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Re: “Searching For Salvation ... and Other Roadside Attractions

First, "Congratulations" to the CP for doing an article worthy of the Sunday editions of the LA Times, NY Times, Sun-Post, or any major newspaper. However, if you want to "top" this article with even a more revealing and newsworthy article pertinent to local Pittsburgh history, then you should do what would be the "first" newspaper article in history to tell the "rest of the story" about the founding of Allegheny's "Watch Tower Society". Charles Taze Russell was not "THE" founder of the Watch Tower Society. Russell was "A" founder. The FIRST PRESIDENT of Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society was actually a prominent Pittsburgh businessman named William Henry Conley. The Watch Tower Society was actually founded by TWO of Pittsburgh's religious families -- the RUSSELLs and the CONLEYs. There were five original "Bible Students". The three "Russells" were Charles Taze Russell, his sister, Margaret, and probably more importantly at the time, his father, Joseph L. Russell. The other two original "Bible Students" were William Henry Conley and his wife Sarah Conley, who at that time (early-mid 1870s) had an infant daughter. Despite everything that has been published over the past century about the Russells being the "money source" behind the founding of the Watch Tower Society, it was actually William Henry Conley who gave the Watch Tower Society its financial push-start. Henry Conley was co-owner of RITER-CONLEY COMPANY, a prosperous Pittsburgh metal fabrication company which gradually grew over the years into a highly respected WORLDWIDE supplier to the drilling, mining, manufacturing, and marine industries. After Henry Conley's death in 1897, the company was incorporated as Riter-Conley Mfg Co Inc, and was eventually absorbed and re-absorbed into Bethlehem Steel Corporation. The Conley and Russell families' theological foundations came from the then "Second Adventist" movement, which consisted of four or five splinter groups that arose out of the failed Millerite Movement of the 1840s. The Conley and Russell families associated with one of those splinters -- the Advent Christian Church -- during the late 1860s and early 1870s, but due to their acceptance of some of the beliefs of some of the other Second Adventist splinters, the Conley and Russell families eventually started their own group, while trying to maintain good relations with other area Second Adventists. Charles Taze Russell was designated their "pastor", and while he is credited with starting the Watch Tower magazine in July 1879, just as Henry Conley was named the Society's first President when it was founded in 1881, Conley no doubt played a significant, though behind-the-scenes, role in the founding of the group's magazine. However, the Conleys and the Russells parted company theologically sometime around 1882, after Charles Taze Russell accepted a doctrinal position which only a few radicals in the Second Adventist Movement had accepted -- the denial of the Trinity Doctrine. Henry and Sarah Conley gradually withdrew both their financial and personal support of Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society, and when the Society was changed from an "association" to a "corporation" in 1884, the Conleys had totally removed themselves from the picture, although the Conleys tried to remain "friends" with the Russells. The Conleys eventually rejoined Pittsburgh's Presbyterian Community, but retained many of the Second Adventists' beliefs such as the imminent Second Advent of Jesus Christ, and the Second Adventists "time" prophecy interpretations. However, the Conleys rejected Charles Taze Russell's attempts to set exact dates for fulfillment of certain prophecies. By the latter 1880s, Henry and Sarah Conley, while remaining Presbyterians, started using their financial means to help Pittsburgh area members of what would eventually become the Christian and Missionary Alliance. By the mid 1890s, Henry Conley was appointed to the National Board of the CMA in New York. The Conleys even funded a CMA mission in Jerusalem, in addition to several here in the United States. After Henry Conley died in 1897, Sarah Conley used the proceeds from his estate to continue to help the Pittsburgh area CMA affiliates and former affiliates (which had splintered over the years), but Sarah Conley donated the bulk of the estate to the former CMA affiliated couple, the Pridegeons, who used the Conley fortune to found and operate the Pittsburgh Bible Society, which continued until the 1970s.

Posted by Jerry Jones on 07/25/2010 at 1:19 PM

Re: “Searching For Salvation ... and Other Roadside Attractions

Pittsburgh City Paper has the opportunity to publish and reveal Pittsburgh history that has been hidden for over a century. Neither the history books of the Watch Tower Society nor the history books of the Pittsburgh Bible Society disclose the crucial role that William Henry Conley and Sarah Conley played in the founding of both Pittsburgh religious organizations. The Watch Tower Society does not want its' own Jehovah's Witnesses members, much less the general public, to know that its own founding FIRST PRESIDENT rejected its' own teachings, and not only rejoined orthodox Christianity, but then helped A. B. Simpson to make the Christian and Missionary Alliance a success, and then helped former CMA missionaries, the Pridgeons, to found the Pittsburgh Bible Society. Neither the history books of the Christian and Missionary Alliance nor the Pittsburgh Bible Society tell the story of how William Henry Conley and Sarah Conley worked for and financed the early operations of each. It is obvious that neither the CMA nor the PBI, both of which originally were inter-denominational ministries affiliated with orthodox Christianity, wanted their own members, nor the general public, to know that a man who played a major role in their own founding had also been the FOUNDING PRESIDENT of the Watch Tower Society -- a religious organization to which no orthodox Christian group wants any known connection. To clarify yesterday's comments regarding the Pittsburgh Bible Institute being founded with the Conley fortune, it should be known that the Conleys and the Pridgeons worked together prior to the death of William Henry Conley. Mrs. Pridgeon worked for the C.M.A. in its NYC office, and was probably introduced to her husband, who was a Greater Pittsburgh area Minister, by the Conleys. Sarah Conley later financed the Pridgeons original CMA affiliated mission in Pittsburgh, in addition to the other Pittsburgh CMA affiliated missions that the Conleys had been financing prior to Henry Conley's death in 1997. Sarah Conley gave the Pridgeons an even larger donation around 1901 to found the Pittsburgh Bible Institute. Then, when Sarah Conley died in 1908, the PBI received the remainder of Henry Conley's estate that had been held in trust since his 1897 death -- that is, what remained after Sarah Conely's already generous donations to the PBI and other CMA affilates since 1897. The Pittsburgh Bible Institute would never have been founded but-for Sarah Conley's donation of money from the trust of her husband's estate, and the PBI would never have continued as a going ministry into the 1970s but-for the additional cash infusion in 1909 from the remainder of the Conley Trust after Sarah Conley's death. (The Conleys' only child had died in 1881.) It is a blackmark on Pittsburgh history that neither of these two Pittsburgh institutions -- the Watch Tower Society and the Pittsburgh Bible Institute -- acknowledge the crucial roles of Henry and Sarah Conley in their own history. Will anyone from Pittsburgh ever stand up and speak out for, and tell the story of the deceased Conleys, who left no family to speak for them?

Posted by Jerry Jones on 07/25/2010 at 1:19 PM

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