Most powerful people have a number of underlings to do their "dirty work". This is the story of one of those underlings:
The Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, located at 25 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn, New York was incorporated in 1909 in the State of New York as a Private Company, by Charles Taze Russell and several of his followers. Previously they incorporated as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society under the laws of Pennsylvania as a Nonprofit corporation under the date of December 15, 1884.
The United States Investment Co. Ltd. was incorporated June 24, 1896 in Pittsburg, PA.
From the records in Pittsburg:
"'Article 1. Names of Subscribers: John A. Bohnet, Ernest C. Henninges, Chas. T. Russell.
"'Amount Subscribed by Each: Bohnet $5.00; Henninges $5.00; Russell $990.00.
"'Article 3. For purpose of buying and selling real estate, patent rights, stocks, bonds, and other securites, merchandise, building homes, etc.
"'Article 4. Name of Association is U.S. Investment Co., Ltd.
"'Article 6. Officers--… C. T. Russell, Manager.'
As I see it, Russell wanted to start a corporation and needed two "straw men" to make up the required number of three for incorporation. One would assume he would choose two men that he could trust. Note the name John A. Bohnet and the date of 1896.
In 1905 a Watchtower booklet called "Features of the Plan of God" is written by J. A. Bohnet.
Bohnet's 1910 letter to the Russell in the Watchtower:
The Watch Tower, October 1, 1910, page 307
MIRACLE WHEAT AND MIRACLE RYE
Two grains of this wheat were given to the Editor, who, in turn, handed them to a brother in the Truth, who reported that the two grains produced 1,312, which, planted, produced five pounds -- one grain having fifty stools of well-developed stalks or straws. The brother planted the miracle wheat alongside of some ordinary wheat, and reports that the miracle wheat heads are from three to five inches long and from three to five grains to the mesh, whereas with the common wheat the heads are from two to three inches in length.
Another brother obtained some of the miracle wheat and, out of the first crop, presented the Editor a peck of the same. This was entrusted to another brother, a farmer, who has just handed the Editor $100 proceeds therefrom, with the following report: --
As you remember, I secured also a peck of the miracle wheat from a brother in the Truth as a donation to yourself (because he first heard of the miracle wheat through THE WATCH TOWER).
Brother Kuesthardt advertised the wheat in his paper, and the money sent you is the result of the sales at $1 per pound.
Your brother in Christ,
J. A. BOHNET.
In the year 1911 J.A. Bohnet, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Samuel J. Fleming, of Wabash, Indiana, each having a quantity of Miracle Wheat, together presented to the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY the aggregate of about 30 bushels with the proposition on their part that the wheat should be sold at $1.00 per pound and all the proceeds arising from the sale thereof should be received by the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY as a donation from them, to be used by said Society in its religious work.
Attacking Pastor Russell "forsailing under false pretenses," Rev. E. L. Benedict of the Mason M. E. Church today declared the evangelist had made a fortune by selling books and wheat, using his religion as a means to raise money.
We are informed that his man, Mr. Bohnet, sold $100,000 worth of miracle wheat at $1 a pound, and while Pastor Russell claims not to have sold the wheat, yet Mr. Bohnet has his office in Pastor Russell's church and Pastor Russell got the money for the publication of his tracts.
"Miracle Wheat" is a new variety of wheat discovered and so named by a farmer at Fincastle, Va. I copied an item about it from a newspaper in my religious journal, which carries no advertisements. Three years later one of the readers wrote me that he had bought some of the miracle wheat at $1.25 per pound and found it very prolific--up to 3,000 grains from one seed. He sold some of it and donated to the society of which I am the president.
The following year he and another donated 18 bushels, fixed the price at $1 per pound and asked that it be mentioned in my journal and that we bear the trouble of mailing it. I merely gave their reports and a copy of a report by United States government expert. The wheat was sold and in all $1,800 was thus donated by these two friends to the work done last year amongst the heathen. No one ever complained of the wheat, and all were offered "money back" if not satisfied.
Notice how Mr. Bohnet is described as "one of the readers". By this time John Bohnet had been Russell's business partner for 15 years! Six years prior to 1911 Mr. Bohnet had written a booklet for the Watchtower, Features of the Plan of God. Yet Russell describes him as just another reader of Watchtower literature!
In 1911, the market price for wheat was 59 cents to $1 a bushel. In Charles Taze Russell's Hicks Street Tabernacle, "miracle wheat" was being sold for $60 a bushel, or $1 a pound.
The "miracle wheat" came into the hands of the Watch Tower Society when the president of the United Cemeteries Corporation of Pittsburgh gave J. A. Bohnet "permission" to plant the Stoner wheat on his land and expressed his willingness to donate the crop to the Watch Tower Society. Inasmuch as the United Cemeteries Corporation---of which Russell was a trustee-was later found to be a dummy corporation for Watch Tower assets.
The Watch Tower, June 15, 1911, page 178
A DONATION OF MIRACLE WHEAT
Brother Bohnetwrites us that he has gradually accumulated a crop of miracle wheat from the few grains he obtained as a start. He prefers that the first opportunity for obtaining this wheat shall go to THE WATCH TOWER readers. He will sell it for $1 per pound, including postage, and give the entire proceeds to our Society. All orders for this wheat should be addressed, Miracle Wheat Bohnet, 17 Hicks street, Brooklyn, N. Y. This will keep mail on this subject separate from his personal mail and from ours.
Brother Bohnetpromises to be ready to ship this wheat by August 1. He says miracle wheat should be sowed one-fourth as thick as common wheat. Ordinarily it should produce from ten to fifteen times as much proportionately to the amount sown. To save keeping account, money should accompany the order. WATCH TOWER readers will have the preference up to August 15, after which orders will be attended to indiscriminately, so long as the supply holds out. This wheat should be sown in the fall.
The Watch Tower, August 1, 1911, page 226
MIRACLE WHEAT IN DEMAND
The notice in THE WATCH TOWER of June 15 that Brother Bohnet has "miracle wheat" in abundance now, and that he will sell it at $1 per pound and donate the entire proceeds to our Tract Fund, has brought in many orders. These will be filled between August 15 and September 1. No limit as to supply has been noted. Sent by Express, prepaid, the price will be twenty-two pounds for $20; fifty-five pounds for $50; larger quantities at the latter rate. The merits of this wheat over the common variety have been mentioned in previous issues of THE WATCH TOWER.
Russell denied that the U.S. Investment Co. was a Russellite Co., that he was the President or manager of it, that he was stockholder in it, or that he had any interest in it whatever. He also claims that this U.S. Investment Co. had long ago become defunct. In the People's Pulpit, a Russellite paper, Vol. 3, No. 13, in the second column, near the top of page two, you will find the "Pastor" explaining to his readers about this company. He says, "I have not one dollar invested in it; nor have I been even nominally connected with it."
On September 23, 1912, the Eagle ran a cartoon called "Easy Money Puzzle."
Russell sued the Eagle for libel, demanding $100,000 in damages for "injury to his reputation, good name, fame and standing."
The case was brought before Justice Charles H. Kelby and a jury in the Kings County Supreme Court.
One of the juicier allegations made against the Watch Tower Society was that it had coerced an insane man, Hope Hay, into contributing $10,000 to its funds. William E. Van Amburgh, secretary-treasurer of' the Watch Tower Society, acknowledged that Mr. Hay was in an "insane asylum" and that the Watch Tower Society was footing his bills, but denied that Mr. Hay had not given his money of his own free will.
The jury of twelve men was out for less than forty-five minutes before it returned a verdict of not guilty in the Eagle's favor.
The evidence that weighed most heavily with the jury was that of Mr. Van Amburgh.
"But your annual report of the Watch Tower does not show that your society gets anything from its affiliated corporations?"
"No, sir. It is not a detailed report."
Persistent prodding by the Eagle's attorneys revealed the existence of two dummy corporations, the United States Investment Co., Ltd., and the United Cemeteries Corporation.
"And did you not take title to property as a dummy for the Watch Tower Society?"
"Yes, sir. I took title to a farm near Pittsburgh some years ago. The money was that of the Watch Tower Society. I deeded it to the United States Society, which, in turn, signed it over to the United Cemetaries Company."
"Why do you not do all your business in the name of the Watch Tower Society; that is why do you need the dummy corporations?"
"Some people seem to think that a religious corporation should do no so-called secular business whatever," said Van Amburgh, who had compounded his troubles by saying that the reason he held the title to substantial properties used by the Watch Tower Society was that the Investment Company did not deal in mortgages. "They do not see the propriety of it-No, let me change that answer-I mean that the United States Investment Company and the United Cemeteries were in existence before I ever came to Pittsburgh, and we have continued to use those companies for their convenience ever since."
1913: Russell refers to Bohnet as just a "friend of the Society":The Watch Tower, February, 15, 1913, page 62
"AS DECEIVERS AND YET TRUE"
Some of our readers purchased seed from Mr. Stoner at $1.25 per pound and approved it. In 1910 one of the friends of our Society, who had raised some of this wheat, sold it for seed at $1.00 per pound, and donated the proceeds to our Society. In 1911 the same friend, having raised more seed, asked that THE WATCH TOWER give the benefit of this to its readers at $1.00 a pound post-paid, and appropriate the net results to the furtherance of its work. Another friend, who had some of the same seed, also donated similarly, the total amount being twenty bushels.
For the accommodation of our readers, we allowed this seed-wheat to be put up in pound packages and mailed from THE WATCH TOWER Office, just as the U.S. Government handles such seeds at Washington. We did the business at the request of others and in their interest, and credited them on our books with the results, setting aside to them proportionately voting shares in our Society. We made no claim for the wheat on our own knowledge. We merely gave the report of the Government expert, of the originator, and of our friends who had tried the wheat. We merely acted as intermediary.
Sincerely, and undismayed, I remain a servant of God.
CHARLES T. RUSSELL.
Brooklyn, January 29, 1913.
A GREAT BATTLE IN THE ECCLESIASTICAL HEAVENS
COPYRIGHTED, 1915 BY J. F. RUTHERFORD NEW YORK CITY
UNITED STATES INVESTMENT COMPANY
"Much ado has been made by his enemies about business corporations with which Pastor Russell is connected, particularly with reference to the UNITED STATES INVESTMENT COMPANY.
The fact is that this company was never a corporation in the strict sense of the word. It was a limited partnership organized under the Statutes of Pennsylvania. Its capital stock was $1,000. Pastor Russell furnished that $1,000 out of his personal means.
This company was organized for the purpose of taking title to certain property which it did take over and afterwards disposed of, and every dollar that was received therefrom went into the treasury of the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY, and was used for its religious work.
Pastor Russell did not receive one cent profit therefrom, nor has any other person ever reaped any pecuniary profit therefrom.
This company has been out of existence for more than two years, and does not own anything today, even its capital stock being expended by the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY in its religious work.
There is no corporation in existence anywhere in the world in which Pastor Russell owns a single share of stock, nor in which anyone else holds any stock for his use or benefit."
1917: "Knowing that the law required three members of the Board to be residents of the State of Pennsylvania, and that the appointment should be made in Pennsylvania , I went to Pittsburgh, and on the 12th day of July, 1917, there appointed Dr. W. E. Spill and Brother J. A. Bohnet, of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, and Brother George H. Fisher, of Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Brother A. H. Macmillan, of New York, as members of the Board of Directors.
Each of the above named brethren signed a written acceptance of such appointment. We then had a full and complete Board of seven members, to-wit: Brothers Van Amburgh, Pierson, Spill, Bohnet, Macmillan, Fisher, and Rutherford. All of these brethren signed a statement consenting to a meeting of the Board of Directors, agreeing that meeting of the Board of Directors should be held July 17, 1917."
On 1917 July 17 Rutherford claimed that since the Society charter provided for the election of directors annually, only the three officers of the board (having been elected officers that January) were truly board members. He therefore appointed A.H. MacMillan, G.H. Fisher, J.A. Bohnet, and W.E. Spill to the board positions occupied by Ritchie, Wright, Hirsh, and Hoskins.
The annual election of Society officers and the first election of the Board of Directors came 1918 January 5, during the Pittsburgh convention January 2-6. R.H. Barber nominated for director: J.F. Rutherford, W.E. VanAmburgh, A.N. Pierson, A.H. MacMillan, W.E. Spill, J.A. Bohnet,...