Let's Take A Look At Judge Rutherford In The Pages of Zion's Watch Tower

by Kenneson 24 Replies latest jw friends

  • Kenneson

    I thought I'd present my finds on Rutherford's early years in the W.T. Society before he usurped the presidency. So I have researched the pages of Zion's Watch Tower from 1879 until 1916 to see what would surface. There are some interesting anecdotes.

    The very first mention of Rutherford appears in the April 15, 1894 Zion's W.T. wherein his letter to the Society is published. He tells of an encounter with two ladies who sold him 3 copies of Millennial Dawn two months previously, but only a few weeks ago he actually got around to reading them. He was impressed. "The result is, my dear wife and myself have read these books with the keenest interest, and we consider it a God send and a great blessing that we have had the opportunity of coming in contact with them." He subscribes to the W.T. for the year and orders more Millennial Dawns to distribute to family, friends, etc.

    This, then, is Rutherford's first encounter with the Bible Students.

    No more is said of him again until the Oct. 11, 1907 issue, where he is listed as one of the speakers at the Niagara Falls Convention held from Aug. 29-Sept. 5. The June 15, 1908 issue lists him as one of the Pilgrims who made a vow to the Lord. The July 1, 1908 W.T. in a letter from W.E. Page mentions Sister Rutherford as summering in Madison, Wisconsin and receiving a letter from Sister Hanson of Kansas City.

    By Jan. 15, 1909 C.T. Russell is apparently growing fond of Rutherford. In an article entitled "Brother Russell Re-elected Pastor" we note: "Before leaving the platform, Brother Russell remarked that Pilgrim Rutherford was present and would doubless make an excellent chairman for the business meeting called for the election of the Church's servants for 1909. He said that, unless some objections were made, it would be considered that Brother Rutherford was unanimously approved as chairman of the session. Silence gives consent, so Brother Rutherford stepped to the platform, Brother Russell stepped down and taking his seat with the friends." In this copy we also find Pilgrim Rutherford speaking at the Nashville Convention. Mention is also made that he is due to speak March 1, 1909 at the Brooklyn Tabernacle on the "Divine Plan of the Ages" from a Lawyer's standpoint.

    So, already he is exploiting his background for proselytizing purposes.

    The June 15, 1909 Z.W.T. is intriguing. Is there anyone out there who can help resolve it? There is given a report on "Brother Russell's European Tour" "Toward Newcastle." It states: "This is our first visit to this city. We greatly enjoyed it, meeting some new faces and some whom we had met elsewhere previously. Brother and Sister Rutherford entertained us--meeting us (with others) at the station and escorting us to their home, where after refreshments we had a heart-to-heart talk with the roomful (about 20)." Since Rutherford and wife were from Missouri I wonder why and how he ended up having a home in Wales. I also have considered the possibility that this is a different Rutherford from J.F. but there is no clue that it is.

    In the Aug. 15, 1909 magazine Rutherford is reported one of the speakers at the Memphis, Houston, San Antonio and Oakland Conventions. Oct. 1, 1909 Z.W.T. Rutherford is one of the speakers at the Saratoga Convention.

    June 1, 1910 Z.W.T. "Brother Russell's Foreign Tour." Rutherford accompanies Russell as stenographer on the Mediterranean tour. Sister Rutherford accompanies them as far as Paris.

    The Sept. 15, 1910 Z.W.T. has Rutherford due to be one of the speakers at the Knoxville Convention (Sept. 24-26)

    In the Nov. 15, 1910 Z.W.T. Brother J.F. Rutherford's (of Missouri) letter to Russell entitled "Value of Berean Scripture Studies" appears. In the Oct. 1, 1911 issue when the Bible Students had a ten-day session in the Allegheny Mountains, Hon. J.F. Rutherford was chairman of the first half of the convention (Sept. 1-6). He also addressed the meeting.

    "Honorable" J.F. Rutherford. Important man, huh?

    In the Jan. 15, 1912 Z.W.T. is an article written by J.F. Rutherford entitled "In Defense of the Truth." Someone had written to the Society wondering if Russell shouldn't have endured persecution rather than resort to the law. This is Rutherford's justification of Russell's suit against the Brooklyn Eagle..

    The April 15, 1912 Z.W.T. reports on the New York Hippodrome Mass Meeting in which "The Hon. J.F. Rutherford of the New York Bar served as chairman."

    So, according to this, Rutherford is now a New York lawyer. Does anyone know how a lawyer from Missouri can become a New York lawyer? Did he have to pass some kind of examination in New York? If he did, there must be some kind of record somewhere.

    The May 15, 1912 Z.W.Tower shows him as scheduled to be chairman at the June 1-9 Pertle Springs, Missouri Convention.

    In the Feb. 15, 1913 Z.W.T., in an article entitled "As Deceivers and Yet True" Rutherford and Sparks are said to have represented Russell in the Brooklyn Eagle suit. Russell lost. (Good discussion on Miracle Wheat).

    The Oct. 15, 1913 Z.W.T. mentions That "Brother and Sister Rutherford have left for Zurich." In the Nov. 1, 1913 magazine appeared "Successful Scandinavian Meetings." In a letter to Russell, Aug. Lundborg writes: "I wish to send you an expression of our appreciation of the helpful visits of Brothers J.F. Rutherford and A.N. Pierson, as your representatives, granted us recently...As one proof of the interest in Brother Rutherford's public lectures here, not fewer than 1,818 volumes of Studies in the Scriptures were sold in Sweden and Norway...For advertisemnt of Brother Rutherford's meeings in Sweden and Norway we distributed 217,500 copies of BIBLE STUDENTS MONTHLY...We earnestly desire that you send him to Sweden again, as soon and as for as long a time as possible..."

    In the following letter by Rutherford to Russell in the Jan. 1, 1914 Z.W.T., Rutherford is not a happy camper, but I'm not sure why he is making such a big fuss. "A copy of the 1913 'Convention Report' has just come to my attention. It contains what purports to be a report of a discourse delivered by me at the Springfield Convention.

    "I have not the disposition nor the power to control the actions of others in the publication of what I say at Conventions; but I would like to have the friends know that such publication is without my consent. A stenographic report of the above mentioned discourse was handed me at Springfield, but I declined to read it, not wishing to have anything to do with its publication."

    He is referring to the Springfield, Mass. convention.

    I'd love to get a copy of the Convention report. What is in there that upset Rutherford so much?

    The Jan. 15, 1915 Z.W.T. contains the British Branch Report which has Brother Rutherford's extended tour.

    The May 1, 1915 Z.W.T. contains "Judge Rutherford's Spicy Defense" of C.T. Russell; also "A Great Battle in the Ecclesiatical Heavens," a pamphlet written by Rutherford in Defense of Russell. The journal also contains an article entitled "The Rutherford-Troy Debate."

    The Nov. 1, 1915 Z.W.T. contains an advertisement for "Judge Rutherford's Defense of Pastor Russell (ilus.), 10c; 25 for 2.00. I think this is the first time that Rutherford is called "Judge" in the pages of Z.W.T.????

    The Feb. 15, 1916 issue has a letter form written by Hon. J.F. Rutherford to Canadians entitled "What Bible Students Should Do." It encourages men of age to write to the commanding officer of their locales requesting exemption from military service.

    In the Sept. 15, 1916 Z.W.T. someone writes a letter and mentions Judge Rutherford.

    Yes, the title appears to be catching on.

    After Russell's death, the Dec. 15, 1916 Z.W.T. has Rutherford as one of the names appearing on the Watch Tower Editorial Committee, on the Board of Directors of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, and on the Executive Committee.

    If there is any problem between Russell and Rutherford in 1915 or 1916 as some claim, one cannot find a hint in the pages of Zion's Watch Tower. At least, I didn't find it. If it is there, will someone please bring it to my attention? If there is any kind of rift between the two at this time, I think one will have to look elsewhere than Zion's Watch Tower.

    My personal opinion is that the real problems begin in 1917 when Rutherford takes over the presidency of the W.T. Society, a position not rightfully his.

  • gumby

    Very very intresting Kenneson.

    If Craig (onacruse) doesn't respond here.....you might PM him on some of your questions as he also has been working on a project dealing with the early years.

    Once again.....great read


  • sleepy

    "The June 15, 1909 Z.W.T. is intriguing. Is there anyone out there who can help resolve it? There is given a report on "Brother Russell's European Tour" "Toward Newcastle." It states: "This is our first visit to this city. We greatly enjoyed it, meeting some new faces and some whom we had met elsewhere previously. Brother and Sister Rutherford entertained us--meeting us (with others) at the station and escorting us to their home, where after refreshments we had a heart-to-heart talk with the roomful (about 20)." Since Rutherford and wife were from Missouri I wonder why and how he ended up having a home in Wales. I also have considered the possibility that this is a different Rutherford from J.F. but there is no clue that it is." Newcastle is in England not Wales , although they do speak funny there. I'm sure the history of Rutherford would make a good documentury programme if only people could uncover enougth information.

  • Kenneson


    You're correct. I had looked at the Geographical names in my dictionary under " Newcastle." The one I looked at was in New South Wales in Australia. But I didn't read it properly as there's a Newcastle upon Tyne and a Newcastle under Lyme in England as you pointed out. And they were on a European tour. Duh! Thanks.

  • onacruse

    Kenneson, great research!

    I admire how you outlined things chronologically. Straight-run time-line perspectives can sometimes miss the subtle sense of connectivity between first cause and eventual effect, but structuring it that way helps us all to be able to 'connect the dots.'

    My own researches this last year have focused on what Rutherford wrote and said as president of the WTS, and I haven't paid much attention to "where" he came from. The one thing that sticks in my mind, and to which you allude, is that it seems like Rutherford was a side-liner for over a decade before he seemed suddenly to jump to the fore.

    Shades of the apostle Paul's 14 years' disappearance after his conversion, and only then suddenly to 'come out of the woodwork' and start kicking ass (my, oh my...why do I suspect that Rutherford may actually have seen himself as the antitypical modern-day Paul class? )

    I know that AlanF, Farkel, and RR ( and others) have a lot more info ready to hand about Rutherford than do I...let's see if they wanna jump on this bandwagon.

    Thanks again for your research; very elucidating.


  • Athanasius

    Hi Kenneson,

    You have certainly done your homework on Joe Rutherford and Zion's Watch Tower. However, there are several hints even in ZWT that there was friction between Joe Rutherford and Charles Taze Russell. One that comes to mind is contained in the May 1, 1915 Watch Tower reprints pages 5684-5685 regarding the Rutherford-Troy Debate. Joe writes Russell a glowing letter about the debate and the great victory that he claimed to have won over the Baptist clergyman, John H. Troy. Russell's reply is very interesting. Instead of heaping praise on Rutherford's efforts, Russell throws cold water on it all by saying "We still feel a prejudice against public debates of religious questions." CTR further states: "So far as the Editor is concerned, he has no desire for further debates. He does not favor debating, believing that it rarely accomplishes good and often arouses anger, malice, bitterness, etc., in both speakers and hearers." One can imagine how Joe must have felt after Russell's put down in the pages of the Watch Tower.

    It is also interesting that Russell refers to Rutherford's pamphlet, A Great Battle In the Ecclesiatical Heavens, as "Judge Rutherford's Spicy Defense." Instead of calling Rutherford's work dignified, Russell used a term that in those days could mean risque, like a spicy novel. Russell then said: "I have not yet read it, though, of course, I knew of its preparation and in a general way of its contents. I prefer not to have anything to do with its publication."

    There is a lot of information outside the Watch Tower regarding the problems that Russell had with Joe.

    According to testimony at the Olin Moyle trial, in 1915 Russell gave Rutherford $1,000 so he could leave New York and set up a law practice in California. David Horowitz also mentions this in his biography of Russell, PASTOR CHARLES TAZE RUSSELL, AN EARLY AMERICAN CHRISTIAN ZIONIST, page 61. According to Horowitz, who is neither a Jehovah's Witness or a Bible Student, Russell considered Rutherford a dangerous man and wanted him as far away as possible.



  • Kenneson

    Thanks Athanasius. I had read the points you refer to, but didn't interpret them as you did. On page 130 (R5685) Russell wrote an article entitled "Advantages and Disadvantages of Debates" and while not mentioning the Rutherford-Troy Debate, at this point (perhaps he is leading to it), he does refer to the Russell-Eaton Debate and the Rusell-White Debate. In spite of that he had come to the point where he felt religious debates could be harmful. And, than, he goes on to give his reasons, one of which you pointed out.

    Scrolling down we come to the Rutherford-Troy Debate. Russell's complete comments about the debate are on page 143 (R5684) at the end. [We rejoice greatly that the blessing of the Lord was so richly with our dear Brother Rutherford on the occasion of the debates referred to above. Apparently the Lord guided these debates and blessed the outcome. However, we still feel a prejudice against public debates for religious questions, and have elsewhere expressed our reasons].

    So, while at the current moment of writing he might have felt a prejudice against public religious debates, he did not always feel so as he himself had engaged in religious debates. Then, this hypothetical thought occurred to me. Since Rutherford had been so successful in his debate and if he continued engaging in such debates, could this take Russell out of the limelight and focus it too much on Rutherford? Could this really be the reason why he had now come to be against religious public debates rather than those he talks about in his article? Was he becoming jealous of Rutherford? Was he beginning to fear that Rutherford might get too powerful? If this is the case, than I can see how a rift could be in the making. But none of this is spelled out, so it seems to me that it would be reading something into the text that is not really there.

    Now to the other article "Judge Rutherford's Spicy Defense." Again all is not clear to me. I produce it below:

    "Brother Rutherford, grieved by the various untruthful, slanderous attacks upon the Editor, has prepared a pamphet in my defense. A copy of it has just been handed me. I have not yet read it, though, of course, I knew of its preparation and in a general way of its contents. I preferred not to have anything to do with its publication. It explains Brother Rutherford's views as a lawyer, as a brother, and as a man who most fully understands the entire situation. It contains some interesting illustrations and is priced at ten cents per copy, or eight dollars per hundred copies, postpaid. It is not unreasonable to expect that nearly all of our readers will be very glad to have this pamphlet, as it will furnish them with evidence on every point thus far brought forward by my maligners.

    :Orders for pamphlets should be addressed to Judge Rutherford, New York City, P.O. Box 51. However, we will have a supply at THE WATCH TOWER Office, and, if one is ordering other things, the pamphlet can be supplied also. It is entitled, 'A GREAT BATTLE IN THE ECCLESIASTICAL HEAVENS.' "

    I'm not sure what to think of this. He is not against the pamphlet, but "preferred not to have anything to do with its publication." Maybe he thought that people would be less impressed if it was published under his instigation. Better to have an "outside source" do it. Again, we are left to speculation. I also wonder what he meant when he states that "nearly all of our readers will be very glad to have this pamphlet." Wonder who would be those not glad to have it?

  • minimus

    This is very impressive! I agree that in the publications, it does not seem that Rutherford and Russell had issues. From my reading, there was an open dialogue amongst Bible Students and disagreement occured as was published regarding "The Vow"......I think craffty JFR simply usurped the commitees and proclaimed himself chief! Since he was THE lawyer, I think he brilliantly intimidated everyone into submission.

  • Bryan

    Very interesting reading. Thank you all for your work.


  • Athanasius

    Hi Kenneson,

    Regarding the Rutherford-Troy Debate, you might find it helpful to read the entire script. Bill Cetnar made it available in TROY DEBATES RUTHERFORD (privately published). I think that you can still order a copy from:


    Route 3 Weir Lake Road

    Kunkletown, PA 18058

    The late Bill Cetnar assembled the information from the Los Angeles Express which covered the debate in great detail. Bill Cetnar makes this interesting observation in the book's forward: "At a Bethel meeting I sat next to John Adam Baeurlein a former International Director and Officer of the Watchtower Society. He mentioned he had attended the Rutherford-Troy debates. I asked him why the Society refused to debate today. He answered: 'Because Rutherford lost his shirt in debate with Troy.' He then added: 'The Watchtower is not God's Organization.' These remarks from this old man who spent 50 years at Watchtower Headquarters were a shock to me."

Share this