Rutherford Exposed: The Story of Berta and Bonnie

by Farkel 739 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • Mythbuster

    More info that may not matter but I found interesting:


    In the 1930's, William Heath, an heir to the Coca-Cola fortune, owned the land that would be Alvarado Estates. Heath and his wife Bonnie were strict Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) They believed their leader's teachings that Armageddon was imminent. Along with other adherents, they did not salute the American flag nor serve in the military, because their allegiance only was to God,.

    Heath allowed his fellow JW members clandestine use of his land. It was patrolled by men on horseback and children of the area were kept away. A productive farm flourished there with fruit trees and other crops fed by their own water well. Their main house, Beth Sham, was constructed with thirteen-inch-thick walls and a concrete basement shelter. It has since been remodeled, but the house still exists at 4825 Avion Way. The original road leading to the house can still be seen running up the canyon as one drives along Montezuma Road.

    Near the house, stood a barn and corral. Years later, when some of the property was being sold, a strange thing was found. Inside a cupboard in the barn was a rope. When the rope was pulled, the entire wall moved aside revealing a stairway. Beneath the ground was a concrete shelter about 10‘ x 40' with a vaulted ceiling and barred transom-like window. It had a generator, diesel fuel tanks, cupboards for food, and a well. The shelter was prepared for the Great Armageddon that didn‘t come. When the original buildings were torn down, the concrete shelter could not be destroyed and is still located beside the home at 5330 Le Barron Road where it became a wine cellar and studio.

    In 1942, when Judge Rutherford, JW leader and Bonnie Heath's childhood guardian, died, William Heath applied for a permit to bury him in our area. The request was denied by the San Diego County Planning Commission and the body was presumed sent to its alternate burial site on Staten Island, New York. Rumor has it that Judge Rutherford's body never did leave our area.... Look for The History of Alvarado Estates, Chapter III: Gillies Field, in your next newsletter.

  • Mythbuster

    I didn't find the transcript but I found the San Diego Union news article for 2/18/1942. Apologies if it's been posted already.

  • VM44

    I wonder about Bonnie Heath testifying before an official body that Rutherford had "adopted" her as his daughter.

    Either she was legally adopted by Rutherford, or not, there is no middle ground.

    Did she understand that? or was she trying to pull something over on the San Diego officials?

    Her stating that she was "adopted" when she wasn't could be considered perjury on her part!

  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    How interesting that it say Rutherford had a widow and son living in Monrovia, not that far away but seemingly neither had any input into this situation. Normally either of them would have been contacted to arrange for burial. Well legally. Either they refused to have anything to do with it or the Heaths pushed them out. With no will everything would legally go to the wife whether they were estranged or not. I don't think they were divorced. Even if they were then everything would go to Malcolm. Hmmmm very interesting.

    I wonder how much would have gone to the family if they were involved. Wouldn't that have been an upset to see the WTS switch hands again

  • Leolaia

    Another nice find, Mythbuster! Very curious to find another statement characterizing Rutherford as Bonnie's "childhood guardian". I wonder if this statement derives from an independent source (such as word of mouth or other published statements), or if it is dependent on the San Diego Union article. Bonnie was not an orphan and had a mother very much alive, who came to Bethel in 1923 at the same time Bonnie did (Moyle trial transcript, pp. 1365-1365). It may be that Bonnie's father had passed away by then (indeed Victoria was indicated as widowed in the 1920 census) and she came to look to "Pappy" as like a father to her, but she was already 27 years old by then --- not a sweet 16 as one may gather from the San Diego Union reporting of her testimony in 1942. If Bonnie were already Rutherford's adopted daughter, or if Rutherford were her legal guardian, why was she living in the Midwest with her mother and only came to Bethel much later as an adult? She indicates that she came to Bethel at Mr. Van Amburgh's invitation, not Rutherford's, and that she first became Van Amburgh's secretary, and only later did she begin to work for Rutherford directly. It sure sounds like perjury as VM44 points out. Bonnie couldn't have first come to Bethel in 1923 and yet been continuously with Rutherford ever since 1912 (when she was 16). Could there be another explanation to this?

    Lady Lee....I thought about that. Malcolm seemed to have played no role in laying his father to rest. In 1941, shortly before he died, Rutherford had Bonnie and William Heath form a legal corporation (I think it was called Beth Sarim Rest) to oversee his burial. But on the very day that Rutherford died, Bonnie and William learned that they lacked the proper permit. Then followed several months of hearings and proceedings in order to secure the permit. Bonnie testified and William testified before city officials, but why not the very son of the deceased? I wonder if Bonnie's claim to be Rutherford's "adopted daughter" was aimed at making the officials reckon with a family member than an impersonal legal entity. But then why her and not Malcolm? Why wasn't Malcolm a part of Beth Sarim Rest? Did Malcolm ever come down to San Diego and tell the officials that enough was enough and he wanted his dad buried with dignity? I don't see any indication that he did.

  • Leolaia

    Just a little bit to add to the next data dump.

    The Iowa Marriages roster (1851-1900) states that John H. Boyd married Virginia Boyd in Polk, Iowa on 9/19/1885. This is a different county than Black Hawk where they lived in the 1890s and there is a discrepency with the 1900 census which claims that they were married for 11 years, implying a date of marriage in 1888 or 1889. Also John's middle initial here is "H" instead of "K". There is a small chance that this pertains to a different couple, but this is unlikely since there was no other couple with the same names in the roster and it is unlikely that there would be a couple with the same names (the roster unfortunately does not give the bride's maiden name). John disappears in the 1920 census and Victoria's marital status is widowed, so it appears that John died sometime between 1910 and 1920. There is a John Boyd listed in the Minnesota Death Index who died on 11/13/1912 in Wadena, Minnesota, but there is nothing to strongly link this Boyd with the person who was Bonnie's father, and the later lived in Ramsey county, not Wadena, in 1910.

  • VM44

    The following information has been posted before in this thread, but I wanted to see if the Background Data sources that I use still reported data for Malcolm Rutherford.

    They do, and here is what they currently report:


    Address City State Zip Times Reported
    3744 PO, ARCADIA CA 91006 5
    159 STEDMAN PL., MONROVIA CA 91016 4
    1148 PALOMA DR., ARCADIA CA 91007 10

    Born: 10 Nov 1892
    Died: 22 Jun 1989

    Age: 96

    Last Address of Record: 91006 (Arcadia, Los Angeles, CA)

    Issued by:

    Social Security Number:

  • Black Sheep
    Black Sheep

    I have just assumed that this Pottenger is the same one that experimented with cats, but I haven't put any effort into verifying it. Is it the same one?

    I have not been able to find the exact location of the sanitorium, either.

    Can anyone help out here?

  • chasson

    Just a question to Leo, is it possible by the passenger records to see in which part of the boat, Rutherford had his cabin. Was he in first, second, third or 'Tourist' class ?

  • Farkel


    :Was he in first, second, third or 'Tourist' class ?

    Rutherford always traveled first class and so did all WT leaders who followed him. Knorr used to buy TWO first class airline seats, one for him and one for his briefcase. Old time insiders speculated he did this because he didn't want anyone sitting next to him because he got uncomfortable when people asked him what he did for a living. Remember, there are only two adjoining seats in first class on airplanes.

    The excuse they used for their luxuries was "the workman is worthy of his hire." They literally put the work "Kings" in "Kingdom!"


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