Sunday, April 25, 2010

Meetings at 79 Woodgrange Road

The Religious Life of London, edited by Richard Mudie-Smith and published in 1904 lists the Woodgrange Road congregation under the name "Zion's Watch Tower."

As reported by those attending, the congregation consisted of sixty-eight men, sixty-two women and fourteen children. Given this proportion of children to adults, one might suppose that the congregation tended to be made up of older individuals. I'm not certain that any other conclusion can be drawn from these spare statistics.

The "public hall" located there was King's Hall Cinema. It had a seating capacity of 250.

Comments? Anyone?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Historical Research

My writing partner, Rachael de Vienne, will be a panelist at an online writers' conference. You may find the discussion on accurate historical research interesting. Registration is free. The panel is slanted toward back ground research for fiction, but the principles are the same.

conference details are here:

Millennial Dawn Meetings

Meetings were held at 79 Woodgrange Road at the turn of the 20th Century. I don't know if these photos show number 79. Anyone know?


We need a good period photo of 79 Woodgrange Road, London. Any photo taken about 1900 or so would do. I understand a pizza place is there now, and I'm not certain that the building there is the same as the one existing about 1900.

Review of The Plan of the Ages

From The Atlantic Monthly, March 1888

Millennial Dawn, vol. i.; the Plan of the Ages. (Zion's Watch Tower. Pittsburgh.) The reader will pause long before the chart which prefaces this wonderful volume, and then, if he likes, can read three hundred and fifty pages of small print, which aim to present the plan of God, as derived from the Bible, with special reference to present labor problems. It is a dreary piece of work.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Research Needs

Research needs:

We need access to the major Pittsburgh newspapers from 1877-79, 1881-3. We especially need to see the Pittsburg Gazette for 1881-2. We need access to microfilms or a volunteer to do careful but guided research.

There was a disturbance in Newark, New Jersey, when Food for Thinking Christians was circulated there. The two newspaper articles we have were published outside of Newark and do not give detail. We need help pinning down the details.

The Watch Tower Tract Society sold donated lands in Florida in the 1880’s on a first come first choice basis. We need a volunteer in Florida willing to trace details of the sales and property transfers. We are especially interested in the name or names of the person who donated the land.

We know the location of two issues of Zion’s Day Star. Photo copy costs approach 45.00 per issue. We simply cannot afford that. If someone wants to pursue this, I will provide them with the locations in exchange for photocopies.

Barbour’s booklet on spiritism, published in the 1880s is on our list. We cannot locate a copy. Anyone?

Arthur Prince Adam’s Bible Theology and other books, issues of The Spirit of the Word other than the first year of issue which we have are on our list.

The heresy trail of A. P. Adams produced a lengthy record. It’s about 800 pages, I’m told. The library that holds this material has declined to photo copy it, and we can’t afford to pay for 800 pages anyway. Anyone?

If you read through the blog you will find other help requests. Almost all of those things are still needed.

We need a photo copy of the title page of von Zech’s translation of Plan of the Ages. Actually, we need a really clear digital image.

Extensive original material related to the early days (1880-1890) work in Liberia is in the Library of Congress and in an Episcopal archive. Anyone?

As you can see, to do the kind of research that would produce a reliable, detailed and well-documented history takes resources we simply do not have. I’m old, sick and poor. Rachael has a family.

A church in West Virginia expelled six of its members in 1886 for Millennial Dawnism. We need help documenting this.

This is just a very small sample of the things we need.

Most of what has been published about Russell and the early days of Zion’s Watch Tower is seriously flawed. Our research to date has led us to believe that the real story has never been told, at least in any sort of accurate and satisfying way. Neither Russell’s friends nor his enemies have it right. It’s time to get the story out. I am aware that at least three others are working on the era. They have anti-watch tower agendas, and from what little of that research I’ve seen, it is obvious that their strong feelings are coloring their approach. I’d like to think that I ‘call a spade a spade.’ If it happened, I will tell you to the best of my ability exactly what happened, who did what, how they did it, and why.

But, I don’t have an agenda. I don’t hate Russell. I don’t worship Russell. Russell had qualities which one might find admirable and he also had qualities that might make you cringe. Do you know any human who differs from this model? The fault with Witness produced material is that it focuses only on Russell. This is a huge mistake. If one presumes that those associated with Zion’s Watch Tower represented “the truth” as it could be known, then one must say that the entire group was the body of Christ. The body of Christ is not epitomized in Russell. He was one member of it, assuming you see him as a true Christian.

If you hate Russell and all he stood for, you still must understand that he did not function in a vacuum. He has supporters and opponents. The voice of neither group should be stilled. A polemicist will present a one-sided story. A historian will let all voices speak, no matter what he feels about the content of their message.

Rachael and I write history. We try to avoid the nonsense, contrived quotations, unfounded assertions and invented events found in most publications about Russell and the Watch Tower. Putting everything under the microscope of close examination of the original sources is time consuming and expensive.

From Jerome

The comment failed to post, and I'm reposting it as a main topic.

Hi Bruce

Posting this on your site rather than backchannel this time.

Sorry to hear that some have been photocopying your Barbour book. I have spread the word and know at least one collector who has bought a copy direct and enjoyed it. There may be a limited appeal, but this publication is unique.

Please don’t be discouraged about any lack of interest in a follow-up on Charles Taze Russell. Fredrick Zydek’s biography, while greatly flawed (shameless plug - see my review further down your blog) has already received seven write-ups on Amazon – so there is a much larger audience for this subject.

You say that if there is interest in your research needs, you’ll post a list. Please do! If readers know what you still need they may just be able to help. If they don’t know, either nothing will happen or you will be sent the same stuff you already have, time and time again.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How things stand ...

Our research is moving slowly. Prying material out of the hands of those who own it is very difficult, and there are details we want to present. So we're still working...

Our biography of Nelson Barbour is not selling particularly well. It doesn't help that it is being circulated in photocopy format. This is theft. If you photocopy it and send it to your friends, you deprive us of sales. It's especially irritating to get a phone call from someone who boasts about doing this as if it were a great favor to us.

We're glad you like the book. However, we finance additional research from the sales. You deprive us of income we need to purchase expensive photocopies or to pay interlibrary loan fees. I'm semi-retired. My income is very low. Please ... If your friends want to read it, let them purchase it.

We won’t stop our research, but we may not publish it except on this blog. We're weighing the interest shown in Nelson Barbour: The Millennium's Forgotten Prophet against the probable interest in any follow-up. Frankly, if we don't sell another four hundred copies by years end, it won't be worth the effort to publish a follow up. I hate to sound mercenary, but we do finance research this way. It's expensive. Some libraries have charged us nearly forty dollars for five pages of copy. Think about that.

I work against bad health; Rachael has commitments concerning a new novel. This has been a labor of love. But I cannot justify the time commitment if there is no interest. And at this point interest seems exceptionally low.

Can you help? We need research materials. Some of you have graciously sent it at your own cost. I appreciate that more than I can explain. If there is interest in our research needs, I'll post a list. You can promote the book on Barbour. Tell your friends and encourage them to buy the book. A few of you have done that. Thanks! At the very least, do not make photocopies of it and hand them out to your friends.

I'm discouraged. I haven't quit, but it's hard to keep going.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Restatement of the Rules

Almost everyone who leaves a comment here has been thoughtful and kind. Yet, there are a few who do not seem to understand things I've clearly stated before.

1. I am not interested theological debate. This is a history blog. It exists to promote a clearly stated, accurate history of the early years of Zion's Watch Tower.

2. I do not take phone calls. Yes, my phone number is easy to find. Past association with you does not open an exception. I'm sick, not just a little, but really ill. Phone calls of any sort are stressful DO NOT CALL MY HOUSE.

3. Some significant research material has come to me through the mail as the kind gift of interested parties. Rachael and I truly appreciate this. Do NOT use this as an occasion to send your tracts, invitations to your net-radio show, or any other bits of propaganda. I already know what you think. I have seen much of this material already. Most of it is boring, poorly produced, inaccurate, illogical and forthrightly stupid. A case in point is a circular letter sent to me recently. It is authored by a man in Oregon who objects to Witness shunning practice. The letter has logic faults and tells more by what is omitted than what is included. I've heard and read all the arguments. I'm not interested in receiving any of this material. So thank-you to those who have fostered our research. But to those who merely wish to propagandize, this is a polite "go away."

4. We do not have any sort of anti-Watchtower ax to grind. This is history, not polemic. So don't expect us to join your crusade.

Listen, everyone, when I say I'm sick and don't want to handle side issues, I'm telling you the blunt truth. Let's be kind here. Also, do not call my house expecting me to put you in touch with Rachael de Vienne. To answer a recent question (via phone, of course), no, she isn't my daughter. I have two lovely daughters. Neither of them writes. The one that shares Rachael's first name is sixteen in a few weeks. Sorry, but no. And no, I won't give you her address. She has a family and life of her own. If she wanted you to have her address, it would be on her blog.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bits ...

Nelson Barbour’s last trip remains a puzzle. He traveled to Washington State in the company of Nancy W. Fuller. Nancy W. Fuller was born Nancy Woodward. She was born in New York about 1822 and married Joseph D. Fuller, a farmer from Schoharie, November 17, 1841.

Other than a record of land donation for a school, I know nothing further about Joseph D. Fuller. I do not know when Nancy met Nelson Barbour. By 1905 she was living in his apartment complex. I don’t know when she moved in the to Unique Flats complex. I’m working on that. Nancy returned his body to New York.

Nelson spent his last two months at “the residence of Mrs. J. E. Moore” in Tacoma, Washington. This modest house still stands, though it has been enlarged and updated.


Nancy W. Fuller died in Rochester in 1926, leaving an estate worth "several thousand dollars." She first appears as a resident of Barbour's appartment complex in the 1903 Rochester Directory.