and the establishment of similar schools in the city have somewhat retarded its growth.” With a Mrs. W. C. Booth, Downing was one of two foreign teachers. There were also six Chinese instructors. [9]

Though her most obvious missionary work was loaning Watch Tower publications and discussing the message of the impending Restitution of All Things with European and American missionaries, it is certain that her message went to her students too. A contemporary publication, The Encyclopedia of Missions, said of the boy’s and girl’s boarding schools at Chefoo: “Many have been received into the church who became interested in Christianity through what they heard from the children in these schools.” [10] So while it is true as observed by Carolyn Wah, that Watch Tower missionary activity in Asia “did not start among the Asians, but among foreign missionaries,” the tendency of C. B. Downing’s activity was to reach her Chinese students. [11] Even if her contemporary missionaries and teachers saw her as a bit odd, The China Mission Handbook reported that under her care, “the school has been a great blessing to our work.” [12]

Still, her primary mission field using publications was among English speaking missionaries. Writing to Maria Frances Russell in 1887 she said: “I am giving away and lending my copies of Millennial Dawn and my papers, and any time you can send me extra copies of the Watch Tower I can use them to advantage. I expect to see a good many missionaries from other parts of the country during the summer, as this is a health resort, and I shall scatter my Towers, and lend Millennial Dawns. The last bound copy I gave away before taking the wrapper off.” [13]

Still later, in 1888, she explained her work more fully:

The Dawns reached me on the 23d of September, for which many thanks. Three of the books are now in Shanghai. The good and thoroughly orthodox Methodist sister, to whom I gave one, said, "The restitution theology is very interesting, and I am glad you have found such rest and peace in believing it." I am sure she will read the book carefully, and be benefited by it. Another book has gone into a Baptist family. And the third I gave to Rev. Dr. W., who believes in the Millennial coming of Christ, and is, I think, somewhat prepared for Dawn. One book has gone to Ching-chew-fu into the Eng. Bap. Mission. The others I shall send--one to Peking, one to Amoy, one to Tang-chon, etc. The papers also arrived in due time and will soon be scattered over China. The books ordered came by last mail, received two or three days since. Since writing the above, the Concordance and Diaglott came. I cannot thank you enough for the kind letter received at the same time. I am using my Dawn, and the others and the papers are being scattered broadcast over the land. The Rev. Bp. S. has a Dawn. You may be sure I lose no opportunity to tell the glad tidings.14

1 View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, May 1883, page 1.
2 Randal, Horace A: Present Truth in the Far East, Zion’s Watch Tower, May 1, 1900, page 150.
3 School teacher: Rasmussen, C. A.: History of Red Wing, Minnesota, 1933, page 217. Church support: Fifth Annual Report of the Woman’s Presbyterian Missions of the North-West, Chicago, 1876, page 92.
4 The China Mission Handbook: First Issue, American Presbyterian Mission Press, Shanghai, 1896, page 199. Arthur H. Smith: Rex Christus: An Outline Study of China, The Macmillan Co., New York, 1904, page 112.
5 Records of the General Conference of the Protestant Missionaries of China, Held at Shanghai, May 10-24, 1877, Presbyterian Mission Press, Shanghai, 1878, pages 2, 5. Survey of Missions of the Board, The Foreign Missionary of the Presbyterian Church, January 1871, page 203.
6 Woman’s Work for Woman, September 1872, as quoted in Margaret E. Burton: The Education of Women in China, Fleming H. Revell Company, pages 45-46.
7 Woman’s Work for Woman, January 1874, as quoted in Margaret E. Burton: The Education of Women in China, Fleming H. Revell Company, pages 50-51.
8 Hong Kong, The Daily Press, 1894 edition, page 100.
9 Nathaniel Gist Gee: The Educational Directory for China, Second Issue, Education Association of China, 1905, page 22.
10 Bliss, Edwin Munsel, editor: The Encyclopedia of Missions, Funk and Wagnalls Company, New York, 1891, Volume 2, page 252.
11 Wah, Carolyn R.: Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Empire of the Sun: A Clash of Faith and Religion During World War II, Journal of Church and State, January 1, 2002. The article contains several errors of fact. She identifies William T. Ellis, a noted opponent of Russell’s, as a Watch Tower representative. She dates missionary activity outside the United States to “as early as 1892,” at least eleven years after it began.
12 The China Mission Handbook: First Issue, American Presbyterian Mission Press, Shanghai, 1896, page 199.
13 C.B.D.: A China Missionary Writes, Zion’s Watch Tower, October 1887, page 2.
14 C.B.D.: The Truth in China, Zion’s Watch Tower, February 1888, page 2.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Research Needs

The 1979 Yearbook history of the work in Canada mentions a Thomas Baker. It says (pp 78-79) that he published a booklet to explain his withdrawl from his previous church. I need a good photocopy of this. Anyone out there have one? Any photos of Thomas Baker?

A letter from "Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses" dated 06/11 says they do not own a copy of the booklet. I still need this. Anyone???

There were two advertising tracts for Day Dawn. Both reprinted chapters from the book. I need a clear photocopy of each.

The other material noted in a pervious post is still of interest. I've located von Zech's 1885 tract published by the Watch Tower. I can't afford the copy fees. Anyone out there want to split the fee? 20 dollars plus ten cents a page. The tract is in German.

As an update on other research requests:

I no longer need Vol 2 and 4 of World's Hope. I still need vol 1, 3, 5-8.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Early Work in Canada

Documenting the work in Canada is difficult. The 1973 Yearbook and Penton's Jehovah's Witnesses in Canada both lack detail. Both are dependant on a report done by three members of the Canadian Branch Office of the Watch Tower Society.

Above is a very scarce photo of one of the early workers, William Brookman, and what follows is some of the history of the work in the 1880's. Much of this was new to me. I'm sure it will be new to most who read my posts. This is part of a chapter entitled "In all the Earth" that details the work in international fields.

Cite this material as: B. W. Schulz: The Development of Ecclesia Among Readers of Zion's Watch Tower: 1879-1887, as retrieved from

[Rough draft; comments appreciated]

The Work in Canada

There was interest in Canada during the Barbourite era. Some from Canada attended the Worchester Conference in 1872. Russell’s booklet Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return saw circulation in Canada. A profile of his work done when he died said: “Many students of the Bible throughout the United States and Canada responded to the information derived from that book, and his correspondence became voluminous.”[1]

It is very likely that Canadians were on the original subscription list, but not certain. Russell felt no need to send special representatives of Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society to Canada to circulate Food for Thinking Christians, so there must have been sufficient pre-existing interest upon which he could rely.

The two most significant examinations of Watch Tower history in Canada both gloss over the 1880’s, and the writers seem to have not seen the period as worthy of extensive research or they simply lack the resources. Almost exclusively documentation of the work in Canada is found in the pages of Zion’s Watch Tower. Finding other documentation is very difficult, and the lack of thorough treatment of the period is understandable. Almost the only external reference to preaching in Canada is the letter sent to the editor of The Rainbow mentioned in the section on the United Kingdom.

The earliest correspondence from Canada noted in The Watch Tower is a letter from Ontario published in the January/February 1882 issue. The writer is, as was usual, unnamed. He thanked Russell for sending “the papers,” asked to be entered as a regular subscriber and asked, “Will you kindly advise me in regard to severing my connection with the church of which I am a member?” He explained that they should no longer attend their previous church “because it would be consenting to their teaching, which I do not now believe.”[2]

While tracing interest among Canadians during the 1880’s is difficult, there are hints of it. In October 1883, Paton included a notice in his magazine that he couldn’t use Canadian postage for subscription payments.[3] Since most of Paton’s early readership came from those who also read Zion’s Watch Tower, this notice presupposes Canadian interest.

A “Pastor Brookman” appears in the pages of Zion’s Watch Tower first in 1886, as on of the principal evangelists associated with the Watch Tower movement. He attended a meeting of evangelists in Allegheny held in connection with the Lord’s memorial meal in April that year.

William Brookman, originally an Anglican clergyman, was born in England. After living in “the East Indies” for a period, he immigrated to Canada in the late 1840’s.[4] He is listed a Gazetteer published in 1869 as a traveling agent for The Upper Canada Bible Society.[5] One source claims an association with Methodism from which he separated “on the eternal torture question,” and another with a Baptist congregation.[6] The connection to Methodism is a misstatement. Brookman, balding and with a huge fluffy beard, was briefly pastor of the First Baptist Church at Brantford.[7]

Brookman organized “a purely undenominational organization, no possessing any distinctive appellation” in June 1881 “when about thirty of the present members with their families nearly all of whom had seceded from the Yorkville Baptist Church formed a new congregation, unattached to any religious sect.” The history just quoted says:

Previous to the separation—which was based upon the rejection of the doctrine of endless life in misery being the punishment for sin—Mr. Brookman had been in charge of the above-mentioned church for about a year, and prior to that again had ministered in the Church of England for nearly a quarter of a century. The main features of the belief professed by this little congregation, which numbers only fifty-six members [in 1885] , are, in addition to that already mentioned; the adoption of the great central truth of life only in Christ; the acceptation of the Word of God as the sole rule of faith and practice, and, whilst holding alone to the immersion of believers as true baptism, practicing loving-fellowship with all who love the saviour.[8]

The exact date of Brookman’s introduction to Watch Tower theology is unknown, but it was at least near the time he and those with him started their independent chapel. He continued his association with Russell into at least the 1890’s and maybe to his death in 1907, but he also corresponded with Paton and wrote an occasional article for The World’s Hope. The earliest article from him seems to be the one entitled “Eternal not Endless” printed in the January 1884 issue of The World’s Hope.[9]

It is likely that the small congregation led by Brookman were responsible for the circulation of Food for Thinking Christians in Toronto mentioned in the Rainbow article. Certainly Brookman was circulating Watch Tower material by 1886 as noted. He attended the annual Lord’s Supper in Allegheny, April 18, 1886, and on the following day spoke on the Ransom doctrine. Russell found his sermon interesting and edifying.

The morning of the memorial gathering, Brookman and others active in the work “in a more or less public way” related “how they each found the work to progress in their hands, and the methods they found most successful in their efforts to ‘preach the Gospel to the meek.’”
A brief letter addressed to Brookman from “one of the Toronto brethren” appears in the same issue of Zion’s Watch Tower that reported his presence in Allegheny for the memorial and conference. It suggested a certain amount of hesitation on the part of some to accept both the invisible presence views and Russell’s belief in the heavenly resurrection of the saints.[10]

Little more is heard from Brookman. A member of the Toronto group wrote Russell in 1891 that “Bro. Brookman is very desirous that you should be with him at his hall.” Russell spoke to the group “by urgent request” on February 22, 1891. No hint is given either as to the urgency.[11]

Russell addressed a public meeting twice before speaking to Brookman’s congregation. Four hundred heard him speak on Restitution and on the Kingdom of God. That evening he spoke to the Toronto Believers at there meeting place, Jackson Hall at the corner of Young and Blood streets. No topic is mentioned, but from comments made by S. D. Rogers, a colporteur working in Toronto, the church there was suffering under some form of opposition:

While the harvest work is thus progressing, and the wheat is being gathered, we cannot expect that the tares will all be gathered into bundles for burning without some resistance, and so we are not surprised to find some gnashing of teeth and gnawing of tongues. And this will no doubt be seen more and more as the servants of the Master are the more faithful and enterprising in proclaiming the message of present truth. The "hirelings" say: It is all right for you to hold these views but you should not go about telling them to others. The Good Shepherd says: "Feed my sheep." And the more we feed the sheep so much the more will the false shepherds complain. In Canada, as well as elsewhere, some of the would-be shepherds are speaking all manner of evil things against the messengers of the truth. They do not understand us a bit better than the Jews understood our Lord and his little band of disciples. Light hath no concord with darkness. At least two nominal ministers in Ontario have publicly burned the MILLENNIAL DAWN, and heaped all kinds of reproach on the author and those who are circulating this peculiar book.

The last reference to Brookman is in the September 1, 1892, Watch Tower where appears an article by him entitled “Future Probation for the Dead.”[12] Certainly not all of the Toronto Believers were favorably disposed toward the Watch Tower. The memorial report for 1899 returned a figure of twenty-one who participated. One is tempted to speculate that the urgent request for Russell’s presence in 1891 had been the fragmentation of the Toronto Believers into those who were favorable to the Watch Tower message and those who were not.[13]

The little congregation in Toronto had the same difficulty finding a suitable name as did the rest of those associated with The Watch Tower. Eventually they adopted the name Church of the Baptized Believers. It was dissolved by his request when he died on April 2, 1907.[14]

Brookman and others were active in Canada from an early period. Even if the period is poorly documented, the activity of small groups and individuals can be presupposed. Russell mentions no extraordinary efforts in Canada, probably because he had a small but active base of fellow believers.

1. Biography, The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, December 1, 1916, page 357.
2. View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, January/February 1882, reprints page 312.
3. See the notice in The World’s Hope,October 1883, page 8.
4. Finley, Mike: Mount Pleasant Cemetery: An Illustrated Guide, Canada, no date, page 51.
5. McEvoy, H.: The Province of Ontario Gazetteer and Directory, Robertson & Cook, Toronto, 1869, page 478.
6. Methodists: C. Pelham Mulvany: Toronto Past and Present: A Handbook of the City, W. E. Caiger, Toronto, 1884, page 184. Baptists: History of Toronto and County of York, C. Blackett Robinson, Toronto, 1885, volume 1, page 318.
7. Shenston, Thomas S.: A Jubilee Review of the First Baptist Church: Brantford 1833-1884, Bingham & Webster, Toronto, 1890, pages114-115. He served them from April 3 to May 6, 1880.
8. History of Toronto, pages 317-318.
9. Brookman, W.: Eternal Not Endless, The World’s Hope,January 1884, pages 57-60.
10. See: View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, May 1886, page 1; Blessed Dying—From Henceforth, same issue, page 3
11. See: Extracts From Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, February 1891, page 30, and see the announcement Meetings in Toronto that follows.
12. The article is on pages 282-285 of that issue.
13. Memorial Widely Celebrated, Zion’s Watch Tower, April 1, 1899, page 95.
14. Finley, Mike: Mount Pleasant Cemetery: An Illustrated Guide, Canada, no date, page 51.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Millennial Dawn

This next extract is from a chapter entitled Millennial Dawn and the Foundations of Unity. It's a rough draft presented for review. I'm interested in thoughtful comments on the conclusions. Grammar comments are okay, but this is a rough draft and will be rewritten. I'm interested in historical accuracy. Any comments?

Russell turned to his wife for assistance. Maria Francis Russell, nee Ackley, became interested by hearing a series of widely advertised lectures given by Russell in late December 1878.[1] She and Russell were attracted to each other, seeing each other as “insert quotation.” They married less than three months after first meeting, in March 1879, John Paton traveling form Michigan to perform the ceremony.

When Russell decided to publish Zion’s Watch Tower he turned to Maria for assistance which she willingly gave: “We started to write before we were married. My husband spoke of starting a paper, and asked me if I would like to engage in it with him, and I said I would be delighted to do it.”[2]

Initially Maria Russell “attended largely to the correspondence and then … wrote for the paper.” When producing the planned new book proved difficult, Russell turned to her for more assistance. They discussed the proposed book at length and Maria prepared an outline, first of subjects, then another for the individual chapters. In 1903 she would claim that she “laid out the plan for the book … and went to work and wrote, and I wrote quite a part; I did at least half of the work, fully that.” [3]

‘Fully half’ may have been an exaggeration. Maria Russell had a distinctive style. At the risk of falling into the type of literary analysis that plagues Biblical and Shakespearian scholarship, a careful reading of Millennial Dawn: The Plan of the Ages shows much of C. T. Russell’s style and life-experience and little directly of another hand. Where Maria’s hand is most apparent is in a well-edited text nearly free from the grammar faults found in Russell’s earlier articles.

Russell’s earliest writings are often parenthetical but without the punctuation customarily used to mark it so. In an age when commas were liberally scattered through text, Russell’s articles are replete with extraneous and distracting commas. He was often inexact, making exegetical points by simple italics without elucidation. The Plan of the Ages has almost none of these faults.

Maria Frances Russell was significantly more educated than was C. T. Russell. Charles had a Common School education with some follow up with private tutors. Maria graduated high school in Pittsburgh and attended Curry Normal School, a teacher training college. It is not certain that she graduated college.[4] She was a logical choice for editorial assistance. Within the Second Adventist movement female evangelists and authors were accepted. Neither Russell nor those of his readers who came out of the Second Adventist movement would object to her contributions because of her sex.

It has much more in common with Dickens’ style than say Dashiell Hammett’s, but it is the product of the Victorian era after all, an era when compound, complex sentences were the norm. It is still very readable. A fair assessment is probably not far from Maria Russell’s claim, though she probably wrote less of actual text than her words imply. Absent more documentation than survives, it appears that most of her work was organizational and editorial. That she primarily served as an editor fits with her own statement that what “went into” Zion’s Watch Tower was submitted to her “for criticism.”[5]

In 1907, during a court hearing, she modified earlier claims of authorship to say that she had outlined the book and “that all that Mr. Russell wrote came to me for examination.”[6] Later in her testimony she called the Millennial Dawn series “Mr. Russell’s books.” It seems evident that the claim to authorship, especially of The Plan of the Ages, was an exaggeration made in her effort to claim alimony and property settlement.[7]


1 The Russells were married March 13, 1879. That Paton performed the ceremony is stated in The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gazette, March 14, 1879. The date of their meeting is derived from the article “The Truth is Stranger than Fiction,” The Watch Tower, July 15, 1906, page 213: “Amongst others was a Maria Frances Ackley, who became my wife within three months of her first attendance at these meetings, which was the beginning of our acquaintance.”

Maria F. Russell was the daughter of Mahlen and Salena Ackley. (The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography entry for C. T. Russell) She was born in 1850 and died in 1938.

2 In the Superior Court of Pennsylvania Western District: No. 202, April Term, 1908. Maria F. Russell by Her Next Friend Emma H. Russell, vs. Charles T. Russell, Appellant. Appeal by Defedant at the Court of Common Pleas No 1 of Allegheny County at No 459 June Term 1903. paper book of appellant, page 8.

3 Paper Book of Appellant, page 9.

4 Russell v. Russell, Transcript of Record, 1907 Appeal, Typescript Manuscript, page 118.

5 Russell v. Russell, Transcript of Record, 1907 Appeal, Typescript Manuscript, page 119,

6 Russell v. Russell, Transcript of Record, 1907 Appeal, Typescript Manuscript, page 121.

7 She laid claim to primary authorship of volume 4 in the series. The current state of the evidence does not allow a firm conclusion as to the validity of her claim. An example of exaggeration and misleading statement is found on page 119 of the 1907 transcript. There she claims of Zion’s Watch Tower that “Mr. Russell and I were the only ones that ever wrote for it, except a few who wrote occasionally … There were very few other articles except his and mine that were ever admitted to the paper.” Even a glancing acquaintance with the early issues of The Watch Tower shows this to be false.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rare Book

I’ve ended up with an extra copy of Good tidings pertaining to the earth and the race as disclosed in the Scriptures by an Association of Believers. This was a publication of the Advent Christian Church. The first edition was 1871. This printing is 1874. It represents Second Adventism as Russell would have encountered it in discussions with Wendell and Stetson.

There are two copies available from online booksellers. A first edition with significant wear is listed at 200.00. An 1885 edition is listed at 150.00.

I will sell this extra copy for considerably less at $75.00.

Condition: The spine is separating but still attached. There are damp spots to the front cover, wear to the upper and lower spine. An inscription dated to 1881 is on the front end paper. A name is stamped on the free end sheet. I cannot connect the previous owners to Russell.

Just as a side note, the copy I’m keeping belonged to A. C. Johnson, the Advent Christian historian.

If you’re interested in this book, contact me through a blog post. I won’t post your reply on the blog.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Revisions to the Very Rough Draft ...

This bit is still in development, so it's a very rough draft presented as is. As always, I'm open to comments and suggestions.

The order of some paragraphs will change, and more material will be added. This is very rough but contains enough that is "new" that I'm posting it now minus the footnotes which are difficult to format in Blogger.

Updated some; still in development. I think you will find material you did not know. Comments welcome.

In All the Earth

The Work in the United Kingdom

Russell asked John Corbin Sunderlin and J. J. Bender to travel to the United Kingdom to publish Food for Thinking Christians in Britain and to direct a massive circulation campaign. Sunderlin had prior experience as an itinerate photographer and may have been chosen on that basis. Less is known of J. J. Bender. Historians including Watch Tower writers have never profiled him. There seems to be a lack of curiosity caused by an almost obsessive focus only on Russell.

There seem to be two Pittsburgh residents using the name J. J. Bender. One was a Homeopathic Physician. He is listed as Treasurer of the Homeopathic Medical Society of the Cumberland Valley and as a Free Mason.[1] The other J. J. Bender, assuming they aren’t the same individual, was a publisher and book collector. He seems the most likely candidate as Russell’s representative in Britain. This J. J. Bender had published The Standard Class-Book for Sunday-School Teacher’s Minutes in 1871, which was favorably reviewed by The Sunday School Journal that year.[2] In May 1886, He and a partner purchased The Bookmart, a magazine published in Pittsburgh devoted to book and autograph collecting.[3]

Sunderlin and Bender were in Britain by July 11, 1881, when Sunderlin registered with Gillig’s American Exchange in London, “a familiar and popular resort with Americans in the English metropolis.”[4] He would receive their mail and make currency exchanges at Gillig’s.
It appears that the British edition of Food for Thinking Christians saw publication before the American edition of September 1881.

Bender sent a report to Russell dated from Edinburgh, Scotland, October 1, 1881:
I write in haste a few words. Arrived in Glasgow on Wednesday, and spent the day in hunting up some party, but could find none. Advertised in paper my wants and left for Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen, to extreme north, intending to distribute at each place. I succeeded without delay and returned in the night to Glasgow, having 18 replies to my advertisement. The first I called upon I made a contract with, and came here again to hear from London, but received no letter.

I telegraphed to learn how things were getting along, and enclosed find a favorable reply. So far—

100,000 pamphlets for London,
30,000 pamphlets for Glasgow,
20,000 pamphlets for Edinburgh
10,000 pamphlets for Dundee,
5,000 pamphlets for Aberdeen.

I will now go to Carlisle and New Castle next, which will be distributing on my way down as near right geographically as I can to Liverpool, Manchester, Hull, Leeds, etc. Think I can get through all well.

I had time to call on Mr. Robert Young, critical translator of the Bible and author of “Young's Analytical Hebrew and Greek Concordance,” and I asked his opinion of the text in 2 John 7, in regard to the Coming of Christ in the flesh, and he says that there is no doubt about the passage referring only to Christ's first Coming. I mentioned the quibble regarding the Rochester phase of it, and he said: “O no, no, it means only the first Coming.”

Am enjoying good health, of which you may inform any inquiring friends and trust you are enjoying the same. Working in hope that the labor bestowed will fall upon good ground, and produce many fold to the glory of God.[5]

The advertisements Bender mentions were for people to distribute the booklet. Russell reported an immense effort. In London nearly five hundred boys were employed as distributors with other cities employing numbers in proportion to their size.[6]

Most of the work fell on Bender’s shoulders. Sunderlin became ill and had to return to the United States. Before he totally succumbed to what ever his illness was he sent from London some reflections on Christian duty: “Do you say or think: ‘I fear this race will be the ruination of all my worldly prospects?’ Of course it will so far as having any pleasure in them is concerned.
You will be a very foolish man to divide your energies now, or thoughts either. … But do you say: ‘Why, there's my reputation right there in the dust.’ Poor fellow! How sorry I am you noticed it; but it's only the reputation you once had. Don't you know that none of those who are noted racers on this course have any reputation? The greatest racer who ever stepped on it ‘made himself of no reputation.’ But do you say: ‘This awful run will be the death of me?’ Yes; of course it will; but you are a poor culprit under sentence of death any way, and if you undertake to save your life you will lose it, but run yourself to death and you'll have a life that is life everlasting, and more-- immortal. Don't be foolish now. Press on.”[7]

One of the first to take notice of Food for Thinking Christians was the spiritualist journal The Psychological Review. The December 1881, issue contained a mixture of criticism and approval:

An American religious paper, published in Pittsburgh, Pa., rejoicing in the cognomen of “Zion’s Watch Tower,” has recently issued a free supplement in the form of a book of 160 pp., of which I am informed upwards of a quarter of a million copies have been printed for gratuitous distribution. Some of these have found their way to England, and one to myself. … It contains dissertations on various theological and other topics, amongst them Spiritualism, supported in the main by numerous textual quotations from the Bible. Now while desiring to recognize and appreciate the general temperate tone taken by the writer of the book in question, I contend that there is no more delusive and ensnaring source of erroneous and false deductions than the dangerous habit of Bible text quotation. You can prove anything and nothing by it, and the writer under consideration has fallen into this error when treating Modern Spiritualism.

He found certain agreements with Russell’s treatment of Christ’s spiritual body, but in the main took exception to his treatment of Spiritualism, writing: “I must join issue when he comes to deal with Spiritualism. The claim put forward is that ‘what is at the present time called Spiritualism, is a counterfeit of the true as taught in the Bible.’” Still, the editor felt that “the general tone of the book is so moderate that I am induced to take up the gauntlet, believing that ignorance of the truer and higher aspects of Spiritualism is the basis of the condemnation, and new light on the subject will not be rejected without effect.”[8]

Even less welcoming was the reaction of the English clergy. A very bitter and denunciatory comment appeared in the February 1882, issue of The Prophetic New and Israel’s Watchman. Though the article does not name Food for Thinking Christians, it is evident that it is meant. N. S. Godfrey, at one time the Incumbent of Worley, Leeds, and a prolific pamphleteer on the subject of spiritualism, preached a sermon against “a pamphlet which has been very widely distributed amongst the congregations of the various religious denominations in the borough.” He sent a report of his sermon to Prophetic News:

His advice was, and he repeated it, “Burn it.” He had now looked through it and examined it. At first sight it seemed to read fairly well, and to contain many of the view which were known as those of the Plymouth Brethren. But, after careful examination, he had no hesitation in pronouncing it to be the most damnable book he had read in his life. It was Spiritualism in the most refined subtlety of its Satanic character … the teaching of demons or spirits and wicked men and women …. He pointed out the free use of the Scripture and the Satanic perversion of its meaning and application which they found all the way through the book, giving it a colouring of good, although they only need to read half a dozen lines to see how full of mischief it was. …

Having read a number of lengthy extracts from the book, Mr. Godfrey said there was enough mischief in it to require a hundred sermons to dispose of. There was no difficulty about it to those who knew the Word of God. Again, pointing out the subtlety with which it was put together, and the Scriptures quoted, he announced that on an early occasion he proposed to answer the question, How was it that Holy Scripture seemed to have so many meanings?[9]

The [insert issue] that was sent to ninety thousand Sunday School teachers and Food for Thinking Christians reached James Leslie, once a fairly influential Toronto resident but then living in Eglinton, Ontario.[10] He forwarded the special issue to the editor of The Rainbow in England with the comment:

There seems among the believers in the second coming and reign of Christ upon the earth, a strong tendency to return to what appears to be the simplicity of believers in the Apostolic age. I send you a number of one of their papers published in Pittsburgh, Pa., U.S., giving indication of this, but embracing some views not clearly taught in the Scriptures. They believe that Christ has come in one sense, and that the dead in Christ are being immortalized now. Yet this does not harmonize with the teaching of Paul in this first epistle to the Thessalonians, for to precede those events the “shout, the voice of the Archangel, and the trump of God” will be heard. Such is the zeal of these brethren that they are sending 90,000 of the paper I send you, “Zion’s Watch Tower, and Herald of Christ’s Presence,” to that number of superintendents of Sunday schools in the United States. The same parties have issued and circulated about a million or more of a good-sized pamphlet entitled “Food for Thinking Christians,” on both sides of the Atlantic.[11]


Still, some of the British clergy did show interest. A letter from a minister in Nottingham appears in the June 1882 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower. It contained a request for a dozen copies of Food and a like number of Tabernacle Teachings. “Eternity alone will reveal the good these books are doing,” the clergyman wrote, “and several of my friends here are hungering for more information upon these great themes. I lend my watch tower every month, and look eagerly for each new one. May God continue to bless the work.”[12]

Other interest from Nottingham was revealed in letters published in Zion’s Watch Tower. A letter dated November 8, 1881, seems to be from another clergyman. Though the writer whose name is omitted from the letter as printed said he found a few minor points in which he differed from Russell, he requested more copies:

I can never feel sufficiently thankful that out of the thousands of copies of your book, “Food for Thinking Christians” distributed in this town--a copy fell into my hands: apparently it was the merest accident; but really I regard it as a direct providence. It has thrown light upon subjects which have perplexed me for years; and has made me feel more than ever, what a glorious book the Bible is, how worthy of our profoundest study. At the same time, I came from the study of your book with the conviction that a very large proportion of the Theology of our Churches and Schools, is the merest scraps of human notions, and that our huge systems of Theology upon the study of which, some of us have spent so many laborious years--only to be the worse confused and perplexed--are infinitely more the work of mistaken men, than the inspiration of the all-wise God.

However, I may differ from the book in a few minor details, I found the main argument to be resistless, commending itself to both my head and my heart. Again let me thank you on my own behalf, for the good I have received.

I find at the close of it, you make an offer to send copies to any who have reason to believe they can make a good use of them. In my church and congregation, there is a number of intelligent persons who are interested in the second coming, and who would be only too glad to read your book, I could distribute 60 or 70 copies with advantage, you say, “ask and ye shall receive”--I have faith in your generosity.[13]

Russell sent not only more tracts but a copy of Day Dawn and of Tabernacle Teachings along with issues of Zion’s Watch Tower. The clergyman remains unnamed, but he wrote thanking Russell:

I thank you most sincerely for what I have received from you this last few days. The “Day Dawn,” reached me … and what I have already seen of it, has both pleased and instructed me. Like its fellow--”Food for Thinking Christians,” it needs much careful thought; but I am sure it will amply repay it. … I received the “watch tower” and “Tabernacle supplement,” and I am looking for more blessing through the perusal of this valuable paper, as each month brings me something fresh.

Tears came to my eyes this morning, as I read the letters of your correspondents who had received so much help and comfort from the December number. To me also it was indeed a “feast of fat things.” … I feel as though I must read my Bible all over again, for the difference between Ransom and Pardon, pointed out in your closing article, had never struck me, though obvious enough when you put it before your readers. I wonder if it will ever be my lot to come over to some of your meetings. I very much long to see this happy type of Apostolic
Christianity Revived --for such I think it must be--in the persons of its professors and preachers. The books and papers I regard as a blessing sent to my house; and which will bring forth fruit in my own soul, and I trust in my people also.[14]

Another Nottingham letter praised Food for Thinking Christians praised it highly: “I am indeed grateful to you for the manner in which you have explained several of the most difficult points in theology. God … must have opened your eyes to see these wonders of His divine plan, and I am thankful that I have lived to see this day. I may say that I fully indorse a great deal of the new teaching, and shall adopt it for the future. I pray God to abundantly bless you for your great philanthropic resolve to bless the world by giving away these pamphlets.”[15]

One of the Nottingham correspondents wrote again in September 1883, saying that “the work here is progressing amongst my own congregation, and also amongst outsiders. … The work makes no great show at present, but it is advancing in many minds. I have little trouble with those people who have been accustomed to go straight to God’s Book and abide by that …. To let go old prejudice is comparatively easy to a mind made receptive by the Spirit of God. I have endeavored to act wisely, and not to ride roughshod over old views, as that might have aroused opposition and have defeated my object, which is to ‘lead into the light.’ Acting upon this method, I think I am finding my reward in a more ready reception of the truth than one might have expected.”[16]

Despite early interest and hopeful comments from readers, interest in Nottingham grew slowly. A report from 1914 shows a report of fifty-five attending the Lord’s Supper.[17] Nevertheless, Nottingham produced one of the first zealous workers, Aaron P. Riley, a teacher connected with the then recently opened Buttler’s Hill School in Nottingham.[18] He was a fairly young man, born in 1856 according to the 1881 British Census and twenty-five that year. He is listed as a school teacher in the census.

It is tempting to connect some of the above anonymous letters to him, but the first that can definitely be attached to his name appears in the September 1885 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower. It’s apparent from his letter than he spread the message found in Food for Thinking Christians by word of mouth, by loaning Food and other tracts, and by preaching to what ever group would have him. His reputation served him well, and though he disconnected himself from his previous religious associations, they were less than willing to see him go. His father was an unemployed coal miner, and Aaron was probably the main support for the household. He had an older brother whose name is unknown to me in the Methodist ministry.

[insert extracts letter]


By April 1882 interest was great enough that Russell extended a call for preachers in England: “We have many inquiries from England, relative to preaching—if there are among those interested in these things there, some who can declare them publicly, they have a great and grand field. Let us hear from you. Some one or two should be in London.”[19] If there was an immediate response, I cannot find it.

A ‘brother from London’ wrote to Russell in late 1882 suggesting that the ideas from Food for Thinking Christians were affecting the sermons and though of British clergy. He visited Spurgeon’s tabernacle and came away with these impressions:

It was on an occasion in which his audience was supposed to be entirely of strangers, and we were very gently led to suppose that possibly if we were not brought to the light in this age, there might be a chance in another, but that after all it is better to be converted at once so as to make sure of it. This man has vastly changed in regard to what he preaches since I have known him. He has evidently read the book “Food” and is breaking it gently. It may be bias, though I think not, but I fancy that the “Food” must have been read in many thinking quarters, because I very distinctly recognize in many of the leaders of pulpit thought, the spirit of the work. I believe that the fruit is ripening.[20]

Other interaction with Spurgeon’s temple was reported. One cannot say with certainty if it was through the same individual since neither letter was printed with a signature, but in May 1882 a British correspondent wrote:

I have held up the thoughts given in your works of “Tabernacle” and “Food” to some of Spurgeon's people, and they were unable to gainsay me. It does seem to be too good to be true, but nothing is too hard for God, and I confess I see a harmony between the infinite Creator and created (fallen) man, given in the Bible as brought out by the light from your exposition that I never have seen before. It satisfies my understanding and my longing spirit. Can I with fair speaking ability be exalted by our dear Lord to the high honor of telling or preaching the glad tidings, which are to all people, that Jesus anointed tasted death for every man, and all may look and live? Whatever tracts and instructions you have in the divine mysteries of truth will you have the kindness to forward by return mail, as I may be required to leave London by the 1st of May, and please instruct me how and what to preach so as to accomplish the blessed work God wishes done.[21]

Among the many requests for additional tracts was one that said, “Will you please send two or three copies of the Tabernacle and its Teachings, for which we shall wait, with great desire, to be fed with more food from our Master's table. Will you please send also another copy of Food, because the one that we have is getting so much worn, that we have to paste some of it together. If we had many copies of it we could judiciously give them away. We pray that the Lord will bless you more abundantly. Though strangers in the flesh, we can say we are one in the bonds of the Lord Jesus.”[22] This letter is especially interesting because it reveals an inclination shared by others to circulate the tracts and to loan them. Much of the work in the British field would be accomplished by “clubbing” subscriptions and loaning publications.

Among the first permanent associations built off receipt of Watch Tower pamphlets was a small group in Islington, London. The brief history in the 1973 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses says:

Tom Hart of Islington, London, wrote for and received three pamphlets. He also received Zion’s Watch Tower regularly for nine months, all without charge—a new experience in the religious field. From then on he became a regular subscriber. He was struck by the theme that ran through each issue, namely, “Get out of her, my people”—a Scriptural call to leave Christendom’s religious groups and follow Bible teaching. He and a fellow railwayman, Johnathan Ling, began studying together. This led to Hart’s formally resigning from the chapel in 1884, soon to be followed by Ling and a dozen others who began to meet together. This appears to be the first record of regular meetings of this sort in Britain. Many who shared in such meetings also showed a willingness to engage in the work of spreading enlightenment to others.

A small group was meeting in London by March 1884. It may have been Tom Hart who wrote a letter appearing in the March issue of Zion’s Watch Tower. Whoever the writer was, he expressed his continuing appreciation of the Watch Tower. He always prayed for its safe arrival and was thankful that he had not missed one issue in two years. “I am able to report a little progress for the last twelve months,” he wrote. “Our meeting is the most liberal that I know of; brethren who are expelled other meetings for change of belief find refuge amongst us. I have gained the attention of two young men who live near me, and they visit me two or three evenings a week, to enquire ‘what is truth?’ One comes oftener than the other and makes more progress. He goes and spreads the good news as a steward of the manifold grace of God. These two enclose subscriptions with me for the tower.”

The same letter reported continuing opposition to message in Food for Thinking Christians: “Some time ago I heard read in my presence in a most solemn manner 2d Pet. 2:1, in condemnation of ‘Food for Thinking Christians.’ If I had not seen the tower explanation of the ‘image of the beast’ I should have been frightened out of my wits.”[23]
Another letter from London dated January 1885 shows those interested using every opportunity to share their beliefs:

I had the pleasure of finding a man preaching in the Park, who had been a member of a chapel 8 years, and had left it and despaired of finding a church what it ought to be. He was preaching against the hypocrisy of the Church of England, and the oppression of the poor. … He was so delighted after about two hour’s conversation, you would think he had had a fortune left him. He preached tower views the following Sunday, read parts of Food for thinking Christians to them, showed them the plan of the ages, and quite interested the people generally. “The Christian Evidence Society,” sent out to oppose him, but they had no good news for the people, and as he had, they were anxious to hear it. He was about emigrating to Australia, so we did not have his company more than three weeks. He told the people how he would spread the ‘glad tidings’ in Australia and borrow a barn or shed to keep the rays of the sun off himself and his hearers. As soon as he is settled there he will write to you and order the watch tower. … We have interested another in the tower, who is now in Liverpool. He has ordered and received it. We have some profitable times, about a dozen of us, but have not yet begun to preach or lecture to the public, although our hall will hold about three hundred.[24]

A letter dated June 29, 1885 seems to come from the same correspondent. The letter thanks the Russells for the literature sent and recounted both the spiritual benefit received and his practice of loaning it out. He asked for more. His practice of approaching individuals or small groups somewhat estranged from the established church continued. He told of this encounter:
At one place, having found a quiet earnest body of believers on a retired street--belonging to no particular sect, I offered to lay before them all that I myself had learned. They received me cordially, and requested me three times to meet them, once at a general assembly. Having made a large wall copy from your Chart of the Ages I hung it up on the wall and sat amidst those earnest thirsty people to tell them the good news, inviting them to question me afterwards, which they did; some very sharply, and as if to trip me; but let the Lord receive all praise! It was given me to answer quietly, and one of the most arrogant of my opponents came up afterwards wrung my hand and thanked me begging I would return again. But the Salvation Army, it seems had begun to influence these Christians so that my teachings offering to go further than it’s teachings made them afraid, I think, to give ear beyond the time I was with them. I left a copy of “Food” which they promised to meet together and study with the Scriptures; but curiously enough so soon as I had left for London --the book was lost. However, many men and women have become interested in the teachings, to whom I distributed the sample towers. My work lies chiefly at the present time among detached individuals; and in writing to the absent. Only one, truly enlightened, lives near me, a police constable, who is too poor to send the money he would, to you, having a large family. He longs for a Diaglott of his own: I have lent him mine occasionally. Before long I could buy him one I think, and if so, will send the money to you; but can you supply him with regular TOWERS and some of the books? He has a wide means of working; at present, he has my papers to read and that is all.[25]

Another letter in this series appeared in the October 1885 issue of the Watch Tower. Meetings were more regular, but small. Interest was increasing:

Our little Bible class does not grow very large, but we are not building on numbers. We find we get some very precious seasons with about four, and I think up to the present our best meetings have been the smallest; and during the week when two or three meet for a few minutes we often part with some new thought or reminder of the grandeur of the plan or character of God, and go forth with renewed energy to serve him. I find the experience vastly different from my previous experience in the nominal church, then doubting and fearing with a very indefinite idea of what was future both for the servants of God and those who did not serve him.[26]

By 1887 another small group developed in London. A man signed in the Watch Tower as “Fred S. D____” wrote that he had “been … reading and praying with friends over the truths contained in the book entitled "Food for thinking Christians." He felt guided to the book by “our loving Father.” He explained that he had the book for about five years and “never thought of reading or becoming in any way, interested in it … but blessed be God! He has caused us (a few young men and women) to thirst and hunger after righteousness, and also implanted within us a desire to "come out and be separate," and to fully consecrate ourselves to Him who has redeemed us: and also to know of the things of God that we may be the better able to serve Him.” He asked for more literature.[27]


Zion’s Watch Tower first noted interest in Birmingham in March 1883 with a letter from a correspondent there. The letter reveals that at least one person was street tracting in Birmingham: “The book was put into my hands last winter as I passed up a main thoroughfare in the above town, on my way home from work.” The writer recalled setting Food for Thinking Christians aside to pursue what they then though as more interesting reading. They found it lucid, easy to understand and convincing, and asked for literature to circulate among their friends.[28]

Another letter from Birmingham appeared in the August 1883 issue of the Watch Tower. The writer, whose name is omitted from the letter as printed, referred to prejudice against the material because it came from the United States, apparently connecting it to issues remaining from the Civil War. Nevertheless, they found the message in Food for Thinking Christians to be consoling and instructive. The writer said “the good news appears to be most acceptable to ‘Dissenters,’ and still more so to those who are sectarians in name only, but to the ‘Orthodox’ ones it is most objectionable. ... A great stumbling block to many is the fact that we have no sectarian badge, and while seeing but little truth in many so fettered, they cannot realize any in those who are absolutely free.”[29]


A. O. Hudson, editor of Bible Study Monthly a British Bible Student publication, says that the first organized meetings were in Glasgow starting in 1883. He presents no other details.[30] It appears that Hudson is correct or nearly so. A letter dated 1884 from an unnamed Glasgow correspondent reported that “the brethren and sisters in Glasgow” met in their house to celebrate “the Passover,” meaning the Lord’s Memorial Supper.[31] A “brother in Christ” reported meeting with four sisters and six brothers in Glasgow. Their meetings seem to have very irregular. He reported only two meetings within the month previous to his letter, but he stated their intention to meet for the Memorial meal.[32] In a follow-up letter he reported an attendance of twelve, though he observed that “One brother remarked there were thirteen present, Jesus being in the midst of us.”[33]


One of the first letters to Zion’s Watch Tower was from Edinburgh was from a missionary and divinity student “in the last session” of his course. He expressed a desire to preach on the themes found In Food for Thinking Christians and asked for additional copies, and some copies of the booklet Tabernacle Teachings.[34]


In most localities organization was spontaneous. People shared the tracts, discussed them with others, and finding some agreement met together. This left individuals and small groups disconnected from fellow believers.

As early as July 1882, there was a call for organization. An individual from Sunderland, England, asked: “Could you not arrange some plan by which we, who rejoice in the same blessed truths, might have the opportunity of at least corresponding with each other, on this side of the Atlantic? You see there may be others only a short distance from me who, like myself, are yearning to find some with whom they may hold sweet communion on our blessed hope.” In the same issue of Zion’s Watch Tower that contains this letter was another from Sunderland noting that some where meeting together regularly: “we have now a Bible-class every Monday at 7 P.M. ‘The Food’ we keep circulating in ‘good ground,’ so far as human judgment can discern; and it is delightful to hear their expressions of surprise and gladness at our kindness in thinking of them. One brother here tells me he lent the ‘Food’ and ‘Tabernacle’ to one of their ministers, and the subjects have laid hold of him.”[35]

Russell was not immediately forthcoming with an organizational plan and made to printed reply to the request for one. We can safely suppose that he provided the correspondent who felt isolated with the address of the regular meeting in Sunderland.

Similar expressions came from elsewhere in the United Kingdom. A letter sent from Glasgow February, 16, 1885, probably stand for the feelings of many: “The monthly visits of the tower are so highly prized by me that I would feel the want of them very much. They are my only comfort now, being cut off from all the sects called churches.”[36] As remarked before, meeting sprang up spontaneously in Glasgow, prompted in part by a need for fellowship with those of like faith.

In October 1885 Russell reflected on the interest from the British field and found it disappointing. He tended to measure success in the field against cost, figuring that each of the three hundred British subscribers had cost about forty dollars in expenses, not counting the cost of voluntary labor in the work. Perhaps measuring success in this way was natural for a businessman, but he quickly reconsidered. “These were discouraging thoughts,” he wrote, “and then we though of the great cost—of the Master’s sacrifice—of what the expense of our salvation had been; not in silver or gold, but the precious blood of Christ.”[37]

Reaction to Russell’s statement brought a number of responses from readers in Scotland and England. They pointed out that “interest there is probably much beyond our appreciation or the number of names on our list; because there it is quite customary among the middle classes for several persons to take papers in partnership and read by turn.”[38]

The financial situation in Britain that lent itself to clubbing magazine subscriptions helped form a defacto organization at least on a neighborhood basis. Conversations and meetings would be the natural result of discussing a shared subscription.

Reaching Foreign Language Fields within the United States

The message reached Otto Ulrich Karl von Zech, an Evangelical Lutheran Clergyman,[39] in November 1885. Zech was the pastor of Saint Paul’s Congregation Evangelical Lutheran Church in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, founding the congregation in 1871 with twenty members. He returned again as its pastor in 1883, serving in that capacity through 1884 when he moved to Allegheny.


The record of his troubles drew some sympathy from Watch Tower readers. A brief letter from a sister in Texas asked Russell to “please present the enclosed amount, $5.00 in the name of our dear Lord and Master, to our brother, Otto Von Zech, who has left all to follow Him.”[40]

[1] Barratt, Noris and Julius Sachs: Freemasonry in Pennsylvania: 1727-1907, Philadelphia, 1919, Volume 3, page 423. Transactions of the Homeopathic Medical Society of the State of Pennsylvania: 1866-1867, Taylor & Hickman, West Chester, 1867, page 13.
[2] The Sunday School Journal 1871:47.
[3] See the notice of sale in the June 1886 issue, page 28.
[4] Americans in London, The New York Times, July 12, 1881. Quotation is from the article Current Literature, The Literary World, March 6, 1886, page 86.
[5] From Brother J. J. Bender, Zion’s Watch Tower, October/November 1881, page 6.
[6] Russell, C. T.: In the Vineyard, Zion’s Watch Tower, October/November 1881, page 5.
[7] Sunderlin, J. C.: Words from Brother Sunderlin, Zion’s Watch Tower, October/November 1881, page 6.
[8] Notes and Comments: Spiritualism and the Religious Press, The Psychological Review, December 1881, pages 234-237.
[9] Godfrey, N. S.: Latter-Day Spiritualism, The Prophetic News and Israel’s Watchman, February 1882, page 60.
[10] The only reference to James Leslie I can find is in History of Toronto and County of York Ontario, C. Blackett Robinson, Toronto, 1885, Volume 1, page 295. It says that “the Toronto Mechanics’ Institute was established in January, 1831, at a meeting of influential citizens called by Mr. James Leslie, now of Eglinton.” The Mechanics’ Institute library formed the basis for the Toronto Library system.
[11] Leslie, James: Denominational Creeds, The Rainbow: A Magazine of Christian Literature, February 1883, pages 90-91.
[12] Letter headed Nottingham, England, April 13, 1882, Zion’s Watch Tower, June 1882, reprints pages 356-357.
[13] View from the Watch Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, December 1881, page 2.
[14] Letter headed Nottingham, Eng., Feb. 24th, 1882, Zion’s Watch Tower,May 1882, page 2.
[15] Letter headed “Nottingham, England,” Zion’s Watch Tower, March 1882, page 1.
[16] Letter headed “Nottingham, England,” Zion’s Watch Tower, September 1883, page 1.
[17] The Memorial Celebration, Zion’s Watch Tower, May 1, 1914, page 143.
[18] See The Practical Teacher: A Monthly Educational Journal, February 1882, page 596.
[19] Russell, C. T.: View from the Watch Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, Aril 1882, page 1.
[20] Russell, C. T.: View from the Watch Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, December 1882, page 1.
[21] Russell, C. T.: View from the Watch Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, May 1882, page 1.
[22] Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, August 1884, page 1.
[23] Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, March 1884, page 1.
[24] Extracts from Interesting Letters,
[25] Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, July 1885, page 2.
[26] Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, October 1885, page 2.
[27] Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, August 1887, page 2.
[28] View from the Watch Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, March 1883, pages 1-2.
[29] Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, August 1883, page 2.
[30] Hudson, A. O.: Letters from Readers Re: January/February Diamond Anniversary Issue, The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom, May-June 1994.
[31] Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, June 1884, page 2.
[32] Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, April 1885, page 2.
[33] Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, May 1885, page 2.
[34] View from the Watch Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, February 1882, page 2.
[35] View from the Watch Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, July 1882, pages 1-2.
[36] Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, April 1885, page 2.
[37] View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, October 1885, reprints page 785.
[38] View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, December 1885, page 1.
[39] Von Zech was born December 4, 1845 in Kleinballhausen, Kingdom of Saxony. He immigrated to the United States, settling in Pennsylvania. He died March 5, 1908 in Philadelphia.
[40] Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, January 1886, page 2.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Otto von Zech

I've located a run of von Zech's magazine in the Chicago area. If anyone is interested in helping with photocopies, please contact me at BWSchulz2 @yahoo. com.

I need someone actually in the Chicago area willing to make copies. The volumes are not available on interlibrary loan. They are very rare.

For those who do not know: von Zech became interested in Zion's Watch Tower about 1885 while he was pastor of an Evangelical Lutheran Church. He translated The Plan of the Ages into German and was the first editior of a German language edition of Zion's Watch Tower. He also wrote a small book published by Zion's Watch Tower in 1885. It is not listed in any bibliography and is exceptionally rare. He and his son in law, Joseph Bryant, left off association with Russell in 1894. The booklet Harvest Siftings (1894) deals with this controversy.

Zech eventually was re-ordained by Paton's Larger Hope Association and became an Adventist-leaning Unitarian Unversalist.There is virtually no documentation, beyond two issues of Zion's Watch Tower. Having copies of his German-language magazine would help my research dramatically. Any offers of help?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Updates, Corrections and Notations

As a result of further research I’ve concluded that it is probable that someone other than Barbour sent Russell The Herald of the Morning. Barbour mentions sending “papers” to Paton. In the same discussion he mentions Russell becoming acquainted with what he taught by reading his magazine. It seems likely someone else sent it to Russell.

The above is wrong, of course. The post found herein reminded me of what I already knew. Russell says Barbour sent it to him.

The J. S. White who spoke to the Cooper Institute Adventists is not James White, but an Advent Christian evangelist of similar name. This makes more sense.

I need help identifying Robert Bailey of Howardsville, Michigan. There are at least two good candidates who lived elsewhere at other times. One was a photographer born about 1826 in England. He lived in Jackson, Michigan in 1880. The other was Robert M. Bailey, a grocer. He was born December 12, 1826, in Vermont and settled in Adrien, Michigan.

Bailey was one of the first Watch Tower evangelists. He was converted by Paton about 1880. Any information would be helpful.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Caleb Davies - An Early Associate of Russell and Paton

Caleb Davies and Family. c. 1895. Davies named one of his sons after Paton. He arranged for Russell's visit to Cleveland in the very early 1880s.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Help With this Bit Needed

I'm seeking comments from the press, religous magazines or other sources on Paton's Day Dawn, first edition only. This far I have this:

Though Russell advertised Day Dawn through the pages of Zion’s Watch Tower, and it was sold by Watch Tower speakers, it did not sell extremely well. Paton still had remainder copies of the first edition in 1890.

Finding any sort of public review is almost impossible. The lone print comment on the book that I have thus far uncovered appears in The Kingdom and The Restoration, an anonymous book published in London in 1882. The author, writing only as “A Student of Prophecy,” believed the two witnesses of Revelation to be individuals. His belief drew forth strictures on the contrary claim made by Paton in Day Dawn and by J. P. Weethee in the March 22, 1882, issue of Restitution:

“But notwithstanding the strong evidence, throughout the account of the wto witnesses, of their individuality, some think it is all figurative. One writer, J. H. Paton, in his work called, ‘The Day Dawn,’ explains the two witnesses to represent the two Testaments, the Old and the New … Now if we are at liberty to interpret the word after this fashion, it seems to us that we may prove any thing we like from the word. Figures and symbols we know are sometimes used, and used very frequently in this book – The Revelation – But they are always used to represent something. And there is always consistency between figures or symbols, and the things they represent, and what is said. But what consistency is there here on the principle of these writers?”

A private comment made by the poet and writer David Gray to his brother made it into print some few years later with the publication of Letters, Poems and Selected Prose Writings of David Gray. Gray, not the more famous David Gray who died in 1861 but the lesser known writer who died in 1882, had a religious background that included Campbellism, and an association with John Thomas. Ultimately he believed Thomas had “got hold of some technicalities” and was “pushing things far beyond where the spirit of revelation will sustain him.” Sometime in the early half of 1881, his brother sent his a copy of Paton’s book. In a letter to his brother dated May 18, 1881, he wrote: “I have devoted all the few spare hours I have had since you kindly sent me Mr. Patton’s [sic] book to its perusal, and have been greatly interested in it. He certainly has a great deal of truth, some of which is new to me and very valuable. But I fear he goes farther in some things than the Word, fairly read, will sustain him.”

The letter is truncated, and we do not learn the particulars of Gray’s objections, but he continues: “It fact, we must always be entirely ready to stop and unload the most attractive theory when we collide with a plain statement of the Word. Our theories may easily be wrong; but the Word cannot be. Let us hold ourselves perfectly subject to it, even though that leave us to wait in great confusion and ignorance. More light will come, if our hearts be right before God.”

In a follow up letter dated August 24, 1881, Gray wrote: “I have chanced to learn a little, lately, of those people in Pittsburgh (‘Zion’s Watch Tower’) with whom Mr. Patton seems to be in sympathy. I think I saw one of their tracts in your possession. I have read a little of Mr. Russell’s writing, myself – perhaps the same tract I saw you have. It is very significant that, here and there through the country, we are seeing a breaking away of earnest, hungry souls from the corruptions of the professing church. There is a movement of similar kind just now in Chicago … But alas! I find the Pittsburgh Watchmen of Zion do not always seem to be content simply with what is written. They want to know more than is revealed, and draw on their imaginations to make up the deficiency. At least that is what I am bound to think of much of their teaching (and Mr. Patton’s) as to the destiny of the unsaved dead, and various ‘orders’ and classes of saved, and some other subjects. But, with this, they have much of the inspiring truth which has been brought out among our so-called ‘Plymouth’ friends, and this activity of inquiry is surely better than the spiritual death we find inside churches” [1]

Much more widely circulated than Paton’s Day Dawn were individual tracts.

[1] Larned, J. N. (editor): Letters, Poems and Selected Writings of David Gray, The Courier Company, Buffalo, New York, 1888, pages 166-168.