Most of us know about the Millerites and their founder and how some 50,000 folks during the 19th century looked for the end. Question: Was there any link between them and the founder of the Watchtower Society?
In searching the early Zion's Watch Tower, from 1879 through 1916, I found it interesting that Russell refers to William Miller (Millerite founder) several times. I will quote below the first reference of Miller to illustrate that Russell's feelings for Miller were by no means antagonistic but were fond and loving. Fact is, he referred to him as "Father Miller" no less than 4 times in early ZWTs.
Even as late as 1923 (some 79 years after Miller's failed prediction, 7 years after Russell's death, and 4 years after Christ endorsed the Watchtower folks as his only true flock in 1919), Rutherford referred to him as "brother": "It is true that Brother William Miller made a mistake in calculating the year of our Lord's return."
Zion's Watch Tower, April, 1880,
Just at a proper time then, as the word of God had begun to
circulate freely, comes what is commonly known as the Miller
movement. It was a movement among Christian people of all
denominations, principally Methodists and Baptists, a general
awakening, and included many of the best people in all of the
churches. Mr. Wm. Miller, a very Godly man, (a baptist) was
the prime mover in this country, though simultaneously Wolf
and others were calling attention to the same subject in Europe
and Asia; the real movement, however, was in our own land.
But the parable mentions a going forth to meet, etc. What does
this signify? This is another evidence of our stage of the church,
for although the Bible had always taught the "second coming of Christ," yet
it had been understood in so general a way that none were able
to settle upon any definite time and say-- then he will come;
consequently there could be no such going forth to meet him, as
is demanded by the parable. Now the case is changed, Wm.
Miller's attention is attracted to and riveted upon the prophecies.
He reads: "Unto 2300 days and the sanctuary shall be cleansed."
He counts and finds that it would end in 1843 or 1844. He
supposes the earth to be the sanctuary and expects its cleansing
to be by literal fire. He, though a calm deliberate man, could not
forbear to tell his fellows that so read the prophecies, and so he
believed. It spread rapidly, among old and young alike, and
many virgins after examining with the lamp, were convinced
that the word taught them to expect the coming of their Bridegroom
in 1844; and on the strength of this faith they went forth to meet
him. In going they walked by faith, not by sight, but they did
what the virgins never had done before, because never before
had the word, or lamp led them to thus definitely expect him.
(We believe him to have erred both in what the sanctuary is and
what the fire is.) ...
The evidences from scripture that the 6,000 years would end and
the morning dawn in 1873, and that, with the morning the
Bridegroom was due, was preached upon by a brother of very
marked ability as a prophetic student, who also published a
series of articles on the subject in the leading paper of that
denomination, ("The World's Crisis") as well as afterward in a
pamphlet, and finally as a monthly paper called "The Midnight
Cry." The message attracted general attention from the people of
that denomination, so that in a few issues its circulation ran up
to 15,000, or more than all other papers devoted to the subject of
the Second Advent together. This, we believe, fulfilled this
parable, not that Advent people alone are virgins, but they were
the part of the company that were at that time looking for the
Bridegroom, but asleep and unconscious as to the time of His
This cry proclaimed to the virgins that the "2,300 days" did end in 1844,
but that the thing expected was wrong.
The next reference is one where he used the curious term, "Father Miller".
Zion's Watchtower, May, 1883 (bold is my highlighting)
Father Miller, upon whom so much reproach has fallen (but who
was a devoted Christian man of irreproachable Christian
character), saw that there was an important, prophetic point in
about 1843, and supposed that Christ was to personally and
visibly appear to the world at that time, and that it would be the
closing up of earthly affairs; but, when disappointment came,
unlike many of his followers, he was not despondent, but
believed that the Lord would lead his people to a further
understanding of his word and designs, and that in the fullness
of time he would come.
That awakening set many Christians to examining the Word
with extreme care, the result of which is that many interesting
parallels between the Jewish and Gospel ages have been
discovered, and it is now convincingly known that the first step
toward the second advent did take place at or about that time,
but not in the manner that Father Miller had expected.