Sunday, June 23, 2013

We need help ...

tracing down a G. Wood, resident in St. Maur, France, in the late 1870s. Full name would be great, occupation is important, anything at all will help.

We also need a photo and additional information about Elijah Beck, a retired farmer from Buchanan, Michigan. Russell preached there in August 1878. A news report of his sermon would be great. We can't find one. Bruce emailed a Beck descendant, but we haven't heard back yet.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

We need

Any historical docmentation for the Springfield and Alton Bay Second Adventist conferences in 1878. Newspaper articles would be good. Photos, but only of that year, would be excellent.

Also ... A. P. Adams opened a series of meetings in Beverly, MA, in August 1878. Can anyone find a newspaper report?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Can you help with this?

A Watch Tower evangelist was in Buffalo, New York, in September 1886. Can you help us put a name to these advertisements?


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Mr. Schulz posted this on another forum ...

We have one chapter and a bunch of edits to go before volume one of our next book is released. (for those who don't know or have forgotten, the first book in this series is Nelson Barbour: The Millennium's Forgotten Prophet. It's a history of Barbour and his associates.) Our next book details Watch Tower history from Russell's childhood to about 1887. There is overlap on each side of that date.

To further our research we're seeking Brother Russell's letters. We've located a few. We would like to see more. If you have some to share, please contact me through our blog.

We are also interested in the personal letters (and photos) of early Bible Students.

Some of you may be interested in our new book. If you visit our public history blog you can see some pages in rough draft. I think Miss de Vienne and I tell a compreshensive story, giving more detail than ever published before. We draw on contemporary records and avoid when possible secondary sources. There will be photos you've never seen before. We used personall letters, court documents, county records, wills, contemporary newspaper articles and similar items. If you look at the sample pages, you'll see an illustration taken from church records of the Russells' membership in a presbyterian church in Philadelphia.

We recount in considerable detail the history of Russell's friends and associates, setting the record straight in several areas. We consider Russell's association with One Faith believers, something no one else has done. Though we do not have a firm page count for volume one yet, it will be about 325 pages and have perhaps fifty or more mostly never seen photos.

The chapters are:

1. Developing a Religious Voice. Russell's childhood to young adulthood. His family's history. A huge amount of detail is here. It's about fifty single spaced pages with illustrations.

2. Among the Second Adventists, Millenarians and Age-to-Come Believers: 1869-1874. This chapter contains extensive biographies of J. Wendell and G. Stetson. It explains their belief systems and shows Stetson's shift in association from the AC Church to One Faith (today best represented by Abrahamic Faith congregations). We draw some of this from Stetson's personal letters. We also consider G. D. Clowes, J. T. Ongley and G. Cherry, each of whom played a part in Russell's history. Among the illustrations is a Church Directory taken from an early isse of an Age-to-Come journal that lists the Allegheny Church not as Adventist but as One Faith.

3. Among the Second Adventists, Millenarians and Age-to-Come Believers: 1874-1876. We present an extensive biography of G. Storrs, demonstrating his shift from Adventism to independent Age to Come belief. We tell much of this story from his own words as found in Bible Examiner and Herald of Life. The focus of this chapter is on the interactions between the Russell's and Storrs especially as shown by letters and notices found in Bible Examiner. We detail the Russells' experience with E. L. Owen. We tell what happened to the Church of God group in Allegheny, later Pittsburgh. We tell about Russell's stormy relationship the the Christadelphians in Pittsburgh and near by places. We mention his interatctions with independent millenialists and SDA believers.

4. Separate Identity. This chapter, some thirty pages, considers the independent Bible Class, its known memebers and the development of a clearly stated theology.

5. Meeting the Principals: Russell's Entry into the Barbourite Movement. This considers those who were prominent among Barbour's associates. We present an extensive biography of J. Paton. Among the sources are numerous issues of Paton's magazine, his diary and other similar items. We also present biographies of B. W. Keith, S. H. Withington, Ira and Lizzie Allen, Avis Hamlin. Each of these played a part in the Watch Tower's development. Most of them are unknowns. We solve that problem. There are photos of Paton (from his family) and Hamlin and Keith. We tell exactly what the place of each was in Russell's history.

6. Barbour and Russell: The Early Ministry. Huge amount of detail on their interactions between August 1877 and the Spring of 1878. This is a key period in Russell's personal history. It is taken from original documents, newspaper articles and the writings of both men. About 45 pages of material few have ever seen.

7. Russell and Barbour: The Fruitage. This chapter considers the historiaclly most important of those accepting their message. We consider Caleb Davies, W. I. Mann, J. Tavender, J. C. Sunderlin, A. P. Adams, telling our readers why each of these men was important to Russell. We dran on Sunderlin's personal letters, the records of Adams' trial before the Methodist authorities, and other original records. There are photos of Davies, Tavender, Sunderlin and Adams. We also present details that help one understand issues not fully explained in Zion's Watch Tower.

8. Aftermath of Failure. This considers their expectations for the spring of 1878 and the separation and controversies that followed.

Volume 2 will take up the story, following it to just past the publication of The Plan of the Ages. Everything is footnoted so there are no unsupportable claims and anyone who wishes can follow our reseach path.

So this is nearly our last call for documentation that may help before we publish volume one. Anything you have, no matter how trivial you may think it would be of interest. Can you help?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Let me tell you about our next book ....


I usually post articles like this on my personal blog, but this one will go here. I’m smooshing [yes I know that’s not a standard English word] together my new research and Mr. Schulz’s 1990 research paper. This will be the last full chapter of volume one of our new book. It tells the tale of the 1878 disappointment, Barbour and Russell’s eventual separation, and the controversy that followed. 

Most people know the basics, I think. The story is told in two or three paragraphs in most histories of the Watch Tower movement. I can tell you now that you don’t know the full story. Wickedpedia and other silly sites reference A. H. Macmillan’s story about some standing on the Sixth Street Bridge at midnight. It didn’t happen. His claim that Russell saw much work ahead and didn’t expect translation is also false. I’m not saying he lied; he just got it wrong.

Russell tells an entirely different story. We’ve found a lot of that, people making claims that can’t be sustained. We start this chapter with one of those:

“Little of this story has been told. As with much else in this era of Watch Tower history, we find significant purposeful nonsense and just plain bad research. For example, Graig Burns asserts that “the Bible Students had split off from a group of Second Adventists under N. H. Barbour, which later became the 7th-Day Adventist Church.”[1] We’re fairly certain Seventh-day Adventists would be surprised to know this. We certainly were.”

It’s fun to be a little bit snippy. So much we read is just silly.

Much more interesting to me is Russell’s separate doctrinal development. While he and Barbour were slugging it out over the Atonement doctrine, Russell was perusing an independent Bible study that lead to new approaches to previous beliefs. This is all new research for us, but I think we grasp the basics. What were these new thoughts? Read the book when it’s published.

Not surprisingly, we find Barbour misstating events. He does that. He thought he was God’s special mouthpiece, the “leader” of the little flock. He, at all costs, appeared in the best light possible, even if that meant that he lied about his associates.

An obnoxious fabricator claims that Russell stole the Herald of the Morning subscription list. This is a stupid claim. The Herald had fewer than 1000 subscribers. Russell sent his new magazine to 6000 individuals. More importantly, Russell was part owner of the Herald, even if Barbour later denied this. Notices in the semi-monthly issues said so as did periodical listings in the public press.
 
 
Click the illustration to view it all.

Right now, this remains a complex, tangled mess. That won’t last. Research always starts that way. This book is nothing like what we imagined. The real story is so much more interesting – and … well … different.

We puzzle through why they believed what they believed. I do not mean we don’t understand their chain of reasoning. They published all that. I mean I want to know why they believed what was sometimes improbable. Charles Pierce, a contemporary of Russell’s, wrote that, “The characteristics of belief are three. First, there is a certain feeling with regard to a proposition. Second, there is a disposition to be satisfied with the proposition. And third, there is a clear impulse to act in certain ways, in consequence.” It’s hard to argue with that proposition. They wanted to believe. So they believed. The limits of belief were the scriptures as they understood them.

Doubt also plays a part in this story. Pierce wrote that doubt “may approximate indefinitely to belief.” That is, as long as there is belief, there will be doubt. He gave several causes for ‘doubt,’ and I think we see them all at work in this story. Doubt in this history drove investigation. And investigation is the life blood of cogent thought. The theologies that descend from Russell, Barbour and others were driven by investigation and doubt. We, of course, do not express an opinion on the success of any of the actors in this story; we only tell you what they did, and if they let us know, why they did it.

We’ve worked hard to turn names into living personalities. Everyone with even mild interest in Watch Tower history knows the name B. W. Keith. Benjamin Wallace Keith had a personality all of his own, built out of experiences and friendships. His aged father ran off and married someone far his junior. We tell you that. He married twice. He lost children to disease and bee sting. We tell you all those small details. And we hope that the story comes alive through them.

Sunderlin was adopted. He and Keith were both wounded in the Civil War. Sunderlin suffered endlessly from a wound that ran down the length of his spine. Best we can put together is that he was prone, shooting, and a bullet traveled down his spine. He became an opium addict. Didn’t know that did you? He found relief from his pain and the addiction in a medication that probably only had a placebo effect. But it worked for him.

We have photos of Keith and Sunderlin. They’ll appear in the new book.

L. A. Allen, one of the original Watch Tower contributors, was a young woman. We tell you some of her life issues. This is a partially told tale. We simply do not know enough detail to say more than what we will say. I wish we did. Her issues lead her to Universal Salvation belief.

Russell, in a very obscure, hard to find place, tells of looking through a blast furnace peephole and thinking about the horrors of hell. Knowing that doesn’t add much to the story, really. But it’s colorful. It gives a flat story something of his personality.

Bet you didn’t know about Russell’s furniture store? His stock market investments? Read the book when it comes out, and you will.

We “take to task” a number of writers on both sides of the aisle. So much [insert slightly vulgar word here] has been written … and believed … that we have to address some of it. Zydeck’s book comes in for a thrashing. It’s not nice to make things up. Bits of things found in dissertations and thesis are beat with a hammer. Most of you won’t have read any of those, but some of them rest at the back of books and pamphlets you would have read if you’ve pursued this at all. Our goal is to present as accurate a history as we can.

An example? Here’s a paragraph:

Owen W. Muelder wrote that Storrs “studied at Princeton, graduated from Andover Theological Seminary, and was a professor of theology as Western Reserve College in Ohio. In 1828, he lived in South Carolina where he observed the grim reality of a slaves’ life.” None of this is true. Records of his ordination and ministry have him in New Hampshire through all this period.[2] A brief biography prefacing one of his books appears to be a product of Storrs’ own pen, and, as such, probably speaks authoritatively about his early religious beliefs. Not surprisingly, his introduction to spiritual thought came from his mother. Storrs and his siblings received their first and primary religious instruction at her knees. Storrs remembered her as “ever watchful over their religious instruction, while the father was most studious to promote their temporal welfare.” Lucinda Storrs “gathered her children around her, particularly on the Sabbath, to give them instruction in the things pertaining to God, and our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

We want it “right.” If we fail, it’s our own fault, of course. But we strive for accuracy no matter where it takes us.

Another example, this one from a discussion of the Allegheny Bible Class:

A. D. Jones was not a member, despite claims by various writers. Neither was George Stetson, though he may have met with them on the odd occasions when he was in Allegheny. Jones came into the picture in 1878, and Stetson was centered in Edinboro and could not regularly attend though he preached to the Church of God congregation every other week for a period, and in December 1872 he preached there twice each Sunday. The claim made by an Internet based encyclopedia that George Storrs attended regularly is a fabrication. The entire article in which that claim appears should be rejected by serious researchers.

Wading through secondary sources for this period (roughly 1870-1887) leaves the stain of Augean Stables on one. … Which is a nice way of saying really bad stuff about what most have written. We understand that we’ve had extraordinary access to some material not available to most writers. But most of this story has been available to anyone who looked. They just haven’t looked.

Writing this has been a challenge. Melding two writing styles into one readable document is not the least of our challenges. Finding material has been an even bigger task. If you’ve read this blog for a while you’ve seen a long list of “needs and wants.” We still need most of those.

On the other hand, family members of some of those we write about have found us or we’ve found them, and they’ve contributed surprising things. We’ve had help from Wendells, Barbour descendants, von Zech’s family, J. A. Brown’s distant granddaughter, and others. This has added richness to this story.

Mr. Schulz often says, “The story is in the details.” This is an excellent maxim.



[1]               G. Burns: Exit From Soul-Abuse: Redefining Extremist Cults, Trafford Publishing, 2012, page 454. Burns is an ex-Witness. One wonders how he could associate with that religion for twenty-four years and not know the basics of Watch Tower history.
[2]               O. W. Muelder: Theodore Dwight Weld and the American Anti-Slavery Society, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2011, page 89. Storrs ministry in this period is well documented, presenting this record: Admitted on trial to the New England ME Conference 1825; Ordained deacon by Bishop Hedding at Lisbon, June 10 1827 and elder by the same at Portsmouth, June 15 1829; Appointments Landaff, 1825; Sandwich, 1826-7; Gilmanton and Northfield, 1828-9; Great Falls, 1830 and 1832; Portsmouth, 1830-1; Concord, 1833-4; Henniker and Deering supernumerary 1835; left the Methodists 1840; Without charge, Montpelier Vermont, 1841; Supplied Albany, New York, 1841-2. – See N. F. Carter: The Native Ministry of New Hampshire, Concord, 1906, page 428.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I know i'm asking for the moon, but we need:

1. Any and all of the semi-monthly issues of Herald of the Morning except the June 15, 1877, issue. We especially need the issues for April and May.

2. We have a very limited number of contemporary reactions to their failure to be "translated" in April 1877. We would love to have more comments from outside the movement.

3. We still seek Russell's personal letters. Since I last asked, we've come up with six, one of which was very helpful. If you have one (or some), no matter how trivial the content may seem, please scan it and send it to us.

4. We still need Barbour's Spiritism booklet from 1883.

5. We need a photo of William I. Mann. We've checked with the university where his son was provost. No joy there. Anyone? Even a poor quality newspaper photo would work.

6. Letters between early Bible Students, no matter what the date are important, even if they seem trivial. Do you have any you can share?

Update on progress:

Mr. Schulz is writing the introductory essay for volume one. I'm reading through and re-researching and re-writing something he wrote about 1990 for someone else's book. This will become the last chapter of volume one. We're moving a chapter planned for volume one to volume two where it will be more appropriate; the same is true of one appendix.

I noted a discussion of Russell's supposed membership in the Masons over on another site. Just so you know, the membership list for the lodge his uncle belonged to is available. Neither C. T.'s dad nor himself is on it. We deal with all of this in an appendix in volume one.

We're hoping to have volume one in print early next year.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, April 2, 1877

Working on the last chapter of volume 1

This is what we have. Can you add detail. ...?


A. H. Macmillan reported a later claim made by “Pittsburgh newspapers” that Russell “was on the Sixth Street bridge dressed in a white robe on the night of the Memorial of Christ’s death, expecting to be taken to heaven.” We could not find the original of this newspaper report, though we do not doubt its existence. The fact of the report is interesting, but the conclusions many have drawn from it are distorted. The report, no matter who printed it, was long removed from the events of 1878. Macmillan’s association dates from 1900.[1] The newspaper article could be no older than that and is probably dated later, perhaps after 1906. So at best it reports on events twenty years pervious. As Macmillan has it, Russell’s reaction was to laugh “heartily” and say:

I was in bed that night between 10:30 and 11:00 P.M. However, some of the more radical ones might have been there, but I was not. Neither did I expect to be taken to heaven at that time, for I felt there was much work to be done preaching the Kingdom message to the peoples of the earth before the church would be taken away.[2] 

            One should dispose of the ascension-robe claim first. It was an old often repeated calumny. Everyone with clearly defined end of the age expectations was subject to it, though there is not one verifiable instance. It is especially out of place when applied to Russell. He expected a change to a spirit body, making any self-made ascension robe irrelevant. He understood the “white robes” of Revelation [vs] to be symbolic, not literal. That he or any of the Pittsburgh Barbourites dressed in robes is a newspaper reporter’s lie. Some writers have taken this on face value. The story delights Russell’s enemies who discount his denial, and others simply repeat it as is, believing it to be accurate because it saw print.

            If Macmillan reports Russell’s belief that “there was much work to be done” and that he didn’t “expect to be taken to heaven at that time” with any sort of accuracy, then we must presume his doubts to have arisen in the last weeks before April 1878. Any time prior to the spring of 1878, we find Russell and Barbour believing with equal fervor that translation impended.[3] It is apparent that he believed and preached that translation was due. Taken as a whole, this seems a very unreliable report. But we come away from it noting two things: There was among the Pittsburgh brethren a “more radical” party; they were somewhat fragmented. And doubts grew as the time approached.



[1]               A. H. Macmillan: Faith on the March, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1957, page 42.
[2]               A. H. Macmillan: Faith on the March, page 27.
[3]               C. T. Russell: A Conspiracy Exposed and Harvest Siftings, Zion’s Watch Tower, special edition, Apriil 25, 1894, pages 103-104.  The Prospect, Herald of the Morning, July 1878, page 11.

We need to locate the original of the ...

newspaper article mentioned by A. H. Macmillan that claimed that Russell and his associates were on the sixth street bridge on passover day 1878. Anyone?