Charles Taze Russell
Russell was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, USA on the 16th February 1852 and was one of five children. The family were fairly well off in that Charles’ father owned a chain of haberdashery shops in which he was later to be made partner. The Russell family were active members in their local Presbyterian Church and in Charles’ early years he was very much a strong believer. Charles started his witnessing early by chalking up Bible verses on the pavements of Pittsburgh in order to warn people about the punishments of hell awaiting the unfaithful.
At the age of 16 he started to question his faith in the religious doctrine he had been brought up with. At 18 he went to a sermon by the Adventist preacher, Jonas Wendell. It was Wendell that first focused Russell into Bible chronology and prophecy, in particular the 1874 date for Christ’s expected return. Charles later went on to meet "Millerite" Adventist ministers George Storrs, and George Stetson where they discussed their current understanding of what true Christianity really was. In 1874, Charles was re-baptized.
In 1876 Russell came across a copy of "Herald of the Morning" published by Nelson H. Barbour. Russell contacted Barbour to set up a meeting in in order to compare notes. Barbour introduced Russell to some new ideas, of which the most important was that the Rapture would occur in April 1878 and that the second coming of Christ which was meant to have happened in 1874, had in fact happened but it had happened invisibly. Russell was so convinced with what Barbour had to say about the Rapture (which would have included the destruction of all the world’s churches) in 1878 that he sold the 5 haberdashery stores that he owned for $300,000 ($5.5 million in today’s money) in order to finance the writing of a number of publications that would outline the current religious views of both Barbour and himself. And why not, as their was only 2 years to live before the Rapture would occur.
In 1878 Russell split with Barbour over the fact that the Rapture did not occur when expected and in July 1879 began his own publications "Zion's Watch Tower” and “Herald of Christ's Presence," In 1889 the Watchtower built its very first building in Allegheny for the purposes of publishing literature. And the rest is history.
Charles Taze Russell’s Marriage to Maria Ackley
Shortly after the disappointment over the expected Rapture Russell married Maria Ackley, on the 13th of March 1879, after a very short initial acquaintance. The relationship was very much on the celibate side of things as their main concern was preaching the new gospel. 18 years later Maria sued for divorce over the mental torture caused by perpetual celibacy and the fact that Russell had a “kiss and a fondle” with his “special friend” the Watchtower stenographer who was also the Russell’s foster child.
Above is Charles Taze Russell’s headstone at Rosemont United Cemetery, 226 Cemetery Ln. Pittsburgh,. Note the inscription which reads LAODICEAN MESSENGER. Followers had been taught that Russell himself was the "faithful and wise servant" and "the Laodicean Messenger," God's seventh and final spokesman to the Christian church.