To: Barbara Anderson -- Re: First WatchTower President


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    West70 posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 00:29:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 17 of 253
    Joined 8/20/2005

    I am primarily posting this to Barbara Anderson, but obviously everyone is welcome to correct or comment on my remarks as they see fit.

    Mrs. Anderson, I realize that trying to cover all bases in your pending Russell Bio would be impossible, but I do hope that you will be able to include a section on the first President of the Watch Tower Society, William H. Conley.

    I hope that you have had a chance to research Conley with some degree of thoroughness, so as to dispel some of the half-truths that some Bible Students and JWs try to promote (such as that Conley's age and health caused his inactivity with Russell after 1881).

    Although my understanding may be no better than it was regarding the age of Rose Ball, I will relate some things I understand regarding Conley, and you can correct or comment on such as you see fit. I do so mainly to encourage your research on any aspect that you may have overlooked.

    It is my understanding that Conley and his wife were 2 of the 5 original members of Russell's inner circle, along with Joseph and Margaret Russell.

    Two notices in ZWT Magazine indicate that the "Memorial" was held at the Conley's home in 1880/1. It would seem logical that the regular meetings of the Allegheny/Pitt area associates were probably also held at the Conley's home.

    Conley became the first President of the Watch Tower Society when it was legally formed as an "association" entity in 1881. However, by the time that growth considerations required "incorporation" in 1884, Conley seems to have disappeared, EXCEPT for the fact that WT meetings moved at some point from Conley's home to the Grand Army of the Republic Hall, which was located in an upper story of the Third National Bank of Allegheny building. Conley was a Director of this Bank, and I believe at some point was also listed as its President.

    Conley was one of the two partners in Riter & Conley, which was a prosperous metal fabrication business, which served the drilling, mining, manufacturing, and marine, and other industries. Conley is listed as the "bookkeeper" for the original Riter operation, but when Riter#1 died, Riter's brother and Conley continued the business as partners in 1873 until Conley's death in 1897. Like his brother, Riter ran the engineering end of the business, while Conley likely was the "business mind" who ran the business ($$$, etc.) end of the company. Line drawings of the two 1870s buildings are posted on the net. Most net info relates to Riter-Conley Mfg Inc which was the corporation which Riter formed in 1898 after Conley's death. I can't locate any info as to just how prosperous the business was from 1873 to 1897, but there is one brief mention of R&C building 2 metal boats for use in South America in 1875 (when wood was still common). Given the success recorded for R&C post-Conley (I believe there is one reference to over 1000 employees in the early 1900s), I woud guess that even back in the 1870s that R&C made the Russell chain of 5 haberdasheries look like small potatoes; with Conley being much more wealthy than the Russells.

    Russell printed a letter from Conley in a 1894 ZWT. Russell re-introduces Conley to his 1894 readers as merely one of the original Allegheny bible students. It is unbelievable that Russell does NOT disclose that Conley was the Society's first President.

    When Conley dies in 1897, there is no mention of that fact in ZWT. However, John H. Paton publishes such in his own competing magazine, and even mentions that he has stayed at the Conley home numerous times "over the past 20 years".
    Although Conley denies that he believes one of Paton's primary teachings in the 1894 ZWT letter, he apparently remained closer to Paton (who lived in Michigan) than he did with Russell in Allegheny.

    It is my speculation that Conley became disillusioned with Russell quickly after 1881. First, Russell's predictions for the Rapture in 1878 and then 1881 had failed. But, more importantly, there were the two large literature distributions in 1881/2. I don't recall from memory the exact unit count, but I believe it may have been over 1,000,000 pieces. That was BIG BUCKS even back then. I speculate that Conley may have put up half or more of the cost. With little if any results, the "businessman" Conley likely began to have second thoughts about Russell and his message.

    While Conley was an "Advent Christian", the fact that he was so active in business in 1873 would seem to indicate that he was NOT one of the "timist", "time brethren", or "date-setting" Advent Christians, who jumped onto Nelson Barbour and Jonas Wendell's 1873 boat, as the "time brethren" ACCs had done multiple times between 1843/4 and 1873. Nelson Barbour was the last of the "date-setting" ACCs, unless you acknowledge the FACT that Russell's Watchtower movement was what it was; an ACC offshoot, which was the sole continuance of the ACC time brethren's date setting.

    F sf posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 00:37:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 5411 of 7487
    Joined 3/16/2001

    Google is abundant on this topic.,GGLG:2005-35,GGLG:en&q=Watch+Tower+Society%2C+William+H%2E+Conley

    Mind you, I entered Watch Tower Society. The engines bring up more when you put the words together. with your keywords to yield better results.


    Leolaia posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 00:47:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 5296 of 16188
    Joined 9/1/2002

    This doesn't really add anything but here is William H. Conley in the 1880 census, employed in "Sheet Iron Bus.":

    West70 posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 01:05:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 19 of 253
    Joined 8/20/2005

    Thanks SF for your contribution. There hopefully might be more info that can be found already posted on the net.

    I would simply note that it is my understanding that Conley lived in Allegheny from the 1850/60s until his death in 1897.

    One issue that I forgot above is whether this Conley is the same Conley to whom George Peters dedicates one of his Theocratic Kingdom volumes? If so, those circumstances might be a gold mine given Conley's status as FIRST WATCHTOWER PRESIDENT.

    Thanks, Leolaia for your contribution. Can you provide a summary of the scanned info? I can't see it. Thanks.

    Also, can a Moderator move this topic to an appropriate "category". I'll eventually learn. Thanks.

    Leolaia posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 01:16:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 5298 of 16188
    Joined 9/1/2002

    West70...Is the image not appearing? It states that in Allegheny, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, lived in one household William H. Conley, 40 years old, employed in "Sheet Iron Bus." (born in Pennsylvania along with his parents), his wife Sarah Conley, 38 years old, employed as "Keeping House," Emma D. Conley, daughter, 8 years old, his father-in-law Josiah Shaffer, 68 years old, Mary A. Sterling, boarder, 44 years old, and a servant named Katie E. Gross, 19 years old. Mary was of Irish ancestry and Katie was of German ancestry.

    West70 posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 02:11:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 20 of 253
    Joined 8/20/2005

    Thanks Leolaia. Your scan is fine. The problem is my vision.

    stev posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 02:20:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

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    Joined 10/7/2005

    In the book "The Theocratic Kingdom", by Peters, Conley's name appears on the dedication page of the third volume. This book was written in 1884, and reviewed in the Watch Tower, which was mixed. The editor (CTR) knew Peters personally. I think that Conley helped to finance the publication of this book. Peters throughout his large opus reviews Russell's and Barbour's views.


    F sf posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 02:23:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 5413 of 7487
    Joined 3/16/2001

    You are welcomed.

    ...whether this Conley is the same Conley to whom George Peters dedicates one of his Theocratic Kingdom volumes? If so, those circumstances might be a gold mine given Conley's status as FIRST WATCHTOWER PRESIDENT.

    I see at least four key search words here. Have a go at google and see what it 'hits' you with.

    I find this technique works best when researching ANYTHING. That, and a few other tricks.

    Happy trails!!


    F sf posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 02:27:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 5414 of 7487
    Joined 3/16/2001


    stev posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 03:46:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 13 of 227
    Joined 10/7/2005

    The dedication to George N. H. Peters' three volume Theocratic Kingdom (1884)reads: "This Voume is Respectfully Dedicated to W. H. Conley, Esq., and Dr. J. T. McLaughlin, to whom the author is deeply indebted for sympathy and pecuniary aid in the prosecution and publication of the work."

    stev posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 03:49:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 14 of 227
    Joined 10/7/2005

    The previous post is from

    stev posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 04:00:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 15 of 227
    Joined 10/7/2005

    Assuming this is the same Conley, I wonder if he was still president of the Society when the Zion's Watch Tower review appeared in 1884(?). Perhaps Russell reluctantly agreed to review it and promote it with reservations. Peters has countless references to Barbour and Russell, agreeing on some points and disagreeing with others. So Peters was acquainted with Russell, and if this is the same Conley, Conley knew Peters, and Conley knew Russell of course. Peters' volumes show that Russell had points of contact with premillenial, dispensationalist views, but Peters disagreed that Jesus was present since 1874.


    West70 posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 15:55:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 22 of 253
    Joined 8/20/2005

    As noted above, it appears that Charles Taze Russell would have just as soon William H. Conley would have remained unknown to his 1894 followers, but Conley's letter was probably seen as "support" that Russell did not want to let slip by during the 1894 controversy. Even then, Russell failed to identify Conley as the Society's FIRST PRESIDENT.

    Conley would be unknown to today's JWs but for the brief, unelaborated statement of fact found in the Proclaimers book. It was likely included solely so that such a notable fact could not be pointed out as missing from the WT history book.

    So that readers can get some "feel" for who Conley and his Company were during the early Watch Tower Society time period, and the role that this FIRST WATCHTOWER PRESIDENT played in the economic development of not only the United States, but also foreign customers, I am going to post whatever fragments of history I can find which shed light on such. Readers can then make their own assumptions and speculations from such.

    Here's one regarding Riter & Conley's role in the first major oil pipeline:

    "In addition to the railroad above mentioned, Beaver is traversed by the Tide-Water Pipe-Line, the features of which, as factor in distributing an important commodity of the state, are of an entirely different character. The economy and convenience of transporting petroleum from the wells to shipping points by means of pipe-lines was realized by proprietors of oil-wells at an early period in the development of the oil region of Pennsylvania. Until 1880, however, no pipe-line of any extent had been successfully operated. In that year, the Standard Oil Company practically demonstrated the feasibility of transporting crude petroleum long distances through iron tubes, the principle being to take advantage of the action of gravity upon the flowing liquid whenever possible, and surmount the obstacles of varying elevation by powerful force pumps when necessary. With the object of lessening the expense of transporting oil to distributing points on the sea-board, the Tide-Water Pipe Line Company in 1882 secured the right of way for a pipe-line from Rixford, in McKean county, to Tamanend in Schuylkill, a distance of one-hundred and eighty miles. Notwithstanding the violent opposition of rival corporations, the enterprise was successfully consummated in the autumn of the same year. The course surveyed enters Columbia county after crossing the Muncy hills, passes several miles north of Jerseytown and about the same distance south of Buckhorn, crossing the Fishing creek and Susquehanna at the mouth of the former stream. The course of Catawissa creek is followed through the townships of Main and Beaver. The mains are six inches n diameter, the cost of construction aggregating six-thousand dollars per mile. Although involving this enormous expense, the financial success of the enterprise may be inferred from the act that it has reduced the cost of oil transportation to one-twentieth of the former freight charges. A telegraph line connects the office of the general superintendent at Williamsport with the several pumping stations along the route. These are located at Rixford, McKean county; Olmstead, Potter county; County-line and Muncy, in Lycoming; and Shuman's, in Columbia. The distance between the last named two is one-hundred miles; between Shuman's and Tamanend, the terminus of the line, seventeen miles. Owing to the presence of a considerable elevation between Shuman's and Tamanend, the pumping apparatus is there constructed on a larger scale than at Muncy. The altitude to be surmounted, and not the distance, determines the amount of force necessary to propel the stream of oil. Shuman's pumping station is situated in Beaver valley, near the line of the Catawissa railroad. The buildings and grounds comprise an area of five acres. The plant consists of an oil tank, furnace and boiler, a steam engine and pumping apparatus. The oil tank is thirty feet high and ninety-five feet in diameter; wrought-iron plates, a half-inch in thickness, and a canvass roof enclose an air-tight compartment with a capacity of thirty-five-thousand barrels. The two pumps are capable, respectively, of elevating fifteen-thousand and ten-thousand barrels of iol in twenty-four house to an altitude of one-thousand three-hundred and twenty-five feet, the vertical distance from Beaver valley to the summit. A battery of three "Riter and Conley" boilers,
    and a "Murphy smokeless furnace" generate the power which performs this work, while the machine which applies it is a Holly engine of three-hundred horsepower. By means of an elaborate system of gauges, the superintendent is enabled to compute with mathematical exactness the amount of work performed by every pound of coal or gallon of water consumed. The buildings throughout are equipped with every appliance of convenience and comfort. Cleanliness, order and discipline are everywhere apparent, the results of a rigid personal supervisoin by Mr.
    F. G. Laner, who has now (September, 1886) been superintendent for several years. The ceaseless whirr of the machinery is the only disturbing element in the quiet of the surrounding neighborhood.

    West70 posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 16:10:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 23 of 253
    Joined 8/20/2005

    Here is an edited Bio sketch of a "John Seaver" who worked for Conley from 1884 to 1896. This sketch provides a glimpse at the quality of R&C's employees, R&C's product line during the interested time period, etc:

    Seaver, John W. 26 patents in sampled years, some joint with Wellmans. Assignees at issue:

    Wellman-Seaver Engineering Company (1 patent in 1898, 4 in 1900, 2 in 1902, and 2 in 1903);

    Wellman-Seaver-Morgan Engineering Co. (4 in 1903, 2 in 1905, and 1 in 1907). Patents included inventions for a gas producer, shipbuilding crane, furnace filling, blast furnace charging, and ore storage and delivery. Was a principal in a firm that bore his name and to which he assigned many of his inventions at issue.

    1897-8 Cleveland Directory: vice president of the Wellman-Seaver Engineering Co. (engineers and contractors, bessemer and open-hearth steel, etc.)

    1906-7 Directory: chairman of the board of Wellman-Seaver-Morgan

    Seaver was born in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1856 and then moved with his parents to Buffalo, New York. At the age of 13, he took a job in the machine shop of the Shepard Iron Works, attending school in the evenings. Five years later he moved to the Howard Iron Works, which designed and built marine engines. He was promoted to Assistant Superintendent at the age of 20. After a stint in the partnership of Seaver & Kellogg, where he built the first steel railroad cars in the U.S., be took a position with the Kellogg Bridge Works and then, in 1880, became chief engineer of the Iron City Bridge Works in Pittsburgh.

    In 1884 he assumed the same title at the Riter-Conley Co. and earned a reputation designing blast furnaces, steel works, oil refineries, and other industrial structures.

    In 1896 he joined Samuel T. and Charles H. Wellman to found Wellman-Seaver Engineering (later Wellman-Seaver-Morgan), assuming the position of vice president. The firm operated extensive plants in Cleveland and Akron, manufacturing ore and coal handling machinery, car dumpers, hoisting engines, water power, steel plant and railroad equipment, and other heavy machinery. He remained a director of that firm until his death in 1911, but in 1906 joined a consulting practice with James E. A. Moore.

    West70 posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 16:18:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 24 of 253
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    Here is an edited excerpt regarding Riter & Conley's role in the building one of the largest grain elevators of the time period:

    The Great Northern Elevator was built in 1897 for the Great Northern Railway Line and designed by Max Toltz, American Society of Civil Engineers, and Bridge Engineer of the Great Northern Railway. Toltz designed the general and detail plans of the steel construction and also acted in the capacity of consulting engineer during construction. Newcomb Carleton, of Buffalo, as consulting electrical engineer, designed the electrical plant, which was installed under the direction of Albert Vickers, electrical engineer. The elevator machinery was designed by D.A. Robinson of Chicago, Illinois who supervised construction.

    The contractors for the main body of the steel work were the Riter-Conley Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

    The Penn Bridge Company of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, furnished the material for and erected the marine towers. The structure was built as an all steel elevator "of the future" and had at the time an unusually great storage capacity of 2,525,890 bushels. The Great Northern elevator consists of a house, cupola, and transferring apparatus, the principal elements of a grain elevator complex. Its distinctive features are the cylindrical steel tanks with hopper bottoms, mounted on columns, which take the place of the usual rectangular wooden bins; the elaboration of the conveying and hoisting appliances and their operation by electric power; and, finally, the use of steel for the entire structure except for the brick walls, enveloping the house.

    F BrendaCloutier posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 17:02:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 4074 of 4392
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    Facinating! (and a bump to the top)

    West70 posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 17:29:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 25 of 253
    Joined 8/20/2005

    An 1888 project:

    The Cameron Iron & Coal Company was chartered December 7, 1886, with the following named directors: W.M. Bunn, J.H. Heverin, Thomas R. Elcock and H.H. Bingham, of Philadelphia; G.S. Middlebrook and F.C. Miller, of Port Richmond, N.Y.; W.B. Shore, of New York City; C.L. Brooke, of Manhasset, and G.N. Knox, of Brooklyn, N.Y. The capital stock was $1,000,000 in 10,000 shares, of which $100,000 were in the hands of Treasurer Alexander Grant, at date of charter. The borough of Emporium donated twenty acres on the river front, purchased from the Philadelphia & Erie Land Company for $3,500. The blast furnace is seventy-five feet high and sixteen feet in diameter of bosh, and supplied by two upright blowing engines of five-foot stroke, and seven-foot diameter blast cylinder. The blast is heated by three Siemens Cowper fire-brick stoves, each seventy feet high and eighteen feet diameter. The company own 6,000 acres of coal land and some iron lands. The Emporium, furnace was opened November 26, 1888, C.B. Gould being accorded the honor of applying the torch. So soon as the fire was kindled, Manager Hunt ordered the whistle to be blown as the signal for work, and this great industry was an accomplished fact. Mr. Fleming is the present manager. Work on the 100-coke ovens near the chutes was begun in November, 1888, by contractor Philip T. Hughes, who erected the fire-brick work at the furnace. The iron work was built by Riter & Conley, of Pittsburgh,
    and the air-pumps and engines, of which there are two of 100-horse power each, were made by the Scott foundry of the Beading Iron Works. The boilers are of the Heine Safety invention, and of these there are two batteries of four each. There is not a more modern plant of the kind anywhere, and every department of the business is characterized with enterprise so genuine that it never fails to attract the most favorable comment. The company are making 110 tons of metal per day, and the mixture they use is composed of Lake and Centre county (Pa.) and Wayne county (N.Y.) ores.

    West70 posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 18:13:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 26 of 253
    Joined 8/20/2005

    From an 1889 Pittsburgh area magazine:


    Riter & Conley.-Manufacturers of Blast Furnaces, Iron Buildings, Bridges, Boilers, Oil Tanks, etc.; 55 & 56 Water Street.-The hive of industry which the city of Pittsburgh presents to the world of today, could scarcely have been pictured to the most extravagant visionary in the early days of its existence, and while in this limited space it would be impossible to trace the rise and progress of those elementary operations which led up by degrees to her present important position as a commercial and manufacturing metropolis, a brief notice of one of its most prominent firms and its agency in the development of the immense iron interests for which Pittsburgh has an honored and world-wide reputation may afford some idea of the many causes which have established her present greatness. The house now conducted by Riter & Conley was established in 1866 by Mr. James M. Riter, who was succeeded in 1873 by the present firm, consisting of Thomas B. Riter and Wm. H. Conley, under whose energetic and enterprising management the business has steadily increased and the scope of its operations extended until the products of their skill are found in almost every civilized country on the face of the globe. The plant occupied by their works covers an area of about one acre, upon which are erected commodious one and two story buildings equipped with improved machinery and special devices necessitating the employment of not less than six hundred skilled workmen in the various departments. The specialties produced here are blast furnaces, rolling mill stacks, converters and ladles for steel works, boilers and oil tanks, roof frames, iron mill buildings, iron bridges and every description of copper work. Both members of this representative firm are skilled in mechanics, practically familiar with the most minute details of the business in which they have been so long and successfully engaged, and to the management of which they devote their personal attention.

    Kinda makes one wonder why today's WatchTower Society would not be proud of these accomplishments by its very FIRST PRESIDENT?

    West70 posted Mon, 10 Oct 2005 22:56:00 GMT(10/10/2005)

    Post 30 of 253
    Joined 8/20/2005

    I checked Conley for Masonic membership, and turned up nothing.

    However, Riter was a Mason.

    AndersonsInfo posted Tue, 11 Oct 2005 01:57:00 GMT(10/11/2005)

    Post 48 of 1251
    Joined 4/22/2005

    Great material on Conley, West70. When I was researching for the Proclaimer's 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 handwritings 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 Proclaimer's 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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