Wednesday, May 16, 2018

An extract #2

New material for my introductory essay. Comments please.

            I promised earlier a more detailed commentary on Alan Rogerson’s Millions Now Living Will Never Die: A Study of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It saw print in 1969 and is another book written by someone with academic credentials. He is still seen as authoritative enough to quote. Constable, his publisher, described his book as a “fascinating and unbiased study [that] presents a full account of the history and beliefs of the movement. He has consulted the original records dating back to its founding in 1871, and brought to light numerous intriguing and previously unknown facts.”[1] However, Rogerson, a former adherent, was anything but unbiased. Much of his material was derived from secondary sources, often factually incorrect and sometimes pure fable. If he carefully read the early issues of Zion’s Watch Tower and the volumes of Studies in the Scriptures his work shows severe reading comprehension problems, or at least inattention to detail. Anyone even moderately familiar with the material he was supposed to have consulted would note this book’s fatal flaws.
            Before we dissect Rogerson’s work in some detail, we should note that there are insightful, well thought out observations in it. Quoting them and maintaining one’s intellectual honesty is perilous. A sociologist or historian may find something in Rogerson that represents their beliefs. Quoting him without a qualifying warning is the same as an endorsement. And, because the book is seriously flawed, even dishonest, using any of Rogerson’s claims without first independently researching the material is poor work. Would you accept that from a student you’re advising? Why should your readers accept it from you?
            Defects permeate his book, but I will focus only on those touching the Russell era. The material Rogerson claimed to have consulted was easily available to him; he had a treasure of early material at his disposal. But we find him relying on secondary, and often enough on opposition sources. Contemporary opposition material is a valid resource, but not if contrary evidence is ignored. Rogerson ignored contrary evidence because it invalidated his anti-Witness stance. His approach is spotty, and we find him occasionally rebuking anti-cult nonsense. Echoing his publisher’s claims, Rogerson wrote:

I have consulted all the original records available – especially the books and Watchtowers printed since 1874 onwards ... and when possible I have cited and quoted my sources of information. I have tried to make my viewpoint unbiased as I have no strong personal feelings for or against the Witness movement. My aim throughout has been to present a complete account of the Witnesses incorporating all the significant incidents and facts; where I have discussed certain events or ideas the factual basis for the discussion is also presented so that readers are free to draw their own conclusions.[2]

            It is impolite, I suppose, to call Rogerson a liar, but bluntness is sometimes called for, and this is one of those times. Let’s start with his claim to have read in their entirety the Watchtower adherent books published from 1874 onward. He obviously did not. The implication is that he read Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return, which was generally supposed to have been printed that year. It was not impossible to find in 1969. Several researchers including myself obtained a photocopy from an American university. If he read it, he failed to note the 1877 printing date. If he read Studies in the Scriptures as he claimed, then he would have found Russell noting the 1877 printing date. If he read The Watch Tower as carefully as he suggests, he would have found that date verified there as well. He didn’t read it. He lied. Never lie to your readers. Eventually someone will follow your trail, only to find it a false one. His claim to neutrality is also false. His anti-Witness feelings shine through. They are as easily detectable as his misrepresentation of his research skill and thoroughness. More on that shortly.
            We can forgive inexperienced students for accepting Rogerson’s work. He is supposed to know his subject matter. An experienced historian, unless her intellect is clouded by prejudice or by a quest for a preferred result, would look at the unfootnoted assertions found within his book with an adult skepticism. Accepting something because ‘everyone knows it’s true,’ is a major logic flaw. A writer with depth of research into Watch Tower history behind her should be able to recognize typical research flaws. If one has coached students through thesis and dissertation writing, one knows the shortcuts some students take. An example in Rogerson’s case is presenting a lengthy quotation from Zion’s Watch Tower and footnoting it to the original issue. This quotation is found on page eleven:

Furthermore, not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself, but we see also that if anyone lays the 'Scripture Studies' aside, even after he has used them, after he has become familiar with them, after he has read them for ten years – if he lays them aside and ignores them and goes to the Bible alone, though he has understood his Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the 'Scripture Studies' and had not read n page of the Bible as such, he would be in the light at the end of two years, because he would have the light of the Scriptures.

            Rogerson did not consult the Watch Tower article where one finds the original. He lifted this entire and without alteration from opposition literature. Judging by his bibliography he found this in Martin and Kahn’s Jehovah of the Watch Tower. He leads us through his footnote not to the secondary source from which he drew this but to a specific page in Zion’s Watch Tower. Even his footnote is uncharacteristic, citing a specific page when he otherwise cited a date of publication without noting a page number. Even his footnote is ‘borrowed.’
            Ethically, he should have consulted the original article. Instead, he chose to pretend that he had. In context, the original says something different. Russell’s full message was that to have confidence in Studies of the Scriptures on must test it against scripture:

The six volumes of Scripture Studies are not intended to supplant the Bible. There are various methods to be pursued in the study of the Bible and these aids to Bible study are in such form that they, of themselves, contain the important elements of the Bible as well as the comments or elucidations of those that our Lord and the Apostles quoted from the Old Testament ... .

Our thought, therefore, is that these Scripture Studies are a great assistance, a very valuable help, in the understanding of God’s Word. If these books are to be of any value to us it must be because we see in them loyalty to the Word of God, and as far as our judgment goes, see them to be in full harmony with the Word and not antagonistic to it. Therefore, in reading them the first time, and perhaps the second time, and before we would accept anything as being our own personal faith and conviction, we should say, “I will not take it because these studies say so; I wish to see what the Bible says.” And so we would  ... prove every point or disprove it, as the case may be. We would be satisfied with nothing less than a thorough investigation of the Bible from this standpoint.

            Rogerson despite his claim to have done so did not read the original article, and if he did he misrepresented its content. He accused the modern Watchtower Society of conscious misrepresentation of Russell and his claims using this out of context quotation to do so.
            This is not the only bit of faked research found in Rogerson’s book. When writing about the J. J. Ross’ ‘trial,’ Rogerson is fairly accurate, the sole misrepresentation resting in the claim that Russell was “forced to admit” that he did not know Greek. Russell never claimed competence in Biblical languages. But the exchange between Lynch-Staunton, Ross’ attorney, and Russell is largely accurate. It’s the accompanying footnote that is questionable. There Rogerson wrote: “In Jehovah’s Witnesses – The New World Society Marley Cole misinterprets the facts by quoting only part of the court record and manages to conclude that Russell came well out of the trial.” [p. 195, ft nt 47] This suggests that Rogerson had seen the transcript. The only original copy is in the hands of the Watchtower Society, which periodically misfiles it and then launches a usually frustrated search to recapture it. Rogerson never saw it. He had no proof, other than wishful thinking, that Cole misrepresented anything. The intellectual dishonesty behind this footnote is astounding. Any researcher using Rogerson who had even moderate knowledge of Russell era Watch Tower history would see this for the fakery it is.
            There are less egregious issues in Rogerson’s work, but they mark him as a very amateurish scholar, one willing to foist on his readers unverified and un-footnoted claims. He was heavily dependent on Stroup, borrowing from him without fact checking. [Fact checking is the life blood of well written history.] He repeated Stroup’s Time Clock fable, without making a meaningful attempt to trace it to its original source. We dispensed with that earlier. He repeated the fable that Russell was drawn into Wendell’s Quincy Hall meeting by hearing hymn singing. Familiarity with the most basic of Russell material would have told him otherwise. Russell went in response to a report about the meetings.
            In a footnote [Ch 1; note 3] he wrote: “The title ‘Pastor’ was purely honorary as far as Russell was concerned, he never graduated from any theological school.” [Comma fault is his.] This is a commonly made claim, and indeed Russell was not educated in any theological school. In the United States it was common for ordination to be by congregation election. Many ‘Pastors’ especially among Methodists and Baptists were marginally educated, called to preach by licensure and election rather than by graduation from a religious college, some of which met no real academic standard. While this was changing, especially among Methodists, this practice persisted into the 20th Century. Distinguishing between Russell’s election as pastor by Bible Student congregations and a country Baptist’s ordination by the same means is stupid.
            Rogerson characterized Russell’s spiritual quest prior to 1876 as a “spiritual hobby.” He enclosed the phrase in quotation marks, apparently to shift responsibility for the phrase onto someone else. Who that might have been he does not say. It’s very much like a dog owner telling an irate home owner, “My dog didn’t do that.”
            There is no indication that Rogerson knew anything about what Russell and his associates did, what subjects they studied or how they proceeded. He had no basis for calling their work a hobby. Yet, and immense amount can be known from material available to Rogerson, and we considered it at length in volume one. When you read that chapter, did either the subject matter or depth of research impress you as being hobby-like?
            Rogerson misrepresents the degree of Russell’s contacts with Adventist, discounting easily available contrary evidence to do so. There is too much of misrepresentation, faked scholarship, bad, misleading or no footnoting to discuss it all, even if we limit it to the Russell era. His book is so badly flawed as to make it worthless. The exceptions are found in a few paragraphs; but why would you wish to quote a book so seriously flawed that even new students moderately aware of basic resources can spot the flaws? Apparently some find it convenient to do so, even though it makes readers, me for instance, squint at what ever author’s work I’m perusing and view it with skepticism.

[1]               Found on the front fold down of the original dust jacket.
[2]               Rogerson, pages 2-3.

A Reminder

Addressing a question or comment to Rachael via this blog does you no good. She does not currently participate in this blog. See my earlier comment on her health and on contact.

Also, she asked me to say that she has some unanswered emails. Do not feel bad if you do not hear back from her soon. She will return your mail as she can.

Wherefore Art Thou Thomas? - Revisited

I recently produced an article which attempted to unravel the three possible dates for the birth of CTR’s older brother, Thomas. One date was provided by the Allegheny burial site map, which had an entry to the effect that Thomas died on August 12, 1855, aged 5 years and 3 months. However, this entry on the document dates from decades after the event, and was therefore suspect.

I am extremely grateful to J who has gone back to Allegheny cemetery and photographed the complete burial record for Thomas from 1855. So now we have a contemporary document to consider, although it doesn’t solve the discrepancy at all.

So let’s have a look at the original entry from 1855.

Going in close for the entry for Thomas we read that he died of whooping cough, aged 5 years and 3 months, and was buried on August 17, 1855.

This means that whoever compiled the plan of the graves in the Russell plot copied out the entry accurately when they added Thomas’ details.

So where does this leave us?

First, we must remember that none of the information actually comes in Joseph or Ann’s handwriting. It is at least second hand – they provided information for others, and it is others who have recorded it.

We can certain do away with the incorrect March 1850 birth that turns up in various places. This is simply a misreading of the family’s 1850 census return which may look like 3/12 but turns out to be 5/12 when magnified.

So let us for the sake of argument assume that the burial register is correct. Thomas died in the middle of August aged 5 years and 3 months. On that basis he was born in the middle of May. But if that were true, we have a census enumerator recording events as they were on June 1, 1850, who describes a two week old baby as a child of five months.

If a mistake is going to be made somewhere – as is obviously the case from the discrepancy – I personally would expect it to be made at the other end of young Thomas’ life, at the time he died. In the register page reproduced above, the same hand made all the entries – names, where from, cause of death and age at death. So the appointed scribe received the information from elsewhere, either verbally or more likely written down and passed on. Would Joseph and Ann provide incorrect information? Here my theory in the original article about the numbers 3 and 8 being misread could still hold true – pushing Thomas’ age back to the January, which would tally with the 1850 census return.

Does it matter? Well, I concede there are far more important things to consider. But the date of Thomas’ birth will provide the approximate date of his conception, which will help us in establishing when Joseph Lytle Russell and Ann Eliza Birney were married. We know Ann Eliza was sent a letter under her maiden name in March 1849 – however you analyse or theorise, the marriage would seem to have taken place in the earlier part of 1849.

Maybe one day extra documents will come to light. One thing is clear, Joseph and Ann didn’t arrive from Ireland to America as a married couple in 1845 as suggested in the commentary of a history video. Joseph arrived before that, if his statement about five years’ residency in his naturalization declaration in 1848 is truthful, and Ann Eliza was single at that time. They both came from Ireland but they met and married in America, probably through their association in Pittsburgh Presbyterian Churches.

In the meantime, if any reader can propose a better explanation, then please do so.

Monday, May 14, 2018

A little respect. ... Please

You will remove some unnecessary stress from Rachael, and secondarily from myself, if you make some changes in how you phrase your posts and in some other areas.

1. Say what you mean. Do not phrase your objection as a question. You object to something we’ve written? Say so and do it plainly. It may not be the custom in your culture to write that way. It is American practice. The majority of Americans are Germanic in ancestry and thought. We are plain-spoken people. We do not share British culture in the same way that most Canadians do. We expect you to say what you mean.

2. Do some research before you post. We shouldn’t have to teach you your own history.

3. If you believe we’ve gotten something wrong, say so – plainly, and present documentary evidence from primary sources to back up your claim. Secondary sources are not evidence.

4. Some of you have pet theories. Unless you can present a well-written and clearly documented article supporting your point of view, we do not want to hear from you. Present us with a clear and convincing article and we’ll post it on the blog even if it contradicts something we’ve written.

5. Other than from Roberto, Jerome, German Girl, or Bernard, Rachael does not want your emails at this time. I don’t think our blog readers realize just how ill she is. Her family is happy that she is still breathing. Your intrusion into her life is not welcome right now. I’ll tell you if that changes. The uninsured portion of her prescriptions runs to about five hundred dollars a month. That should tell you something about her health issues.

6. Finding our work [this blog is covered by US copyright law] on your blog or in your book or dissertation without credit upsets both of us. All we ask is credit in a footnote and proper use of quotation marks if necessary.

7. Neither Rachael nor myself are your personal encyclopedia. We expect that our blog users are big boys and girls, capable of doing their own research. We have little time to answer questions or to research for you.


From the comment trail it appears that we need to clarify who some of the players in this drama are. In American colonial history the Plymouth Colony settlers were a mixture of Church of England and Separatist adherents. Today many British writers call Separatists ‘Independents,’ euphemistically meant to soften the persecution they experienced at the hands of the established church. Separatists are an English phenomenon. Many of them settled in Leiden. They believed that the established church was so corrupted with Catholic dogma and practice that it was irreformable. The only way to sound, uncorrupted worship was through separation. The crown and church saw this as treason and persecuted them mercilessly.


While Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists and others separated from the Catholic Church and were – like Separatists – Protestants, the term Separatist applies ONLY to the English phenomenon. Other than English exiles living in the Netherlands, there were no European Separatists.


Puritans were also a uniquely English growth. While there were those in Europe who sought pure doctrine and practice, Puritanism refers to those who wished to reform the English Church. Unlike their Separatist brethren, they believed the English church was reformable.  They sought reform through political power; the result was the English Civil War and abuses as sever as any under the king and church.


These are basics of American history because much of this story is the founding narrative for colonial era history. But surely at least some of this is taught in UK schools. Perhaps not. Each country’s textbooks foster myth. Myth is as surely created by omission as by falsehood.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Just an extract ...

The following paragraphs are from my introductory essay, revised to accommodate new research. All credit for the new material goes to Rachael. Please refrain from asking me to cajole her into returning to the blog. She's a big girl, except in physical size. [She's 4 feet ten inches tall and weighs under 90 lbs., as some of  you know.] Neither you nor I have any business imposing our wishes on her. You can make both of us happy by posting a comment on this revision:

            In this volume of Separate Identity you will find much that is unfamiliar to you. Some of what we present changes the narrative – call it the story line – usually presented by those who write about the Russell years. But more often we simply elaborate where others have abbreviated. A more complete narrative gifts readers with a better understanding of Russell era history. This occasionally makes us myth-busters. Occasionally a reviewer criticized our impatience with the poor work of some who’ve written on similar topics. Perhaps we should have lowered the sound level when we expressed our distaste. But ultimately, we have no apology for having noted partisan, misleading, and false statements. Writers owe readers their best efforts. Not lies or sloppy research.

            Criticisms have been few. Some continue to believe that Russell was a Mason, part of a conspiracy seeking world domination. If he was, he was very ineffective. Though this conspiracy theory is dying a slow death on Internet boards, we readdress this in appendix one. Despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary, some continue to assert that Russell was an Adventist. We think the evidence presented in volume one is plain. Watch Tower adherents and other Literalist believers rejected that identity. If it was wrong to identify them as Adventist then, it remains so today. Those who identify Rusellites as Adventists should do so on the basis of some evidence other than speculation about what ‘might have been.’

            Among those who continue to present Russell era believers and descendant religions as Adventist is Zoe Knox. This is disappointing. We expected better from her, given her history of thoughtful and careful research. Her most recent book, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Secular World, continues the myth of Russellite and Watch Tower  Adventism, which she supports with a quotation from Rogerson: “In 1969, Alan Rogerson observed that most of Russell’s interpretations were not new and that many or them originated with various Adventists or his day.”[1] Rogerson did not support his claim; a critical eye would wonder why he failed to do so. The reason, of course, is his claim is insupportable. Using unsupported claims as the basis for your own work – without a minimal amount of verification – is not best work. Nothing in Rogerson’s claim can be sustained from contemporary documentation. What can be sustained is that Russell derived his doctrine from Literalist belief. Much of what we wrote in volume one of this work proves that.

            The fault is that Rogerson and others define Adventism as belief in the near return of Christ. That’s not Adventism. Adventism is a belief system derived from the Millerite movement of the 1830s and 1840s. It has a distinctive doctrinal set. Belief in the near return of Christ is apostolic belief with a connected history up to the Millerite nonsense and extending to today. Russell’s doctrine did not come from Millerism. It came from what was then called Age-to-Come or Literalism. Literalism’s history in America extends back to the earliest colonial era. It characterized British believers of most faiths, including that of the established church.

            Defining Russell’s belief as Adventism and Bible Student and Witness congregations as descended from Adventism is wildly inexact. It is just wrong. The tendency to confound belief in the near return of Christ with Adventism is not new. It was commonly done in the Russell era. An example is found in the August 1, 1881, Kingston, New York, Daily Freeman where the parents of an Anna Lewis of New Britain are described as “Second Adventists in belief and members of the Baptist church.” Somewhat later, in Buffalo, New York, the editor of the Evening News misrepresented a congregation of about two dozen believers as “akin to Second Adventists.” This drew a rebuke from one of the group whose beliefs mark it as very likely the Watch Tower adherent congregation in Buffalo:

Lest the grave charge of numerical insignificance be inadequate to the complete extinction of a ‘half dozen’ religious worshipers, they must be brought into the inquisition again to be placed upon the rack and be thrust through with the deadly charge of being ‘akin to the second adventists’! We were not aware of any kinship existing between us and the second adventists, without it could be established upon the isolated truth of the personal second advent of Jesus to this earth. But mark you, if that isolated truth can establish a kinship between us it will also prove and establish a kinship between Rev. Dr. Lorimer [then a prominent Baptist clergyman] and the second adventists, and, by your curious and extraordinary method of gauging a man’s standing, it would place him, as well as the ‘six in the small upper room in the American Block,’ under the ban and the fetters of social and religious ostracism. For his sermon on ‘the future of Jesus’ is a scholarly, elaborate and eloquent vindication of the doctrine of the personal, visible and pre-millennial second advent of Jesus to this earth. [Original spelling and punctuation retained.][2]

            We acknowledge that Dr. Knox said positive things about our work in her newest book. She also wrote a largely positive review but added this suggestion: “Schulz and de Vienne make little attempt to connect their work meaningfully to research on nineteenth-century American religious history, which they might have done by, for example, considering what was unique about the emergence of the Bible Students as compared with other ‘American originals.’”[3] We think we made the most significant connections in volume one, but her comment has led us to reflect on the current approach to American religious history. Frankly, we thought the elements of American religious history so obvious – so widely known – that we did not need to address them. We were wrong.

[1]               Zoe Knox: Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Secular World, page 54.
[2]               The Halfbreed Church, The Buffalo, New York, Evening News, July 12, 1882.
[3]               Zoe Knox: The History of the Jehovah’s Witnesses: An Appraisal of Recent Scholarship, Journal of Religious History, June 2017, pages 251-260.

We need some research assistance

We need to identify the group meeting in the hall over 410 Main Street, Buffalo, New York, in 1881-1883. I don't have time to pursue this, but knowing would improve current work. Can you assist?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Wherefore Art Thou Thomas?

This is an article about the problems of doing research, and how sometimes it is necessary to make a judgment on conflicting information from historical sources. The subject is the birth date of Thomas Russell, the older brother of CTR, who is pictured with him in that memorable picture in the Watch Tower but then edited out in the reprint volume.

As to why this matters, it can help us narrow down when Joseph Lytle Russell and Ann Eliza Birney were married, since no certificate or register entry has as yet surfaced. We know that Ann Eliza was still single in March 1849, or at least there is a reference to a Miss A E Birney in the Pittsburgh Daily Post for Wednesday, April 4, 1849.

Knowing when Thomas was born, we can make assumptions about when he was conceived, which – assuming he was conceived within wedlock – would narrow down the date of the marriage quite specifically.

So when was Thomas born? We have three conflicting dates, January, March and May in 1850. Let’s look at the “evidence” for each.

If you examine information on the Ancestry website, you will find Thomas’ birth date given as March 1850. But as often happens with such sites, there is no reference given for the information.  Everyone seems to be copying everyone else on a circular journey with no original source material provided. I suspect that the March date comes from the 1850 census return for Pittsburgh. The entry for the Russell family, father, mother and one son, is reproduced below.

The rules for the 1850 census were that entries should reflect information as it existed on June 1st that year. So we have Joseph L Russell, aged 32, merchant from Ireland, Ann E Russell, aged 26, from Ireland, and then T Russell (Thomas) from Pennsylvania, who might appear on first sight to be 3/12. Reading that as three months old would have him born around March of that year.

The problem arises with the crabby handwriting of the era, using scratchy pen and ink. Numerous enumerators’ hands are found in these census returns, with varying degree of legibility. So let’s zoom in on that entry for Thomas.

Unless my eyes are deceiving me, that entry for Thomas is not 3/12 at all, but rather 5/12. There is no reason why the Russells should give false information, and assuming the enumerator did not make a mistake, then we now have Thomas’ birth pushed back to January, or even the very end of December.

But then we have another source of information, which could be viewed as a potential primary source that gives us yet another month, this time May 1850. This is the burial details for the Russell family plot on file at the Allegheny Cemetery.

This has been reproduced before on this blog in articles about the cemetery and the Russell interments, but it is shown here again.

You will notice on the right that it states very clearly that Thomas Russell died on 11 August 1855, aged 5 years and 3 months – which would give a birth date of May 1850.

The problem is that this is not actually a primary source at all! The document was put together to show how many people were buried in this family plot and where the graves were. This was useful since not all had grave markers and some of those that existed had been worn by time. The plot was sold for ten graves, but in the event there were only nine burials.

The plan shows that the plot was purchased by James Russell, older brother of Joseph Lytle. A little over a year after James made the purchase, his wife Sarah was buried there, and James followed not that long after. The record has the burial of Sarah in one style of handwriting. But then a later hand has added another seven names, not in order of interment, but rather in order of the rows of graves. This handwriting includes Joseph Lytle who was buried at the end of 1897. This is approaching fifty years after Thomas was born. But whoever wrote out these seven names, omitted Thomas whose grave started the bottom row from the right.  So yet another later hand wrote in the number 9, but then instead of adding to the existing list, wrote elsewhere on the document that Thomas died 11 August 1855, aged 5 years and 3 months.

When was this done? Obviously after 1897. How much longer after 1897? We don’t know, but decades after Thomas lived and died.

So where did the information about 5 years and 3 months come from? The writer on this grave plan copied the information out from somewhere. But why the discrepancy with the census returns from all those years before? Joseph and Eliza would know when Thomas was born and how old he was when he died.

I have a theory, and it goes back to the confusion with the census returns. As the numbers three and five could look similar on cursory examination, so could a three and an eight be confused, considering the handwriting of the day and the fact that scratchy entries made in ink may fade in places over time. On that basis maybe the final hand on the grave plan document just made a mistake. Maybe Thomas died aged 5 years and 8 months (rather than 3 months). If he did, then he ­would have been born in the January, which now would tally perfectly with the 1850 census return.

Of course, I could be wrong…

Friday, May 4, 2018

I do not ...

I do not see this blog as fulfilling its intended purpose. Given the current state of my health and my disappointments connected to this blog, I do not intend to contribute to it or moderate for it anytime in the near future.

If the other blog editors want it to continue, they'll find something to contribute. If not, it can remain as a sort of archive. When my health improves or when blog readers find that they appreciate our work enough to comment here, I may return. We have always been open to reader articles as long as they're not a polemic, they're well researched, well written and thoroughly footnoted. Up to you, isn't it?

In the mean time, my focus will be on bringing volume 2 of Separate Identity to press.

This post does not require your comments, and I wish you would refrain from making defensive, self-serving or scolding comments. I do not want personal emails over this either. As far as I'm concerned this blog has died a slow death from lack of reader interest. I take that personally. I've put thousands of hours - tens of thousands of hours - into this blog and into our two books, time better spent with my family.

You could have made this blog work. You [you know who you are] showed no real interest, just occasional curiosity. That does not work for me. I wish you well in your personal endeavors.

To our Russian Spammers

Google, the owner of blogger, has blocked you from commenting. You're wasting your time, except that you're irritating me. Go away!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Don't Expect

One way to end the problem of few to no comments is to disable comments from everyone but blog editors. B and I are seriously considering this. Now is the time for you to have your say. Readers can still contact us through the email addresses attached to our profiles.

Don't expect anything substantial from me for the indefinite future. Though Jerome may have interesting things to post, I'm very busy with this project and still very ill. I will not take the time to post partial or nearly completed chapters only to have them largely ignored. Mr.Schulz' Introductory Essay saw 98 page views and garnered ONE comment. I appreciate the comment. Where are the rest of you?

Surely reading comprehension is not a lost art. It takes minutes to read his introduction and seconds to form an opinion afterward. Or am I misjudging the average blog reader's mental acuity? There is no point to posting material that is ignored and that receives no comments.

There is no reason not to leave at least a simple 'well done' or 'this is wrong headed and stupid' comment. We allow anonymous posting. Fear of retaliation from your religious authorities should not be a consideration. The worst that can happen to you is that I will delete your comment which I will do if you link to a polemical site or if you post spam or if you advertise another book without asking first.

Another observation: It is not my responsibility to get copy to you, unless you offer to proof read. If you're curious about our content, visit the blog. Otherwise, expect to miss some temporary content. I may forward something to you, but do not count on that.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Temporary Post

You've seen most of this before. Back with some additions and changes and presented for your comments. Comments, even general ones, are helpful. No need for proof reading yet. Bruce is still 'tinkering' with this. [His description of additional research.] Usual rules. You may copy this for your own use. Do not share it off the blog unless you get permission first. Do not rely on this; it is a work in progress. Some of it may change.

I've deleted several comments as soon as they were posted. Do not post links to controversialist sites. A link to an original source is okay. Do not try to advertise though a post. Doing that will get you reported as a spammer. Google takes a dim view of spammers on blogger. Your comments should be in English if possible. Most of our readers are English language literate.

The opportunity to comment on this is closed.

Introduction by B. W. Schulz

            In this volume of Separate Identity you will find much that is unfamiliar to you. Some of what we present changes the narrative – call it the story line – usually presented by those who write about the Russell years. But more often we simply elaborate where others have abbreviated. A more complete narrative gifts readers with a better understanding of Russell era history. This occasionally makes us myth-busters.

The remainder of this post has been deleted. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

This will ... of course ... change

but in the meantime it's here for comments:

Preface One – By R. M. de Vienne

            It’s taken longer to write this volume of Separate Identity than we anticipated, but little of our expectations have held up as we’ve written this and the two previous books. We believed that a second volume would complete our research. It has not done so. There will be, assuming we live long enough to complete it, a third and final volume.
            This volume differs in format from its predecessor. The first volume follows a loose chronological order. Because of its narrow focus primarily on the years 1879 to 1882, this volume is a series of essays each focusing on an aspect of Watch Tower transition into a separate, identifiable belief system. There is a looser chronological order here; and the chapters occasionally overlap each other in subject matter. As before we elected to present this history in as much detail as we can, hoping thereby to take our readers into the spirit of the times. Omission seems to us to be misdirection.
            Volume 3 will focus on the fragmentation that followed 1881. It is partially written, but much hard research remains. And as always, we’re hampered by lack of resources. We have few issues of key magazines. We do not have anything like a complete run of A. P. Adams’ Spirit of the Word. We miss key years of J. H. Paton’s The World’s Hope. A paper published in California exists as a few clippings pasted into a scrapbook. A booklet written by Barbour seems to have been lost. We do not have any of the first issues of Jones’ Day Star. We appreciate help locating things like these.
           Now, let me tell you about volume two. This volume examines the continuing controversy between Russell and Barbour. One writer suggested that it was short lived. It lasted until Barbour’s death in 1905. We tell you the story up to the mid 1880s. It is more complex than most writers appreciate, and in its complexity explains the development of key Watch Tower doctrines, at least one of which persists until today.
            We tell you about the Watch Tower’s principals struggle to preserve the body of believers, to transition Barbourite believers into Watch Tower adherents. We tell you about their earliest missionary journeys, drawing much of this from sources not referenced by anyone else. We introduce you to people mentioned only once or twice in Zion’s Watch Tower but who played an important role in its earliest years. We tell you about the nature of the earliest congregations and fellowships and how they were formed. Again, we draw on first hand experiences not found  in any history of the movement. We tell you about the reaffirmation of old doctrines and the discussions behind that.
            The movement attracted clergy to its ranks. We discuss this in some detail, naming names, telling the story as we could uncover it of several clergy turned Watch Tower believers. In 1881 Russell and a few others organized and provided initial financing for the work. We provide details not found elsewhere, and we correct a widely-spread error. We tell you about the start of the publishing ministry and the development of the Priesthood of All Believers doctrine among Watch Tower adherents. A key event was the printing and circulation of Food for Thinking Christians. Though the Watchtower Society declined to share a key document, offering no explanation as to why a document from 1881-1882 might need to be held in secret, we offer our readers the most complete discussion of this small book's circulation and its effects on readership. With the circulation of Food new workers entered the field. The Watchtower society has ignored these, especially John B. Adamson, in its histories. We do not know why, but we think the reasons multifarious. Adamson and some others among the earliest missionaries left the Watch Tower movement. Watchtower writers tend to ignore the contributions of those who deflected from the movement. It is probably safe to say that much of this history is unknown to Watchtower researchers. It’s not their focus, and they’ve left it unexplored.
            An important part of this era’s story is the spread of Watch Tower doctrine to various ethnic groups within the United States and to other lands. So we tell you about work among foreign language groups in the United States. The Zechs and a Norwegian sea captain are part of this story. We tell you about the early work in Canada, the United Kingdom, China, and other lands. We discuss at length the history of a man mentioned with favor in Jehovah’s Witnesses: Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. His story is far different from what the author of that book presumed. We tell you about the early work in Liberia. [This history appeared first as B. W. Schulz: “Watch Tower Faith in Liberia: A Conflict of Faith and Authority,” Nssuka Journal of History, University of Nigeria, Volume 4, 2017, page 31ff.] Other lands come into this picture. Almost none of this has been published anywhere except in the original documents.
          Eighteen eighty-one was a key year in Watch Tower history. Most of those who mention that year’s events misstate them. We do our best to correct the misdirection and misstatement common among recent writers. We think we provide a more complete picture of the Watch Tower’s earliest years, a more balanced picture than found elsewhere.
          Read Mr. Schulz’ Introductory Essay. It clarifies issues that confuse some writers. It puts Russell and the Watch Tower movement in a historical perspective often misstated or ignored by recent writers. A later chapter takes up attempts by historians and sociologists to place the Watch Tower movement within one of the current theoretical frameworks. We suggest that they ignore key elements of the Watch Tower belief system so that their theories are questionable.
          We have many to thank for their assistance:

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Again ...

It is displeasing to me that I must re-post this. DO NOT LINK TO THIS BLOG THROUGH FACEBOOK. EVER. In the last few days we've had seventeen links through facebook. We're glad you like our blog, or find it interesting enough to link to it, but facebook links are harmful to our other blog visitors, compromising their privacy. AND I SIMPLY DO NOT LIKE THEM. Have enough respect to the blog owners who provide you with this resource to disable the links and refrain from linking through facebook.

Out of Babylon - Temp Post

Personally, I think this merits more than two comments.

Some of this has been posted here before. This is an  updated version with, we think, important additions. This is the working version of a chapter for volume 2 of Separate Identity.

Usual rules apply. You may copy for your personal use but do not share it off the blog. If you do you compromise our copyright and interfere with volume 2. Any observations are welcome, including proof reading comments. If you're serious about proofing this send me an email and I'll send the word version.

3 Out of Babylon

Sociologists especially, but historians too, struggle to place the Watch Tower movement in an easily identifiable niche. The results are usually unsatisfactory. Watch Tower adherents were religious pilgrims, often unsatisfied by their original churches. They were religious seekers, some of whom moved from one small group to another.
The nature of Russell-era congregations is misstated by Biblically illiterate historians and sociologists. Some present adherents as isolated, disenfranchised and alienated from society. John Wigley, considering a cognate group, thought that early 19th Century British Sabbatarians came from among those who felt economically and politically threatened. He saw them as religiously “introverted.”[1] If there is such a thing as religious introversion, it characterizes those who seek New Testament separation from the world; those who would be ‘in the world but separate from it.’ This is a New Testament view of the world, and those who held it – including Watch Tower adherents – sought to maintain Bible standards. It is a mistake to find the roots of belief in a pessimistic world view. Simplistic, economic, or social explanations for belief systems are suspect as are “chiliasm of despair” explanations.
Edward Abrahams asserted that, “Russell used the words ‘alienated,’ ‘isolated,’ and ‘troubled’ to describe his congregations.”[2] Abrahams meant that Watch Tower adherents were disenfranchised and alienated from an evolving social structure. We ask, “Where?” Where did Russell use these terms in this way? Between 1879 and the end of 1916, the word alienated appears in fifty-nine issues of the Watch Tower. Watch Tower writers used it as commentary on Colossians 1:21-23: “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven.” This is not a statement of social alienation, but of the need for reconciliation with God through Jesus.
            The word appears in quotations from other sources, usually as commentary on the alienation of the young from contemporary churches and the Bible. This is not a reference to Watch Tower congregations. Russell never uses the word alienated in the sense meant by Abrahams. Russell said the Church has no part in the world’s social upheavals and essential sinfulness. But the Church has an obligation to uplift, to declare salvation, and to rebuke wrongdoing. Christians are not to approve of the world’s ways. This is not the social alienation that led to the Haymarket affair or the Railroad Insurrection. This is a push for holiness and engagement. 

The remainder of this post has been deleted. I post portions of our work for comment. We seldom get any. I continue to see this blog as largely a waste of time. The lack of comments reinforces this belief.

ZWT and the YMCA

Zion’s Watch Tower soon found a readership outside the obvious Age to Come and Adventist connections. In 1881 it found a regular home in a YMCA library. The cutting below (from the Buffalo Morning Express of April 9, 1881) listed what readers would find in their free reading room. It was an eclectic mix. Any library that included the British satirical publication Punch (or the London Charivari) – one of the few joys I remember from dry history lessons at school – had to accommodate wide tastes of the day. One such taste was Zion’s Watch Tower. Look down the graphic and see it listed in the Monthlies available to all, not just YMCA members.

The dalliance with Zion’s Watch Tower was probably short lived.  Later that year concerns were expressed about the paper, although the reasons given were interesting. It wasn’t doctrine or the herald of Christ’s presence that concerned the YMCA, but rather the paper’s (quote) “opposition to church organization.” From the Buffalo Evening News for October 11, 1882.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Help wanted

To help finish the current project, we need media, especially religious press, mentions of ZWT before 1887. If you have a press database please check because different sites cover different papers. Send either to Rachael or to me. It is far better that something is sent in multiple times than something gets missed because everyone assumes it is already on file. Thanks.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Saturday, March 31, 2018


We have fifteen reviews on Amazon and scattered reviews elsewhere. Most of them [all on Amazon] are five star reviews. But a historically inaccurate and partisan book by a well known "Apostate," whose work is full of misdirection and self promotion has 113 reviews.

Why is our non-partisan and painstakingly accurate book neglected while intellectual trash is noticed?

Where are the reviews of our work?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Back on February 18 this blog published an article on Maria Ackley – School Teacher, which detailed the known activities of Maria before she married CTR.  The article started in 1870 with the census returns that listed Maria as a teacher, alongside her older sister Selena, also a teacher. The newspapers from then on noted certain teaching positions, along with speaking activities and work in Sunday Schools, ending with a rather bizarre account of her being accused of using excessive discipline with a boy named Knorr – which provoked some inevitable comments.

This article is to cover her earlier years, and grateful thanks are due to correspondent Karen who has provided ALL the original research for this. (Really this is her article, not mine.)

The first known mention of Maria (other than as a child in census returns) is her schooling in 1865. This has been published on the blog before.

But then as a teenager (although I don’t think they had been invented back then) she received what appears to be her first teaching post.  From the Pittsburgh Daily Commercial Newspaper, September 4, 1867 issue, page 4.

It says concerning nominations of the Local Board of the First ward…”Miss Bella Cunningham and Miss Maria Ackley were elected: to fill vacancies occasioned by the resignation of Miss Kate Patterson and Miss M. J. McClain, of the boys' first and second primary department. The nominations were confirmed."

It is interesting that it says she was elected, not moved from another location, which suggests this was her very first teaching post. She was 17.

As Pittsburgh was a boom town with a rapidly rising population there was a need for more schools and more teachers. The Normal School Act of 1857 established training schools for teachers. In Maria’s era there were two in Pittsburgh, the State Normal School at Central High and the privately run Curry Institute. The program concentrated on the 3 R’s – reading, writing and (a)rithmetric. After 1870 the training of teachers became longer and more specialized.

As explained in her testimony in Russell vs. Russell (1907) Maria trained at the Curry Institute. This had a very good reputation as was expressed in this extract from the Report of the Superintendent of Common Schools (published 1866 but relating to the year ending in June 1865). From page 42:

The previous page (page 41) showed that teacher examinations were held once a year, and ran over a three day period. Successful candidates could be granted either a provisional or professional certificate. The Superintendent’s Report for 1865 reviewed the potential intake that year in Pittsburgh. Forty sat the exam. Ten failed it. Out of the thirty who passed only ten were granted a full professional certificate, leaving twenty with provisional ones. The reason for the latter was explained in the report:

Maria would have sat the exam a little later than this particular report, but it is safe to say that she would have been granted a provisional certificate for her first teaching post at the age of 17. This meant that she was now classed as a teacher and would appear in the Pittsburgh directories as such. These directories published the names of all teachers in all the schools. In the 1868 directory we find Maria listed as a teacher in the First Ward School.

It is just possible that Maria may have appeared in the 1867 issue, but some pages are missing from the extant copy, so the 1868 reference is the first we have.

Maria continued to appear in the directory each year for the First Ward School until 1871. Thereafter the format of the directory changed and individual teachers were no longer listed for schools.

The 1865 superintendant’s report made the point that, after gaining sufficient experience, a teacher could move up from a provisional certificate to a full professional one, without having to sit the exam again. Maria obtained her full professional certificate in 1870, and details of this were published in the October 1870 issue of the Pennsylvania School Journal. She received certificate number 660.

Now that she was fully qualified by the standards of the day she was able to branch out, and her subsequent career (as detailed in the earlier article) shows her receiving various positions in different schools, until she was able to leave it all behind her on her marriage to CTR.