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Who Was Charles Taze Russell?

Donna Morley



         During the nineteenth and early twentieth century, this world had seen more "prophets" than at any other time in history. They affected not only their generation, but ours today. To name just a few, there was a young fourteen year old boy, named Joseph Smith (1805-1844) who through visions, golden plates, and doctrines unlike biblical Christianity, developed Mormonism.

          There was a spirituistic medium named Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) who through her message of psychic healing, formed the "Christian Science" religion.

         Also, there was Guy Ballard, (pen name was Godfre Ray King, 1878-1939) who started the "The Mighty I Am" movement (associated with today's "Theosophy"). He proclaimed that we are Gods and Goddesses in embryo form and that the solution in life is to follow the Ascended Masters who have gone before us. Jesus and Guy Ballard are Ascended Masters, and we are all, after death, to achieve the same status.

         And so, it was in the midst of this spiritual "enlightenment" (and more) that Charles Taze Russell was born, raised and influenced. He too would develop a religion, currently known as the Jehovah's Witness. His followers would proclaim that Mr. Russell is unlike any "prophets" that had come before him, or after him. They tell us "he was the greatest religious teacher since St. Paul, and did more than any other man of modern times to establish the faith of the people in the Scriptures. He was not the founder of a new religion and never made such claim. He revived the great truths taught by Jesus and the apostles...."1

         Let's take a look at some of the truths Mr. Russell "revived" (we'll examine them against Scripture later on). Also, let's get to know who this man, Mr. Russell was. To give you an idea of what his followers thought, I'll quote from a Biography they wrote on him: "Pastor Russell was a great man....The Scriptures indicate that he was chosen of the Lord from his birth."2 "...Pastor Russell's character was and is without blemish. He was the cleanest, purest and best man."3

The True Story

           Charles Taze Russell was born on February 16, 1852 in Old Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania. He was brought up in a Presbyterian home and when he was nine, his mother Eliza died. At the age of fifteen he joined his father to work in a chain of clothes stores.

         At the age of sixteen Mr. Russell became discouraged and began to doubt his faith. The one main issue he struggled with was hell. He hated the thought of it. He said, "A God that would use his power to create human beings...[who] should be eternally tormented, could be neither wise, just nor loving. His standard would be lower than that of many men."4

         Soon thereafter, Russell's friend convinced him that there is no such thing as eternal torment.

Encounter with Adventism

           In 1870, at the age of eighteen, Russell rekindled something of his former faith on a chance encounter with an Adventist pastor who helped him re-establish his "wavering faith in the Divine inspiration of the Bible..."5

         It was at this time that Russell would become an Adventist and believe more than ever that hell doesn't exist. And because, in his mind, hell didn't exist, then this meant that the wicked, upon death, were simply annihilated (later he would preach that everyone, including Christ is annihilated at death, thus, Christ's body was never resurrected). He also believed that the soul became extinct upon death (which was similar to Adventist beliefs).

          As an Adventist, Russell organized a Bible class composed of six associates and friends who met regularly, from 1870-75. There, he taught about his new beliefs of no hell, annihilation, and extinction of the soul. The Bible class, hungary for Bible teaching, hung on Russell's every word. And, it was during this time that the Bible students gave him the title "pastor." Russell was honored indeed with such a title, and would use it the remaining days of his life. And, as "pastor" Russell would give his small group of Bible students an amazing prophecy.

Russell's Prediction of Christ's Appearance

         We are told by the Jehovah's Witness organization that,


Pastor Russell adhered closely to the teachings of the Scriptures. He believed and taught that we are living in the time of the second presence of our Lord, and that this presence dates from 1874; that since that time we have been living in the `time of the end,' the `end of the age.'6


         As Pastor Russell prophesied that the Lord would return in 1874 and that the end of the age had come. His Bible students were excited. They waited, anticipated, expected to see Christ. But, when Christ didn't appear, Russell defended his position saying,


Was an error found? No...[W]e realized that when Jesus should come, it would be as unobserved by human eyes as though an angel had come...Here was a new thought: Could it be that the time prophecies...were really meant to indicate when the Lord would be invisibly present to set up his kingdom?...[T]he evidences satisfied me. 7


         This statement of an "invisible" presence satisfied the Bible students,8 especially when Russell used the Scripture verse, “While he was sitting upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” (Matthew 24:3, JW Bible, New World Translation). The King James version reads, "...what shall be the sign of thy coming, and the end of the world?

         Russell explained to his Bible students that the word coming isn't the correct word. He said that the Greek word parousia really means presence. Russell had used the 'Emphatic Diaglott,' an interlinear New Testament, published in 1870. The Diaglott does translate Parousia as “presence.” Yet, according to The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology 9 (and all other Christian theology books) parousia is also translated as “coming.”10 Therefore it’s important to look at Matthew 24:3 in its context. With Russell explaining to his followers, that parousia means presence, he was able to make his 1914 prophecy “stick,” and convince his followers. This was fabulous news for the Bible Students. And, there was more. Matthew 24:3 not only bids the question of Christ's return but it also asks about the end of the world. Russell had an answer for his followers through the use of pyramidology.

Russell's Use of Pyramidology

           Russell had told the Bible students that the end of the world will come with the beginning of the tribulation which had already begun to take place in 1874. Keep in mind, the Bible student believed this to mean that as trouble came to the world, they would be raptured. So, how was Russell so certain that the time of trouble would begin in 1874? Through the use of pyramidology (which has its roots in the occult). He explained:


Then measuring down the "Entrance Passage" from that point, to find the distance to the entrance of the "Pit," representing the great trouble and destruction with which this age is to close, when evil will be overthrown from power, we find it to be 3416 inches, symbolizing 3416 years from the above date, B.C. 1542. This calculation shows A.D. 1874 as marking the beginning of the period of trouble; for 1542 years B.C. plus 1874 years A.D. equals 3416 years. Thus the Pyramid witnesses that the close of 1874 was the chronological beginning of the time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation--no, nor ever shall be afterward.11

         Incidently, Russell called the pyramid the Great Pyramid of Gizeh. It was a "miracle stone" and was "not planned by men but a work of God."12 Russell also called this stone, "Jehovah's Witness." 13 (Russell's group had not been called by this name yet).

         Unfortunately, Russell's pyramidology wasn't working out so well for him. There wasn't even a hint of trouble in 1874, the tribulation didn't seem to be in sight, and Russell's followers hadn't been raptured like they had thought. Amazingly, Russell's pyramidology wasn't even questioned. As a matter of fact the Watch Tower is quoted as saying that the Great Pyramid--the "Bible in stone" was in "exact harmony with the Bible."14

         Rather than admit to a false prophecy, the organization, seven years after Russell's death, simply added (without indicating a correction) forty-one inches to the corridor's length in order that Russell could be quoted as saying, "Thus the pyramid witnesses that the close of 1914 will be the beginning of the time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation--no, nor ever shall be afterward."15

         Very few witnesses know that this original prophecy was made in 1874 (or that Christ's "invisible" return was dated as 1874). Today, when talking with them, they will tell you that Christ's "invisible" return was "1914." As well, little do they know that Russell used pyramidology to come up with his chronological timetables.

         At this time, especially since his prophecy of Christ's invisible appearance, Russell could no longer accept the Adventist belief that Christ was going to make a literal, physical appearance to earth. So he and his few followers left the Adventist faith.

A Movement is Born

           At the time Russell left the Adventist church, he condemned all religious denominations, calling them "Abominations of the Earth."16 Naturally, he started his own religion, calling it the Society and his followers, "Bible Students" (as they were called until 1931). He then published 50,000 copies of his "prophecy" regarding Christ's return in a pamphlet entitled The Object and Manner of the Lord's Return.

         In 1879 Russell started publication of a periodical which we know as The Watchtower (originally "Zion's Watch Tower). Most Jehovah's Witnesses are likely to give you a copy of this small leaflett when they come to your door. (Recommendation: Take the Watchtower so that they can't give it to an undiscerning individual--then, throw it away, or use it as a witnessing took as you discuss their beliefs).

         During this same year this same year of starting The Watchtower, Mr. Russell married Maria F. Ackley, who became active in the Society. She served as the Society's first secretary-treasurer, and as associate editor of The Watchtower answering many letters and writing articles.

         In the 1880's Russell's movement expanded to thirty congregations in seven states. Because the movement was growing at such a rate, the Society purchased a building in Allegheny, which was used as the headquarters for the first twenty years. Russell's materials began to be published in various languages. One of his most popular works was a six volume (after his death a seventh volume would be included) doctrinal series. Originally titled Millennial Dawn, it was retitled Studies in the Scriptures. The first volume saw a distribution of over six million copies.

Studies in the Scriptures

        In Russell's Watch Tower magazine, Russell's followers have been told that the "Scripture Studies are practically the Bible...we might not improperly name the volumes `the Bible in an arranged form.' That is to say, they are not mere comments on the Bible, but they are practically the Bible itself."16 And that,

...not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible 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 then lays them aside and ignore them, and goes to the Bible alone, though he has understood his Bible for ten years, our experience shews (sic) that within two years he goes into darkness.17


         The "Bible" students are told that even if they had never read a page of the Bible, it's still okay because they will have read Scripture Studies with the references. That means they would have "the light of the Scriptures."18

         As the "Bible" students began to rely more and more upon Russell's Scripture Studies, they were going to discover from these "studies" that their Pastor is referred to in the Bible.

Pastor Russell Mentioned in the Bible

          Charles Taze Russell unhesitatingly claimed to his followers that he was "the faithful and wise servant" of Matthew 24:45.19 And that Christ will "make him ruler over all that he hath" (Luke 12:44). He is also the "angel" to the Laodicean Church (Revelation 3:14) as revealed in the following Scriptures Studies quote:


the earthly creature made prominent therein above all others is the messenger of the Laodicean Church `that wise and faithful servant' of the Lord--CHARLES TAZE RUSSELL. 20


         People, who wanted to believe in anything--believed Russell was indeed "that wise and faithful servant" and the "messenger" as described in the Book of Revelation. During this time, preachers and others in ministry were appalled at how Scripture was being distorted and how Russell was wrongly being emulated. They were especially concerned at the many who were believing all the stuff coming out of Russell's mouth and that of his organization. So, they began to write books and pamphlets expressing their great concern and arduously making truth known.

         The Watchtower organization, to this day, claims that Russell's "enemies sought to make him of no reputation....they sought to destroy his power and influence, and hence his work. They utterly failed."21

         No one sought to intentionally hurt Mr. Russell. In many ways, he hurt himself by the false words he spoke. Yet, for the sake of the lost soul and the undiscerning Christian, men spoke up about Mr. Russell and his teachings. One such man, Reverend J.J. Ross, would incurr Mr. Russell's wrath because of the reverend's efforts.

"Pastor" Russell Takes A Baptist Pastor to Court

         In June 1912 Reverend J.J. Ross, pastor of James Street Baptist Church of Hamilton, Ontario, printed a tract critical of Russell, entitled, Some Facts About the Self-Styled "Pastor" Charles T. Russell. You might wonder, "Why be critical of Russell? Why not just show his doctrine to be false?"

         The answer isn't completely clear but Reverend Ross did make it clear that he held no malice toward Mr. Russell as he wrote the leaflet, nor was there any desire for revenge. Reverend Ross simply published the leaflet "purely for the public good, and as a warning to weak Christians."22 He was also concerned that the title, Studies in the Scriptures (or "Scripture Studies") was misleading and intended to deceive the Christian public.23 He also felt the need to warn the reader what Scripture says about the false teacher, and that Russell's teaching was "dangerous in the extreme."24

         Reverend Ross alleged in his tract that Russell's teachings as written in Studies of the Scriptures were "the destructive doctrines of one man who is neither a scholar nor a theologian."25

         Reverend Ross called attention to the fact that Russell "never attended the higher schools of learning; knows comparatively nothing of philosophy, systematic or historical theology and is totally ignorant of the dead languages."26 He also challenged Mr. Russell's claim that he was ordained. 27

         Reverend Ross wanted the reader to understand that Mr. Russell's beliefs as "anti-rational, anti-scientific, anti-Biblical, anti-Christian, and a deplorable perversion of the gospel of God's Dear son."28

         Wanting to silence Reverend Ross before his leaflett gained wide circulation Russell put a lawsuit against Ross. When Russell's case against Reverend Ross came up for its first hearing on December 9, 1912, it was necessary for Russell to be present in person to identify himself and to deny the Reverend Ross' charges in the pamphlett as untrue. Russell didn't want to appear in court, or allow any publicity, so he proposed to the prosecution that if Reverend Ross would give Mr. Russell a "mild apology, he would drop legal proceedings immediately."29 Mr. Russell admitted that the suit against Reverend Ross was to stop him "in a wrong course."30

         Reverend Ross found that Mr. Russell used this line of intimidation on anyone that opposed him (and it usually worked). Mr. Russell would file a suit against the person who spoke out against him. He would promise to drop the suit if an apology was given. 31 This was Mr. Russell's way of silencing his "enemies."

         Reverend Ross replied to the prosecution that "knowing the facts as I did about that man and his teaching, a heavy fine or a term in jail would be preferable."32 Reverend Ross then wrote Mr. Russell from Hamilton, Ontario, February 18, 1913 saying in part:


You have entered legal action against me for defamatory libel because I published and caused to be circulated a leaflett entitled, `Some facts about the self-styled Pastor Charles T. Russell.' I am sincerely desirous that you should push this action to a finish. If I set you forth in a false light, I wish to know it and to take the consequences, and if I told you the truth I wish the Canadian public to know it. When I published that leaflet I believed the facts stated to be absolute truth. Had I any doubt about the truthfulness of them, I certainly would not have signed my name to the leafless....There was no malice in my writing that leaflet and therefore no attempt at revenge. You never did me personal harm....The leaflet was published purely for the public good, and as a warning to weak Christians....Should you come I will be pleased to pay your return fare from and to Brooklyn, N.Y." 33

         The letter was ignored by Mr. Russell until he was compelled to notice it, when the Hamilton court sent a representative to go across the border to Brooklyn, New York and compel Mr. Russell to undergo cross-examination if this lawsuit was to go through.

         Russell thought about it a moment and surmised that the people in Hamiliton didn't know much about him, his teachings and methods as those in Brooklyn knew, so he decided to go to Hamilton and submit to cross-examination.34

         After Russell was "sworn" in, and was at the witness stand, the Crown attorney took Reverend Ross' pamphlett, and read point by point asking Mr. Russell after each point, "Is this true?" So the basic questioning went like this: "Is it true that you never attended higher schools of learning? Is this true that you know nothing about philosophy, and theology? Is this true that you are totally ignorant of the dead languages?

         Russell's answers from the various points given were "No, no, no," "Absolutely untrue," "Decidedly untrue," and "That is not true." 35

         According to Reverend Ross, by denying these charges in court, Russell claimed for himself a "high scholastic standing, having a knowledge of the dead languages, having taken a course in theology, systematic and historical theology, ordination, church affiliation and so on." 36

         So what were the facts brought out in court on March 17, 1913? As we saw, under oath Mr. Russell was questioned by the Crown attorney. He said that all charges in Reverend Ross' pamphlet were untrue. But under cross examination, by attorney Mr. Staunton, "Pastor" Russell admitted that he had attended a public school only seven years of his life, and that he left school about the age of fourteen. Then came the question about Mr. Russell's knowledge of Greek:

Staunton: "Do you know Greek?

 Russell: "Oh, yes."37

         At this moment, Staunton handed Russell a copy of the New Testament in Greek, by publishers Westcott & Hort. Opening to page 447, the attorney asked Russell to read the letters that were on top of the page.

         Mr. Russell stared for a moment and admitted that he couldn't read the letters. What was brought out in court was that Mr. Russell was simply asked to read the Greek alphabet. He couldn't. So, Russell was asked again:

Staunton: "Are you familiar with the Greek language?"

 Russell: "No."38

         Moving on to another point, because Russell had claimed to having an "ordination" that was equal if not superior to ordained and accredited ministers, Staunton decided to challenge the issue of ordination.

Staunton: "Is it true that you were never ordained?"

Russell: "It is not true."

         The court at this time informs Mr. Russell that he must answer yes or no.

Staunton: "You never were ordained by a bishop, clergyman, Presbytery, council, or any body of men living."

         After a considerable pause with Russell's eyes fixed on his feet in the witness box, the answer came:

Russell: "I never was."39

         Russell lost his suit against Reverend Ross when the High Court of Ontario ruled that there were no grounds for libel. Instead of Mr. Russell stopping Reverend Ross, the court case ended up giving him enough fuel to write another pamphlet about Mr. Russell titled, Some Facts and More Facts about the Self-Styled "Pastor" Charles T. Russell (also still in print 40). Ross informed the public in this second pamphlet that "the case was thrown out of Court by the evidence furnished by `Pastor' Russell himself."41

         While Russell may have left the Canadian courtroom like a dog with it's tail between its leg, he had alot to be encouraged about. Foreign missions in Russell's organization was skyrocketing more than ever. We may want to question why this was so. It may just be because of Russell's report about a year and a half earlier regarding Christian missions.

Russell Investigates Christian Missions

           Here in the United States, as Charles Taze Russell was rising to notoriety as some sort of "Pastor", there were in pagan lands Christian men and women who had left their homeland, at great sacrifice to reach others with the message of Christ's love, mercy and salvation. There was Hudson Taylor's effort in China (although at this time he was off the field, others remained), Amy Carmichael in India, Sadhu Sunder Singh in Tibet. And, there were many other missionaries, most unknown to us today, who sacrificed a life of ease and pleasure, of gain, of health, of limbs, and for many, of breath itself. Their pain and suffering was very real and their work was not done in vain. Yet, Mr. Russell had a different opinion on all this.

         "Pastor" Russell had gone on a widely advertised world-tour for the investigation of Christian missions. Upon his return to America, he spoke at a huge convention, at the New York Hippodrome (hundreds had to be turned away) about his findings on this all important tour. He also wrote about his findings in a report titled, the "Missions Investigating Committee of the International Bible Students Association."

         In this report, Mr. Russell had said that the Christian missionaries in Japan were discouraged. And that, what Japan needs is "the gospel of the kingdom." In other words what Japan needed was "Pastor" Russell's message. And, who could better deliver it other than his Bible students?

         Next he reported that when he visited "fifteen cities and villages" he came to realize that the Chinese are "perplexed by the 600 different denominations of Christians and the 600 theories of salvation which they represent."

         He also wrote about missionaries living in big houses and that, on the whole, Christian outreach to the lost was gravely lacking.

         So what about this report? Are these accusations true? Not one of them. Unfortunately, many undiscerning people believed it, and I can only imagine that Christian missions was hurt by it. Sadly, instant challenge of the Russell "report" wasn't made by the Laymen's Movement or the Allied Mission Boards. Possibly these mission organizations felt it was best just to ignore Mr. Russell. But, one man couldn't ignore what Mr. Russell was doing. He wanted to expose the truth for the sake of the mission effort, and for sake of the missionaries, and for the sake of Christ's name that was being proclaimed.

The Investigator is Investigated

             W.T. Ellis responded to Russell's "report" by saying that Russell's purpose in talking about Christian missions was to "discredit all this labor, sacrifice and success; to hold it up to reproach and ridicule!"42

         Because Ellis himself had made a careful and unbiased study of foreign mission work in all the major fields, he was qualified to challenge Russell's report.

         In three articles published during September and October, 1912, in The Continent under the title of "An Investigator Investigated," Ellis gave an account of his personal interviews with Russell pertaining to the "Preachers" travels, investigations and conclusions.

         It's important to note that in striving to investigate Mr. Russell, he didn't just make repeated trips to Brooklyn to interview Mr. Russell, but he also investigated the Russell. He went to Pittsburgh and dug out Russell's early record there. He attended one of his conventions and heard him speak in public. He read carefully his missionary report and examined quantities of his literature. He learned from authoritative journalistic sources his methods of dealing with newspapers. He digested the Russell business operations. He hunted up Russell's one conspicuous devotee that he was able to find, an ex-army officer, and interviewed him.

         As a journeyman journalist, Ellis sought to do what all researchers should do--see both sides, and get all the facts--something he claims Mr. Russell should have done. For instance, when Ellis conversed with "Pastor" Russell, he discovered that Russell's journey was so hurried that he did not even remember the names of the principal cities on the route of "the grand tour" which he took.

         Ellis said of Russell, "I had to supply him with the names of the points at which he touched in the East--which was easy, since in all Asia, except for his little detour to Southwest India, he visited only the cities through which any tourist agent would route a conventional traveler. When on shore, Russell was primarily engaged in delivering speeches for which his advance agent had arranged."43

         When Russell told Ellis he had taken a "ship for China at `Nippon,'" Ellis had to tell Russell that "Nippon" means "Japan," and there is no such city. 44

         It eventually came out, as Ellis kept prodding Russell that Russell was in Japan and China only for the time it took the ship to unload and reload cargo at the port they were parked.  

         As Ellis continued to question Russell, it was finally admitted by the "Pastor" that his entire trip to China resulted in one day in Shanghai, and a day in Canton. This is far removed from the "fifteen cities and villages" that Russell claimed he and his committee had investigated while in China.

         Nevertheless, Russell assured the reader of the "report" that "the Chinaman is perplexed by the 600 different denominations of Christians and the 600 theories of salvation which they represent."

         Ellis questioned Russell about these 600 denominations, asking for the denominational names. Russell couldn't name one-sixth of these so called "600 denominations" at work in China.

         Also, in the interview Russell had to admit these denominations were all preaching but one essential gospel (a gospel Russell disagrees with).

         Because Mr. Russell's report states that in Japan, "the missionaries themselves appear to be an earnest company, but considerably discouraged," Ellis asked Russell about the missionaries he met while in Japan.

         Mr. Russell met one missionary--Dr. Spencer of the Methodist mission, Tokyo. In his brief conversation with Dr. Spencer, Russell admitted that there was absolutely no discussion concerning missions. Also while at Dr. Spencer's mission compound in Tokyo (the only one Russell visited), he didn't seek the views or opinions of any of the missionaries working at the compound.

         So, having only met one missionary in Japan, and not speaking to any of the other missionaries at the Tokyo mission compound is another important fact.

         Also while in Japan, Russell did not meet with any representative. Ellis asked him if he had met with Count Okuma, or Mayor Ozsaki, or the professors at Imperial University or the newspaper editors. He had not.

         Ellis asked Russell if he had at least met with the American ambassador, or some of the American consuls that would have made themselves available to help him with his research. He had not.

         When Ellis questioned Russell about the "big houses" the missionaries supposedly lived in, Russell substantiated this by citing the case of the pastor, Dr. Darwent, of Union Church in Shanghai. He was getting $2,400 (a very high salary at that time).

         Ellis had told Russell (while sitting in Russell's large home) that Dr. Darwent was not a missionary at all, but the pastor of a self-supporting church attended solely by European residents.

         Ellis was able to see, after his interview with Russell that, "Russell's knowledge of missions is still, as it always has been, a negligible quantity."

         Ellis surmised that of the 116 days of travel, Russell spent most of his time aboard a steamship. Russell "simply made a short, quick, sight-seeing journey around the world."

         Ellis rebuked the investigation by Russell and his committee saying that they should have interviewed a large number of missionaries from many churches (there were over 20,000 missionaries available for interview); they should have inspected all forms of mission work; they should have traveled over a fair proportion of the mission field and in regions not dominated by foreign trade (this way, to have a study of missions in the interior); they should have questioned native Christians; also they should have questioned objective people who would have a knowledge of the missions works in their area such as native officials, teachers, diplomats, consuls, editors, and resident business men. 45

         Although the Jehovah's Witness leadership tells its members that "It is wise to verify facts,"46 they are not to verify the facts coming from their leaders. To do so would be a sign of insubordination. Of course, did Russell's followers even want to check out the facts? I don't think so. They wanted to believe so much that he was the "wise and faithful servant," the "chosen one of God," and the Laodicean "messenger" even when he was telling them to buy his "miracle wheat."

Pastor Russell's Miracle Wheat

         Russell had advertised in The Watchtower that the organization had "Miracle Wheat", a seed that would grow fives times as much grain as any other brand of wheat. The followers were strongly encouraged to purchase the wheat at $1.00 a pound (a steep sum back then). They were told that all proceeds would go to the Watchtower and be used in publishing "Pastor" Russell's sermons.

         While many of Russell's followers were purchasing this "miracle wheat" a newspaper press called the Brooklyn Daily Eagle was writing about this wheat as being nothing other a scam. Russell was furious and decided to sue the newspaper $100,000 for libel.

          In court it was discovered that instead of the money earned going into the publishing of Russell's sermons, it went right into a company called The United States Investment Company (more on this in a minute). Russell denied, in court, that he had anything to do with this company. As well he wrote to his followers saying that "I have not one dollar invested in it; nor have I been even nominally connected with it."47

         Russell's words would come to haunt him because it was shown in court that he was not only connected to the United States Investment Company but that he owned it, incorporated it (June 24, 1896), and made himself the Manager of it.48 The money was divided accordingly: Of the $1,000.00 collected for the wheat, $5.00 was given to J.A. Bohnet, another $5.00 to E.C. Henninges, (by state law Russell had to have stockholders, thus the $5.00 given to these men made them stockholders) and Russell took the remaining $990.00.49

         Also, in court, proven after government testing that Mr. Russell's "miracle" wheat was seed that was rated low.50

         To say the least, Russell didn't win his lawsuit against the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. As well, despite his fighting, he wasn't going to win against his wife.
Russell’s Domestic Life

In 1879 Russell married Maria F. Ackley, who became active in the society. She served as the society's first secretary-treasurer, and as associate editor of Zion's Watch Tower, answering many letters and writing articles. The couple had no children.
         In 1897 Maria felt she could no longer live with Russell. The Watch Tower organization tells their followers that "Pastor" Russell and Maria "disagreed about the management of his journal; and a separation followed."51 This is not what Maria says. Her reasons for their separation are as follows: (1) Because of his "conceit," "egotism" and "domination;" (2) His conduct in relation to other women was "improper" When Maria confronted him with being with another woman, Russell responded, "I will not be run by you." (3) On one occasion he was silent to his wife for four weeks, and only communicated with her by letters of reproachful character. (4) He sought to isolate Maria from society by pronouncing her insane in order to put her away.52

         While Russell agreed to separate from Maria and continue to support her, he decided in 1903 to withdraw all support to his wife. Maria had no other recourse but to seek a "limited" divorce. You might be asking, what's a "limited" divorce?

         These days a "limited" divorce is unheard of, but in the early part of the last century, it was a very common term. Limited divorce and an absolute divorce were similar in that the husband and wife no longer lived together. The difference is that in a "limited" divorce the spouses were not allowed to remarry, and the wife was granted alimony. In an absolute divorce, both spouses were allowed to remarry--but, the wife did not receive alimony of any kind.

         The limited divorce, along with the alimony was granted to Maria. The trouble was, Russell wouldn't pay it. To make matters worse for Maria, he hid all assets and money. For instance, he sold their Arch Street property, which included a house (worth $40,000) to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society for a mere $50.00. 53 This would mean, Maria not only never have access to that property, but she would never be able to get her fair share of the property's worth.

         We can clearly see what Russell was doing. He was keeping all joint assets away from his wife. This, as we can see, is nothing new. If he could deny, in court (during the Brooklyn Daily Eagle Trial) that he didn’t have anything to do with the United States Investment Company,54 and didn’t seem to be embarrassed when proof was shown in court that he owned the company,55 what could possibly come next? Simply, more denials.

         Maria’s attorneys brought up the fact that he has stock in an asphalt company. Russell denied, under oath, that he had any connection with "Lead," "Asphalt" and Turpentine Companies." Even under direct-examination by his own attorneys, he was asked: "Now if these charges did appear in the Brooklyn Eagle, are any one of them true?

         Russell's emphatic answer was "Not true."

         After Russell's denial, proof was shown that Russell was a stockholder in the Pittsburgh Asphaltum Co., which later became the California Asphaltum Co., that Russell "entirely" managed from the Bible House on Arch Street, Pittsburg. He was also associated with the Brazilian Turpentine Co., in which he had a controlling interest. As well, he was connected to a cemetary company, located in Pittsburg, and the United States Coal and Coke Co., with capital stock of $100,000.

         There was hardly a cent to his name although he had gained $470,000.00 dollars by allowing his followers to buy voting shares in the Watch Tower organization.56 Russell purposely made all transfers of money and property (such as the Arch Street property) to the Society, which Russell had absolute control of.57 This meant Maria couldn't get what was rightfully hers, since it had all been given to the Society, and thus owned by Charles Taze Russell.

         Maria was compelled to take Russell to court to get what was rightfully hers--the alimony awarded to her by the court. So, once again, she had to take Russell to court. And, after hearing the case, the Judged sided with Maria stating, "The purpose of this whole transaction was to deprive his wife of her dower interest and was a fraud upon her."58

         Russell was ordered to pay all the back alimony owed to Maria, as well the cost of the court proceedings. Rather than obey the court, Russell sought to evade payment by fleeing to another state. If Maria wanted her alimony, she would have to get an extradition order. Being a persistent woman, she did just that. Maria and Russell were in court for the third time.

         This time, Russell tried arduously to have things in his favor. He denied that he owed any alimony to Maria. As well, he made false accusations about Maria's character and her mental condition. In response, Judge Delady told the court,


There is not one syllable in the testimony to justify his repeated aspersions on her character and her mental condition, nor does he intimate in any way that there was any difference between them other than that she did not agree with him in his views of life and methods of conducting business.59

         While under direct-examination by her attorney, Mr. Porter, Maria had to tell about an affair Russell had with a woman named Rose Ball who worked for, and lived with, the Russells.

         Maria told of the time she found her husband, in his night robe, in Rose Ball's room. Rose was in bed, and Russell was at her bedside. On another occassion Rose Ball, feeling guilty, admitted to Maria that in the fall of 1894 Russell had been very intimate with her (details in the transcript: Court of Common Pleas, No. 1). Rose confessed to Maria that Charles said, "I am like a jelly fish. I float around here and there. I touch this one and that one, and if she responds, I take her to me, and if not, I float on to others."60

         Another woman that Russell was intimate with was Emily Matthews (another woman who worked for the Russell's and lived in their home). It came out in court that Russell and Emily Matthews were in a locked room in the Russell home. While Russell testified under oath that it was but "two minutes" Maria told a different story about the length of time that her husband was locked in the
room. 61 She said,


It was between six and seven o'clock in the morning. I missed my husband and went in search of him. I called to him but there was no answer. I went to Emily's room, and found the door locked. I called to him, and knocked on the door. I stood there fore (sic) seven or ten minutes; then he came out. I reprimanded him, and he only got angry and said, `I will not be run by you.'62


         After the court proceedings, the Judge ordered Russell to not only pay all back alimony and court costs, but he raised the amount of alimony Russell would have to pay Maria.

         Believing that Russell might not pay the alimony, and to save him from further court action, friend and lawyer Joseph Rutherford (you can find an article about him on our website) and four Bible Students raised $10,000 for back alimony.

         The Bible students were led to believe that the death of Ezekiel's wife is like the type of loss suffered by Russell. As you may recall, the Lord told Ezekiel: "Son of man, behold, I am about to take from you the desire of your eyes [his wife] with a blow; you shall not mourn, you shall not weep, and your tears shall not come" (Ezekiel 24:16).

         Yes, the Bible students could easily see their "Pastor" just like Ezekiel, for as they had been told, "God took away from Pastor Russell the desire of his eyes, her whom he loved....Pastor Russell as Christ's representative in the world, the sole steward of the `Meat in due season' suffered deeply, but shed no tears. He made no mourning for her that was to him as dead..."63


 1. The Divine Plan of the Ages, (Brooklyn, New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1886, 1927), p. 2. Under the heading, "Biography of Pastor Russell."

 2. The Watchtower, November 1, 1917, (Brooklyn, New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society), 1.

 3. The Divine Plan of the Ages (Brooklyn, New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1886, 1927), 30. Under the heading, "Biography of Pastor Russell."

 4. The Divine Plan of the Ages, (Brooklyn, New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1886, 1927), 1.

 5. Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, (Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1959), 14.

 6. The Divine Plan of the Ages, (Brooklyn, New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1886, 1927), pg. 6. Under the heading, "Biography of Pastor Russell."

7. Zion's Watch Tower & Herald of Christ's Presence, February 1881, 3. As reprinted in the Watch Tower reprints, vol. 1 (Pittsburgh: Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1919), 188. Zion's Watch Tower & Herald of Christ's Presence, August 1882, p. 1. As reprinted in the Watch Tower reprints, vol. 1 (Pittsburgh: Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, 1919), 513. Zion's Watch Tower & Herald of Christ's Presence, July 15, 1906, 230-231, as reprinted in the Watch Tower reprints, vol. 5 (Pittsburgh: Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1919), 3822.

8. The Watchtower Society now claims in their book, Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose that Russell and the other Bible students had always "believed Christ's invisible presence in spirit form had already begun in 1874." (Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society,   1959), 23.

The above quote is quite misleading. The Society doesn't indicate the following: (1) It was a false prophecy, which upset the Bible students; (2) Russell changed his claim from a visible Christ to an invisible one; (3) There isn't any indication, in this book that the prophecy was changed to the year 1914, other than to say, "The ”Day of Jehovah' is the name of that period of time in which God's kingdom, under Christ, is to be gradually ”set up'..." (Ibid., 31).

9. Editor, Colin Brown. Translated from the German, Theologisches Begriffslexikon Zum Neuen Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1979), 898.

10. Ibid, 898.

11. Charles T. Russell, Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 3:Thy Kingdom Come, es, (East Rutherford, NJ: Dawn Bible Students' Association, 6 Vols, 1891, Volume 3, 1910), 342.

12. Zion's Watch Tower, W.T.B.T.S., reprints, p. 224. Also in Leonard & Marjorie Chretien, Witnesses of Jehovah (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 1988), 29.

13. Charles T. Russell, Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 3:Thy Kingdom Come, es, (East Rutherford, NJ: Dawn Bible Students' Association, 6 Vols, 1891, Volume 3, 1910), 342.

14. The Watchtower, March 15, 1911, reprint (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society), 4790.

15. Charles T. Russell, Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 3: Thy Kingdom Come, (East Rutherford, NJ: Dawn Bible Students' Association, 6 Vols, 1891, Volume 3, 1910), 342.

16. Charles Taze Russell, (posthumously), Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 7: The Finished Mystery, 229.

17. Watch Tower, September 15, 1910, 298.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid.

20. Charles Taze Russell, (posthumously), Studies in the Scriptures, Vol 7: The Finished Mystery, 11

21. Charles Taze Russell, Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 7: The Finished Mystery, P. 5.

22. Russell, The Divine Plan of the Ages (Brooklyn, New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1886, 1927), 30. Under the heading, "Biography of Pastor Russell."

23. J.J. Ross, Some Facts and More Facts about the Self-Styled "Pastor Charles T. Russell (second leaflet), 12.

24. Ross, Some Facts About the Self-Styled “Pastor” Charles T. Russell, 7. Russell v. Ross, March 17, 1913. Held in the police court of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Judge: George H. Jelfs, Esq.J.J. , 7.

25. Ibid., 8.

26. J.J. Ross, Some Facts about the Self-Styled "Pastor" Charles T. Russell, leaflet, (June 1912), 7.

27. Ibid., 3,4.

28. Russell v. Ross, March 17, 1913. Held in the police court of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Judge: George H. Jelfs, Esq.J.J. Ross, Some Facts and More Facts about the Self-Styled "Pastor Charles T. Russell (second leaflet), 18.

29. Ross, Some Facts About the Self-Styled “Pastor” Charles T. Russell, 7. Russell v. Ross, March 17, 1913. Held in the police court of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Judge: George H. Jelfs, Esq.J.J.

30. Ross, Some More Facts About the Self-Styled “Pastor” Charles T. Russell, 11.

31. Ibid., 44.

32. Ibid., 14.

33. Ibid., 11.

34. Ibid., 11-12.

35. Russell v. Ross, March 17, 1913. Held in the police court of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Judge: George H. Jelfs, Esq. J.J. Ross, Some Facts and More Facts about the Self-Styled "Pastor Charles T. Russell, 17.

36. Ibid., 17.

37. Ibid., 17-18.

38. Ibid., 18.

39. Ibid.

40. Ibid., 19-20.

41. For a copy of Ross' two tracts, contact www.witnessinc.com

42. J.J. Ross, Some Facts and More Facts About the Self-Styled Pastor--Charles T. Russell, pamphlett, 15.

43. Charles C. Cook, All About One Russell, (self-published, circa 1913), 21.

44. Ibid., quote on page 24. Entire investigation discussed from 19-34.

45. Ibid., 29.

46. Ibid., 21-34.

47. Awake!, July 22, 1964, 19.

48. Ross, Some More Facts About the Self-Styled “Pastor” Charles T. Russell, 34

49. Court of Common Pleas, No. 1, Superior Court of New York, Justice Charles H. Kelvy, Esq.,. Information about the  company, revealed in court, was taken from the charter records, article 6, of the United States Investment Company, Pittsburgh. Also in Ross pamphlet, Some More Facts About the Self-Styled “Pastor” Charles T. Russell, 36.

50. Court of Common Pleas, No. 1, Superior Court of New York, Justice Charles H. Kelvy, Esq.,. Information about the  company, revealed in court, was taken from the charter records, article 6, of the United States Investment Company, Pittsburgh. Also in Ross pamphlet, Ibid.

51. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 1, 1916. Also in Martin, 40.

52. The Divine Plan of the Ages (Brooklyn, New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1886, 1927), 1.

53. Testimony of Maria Russell, Court of Common Pleas, No. 1, Superior Court of New York, Justice Charles H. Kelvy, Esq. Also in Ross, Some More Facts About the Self-Styled “Pastor” Charles T. Russell, 24-25.

54. J.J. Ross, Some Facts and More Facts about the Self-Styled "Pastor" Charles T. Russell, (self-published, 1920), 20-23.

55. Ibid., 34.

56. Court of Common Pleas, No. 1, Superior Court of New York, Justice Charles H. Kelvy, Esq.,. Information about the  company, revealed in court, was taken from the charter records, article 6, of the United States Investment Company, Pittsburgh. Also in Ross pamphlet, Some Facts and More Facts about the Self-Styled “Pastor” Charles T. Russell, 36.

57. On the first Saturday of every year, there would be an election of officers. Russell thought it would be a good idea to make 50,000 voting shares available. Members could buy a share for $10.00 which meant Russell would vote on their behalf. Out of the 50,000 share made available, 47,000 people bought shares. This meant, that Russell made $47,000 dollars and had 47,000 voting shares, while the five other officers in the Watch Tower, had to split 3,000 unpaid shares. This meant, that Russell was not only $47,000.00 richer, but he had full control of all the votes as to which officers came in, and which ones were to leave. See Ross, Ibid., 32-33.

58. Ross, Some Facts and More Facts about the Self-Styled “Pastor” Charles T. Russell, 23.

59. Ibid.

60. Ibid., 24.

61. Court of Common Pleas, No. 1. Also in Ross, Ibid., 30.

62. Ibid.

63. Ibid., 31.

© Donna Morley, 2008

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