Monday, September 29, 2014
Saturday, September 27, 2014
Arabella Mann and Mary J Whitehouse on North face of pyramid
The first article in this series (see September 22) reviewed the history of the five persons named on the east panel of the pyramid memorial in the center of the Society’s main plot in the Rosemont United Cemeteries.
In this article we will examine the remaining names – two on the north panel and two on the south. There are no inscriptions on the west panel.
The panel facing south is headed Dead With Christ and contains two names, Chas T Russell and John M Coolidge.
Charles Taze Russell
Right at the top is the inscription Chas T Russell, age 64. He died on October 31, 1916, and his burial took place on November 6, 1916. His current grave marker further up the hill from the pyramid dates from the same time as the pyramid itself, late 1919, early 1920. The installation was complete when it was written up in the The New Era Enterprise for February 10, 1920.
I trust that most readers of this blog will already know his history, and will also know that his sister Margaretta R Land (died 1934) is buried in an unmarked grave next to him. Her name was given in various ways over the years, but Margaretta R Land is how she gave her name in the 1930 census and how it is listed in the cemetery records.
CTR and his sister, Margaret Land, in 1907
John M Coolidge
John Coolidge’s name is quite easy to miss because it is right at the bottom of the south page that is headed by CTR’s name. The reason simply is the location of the grave. CTR is buried in what is now Section T – lot 34 – grave A1, and John is right at the end of the same row in what is now numbered grave D2. He has the distinction of being the only one (other than CTR) to have a surviving grave marker.
John Milton Coolidge was born in February 1876 in Massachusetts. He was married for a short time to Emma Eliza Phillips (married in Utah in 1898, but she died in 1899). He obviously lived at some point in Canandaigua, county seat of Ontario County, NY, because the Ontario County Journal gave a one line notice of his death - at New York City, Jan. 2, John Milton Coolidge, formerly of Canandaigua, aged 38 years. (The death certificate gives January 4).He was not in the 1913 list of Bethel residents provided by Menta Sturgeon, nor in the 1915 census of Bethel. However, a 1915 listing has him serving as a deacon in the New York City Ecclesia.
John’s death certificate states that he was living at 320 Beekman Avenue, The Bronx, at the time of his death. (This is a block of apartments built in 1910). The certificate says that he died of cerebrospinal meningitis at the age of 40 on January 4, 1916. (If the above birth date is correct that should probably be age 39, although the newspaper announcement gave age 38 and the pyramid inscription repeats the death certificate with age 40). His burial in the United Cemeteries plot was on January 6. His occupation was given as electrician.
All I can establish about him is that he was an amateur poet, somewhat along the lines of Gertrude Seibert. His death and funeral are not mentioned in the SPE (St Paul’s Enterprise) but a few months later a letter dated April 22, 1916, was written from Brooklyn by Mrs Anna H Brooks. It was eventually published on page 4 of the August 29, 1916, issue. She wrote:
The poem was entitled “What of To-day?” and modern readers can always skip down this page if it is not to their taste.
We aim to do good in the “after while.”
What good have we done to-day?
We would bring to each lonely one a smile,
But what have we brought to-day?
We would give to Truth a greater worth:
And to steadfast Faith a grander birth,
And bless the fallen ones of earth.
But what have we done to-day?
We will be so kind – “when we’re over there”
How kind have we been to-day?
Our dear Lord’s likeness we there shall wear.
But whose have we worn to-day?
We will share His joy and His glory too;
Rejoice and praise Him the whole day through,
And do all the Father would have us do.
But what are we doing to-day?
Overcome, we must, to with Him share.
Have we overcome aught to-day?
We will serve all His dear ones with tender care,
Have we served them so to-day?
Gentle and loving and kind as a dove,
Manifesting the Heavenly Love,
Showing the Spirit from above.
But how have we done to-day?
We’ll sympathise fully with others then.
But how are we doing to-day?
We’ll think e’er we speak and not condemn,
But what are we doing to-day?
We wish to prove worthy of “the call”
And help all mankind up from “the fall”
That the Glory of God may be known to all.
Are we practicing this to-day?
Composed by J.M. COOLIDGE
Another one from John Milton Coolidge
Some internet transcripts give Arabella’s age at death as 86. However, the only death recorded in Kings, New York (the area including Brooklyn) with a subsequent burial at United Cemeteries, is Arabella L Mann, who died 28 May 1916 aged 66. Trying to decipher the difference between a 6 and an 8 on a discolored and weathered pyramid seems to have caused the discrepancy.
Arabella Mann was born c.1849-1850. (One source says December 1849). The 1900 United States Federal Census has Arabella L Mann living in Middlesex, Massachusetts, aged 50. She was born in New Hampshire, and had been married for 28 years (i.e. since c.1872), but there are no husband or children with her on census night. Her occupation is Music Teacher. City directories also place her on her own in Massachusetts in 1899 (Boston) and 1907 (Everett). By the 1910 census she is back in her home state of New Hampshire at Plymouth, Grafton, aged 60, as a boarder and a widow with no occupation listed. The Atlantic Reporter volume 80, page 366, reviewed a legal hearing held in New Hampshire in 1911 involving a widow named Arabella L Mann claiming back wages owed to her late husband, one George G Mann, who died March 17, 1908. This could be the same Arabella.
If she were a sometime colporteur, then moving about would be par for the course. By 1915 she is in the Brooklyn Bethel. The name is incorrectly rendered in the schedule as Anna L Mann. No other family members are with her. She is aged 66 and gives her relationship to the rest of the family as “helper” but her occupation as “missionary.” That would tie in with colporteur work.
Perhaps the biggest point to note about Arabella is that she appears to be no relation to William Imrie Mann. It would have been nice if a connection could have been made with WIM, who wrote for the early ZWTs and was a Society director until 1892. However, WIM left CTR and associated with John Paton and William Conley. It was this Mann who reported Conley’s death in the pages of Paton’s World’s Hope in 1897. Just the year before, CTR had railed against those who, as he saw it, were guilty of “evil surmising and slanders and envy” – and Mann was first on his list. (See Russell vs. Russell 1906, exhibit 2, letter from CTR to ‘My dear wife’ dated July 9, 1896). So it seems unlikely that Arabella was a relative. William Imrie was born in Scotland, whereas Arabella was born in America, although I do not have any information on her husband or maiden name.
Mary J Whitehouse
Mary Jane Whitehouse died in the Pittsburgh area in June 1916. There was a brief announcement of her death in the Pittsburgh Press for June 24, 1916. It reads:
WHITEHOUSE – On Friday, June 23, 1916, at 1.25 a.m., Mary Jane, beloved wife of Herbert E Whitehouse (née McAdams) in her 63rd year. Funeral services at her late residence, Rear 382 Boquet Street, Oakland, on Sunday June 25th at 2.00 P.M. Interment private.
Mary Jane McAdams married Herbert Edward Whitehouse c. 1877 to become Mary Jane Whitehouse. Both were born in England but grew up in America. Two of their children featured in Watch Tower history.
The most well known was Laura Mary Whitehouse. She was born in Pittsburgh in 1878, and in the 1900 census she gives her occupation as a clerk. This was most likely in the Bible House, because she was invited with two other women to give their names to a company called Logan, Land and Whitehouse, in connection with buying goods at wholesale rates for a short-lived commercial enterprise called the Solon Society. When asked about why she allowed her name to be used, in cross-examination at the Russell vs. Russell 1907 hearing, she answered:
“I knew these gentlemen that belonged to the Solon Association, and I understood them to be thoroughly honest, honorable and reliable, and that there would be no responsibility upon myself, and so I permitted my name to be used in that way...Mr Russell broached the subject to me, but it was not compulsory at all; he didn’t say that we had to or needed to; he just simply asked us if we would like to.”Laura’s mother was to be buried on the pyramid site, as was the mother of Alice Land, another one of the Logan, Land and Whitehouse triumvirate. Alice’s mother was CTR’s sister, Margaretta, mentioned above.
Laura married Albert Ernest Burgess, who, like her, grew up in Pittsburgh. He became a well known Pilgrim speaker and was one of the names mentioned in CTR’s will. By the 1910 census they have been married one year and are living in Brooklyn Bethel.
Another daughter of Mary Jane and Herbert Whitehouse was Estelle Belle Whitehouse who married Isaac Francis Hoskins on January 16, 1908. The two are also together in Brooklyn Bethel as a married couple in 1910, with the suggestion (assuming the enumerator completed the form correctly) that she had lost two children by then. Isaac Hoskins was one of the four directors replaced by J F Rutherford in 1917.
Laura and Estelle Whitehouse in 1907
Mary Jane Whitehouse’s husband, Herbert, died in 1931, having spent his last few years living with the Hoskins in New York.
So those are a few details about the nine names on the pyramid.
Monday, September 22, 2014
You quoted me thus: “But I asked how they knew what the modern application of Scripture was: They found modern fulfillments for parts of the Bible that do not seem prophetic. The answer was,‘They don’t know. They only believe.’”
I did not mean to imply that a Witness gave me that answer. I stated my conclusion. Bible principles and prophetic interpretation should agree, but they aren’t the same thing. If the Bible doesn’t suggest that a verse has a last-days interpretation we shouldn’t make one up.
You asked if I parted ways with Abrahamic Faith over their Socinian beliefs. That was a factor but not the sole factor.
You asked what I meant by Christian Mysticism. You ask if I meant “God’s organization” and “led by holy spirit”claims. All believers should find themselves within God’s family and led by Holy Spirit. Christian Mysticism makes claims of an advanced understanding and special appointment to prophetic office. You may want to read Manuela Dunn Mascetti’s Christian Mysticism and Garrett’s Respectable Folly.
You asked about Lang’s Commentary. I have it as a twelve volume hard back book in Schaff’s translation. The original German Edition and first English editions combine volumes. There never were sixty-three volumes. Only 12 or 15 depending on the edition. And yes, I’ve read it all. And a number of other multi-volume commentaries as well.
East face of the pyramid showing the names of Grace Mundy, Lorena M Russell, John Perry, H L Addington and Flora J Cole.
There’s a famous line in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Butch and Sundance are being chased by an unknown posse, who are only seen in the distance to begin with. The line that almost becomes a mantra throughout this sequence is “Who are those guys?”
It is a good enough opening line for this article (the first of two) which is about a group of people who have remained unknown and for any sufficiently curious, somewhat mysterious, for around one hundred years. Hopefully, in some cases, it might rescue their stories from obscurity.
In the Rosemont United Cemetery in Ross Township, Allegheny, there is a burial plot originally intended for Watch Tower supporters who either worked at their headquarters (Bethel) or who travelled from congregation to congregation (Pilgrims) or who acted as colporteurs along with their family members. CTR in his will specified that he should be buried in this cemetery, and the idea was for others close to him and his work to be buried nearby in the years ahead.
Previous articles on this blog have dealt with the actual site with a pyramid at its center – covering its history, the number of plots planned and how this was revised, who actually are buried there today, and also the mystery of the hidden box of publications sealed inside the pyramid that, alas, is there no longer. This article deals with those whose names were originally inscribed on the monument. For all the grandiose plans, only nine names ever made it on the pyramid sides.
This article may be considered a work in progress, because while some of these individuals were easy to trace, others were very illusive. Other researchers may be able to add to this information, and I would be happy to have their comments, and even publish a revised article (with acknowledgments) if sufficient extra material comes to light.
This first article deals with the five individuals whose names are recorded on the east face of the pyramid as shown in the photograph at the head of this article. They are listed under the carved heading Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. Below is a plan of the complete lot where they are interred (Section T – lot 33) which also shows where CTR and his sister are buried (in their case, actually in Section T – lot 35). The plan shows where the five graves are in relation to each other at the far corner of the whole site. (All the Bible Student burials, apart from CTR’s, appear to be working from the extremities of the site inwards.)
Grace Mundy was buried in the same row as CTR, but at the furthest corner of the site. According to her death certificate she died on December 4, 1914, aged 25, and the interment took place on December 8. She was the first to be buried on the Society’s site. Sadly, she made the front page of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle when she was fatally injured.
The Eagle for December 4, 1914 carried the heading, WOMAN IN FLAMES RUSHES INTO STREET – Miss Grace Mundy Perhaps Fatally Burned – Neighbors Beat Out Fire.
The story tells how the street was greeted by a “flaming apparition” as Grace rushed into the street, and several bystanders were burned trying to extinguish the flames. Grace’s father was away at the time, her mother was ill in bed, and she had been cleaning feathers in the kitchen in their home on the fourth floor of 539 Throop Avenue, using gasoline. She got too near the stove and the fluid ignited and set fire to her garments. She managed to get down three flights of stairs and out into the street but was severely burned. She was taken to St John’s Hospital, where she died.
The story makes no connection with the Bible Student movement, but the death certificate confirms that this is the Grace who was the first to be buried at the Society’s plot. She may have been a colporteur, and her parents, Peter and Sarah, may have been too. They had lived in Throop Avenue for three years at the time of the accident. They were not mentioned by Menta Sturgeon when he detailed who was part of the regular Bethel family in January 1913. (See trial transcript Russell vs. Brooklyn Eagle, 1913). The 1910 census has the family living in New Jersey, with the father a carpenter and Grace’s younger brother, George, a machinist in an auto factory. Grace was born in Missouri, and the census has her down as a step-daughter, with the original surname of Wilson.
The trail ran cold for me at this point. However, Grace and/or her family must have been heavily involved in the work of the IBSA for her to be given the ‘privilege’ of being the first to be taken all the way from New York to the United Cemeteries in Pittsburgh. No other family members were to be buried near her.
Lorena May Russell
A year went by without any further interments, and then two happened in quick succession in December 1915. The pyramid records the death of Lorena M Russell. She was living and working at Bethel, but was not listed there when the New York census named all the regular inhabitants on the snapshot day of June 1, 1915. According to her death certificate she was 40 when she died. She is named as Lorena on the pyramid, Lorna on her death certificate, and Laura in her obituary (see below). Even with this information, there are just too many L Russells around in the records to track her history with any certainty, but her death was mentioned in the St Paul Enterprise, the unofficial Bible Student newspaper of the day. No connection with CTR was ever suggested.
A letter from J H Coyle (John Coyle who worked in the Bethel laundry in 1915) dated December 17, 1917, read:
“Dear Brothers in Christ – Perhaps it would interest many to note that Sister Laura May Russell of the “Bethel” died December 11. Funeral service by our dear Brother Rutherford in which he noted her fine Christ-like characters, the largeness of heart and nobility of soul, the warmth and graciousness of her spirit and her earnest devotion and tender love to the Master and disciples. Pilgrim Rutherford lovingly called attention to the fact that our departed sister had the great honor of being the first from Brooklyn “Bethel” to meet and greet the Risen Master, even as did Mary of old.”
Two things we might glean from this. Lorena, Lorna or Laura was sufficiently well known in the Bible student community to make such a letter have any point, and also it shows that J F Rutherford was in Brooklyn (or at least as a Pilgrim travelled to Brooklyn) in December 1915.
On December 13, 1915, John Perry died – our third name on the east face of the pyramid. The same letter from John Coyle continued:
“Two days later brother John Perry of “Bethel” also died. Funeral by Pilgrim Van Amburgh. His discourse was touching as he reviewed the faithful, devoted and blessed consecrated life of this very dear and saintly brother. Brother Perry had finely wrought qualities of heart that endeared him to all at the home. Like a shock of wheat he was fully ripe, and he has gone to meet the Saviour whom he loved so well!”
John Perry was listed in Menta Sturgeon’s January 1913 list as part of the Bethel family, and he was also in the June 1915 New York census at the Columbia Heights address. He was 70 years old at the time, and while many of his companions told the enumerator they were a missionary, evangelist, or minister of the gospel, John put himself down as a helper, and his occupation - housework.
We learn more about him from a letter in the January 7, 1916 SPE which gives his history. It was written by W H Bradford (Wesley Haven Bradford, who wrote several collectible booklets).
Before becoming a Bible Student, John Perry had been “a horse dealer in the vicinity of Bismarck, North Dakota, a very rough and profane man, not able to read or write, although a shrewd and successful horse raiser and trader, and possessed of a small fortune accumulated in trade.”
The account tells how he came in contact with “the teachings of Pastor Russell and was at once under conviction of them. He was unable, however, to read either the Studies in the Scriptures or the Bible itself, being illiterate...So he began on a task that most men of his age would despair of at the start. He used the Bible and the Divine Plan of the Ages as his text books, and actually learned to read from them.” He moved to Chicago where he became an active volunteer (and where Bradford first knew him). “He sold out his interest in the horse business, and...gave the proceeds to the Bible House for the furtherance of the Light.”
Bradford’s account concludes: “He was very clear on all the essential doctrines, being able to quote Scriptures fluently to support them, and it was impossible for men of education or argumentative skill to tangle him up. I have often thought, when pondering on such a life as Brother Perry’s, What hath God wrought! The Divine Potter indeed hath power out of ordinary clay to fashion a vessel unto honor. In the light of such a life, who should not have faith?”
One gets the picture of a rough diamond who donated his assets to the cause and was probably given a home at Brooklyn Bethel as part of that arrangement.
H L Addington
In his day, Henry Lawrence Addington was probably one of the best known of the names on the pyramid. Other than CTR, he was the only person named on the pyramid to receive an official obituary in the Watch Tower magazine.
Addington served as a Pilgrim and as his itinerary was regularly listed on the back page of the Watch Tower magazine. In both June 1919 issues it notes that he was booked to speak at Mansfield, Ohio, on July 4. He was killed en route to that speaking engagement.
His obituary was published in the July 15, 1919, Watch Tower on page 217 under the heading: “Sown in Weakness, Raised in Power.” It reads (in part):
“Brother H L Addington, member of the office staff and also of the Pilgrim force, suddenly finished his course on the morning of July 4 at Mansfield, Ohio, when he and four other friends, three from Cleveland and one from Mansfield, were killed by a special Pennsylvania train. Eight friends were seated in an autocar and were being driven to picnic grounds nearby, where meetings were to be addressed by Brother Addington during the day. Five friends were killed practically outright; three were injured.”
The obituary noted that Addington symbolised his consecration in Pittsburgh in the spring of 1914 and joined the Bethel family in February 1918.
The accident was reported in the July 5, 1919, New York Sun as “Five Die in Motor Crash - Pastor is Among Victims on Way to Bible Students’ Picnic” and also in both the Loudonville, Ohio, newspapers, the Advocate and Democrat, on July 7, 1919 – headlines “Five Killed” and “Another Awful Auto Accident.” They all misspell Addington’s name and initials as the Rev. H A Haddington. He was 38.
Apparently the level crossing gates at the East Fourth Street crossing of the Pennsylvania railroad at Mansfield were not down, and as the car attempted to cross it was hit by a special train taking fight fans from Pittsburgh to Toledo. The gateman hadn’t seen the signal from the next station of the train’s approach, and neither had he heard it. He was arraigned on the charge of manslaughter and at the preliminary hearing it turned out that he was (quote) “quite deaf.”
Before becoming a Bible Student, records shows Addington to have been born in Darke County Ohio, some sources gives 1881, others 1882. He married Edith C Woolley (or Woodley) in June 1909. (It was Edith’s second marriage and she married a third time after Addington’s death, and lived until 1945). The 1910 census shows Lawrence and Edith living together in Allegheny, Pittsburgh and him working as a telegraph operator.
Flora J Cole
The final name on the east face of the pyramid is that of Flora Jane Cole. There is a link here to the present today for, as we shall see below, her son James was mentioned in a modern Watchtower magazine in 2012. Flora died in Manhattan, New York on June 8, 1919, aged 70. George Swetnam’s 1967 article about the pyramid gives her age as 78, but this is a misreading of a by now none-too-clear inscription. She was buried next in the row of women that started with Grace Mundy and Lorena M Russell.
Flora was born about 1849, and as Flora J Loomis married John Cole in 1870. In the 1880 census, John is an engineer, and they have three young sons, James, Herbert and Alfred. Eldest son James was born in Kansas in February 1872. In the 1900 census, Flora is a widow living in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, with two sons, James, an electrician, and Alfred a book-keeper. By the 1910 census we find just Flora and James together in lodgings in Detroit City. They both now give their trade or profession as colporteur and the general nature of their business as Bible studies.
In Menta Sturgeon’s January 1913 list, a Mrs Cole was part of the Bethel. Moving forward to the June 1, 1915 New York census, Flora J Cole is still listed as living at Bethel. Her relationship to the rest of the family is “helper” but her occupation is “missionary.” That would identify her as a colporteur.
As noted above, Flora’s son James has been mentioned in Watchtower literature in very recent years. The February 15, 2012, Watchtower magazine, had a feature article “It Made Me a Little Conspicuous.” It described a contraption used by colporteurs called the Dawn-Mobile. This was designed by James. It was a frame with two wheels attached, one in front of the other, which could be fixed to a suitcase. It enabled colporteurs to transport large amounts of literature to people. It was especially appreciated by female colporteurs and the Watch Tower actually offered these free to women in full-time colporteur work - see for example WT June 15, 1908, reprints page 4195.
James Cole from a 1915 convention report
There is an entertaining article in the 1908 convention report from Cincinnati, Ohio (pages 79 and 80), where James Cole (with A H Macmillan as helper) demonstrated the new Dawn-Mobile to the colporteurs at their special meeting. While “Dawn-Mobile” was the official title, nearly everyone at the time called it the “Cole-Wagon.”
So Flora J Cole was James’ mother. And hers was the last name to be found on the east face of the pyramid. When James eventually died he was buried in California. You can find him on the Find a Grave site.
If the stated plan had been followed all of the above would have had small grave stones, 12 inches long by 6 inches high. However, no stones for any of the above five now exist. Still, their names are preserved on the pyramid.
The next article in this series, when ready, will discuss the remaining individuals remembered on the north and south sides of the monument: Charles T Russell, John Milton Coolidge, Arabella Mann and Mary Jane Whitehouse.
Monday, September 15, 2014
As you will have noticed, I've been away for a while. I'm on the sickish side, but I wrote this in answer to a series of questions. I'm posting it here for any additional, relevant coments that add to the discussion.
Herewith my email:
Herewith my email:
I think what is below will answer most if not all the questions you asked. I'm sorry it took me so long to reply. I'm ill and not able to do much. But here are my answers keyed by number to your questions.
1. A Key element of Barbourite and Watch Tower theology is the concept of Spirit Bodies. While the exact nature of a spirit body is unknowable to those in the flesh, some of its abilities and nature are revealed in Scripture. You will find a good discussion of Spirit Body doctrine in Barbour’s Three Worlds. It’s available online.
A spirit body’s natural state is invisible to humans. Spirits are in Biblical terms “flames of fire” and dwell in God’s presence where they see him as he is. So Christ as a “life giving spirit” is exactly as God is, his very image and likeness. (Heb. Chap. 1) He is glorified to God’s right hand to dwell there forever.
Did Russell believe (after 1881) that Jesus was on earth but invisible? The Watch Tower speaks with a conflicted voice. He seems to have believed that Christ would rule from Jerusalem but he also seems to allow that his rule from there would be through earthly representatives and his presence there would be represented through some symbolic means akin to the light above the Ark of the Covenant.
2. Russell dated the parousia to 1874. He believed that Christ assumed Kingly rule in 1878. He believed the heavenly call ended in 1881 with the start of the heavenly resurrection. These ideas were based on time parallels with ancient events. The time parallel arguments were accepted based on confirmation bias rather than scriptural precedent. There was no other proof.
3. You will find Russell’s explanation in Food for Thinking Christians. Full text is online. Also some brief ZWT articles such as one entitled Optomi (Greek verb for “to see” in the August 1881 WT. (All early issues are online.)
4. Prior to 1879 Russell believed as did Barbour. Later he published without comment an article by L. A. Allen that suggests a totally invisible presence. That article started a behind-the-scenes discussion that culminated with a doctrinal revision in Food for Thinking Christians.
5. He gave up believing that Christ was present. He continued to believe in a future two-stage, partly-invisible presence. Barbour, Russell and Witnesses would see applying the word “rapture” to this event as a misuse of the word. Rapture implies a visionary experience. Translation and resurrection are “real” rather than visionary events.
6. Yes, by the end of 1882 he gave up that view.
7. Barbour did not introduce Russell to the idea of a two-stage, partially invisible presence. He tells us that it was his prior belief and that he met the idea in Seiss’ Last Times and other places. Barbour convinced Russell that it had occurred in 1874.
Russell was distressed by Barbour’s deflection and deeply troubled by it. But he did not doubt the truth of their shared doctrines. Russell’s belief was that a once revealed truth remained truth despite others’ doubts.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Note: there have already been two articles on this blog about the Rosemont United Cemeteries site where CTR is buried. The first was on the mystery box of books once inside the pyramid and the second was harmonising the discrepancies in the numbers of recorded graves on site. Strictly speaking, this article should have been the first – giving an overview of the site.
In June 1907 Charles Taze Russell (hereafter abbreviated to CTR) made his last will and testament. In it he wrote:
“I desire to be buried in the plot of ground owned by our Society, in the Rosemont United Cemetery, and all the details of arrangements respecting the funeral service I leave in the care of my sister, Mrs. M. M. Land, and her daughters, Alice and May, or such of them as may survive me, with the assistance and advice and cooperation of the brethren, as they may request the same.”The cemetery was obviously a going concern by this time. It was founded two years earlier, in April 1905 with a board of trustees and subscribers. The full name was the Rosemont Mount Hope and Evergreen United Cemeteries. CTR was originally down as one of the trustees. (See post on this blog dated July 16 for a reproduction of the relevant part of the original documentation.)
The full story of how the Watch Tower Society came to own a cemetery can be found by examining the trial transcripts of the Brooklyn Eagle “miracle wheat” trial and the 1907 Russell v. Russell hearing. The former is because “miracle wheat” was actually grown by John Adam Bohnet on the farm by the cemetery, and the latter because the hearing was endeavouring to establish CTR’s personal assets, as opposed to those of the Watch Tower Society.
CTR had continued to use personal assets to generate income for his religious work from the very start of Zion’s Watch Tower. Some of these dealing he described in the 1894 publication “A Conspiracy Exposed” when answering critics. He also explained why he preferred to keep his personal name out of such dealings “to avoid any unnecessary notoriety.” Investments were necessary because many donations were conditional – the contributor could claim his donation back at any time in case of need.One way of keeping CTR’s name out of things was through what he described as “a little holding company” – the United States Investment Company, which he personally organised with his own money. Ultimately, CTR donated all these assets to the Watch Tower Society in return for voting shares – one vote for each $10 donated.
The reason for this preamble is that the Watch Tower Society obtained a cemetery as an investment by providing William E Van Amburg with the money to purchase the land. It was next door to an existing parish cemetery established in 1888 and owned by the Roman Catholic St Philomena Church, so the change of use was logical, and it contained a farm. Plat maps of the 1890s show the farm and land belonging to a Margaret Wible, with the St Philomena Cemetery to the south – putting paid to wild conjecture that it was originally a Russell family inheritance.So Van Amburg ‘bought’ the land and then ‘sold’ it to the United States Investment Company. They in turn organised the cemetery company. But in reality, as a holding company for the Society, it was the Watch Tower Society that provided the money and really owned it. The deal was that half of the income generated would be used for the preservation and upkeep of the cemetery, and the other half to go to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.
A well-known Bible Student, Dr Walter E Spill, by profession an osteopath, was chairman of the cemetery company in 1913. As an amusing aside, in cross-examination during the Brooklyn Eagle trial he volunteered the comment that none of his patients had (as yet) been buried there.There is conflicting testimony at different times as to how practical this investment really was and how successful a venture it proved to be, and in 1917 the Watch Tower Society decided to sell off most of the land, apart from sections kept back for their own use. What had by now been renamed the North Side Catholic Cemetery was the purchaser. Legal documents show the United States investment company transferred these assets to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society on January 10, 1916, and the Society then transferred the same to the North Side Catholic Cemetery on December 13, 1917, as recorded January 18, 1918 in Deed Book Volume 1914, pages 273-274.
The main plot retained by the Society was the area where CTR was buried in November 1916.The January 15, 1918 St. Paul Enterprise (hereafter abbreviated as SPE) reported on the Annual Convention held at Pittsburgh, January 2-6, 1918, and noted that “the special monument which has been ordered by the Society [for the cemetery], is not yet completed, so none had the privilege of viewing it.”
The special monument would be the pyramid in the center of the Society’s plot. By the time of the 1919 convention report (covering January 2-5, 1919) a five foot deep concrete foundation was in place, and visitors were taken to the nearby marble works to see the work in progress. An artist’s impression of the finished production showed a pyramid with open books on its four sides, the pages designed to receive the names of those buried there. These would be headquarters staff (from “Bethel”) and traveling ministers (“Pilgrims”) along with their families. A space for J F Rutherford was already earmarked. It was acknowledged that this was a design from J Adam Bohnet, who according to advertisements in the SPE (see for example Jan 30 1917) had been cemetery manager since around 1907. However, it was claimed in The New Era Enterprise for February 10, 1920 (the re-named SPE, hereafter abbreviated to NEE) that CTR had approved this plan from a sketch Bohnet showed him back in 1912. The 1919 convention report suggests they had been trying to obtain the right material for about five years (or since 1914) and the pink granite eventually used came all the way from Marble Falls City in Texas.Some critics have queried Bohnet’s claim of CTR’s approval for his design. Personally, I have no reason to doubt Bohnet’s word as such – in his published writings over nearly 30 years he comes over as an honest, sincere man; although the actual size and scale of the project may have grown a bit since CTR’s demise. CTR had requested in his will that his funeral service be very simple and inexpensive; so the finished edifice, even if for all the Bethel family, may have evolved into something a little more elaborate than a passing rough sketch from 1912.
The idea of trying to source appropriate materials from back in 1914 has a ring of truth about it because the first Bible Student burial took place on site in December that year. The deceased, 25- year-old Grace Mundy, was buried in one of the four corners of the site. Subsequent burials (apart from CTR’s own) followed this pattern, almost as if they were marking out the extremities of the site and working from the outside inwards when using it.The installation of the pyramid was completed in time to be given a full write-up in the February 20. 1920 issue of NEE. The front page article was entitled “The Pyramid Monument on the Bethel Burial Lots.” It concluded with a fanciful comment that probably reflected how many people felt at the time:
“The Bethel lot will be sacred in the future when other lots in the place will be forgotten. And who knows the Ancient Worthies may someday stand reverently before the monument with bowed heads and read the names traced thereon!”Actually, the Ancient Worthies would have some difficulty. The years have not been kind to the pyramid. The weathering of the monument and the way the light hits it can make decipherment difficult. For example, a current internet search of memorial inscriptions for this cemetery only yields about three for the pyramid as recorded by volunteer transcribers. If you go back to 1967, George Swetnam’s article “A Man and His Monument” in the Family Magazine section of the Pittsburgh Press (June 25, 1967, page 7) lists eight. But he was obviously struggling. Grace Mundy, mentioned above, is transcribed by Swetnam as Grace Mound, and he mentions the name of Chester Ellidge. That can only be a drastic misreading of John Coolidge, which is surprising since a proper grave marker still survives on site for him.
If you go right back to the February 1920 NEE article, it also lists eight names, but with the expectation of many more to follow.
In reality, there were nine names in total, but that was all. Swetnam missed the name John Perry, and the NEE had an editorial glitch, because their missing name, Lorena Russell, was buried there back in December 1915.Likely for reasons of space, some names on the pyramid sides were abbreviated with just surname and initials. However, the full names of the nine are:
North FaceSouth Face
Mary Jane Whitehouse
Mary Jane Whitehouse
Charles Taze Russell
John Milton Coolidge
(name easily missed by visitors because it is nearly at ground level)
East FaceGrace Mundy
Laurena May Russell
Henry Lawrence Addington
Flora Jane Cole
West Face(no inscriptions)
A future article will discuss what is known about these people, and some have interesting histories and connections. For the moment though, perhaps we can dispel one potential for speculation - Laurena May Russell was no apparent relation of CTR.
But that was it. For all the hype in the 1919 convention report and the 1920 NEE article, all the names were of people who had actually died before the pyramid was erected. No further names were ever added; and apart from CTR’s sister, who owned the plot next to him, no further interments took place until the 1940s. The site basically was just left fallow. Bible Students who left the Watch Tower Society would hold memorial services at CTR’s grave in conjunction with annual reunion conventions in Pittsburgh, but other visitors would be few. As one dryly remarked in a 1929 convention report: “Either the friends have not been dying or the plan has been changed.”The reason for the project’s abandonment is not difficult to see. When the construction of the monument really got underway, J F Rutherford was in prison. Once he was released, the headquarters that had temporarily transferred back to Pittsburgh returned to their proper home in Brooklyn. Pittsburgh may have been CTR’s original home, but it was no longer the Society’s home. Shipping bodies from Brooklyn all the way to Pittsburgh was expensive. Also, Pittsburgh was unlikely to be near surviving relatives. And in fact, apart from CTR’s sister, no surviving relatives were ever buried there. The Brooklyn Bethel family soon had another cemetery in New York on Staten Island, and it made far better sense for headquarters staff and their families who died to be buried there.
And the concept of a pyramid as a suitable symbol was to be dropped by the Society in 1928.So, apart from Margaretta Land, the whole area remained unused for around 25 years. It may be that during this time some of the small headstones for others named on the pyramid disappeared – either through vandalism or wear and tear, or even just by having grass encroach over them. Whatever the reason, only one early stone (apart from CTR’s) survives today. As noted above, it was for John Coolidge. It is a curiosity, because the stated plan was for all the markers (apart from CTR’s) to be 12 inches across and 6 inch high, very close to the ground. Very early photographs of the markers for Arabella Mann and Mary Jane Whitehouse show this was done, whereas Coolidge’s marker is stuck upright in the ground. It stands out more, and maybe that is why it has survived.
Stones for Arabella Mann and Mary J Whitehouse
Stone for John Milton Coolidge
But then in the 1940s, it was decided to sell off the remaining graves and the plots were increased to a more realistic size of eight feet by four feet. Jehovah’s Witnesses in the greater Pittsburgh area had the opportunity to purchase plots. In my own visit to the area in 2014 I interviewed the descendants of several people who bought plots in the 1950s. Of course, most plots were not used until many years later, when the owners actually died. Some have still not been used, and others may never be used because ultimately the owners changed their minds and opted for cremation.
From interviews and a detailed examination of the site I was able to establish that, at this time of writing, 65 names are on stones. That is over half of those interred there. Just going by photographs or a casual quick visit, it might seem less than that, until you realise that some stones contain more than one name.
An earlier article established that there are a total of 123 plots sold on site. (The grand total was 128, but four were covered by the pyramid and one is so positioned as to make sale unwise). If we deduct the nine mentioned on the pyramid and Margaretta Land’s grave, that leaves 113 plots to be later sold off.
In my interviews with local people, I had confirmation that 94 plots out of 113 sold were to witnesses – or, families of witnesses. (To clarify the latter comment, a witness may have bought a couple of plots, but their wife or husband may not necessarily have shared their faith, even if sharing their final resting place.) There is no reason to believe that the remainder were not witnesses either; it is just that the people I interviewed didn’t know them – some having died before their time. Those known for certain to be witnesses included an old timer who it is claimed was a pallbearer at CTR’s funeral, and also a graduate of an early class of the Watchtower Missionary School called Gilead.
There is still another site higher up the hill over the roadway not far from the memorial obelisk to William Morris Wright where other witnesses are buried.
So it is perhaps fitting that all those buried in this special area have a connection of sorts with CTR who is buried there, and who of course was involved with the original establishment of the cemetery.
In preparing this article I did a detailed search of available records to see if any other Bible Students were buried elsewhere in the United Cemeteries. This turned up the burial of William Morris Wright, with his impressive obelisk. You can read about Wright and see a photograph of his memorial on this blog if you scroll back to June 5 of this year. The only other Bible Student on site for certain is Edward Hollister.
According to FIND A GRAVE, Edward Hollister (1843-1920) was buried somewhere on the United Cemeteries site, but I have no grave number and there appears to be no headstone. Tracing forward through genealogical sites reveals Edward’s descendants, including one with the middle name McPhail (which should be a give-away) and connections with one of the groups who broke away from the Watch Tower Society after Rutherford became president.
There are quite a few Seiberts buried here, but I found Gertrude W Seibert buried elsewhere in the Mount Union, I.O.O.F. Cemetery in Huntingdon Country, PA, with her late husband.