Who Was the FIRST President of the Watchtower?

by Barb Anderson

When I was researching for the Proclaimers book, I had GB permission to
go anywhere in Bethel to search for Watchtower historical or archival
material. During one research expedition, I made an extraordinary find,
that of the first accounts book of the Watch Tower Association,
established in 1881. I found the book buried in old files which were in
file cabinets located in the concrete vault in the middle of the Treasury
Dept. at 25 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn. And nobody in Bethel knew it
was there. And the dead don't tell tales! It is a small red
cardboard-covered spiral notebook. On the backside of the cardboard cover
was a folded sheet which had been glued there. When I opened the cover
and unfolded the sheet, I saw the first charter of the WT Society. It
probably hadn't seen the light of day in many, many decades. The charter
was handwritten in beautiful script. Later, when I compared the
handwriting of people in the early Bible Student group, I found that it
was Maria Russell who penned the charter. It was a thrilling discovery
and really took the men, who were working on the Proclaimers book, by
surprise. Nobody, and I'll say it again, Nobody knew that Conley was the
first president of the Watchtower Society.

The book also revealed that Joseph Russell, C.T. Russell's father, was
the vice-president, and C. T. was secretary-treasurer. The positions were
attained by buying shares and the person who purchased the most shares at
$10.00 per share became president, etc. I think Conley purchased $3,500
or $4,000 worth of shares, but I just can't trust my memory. However, I'm
certain that Joseph Russell bought $1,000 worth of shares, or 100 shares
because I verified that information through another source.  And I think
C. T. Russell bought 50 shares or $500.worth of shares, but don't quote
me on that. The accounts book was only in my hand for a short period of
time and in the excitement I didn't reopen the book to take a second look
but took it directly to Karl Adams in the Writing Department.

One thing for sure, in 1884, C. T. Russell owned the most shares when he
and Mrs. Russell chartered the new Pennsylvania corporation because he
became president.

During my last day at work before I permanently left Bethel, David
Iannelli, a senior writer, came up to me to say goodbye. He thanked me
for my work with the Writing Department and said I should be very proud
because if it wasn't for my research, nobody would have known that C. T.
Russell was not the first president of the Watchtower Association, rather
Conley was. I certainly was happy to have discovered that and many other
historical facts previously not known by the modern-day group of JWs. But
the happiness was fleeting because it was about a year later that I began
to learn the facts about the Watchtower's sexual child abuse cover-up and
every good thing I thought I had accomplished in "God's" organization
became as nothing in my eyes.

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