REVEALED: WT moves to Brooklyn

by darkspilver 1 Replies latest jw friends

  • darkspilver

    Interesting articles. Approx 3,300 words. So a long read....

    Usual caveat - just because it's in a newspaper, doesn't mean that it is accurate or correct.

    BUT what is interesting is HOW it is reported and WHAT is reported (and what is left out!) - and today we have historical hindsight.

    This is really a 'thematic' follow-on from this thread:

    TBH the second part below with the jelly fish is probably the most interesting....

    Even before the Brooklyn Taberacle was officially opened on Sunday 31 January 1909 - the WT was using it as part of their tag-line in newspaper columns

    The Richmond Palladium and Sun-Telegram - Monday 4 January 1909, page 4 top




    In this issue we commence a series of discourses under the caption, 'People's Pulpit. They are strictly unsectarian, and not intended to build up any one denomination at the expense of another. As Beecher and Talmage of the same 'City of Churches' were independent preachers who gave their time and strength to the moulding of public thought, 'with charity toward all and malice toward none.' so with Pastor Russell of the Brooklyn Tabernacle.

    Pastor Russell's only fault (if fault it be) is his extreme Orthodoxy — his close adherence to the Bible as the inspired Word of God. But after all, if the Bible be not man's only chart and compass as respects God and the future, what have we? And if this be so perhaps it is impossible to give too earnest heed to its teachings. On one point Pastor Russell is quite emphatic, namely — he insists that it is inconsistent with reason to believe that all mankind, except the merest handful of 'saints.' were predestinated by God to eternal torment in fire, because of ignorance or unbelief. Ninety-nine of us out of every hundred reached that conclusion years ago; and it shook our faith in the Bible considerably. Pastor Russell, however, holds to the Bible tenaciously and claims to prove that on this point it has been misunderstood by many of its friends as well as by its foes. He has shown a few faulty translations, and offered preferable interpretations for some parables, and altogether he has thrown a new light on the Scriptures. His presentations of the Bible's teachings have certainly rescued many from unbelief.

    Mr C T Smith, deceased, who was one of the editors of the Atlanta Constitution, paid Pastor Russell, a most pronounced compliment along this line in the following terms: "It is impossible to read his writings without loving the writer and pondering his wonderful solution of the great mysteries that have troubled us all our lives. There is hardly a family to be found that has not lost some loved one who died outside the Church — outside the plan of salvation, and, if Calvinism be true, outside of all hope and inside of eternal torment and despair. He makes no assertions that are not well sustained by the Scriptures. His argument is built up stone by stone, and upon every stone is a text, and it becomes a pyramid of God's love and mercy and wisdom. There is nothing in the Bible that the author denies or doubts, but there are many texts upon which he throws a flood of light that seems to uncover its meaning."

    [sermon was printed below]

    The Richmond Palladium and Sun-Telegram, Monday 25 January 1909, page 4 top




    Pastor Russell of Brooklyn Tabernacle

    The above is a very good portrait of Pastor Russell, who is perhaps the most widely known speaker on the American platform to-day, having spoken in nearly every large American city, as well as in many cities in Europe. Pastor Russell treats popular themes of vital importance to the thinking Christians of this our day of wonderful enlightenment. He is a stickler on the claim that the whole Bible is the inspired Word of God and has a peculiar facility in presenting Orthodox subjects in an attractive and interesting light. Brooklyn is to be congratulated on its reputation as "The City of Churches" and on its galaxy of pulpit lights, amongst whom are numbered as of the past, Beecher, Abbott and Talmage.

    [sermon was printed below]


    The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Thursday 28 January 1909, front page - bottom half

    The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Thursday 28 January 1909, front page - bottom half


    Old Beecher Mission to Be Known as Brooklyn Tabernacle

    First Services Will Be Held by Pastor Russell on Sunday Afternoon

    Much interest is manifested in religious circles in the reopening of the famous old Plymouth-Bethel, at 17 Hicks Street, originally instituted by the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. It was long known as one of the foremost missions in the country. It was closed about two years ago. This church building is to be now known as the Brooklyn Tabernacle and is being thoroughly refitted in every particular. The interior appointments of the large auditorium, situated on the second floor, will be especially tasty, bright and cheerful. An artistic arrangement of many Biblical texts on the large panels make an attractive feature. The pastor, C T Russell, will occupy the pulpit for the first time on Sunday afternoon at 3 o'clock. His topic will be "Bethel: The House of God, the Gate of Heaven."

    Last Sunday Mr Russell is reported to have addressed an audience of 4,600 in the Hippodrome at Cleveland, 0., and fully 600 were turned away at the doors not able to be accommodated. In his trip through England, Ireland and Scotland, last summer, he was everywhere accorded large hearings, and at Glasgow over 5,000 persons listened to him in one of the largest auditoriums. His sermons are already being published weekly in more than sixty newspapers throughout the United States.

    The Brooklyn Tabernacle is to be undenominational.

    Definition: undenominational - not attached to any religious denomination
    Definition: non-denominational - open or acceptable to people of any Christian denomination

    The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Saturday 30 January 1909, page 10 top
    Advert for the reopening

    next.... the reports on the reopening....

  • darkspilver

    The Washington Times., January 31, 1909, Sunday Evening Edition - front page top

    The Washington Times, Sunday 31 January 1909, Evening Edition - front page top


    "Hell on Earth, But None Hereafter," Is Chief Doctrine of Preacher Who Gained Notoriety in His Wife's Suit For Divorce

    BROOKLYN, N. Y., Jan. 31. - More than 500 enthusiasts crowded the church built and owned by Charles T Russell and opened at 17 Hicks Street here today, to attend the dedication exercises.

    The morning services consisted of the introduction of Mr Russell to the congregation by B W Barton, of Philadelphia. An old-fashioned prayer meeting ended the ceremonies and in the afternoon, the "pastor" preached on "the house of God — the gate of heaven."

    The building was elaborately fixed up inside with all sorts of kaleidoscopic effects in carpet. It will be known as the Brooklyn Tabernacle and will be used by Russell for his own ideas the chief text of which is that there is "hell on earth, but none hereafter."

    Mr Russell, who is wealthy, acquired notoriety in Allegheny, Pa., in 1906 when his wife sued for divorce giving him the sobriquet of "Jelly Fish."

    "A man's heart is so big he can love a dozen women, while a woman's heart is so small she can't love but one man." Such was "Pastor" Russell's domestic creed, according to his wife, Maria Frances Russell.

    Her particular objection, however, was that her husband, the "Jelly Fish," had kissed, not wisely, but too well, a certain Rosa Bell, his ward, who was employed in the Russell home at Allegheny as a companion.

    Russell, himself, according to his wife, was responsible for the characterization "Jelly Fish."

    "I am like a jelly fish," Russell was alleged to have said to the protesting Rosa. "I float all around and touch this one and that, and, if they respond, I embrace them."

    In an open letter to the "ministers and Bible students" of greater New York, He says, in part:

    "The growing scepticism regarding God and the Bible we find is generally the outgrowth of a misunderstanding of the Bible's teaching respecting hell. No sane man can be blamed for rejecting the old theory that God first made a roasting hell and then made our race, knowing that all would spend an awful eternity there — except the few who would hear of Christ and become saints.

    The pastor says he does not believe in any near millennium, certainly not by converting the heathen.

    New-York Daily Tribune, Monday 1 February 1909, page 5 - top of page

    New-York Daily Tribune, Monday 1 February 1909, page 5 - top of page



    "Pastor" Russell, "Jellyfish" Man, Buys Beecher Mission

    "Pastor" Charles Page [Taze] Russell, the "Jellyfish" man, reopened yesterday afternoon "Old Bethel", the mission at No. 17 Hicks Street, Brooklyn, which was originally established by Henry Ward Beecher and which was closed two years ago. It is said that Russell has purchased the place, which has seats for 850 persons, and will make it his headquarters for the future. It has been renamed the "Brooklyn Tabernacle."

    "Pastor" Russell is the leader of a religious body which has members all over the country, and is held together by "The Watcher Tower," a periodical. The members call each other "brother" or "sister." They claim no particular creed. The organization depends on voluntary contributions. Russell has about twenty assistant "ministers" at the tabernacle.

    "Pastor" Russell comes from Pennsylvania, where he has been conducting a similar work. He acquired his peculiar name in 1906, when his wife divorced him. According to the testimony of the woman, Mrs. Maria Frances Russell, the "Pastor" held the view that "a man's heart is so big that he can love a dozen women, while a woman's heart is so small that she can love only one man." She charged him with kissing his ward, Rosa Ball [Bell], who was employed at the Russell home, then in Allegheny. It was testified that he said to Rosa:

    "I am like a jellyfish. I float all around and touch this one and that, and, if they respond, I embrace them."

    His chief theory is that no hell exists — at least in the hereafter. The hall was packed yesterday afternoon by a class of people greatly resembling the followers of Alexander Dowie when he invaded New York City a few years ago. The "pastor" told them they were being shaped, like the stones of Solomon's Temple, and when they were ready for use they would go to sleep to await the millennium, when the temple of God would be erected with Christ at its head. Harmony and co-ordination would be the characteristics of the temple, he explained.

    "You are a favored people," he declared, "in that you understand what others do not. You are in harmony with God."

    When the millennium comes, he explained, the people will be privileged to apply directly to God through Christ. Those who will be chosen by God will not be the rich and the intellectual, but the lowly.

    "If I were to choose my followers," he said, "I would pick out men like Roosevelt and John. D. Rockefeller, some Senators and a few good lawyers, and I would have a good manager, like Harriman, but I would be making a great mistake. God doesn't "want that kind. Perhaps he would not refuse a few good lawyers and financiers, as there is some good in them, but he prefers the lowly." After the talk, which lasted an hour and a quarter, meal tickets were distributed in honor of the occasion.

    Alexander Dowie:
    Harriman? - possibly Edward H. Harriman, the President of Union Pacific Railroad and of Brown Brothers Harriman and Co (

    The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Monday 1 February 1909, page 16 - top of page

    The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Monday 1 February 1909, page 16 - top of page


    Russell Is Head of Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society Which Has Moved


    Has Opened in the Old Bethel on Hicks Street - No Hell in His Creed

    Pastor Charles H. [T] Russell, who declares he does not believe in title of "Reverend" or "Doctor," and who from his own declaration intends to widely circulate his sermons through a syndicate, began his Brooklyn career yesterday by opening the old Plymouth Bethel, on Hicks Street, near Fulton, as the Brooklyn Tabernacle, a name with which the late Rev. Dr. T. DeWitt Talmage was associated three times in Brooklyn. The Bethel was founded in the days of Henry Ward Beecher.

    Pastor Russell's reputation has preceded him out of the West, and the startling news comes that he was divorced from his wife, Mrs. Maria Frances Russell, in 1906. He is quoted as saying, in a letter which he wrote to his wife:

    "I do not think it right for persons of strong mind and character to marry. A strong man should never wed a woman intellectually his equal, but one of weaker mind. I am adapted to no one but the Lord Jesus Christ, and I am thankful we understand each other."

    This he wrote, it is alleged, when Mrs. Russell accused him of being too fond of his ward, Rosa Hall [Bell]: "I am like a jellyfish. I float all around and touch this one and that one, and if they respond, I embrace them."

    Pastor Russell is the head of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, which has its headquarters in Allegheny City, Pa., but which has now moved to Brooklyn, with rooms in the Bethel, and here can be procured tracts free of charge and Bibles at a small cost. It is claimed that the society has 50,000 persons connected with it.

    Yesterday, serviced in the Tabernacle began with a prayer and praise service in the morning, and in the afternoon Pastor Russell talked for two hours and five minutes, and when he was through he stated to reporters who questioned him that the remark about "jellyfish" was not true, The trouble with his wife was that she was taken up with woman's rights. The young woman named in the divorce proceedings was married and she and her husband represent the Watch Tower Society of Australia. Their official title is "pilgrims," which is equivalent to missionaries in other denominations.

    Before the sermon, Pastor Russell explained that he did not intend to preach "a hell-fire religion," for hell was not a place of torment, and declared that the millenium was near at hand. He also said that the "pilgrims" did not recognize as Biblical the terms clergy and laity, nor the titles "reverend" nor "doctor of divinity," now in vogue. He explained that this did not lead to disfellowship with any body of believers.

    Pastor Russell outlined what was to be done at the Tabernacle:

    "Preaching services will be held in this auditorium every Sunday afternoon. Special services will be held from time to time in the surrounding cities and neighborhoods, for there are about twenty ministers of ability connected with our society's work here. These all give their services free of charge, either for meetings or funerals, and are at your call. The lower floor of Plymouth Bethel, here-after the Brooklyn Tabernacle, will serve us as a Bible and tract repository. The tracts you may obtain free, and the Bibles at cost prices. We will conduct there a Bible correspondence school for the answering of theological queries and in general assisting to a clear understanding of the Bible by God's people and those not God's people, but who are 'feeling after him if haply [happily] they might find him.' Already this correspondence feature brings us hundreds of letters daily inquiring in various languages for tracts and helps in Bible study.

    "It will be seen that ours is not the gospel of the higher critics and evolutionists. This, however, does not mean that we believe the Bible teaches all our well-meaning forefathers of the 'Dark Ages' supposed the Bible to teach. We find that they burned one another at the stake for disbelieving things which the Bible does not teach, and for believing things which the Bible does teach. The growing skepticism regarding God and the Bible, we find, is generally the outgrowth of a misunderstanding of the Bible's teaching respecting 'hell.' No sane man can be blamed for rejecting the old theory that God first made a roasting 'hell' and then made a race, knowing that all would spend an awful eternity there, except the few who would hear of Christ and become saints. This blasphemy against our Creator's Holy Name needs to be rebuked."

    The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Tuesday 2 February 1909, page 3 - bottom half of page

    The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Tuesday 2 February 1909, page 3 - bottom half of page

    (A news item sent from Pittsburg)


    At Pittsburg Head of Millennial Dwan Sect Admits Removal

    Says He Will Locate Headquarters of Watch Tower Society in Brooklyn

    Pittsburg, Pa., February 2 — Pastor Charles T. Russell, of Watch Tower fame, head of the Millennial Dawn sect, whose troubles with his wife have supplied public gossip for several years, is about to make Brooklyn the center of his activities. The headquarters of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society will be transferred to Brooklyn. At present the headquarters occupy a commodious structure owned by the society in Arch Street, North Side, here.

    Pastor Russell preaches to a large congregation when he is not preaching to adherents of the sect in other cities. He occupied the pulpit of the Brooklyn Tabernacle last Sunday. He returned to this city last night and reluctantly confirmed the report of his proposed removal to Brooklyn.

    Mrs. Russell recently secured a limited divorce from the head of the Millennial Dawn sect. Russell has made repeated attempts to have this limited decree set aside. His wife charged him with cruel treatment. He was rated a very rich man, but it was charged during the divorce proceedings that in order to escape payment of alimony he transferred practically all his property to the Bible Society.

    Mr. Russell denied his wife's allegations of cruelty, and set up the claim that she was an impediment in the way of his spiritual progress. The quarrels of the couple have filled many a column of the local press.

    Pastor Russell's friends say the contemplated removal to Brooklyn is to rid him of the "persecution" of the faction which has supported Mrs. Russell in her domestic difficulties.

    Russell at first evaded the question with reference to his leaving Pittsburg, but he finally admitted such was his plan. "It was a large gathering I preached to yesterday." said Mr. Russell. "at the opening of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. We are extending the work of the society to all parts of the world, and this is simply an extension of the work in this country." Mr. Russell has been pastor of the congregation in the North Side for a number of years, and he was re-elected recently.

    The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Monday 22 March 1909, page 3 - top half of page

    The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Monday 22 March 1909, page 3 - top half of page


    Pastor Russell Changes Name of His Church - Plymouth Official Tells Why

    Pastor Russell has changed the name of his church at 17 Hicks Street from Plymouth Bethel to Brooklyn Tabernacle. Asked for the reason for the change, yesterday afternoon, he said that the latter name was preferable. Tabernacle, according to Pastor Russell, means a temporary place of worship, and, considered in the light of things eternal, this place is but a temporary place of worship, as compared with the everlasting temple which awaits the faithful.

    An official of Plymouth Church, who was asked the same question about the change of name of Pastor Russell's Church, hesitated sometime before replying. He was asked if any pressure had been brought to bear on Pastor Russell to make him change the name.

    "No, I would not say that," he replied. "But Plymouth Bethel is a well recognized institution. It is an organization with a legal existence, and has a fund of $20,000 for its support. It is one of the four existing missions of Plymouth Church. When Pastor Russell learned this, he changed the name of his institution. He was not aware, probably, when he first took the name Plymouth Bethel that he was using the name of another living institution."

    Yesterday afternoon Pastor Russell spoke to an audience of about two hundred and fifty persons, most of them, so far as could be judged, members of the "Millennial Dawn," or "Watch Tower" sect, which has its stronghold in Allegheny, Pa. The organist of the church stated to an Eagle reporter that the church had about 150 members in Greater New York, and that a number of members from out of town had come in to the services.

    Pastor Russell took for his topic yesterday "The New Song of Moses and the Lamb" (Revelations xv:3), and talked for more than an hour and a half on a number of subjects, all of which he said were related to the text. So far as could be discovered from his talk, his teaching is that there is no eternal torment for sinners, and that the "Golden Age" is to come upon earth. He says that a time of great trouble is to come upon the earth soon, and that many of the present day institutions are to be swept away. Then will come the dawn of a new age, in which the people will sing the "New Song" with full understanding. He took a fling at the Calvinists and the Methodists, and claimed that their creeds were illogical, and that no one believed nowadays in eternal torment for unfortunate creatures. Pastor Russell is not a "shouter," but he talks and talks and talks, in a conversational monotone, without notes, and in a rambling sort of way. He uses what might be termed the "endless chain" method of talk.

    His auditors sat open-mouthed, listening to the words, and the children who had been brought there curled up and went to sleep on their mothers' shoulders. And still Pastor Russell talked and talked. As one of the women in the congregation was heard to remark in the social gathering which followed:

    "He is a wonder, I say. He never opens his mouth but, what he says something."

    Definition: auditors? - old-fashioned term for 'audience'

Share this