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.