According to Penton, Russell was quite sincere in selling the wheat. From what he wrote in the Watchtower, that is the impression that one gets.
"He was charged with financial chicanery, particularly in what came to be known as the Miracle Wheat episode. ... Both the Miracle Wheat and Ross cases deserve some comment. In 1904 a man by the name of Stoner,who knew nothing about Russell or the Bible Students, discovered in Fincastle,Virginia, an amazingly productive variety of wheat which he named “MiracleWheat.” Seven years later two Bible Students donated thirty bushels of it to the Watch Tower Society to be sold at a dollar per pound as seed grain. The proceeds – some $ 1,800 – were to be used by the society to carry on its activities.Russell gained nothing personally from the proceeds, but his enemies claimed that the sale was a religious fraud. A New York newspaper, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, attacked him and lampooned both Russell and Miracle Wheat in a cartoon. Russell sued the Eagle but lost. He was evidently quite sincere in selling the famous grain but was more positive about its qualities than he should have been. Miracle Wheat was apparently no more than a mutant strain, a “sport.” It soon lost its outstanding vitality and was not, as he believed, a sign that the earth was soon to be restored to paradisiacal conditions."[i]
[i] Penton, M. James(2015-02-20). Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses, ThirdEdition (Kindle Locations 1572-1580). University of Toronto Press, ScholarlyPublishing Division. Kindle Edition.
But from a document that has only been analyzed by pro-Russellites, and in an obscure website, one gets a whole different viewpoint of Russell.
Here's what the Bible Students Monthly, a "newspaper" dedicated to promoting the Watchtower and delivered throughout Brooklyn, said about it:
BSM Vol. 3 No.11
PASTOR RUSSELL INTERVIEWEDSo this must be analyzed point-by-point.
A Representative Called on Pastor Russellfor Some Facts Respecting “Miracle Wheat” and Other Matters. – He States WhySome Ministers Oppose Him. – “The Eagle” the Channel.
WE REPORT the interview, as follows:
"Pastor Russell, the Brooklyn Eaglehas attacked you in connection with 'Miracle Wheat.' It has given the inferencethat you are a wheat speculator and gulling the farmers by selling ordinarywheat for $1.00 a pound. Your neighbors and the public would be interested inhearing your explanation of the matter."
"I have nothing to do with 'MiracleWheat.' I am not in the wheat business in any sense or degree. The Eagle ismerely following out its nagging and slandering policy which it has toward mesince my coming to Brooklyn. Slander, misrepresentation, and vilification seemto be the policy of The Eagle for some years-a very different policy, Iunderstand, from the one which gave it its reputation originally. My friendstell me that its course toward me is much the same that it pursued toward Dr.Talmage. Indeed, one Baptist minister remarked, 'The filthy Eagle killed Dr.Talmage-literally. He died of a broken heart.' I know nothing about that, but Ido know that The Eagle has not killed me and I do not propose to let it."
"But, Pastor Russell, was there notsome wheat sold at the Tabernacle and was it not called 'Miracle Wheat?'
"Contrary to our wishes, a reporter ofThe Eagle purchased one pound of 'Miracle Wheat' at the Tabernacle. He boughtit from Mr. Bohnet's representative, who obtained the privilege of using abasement room at the Tabernacle for preparing the wheat to be sent out by mailin pound packages.
Mr. Bohnet had promised that the proceedsof his wheat would be donated to our Free Tract Fund for sending out the BibleMessage in all languages. Mr. Bohnet has an interest in a farm in Pennsylvaniaon which he grew this 'Miracle Wheat.'
"Where Mr. Bohnet got his seed willinterest you. Three years ago the newspapers contained extensive accounts ofthis 'Miracle Wheat' which was found in Virginia by a man named Stoner, whogave it its name. He claimed that he found it in answer to prayer. Thenewspapers quoted the U. S. Agricultural Department's Report made by AssistantSecretary Miller. The report declared that the 'Miracle Wheat' yielded betweentwo and three times as much crop to the acre as other wheat and that itrequires only about one-fourth as much of it for seed. I copied the newspaperaccounts in my Journal, The Watch Tower. Subsequently Mr. Stoner's agent calledat my study and showed me samples of the 'Miracle Wheat,' one with as many asone hundred and twenty stalks from one seed, and told me that most of hisorders for the wheat had come from my free notices.
"I gave the item as news and asevidence of the fact that we are entering the New Dispensation in which God haspromised to bless the fields and to increase their productiveness. I recognizedat once what a value such wheat would have to all mankind. If it would merelydouble the crop it would mean an increase of five hundred million dollars inthe value of the wheat crop of our country and give us cheaper bread. If itwould increase the crop still more, returns would be still larger.
"About then my friend, Mr. Bohnet,came to my study and collected a few grains of the wheat which was shown to meby Mr. Stoner's agent. Mr. Bohnet planted those grains and this year wrote methat he had a sufficiency to sell; that he would dispose of it at $1.00 perpound and give the proceeds to our Free Tract Fund. Does it seem strange to youthat The Eagle holds up my friend as a criminal because of his desire tobenefit the farmers of the world and his further desire to turn the proceeds ofhis wheat into free tracts? Yes, that would seem strange. But that is not whatThe Eagle attempted to do. It merely wished to slander me-to kill me, byinferring, insinuating, hinting, caricaturing, etc."
"But is not a dollar a pound a newprice for wheat?"
"I had nothing whatever to do with theprice of the wheat. That was the concern of Mr. Bohnet and those who sent himtheir mail orders. I know nothing about wheat nor about farming. I have heardof forty or fifty cents per pound being paid for seed wheat of especiallyproductive strains, but I never before heard of wheat which would produce twohundred kernels from one, as many testify of the 'Miracle Wheat.' If I were afarmer I would pay, if necessary, not only one dollar per pound, but even tendollars per ounce, in order to get a start in wheat of this character."
"He bought it from Mr. Bohnet's
representative, who obtained the privilege of using a basement room at the Tabernacle
for preparing the wheat to be sent out by mail in pound packages."
So apparently according to Russell it is a privilege to be able to use Watchtower property to sell fraudulent goods.
"Mr. Bohnet had promised that the proceeds of his wheat would be donated to our Free Tract Fund for sending out the Bible Message in all languages. ... I recognized at once what a value such wheat would have to all mankind. ... [it] would give us cheaper bread. ... Does it seem strange to you that The Eagle holds up my friend as a criminal because of his desire to benefit the farmers of the world and his further desire to turn the proceeds of his wheat into free tracts?"
So he got upset because the Eagle recognized that he was selling something that would (if it had really been a "miraculous" wheat) benefit mankind at an outrageous price so that it would be turned into something that would damage mankind? It's like Martin Shkreli getting upset because he jacked up the price of a life-saving drug... oh yeah... he did. He's now the poster child for pharma company greed. If he really wanted to benefit mankind, then why wasn't he making as much as he could of this wheat and giving it for free or at a low cost?
"Three years ago the newspapers contained extensive accounts of this 'Miracle Wheat' which was found in Virginia by a man named Stoner, who gave it its name. He claimed that he found it in answer to prayer. The newspapers quoted the U. S. Agricultural Department's Report made by Assistant Secretary Miller. The report declared that the 'Miracle Wheat' yielded between two and three times as much crop to the acre as other wheat and that it requires only about one-fourth as much of it for seed. I copied the newspaper accounts in my Journal, The Watch Tower. Subsequently Mr. Stoner's agent called at my study and showed me samples of the 'Miracle Wheat,' one with as many as one hundred and twenty stalks from one seed, and told me that most of his orders for the wheat had come from my free notices."
Now we know that all of the newspapers in 1908 were sent a fraudulent, misquoted report that supposedly came from H.A. Miller, from the USDA. Russell copied the newspaper accounts, didn't contact the USDA, and that made more business for a con man. Then, gullible Russell was shown the "miracle" wheat, probably was lied to, and believed the agent 100%. This is the most important take-away. If Russell was "divinely guided," then he would have known this was a fraud.
"I am not in the wheat business in any sense or degree. ... I recognized at once what a value such wheat would have to all mankind. If it would merely double the crop it would mean an increase of five hundred million dollars in the value of the wheat crop of our country and give us cheaper bread. If it would increase the crop still more, returns would be still larger.... But is not a dollar a pound a new price for wheat? ... I have heard of forty or fifty cents per pound being paid for seed wheat of especially productive strains, but I never before heard of wheat which would produce two hundred kernels from one, as many testify of the 'Miracle Wheat.'"
Contradiction much? For someone not in the wheat business, he sure knew pricing, value, and production of wheat!
And my favorite quote from this:
"If I were a farmer I would pay, if necessary, not only one dollar per pound, but even ten dollars per ounce, in order to get a start in wheat of this character."
Rephrased: "This is a get-rich-quick scheme, and I know that the first one who gets into this will make a lot of money. I think that this business is so good that I would pay up to 9600 times the value of ordinary wheat to be the first to get in."
So overall, this paints a pretty bad picture of Russell. But was it Russell who wrote this article?
Why am I suspicious?
Brooklyn Eagle, November 12, 1911:
"This borough has been literally strewn with a certain copy of the Brooklyn Tabernacle People's Pulpit ... I am quite sure, also, that "Pastor Russell Interviewed" was never written by the "pastor" for he was on the sea, I am given to understand, when it was dictated."
(In case you're wondering, I checked. There was barely any radio on boats in 1911. Definitely no phones).
This and other details makes me think that Russell wasn't too invested in the Miracle Wheat, but that Rutherford was. He probably saw the power and the money that could be had by having many "minions" working for you. It was HE that was most upset at the Brooklyn Eagle, and he was the one who was instrumental to get Russell to sue the Eagle. But it is only a suspicion in my part. I don't know of a way to prove this.