Russell: An unnoticed Mason?

C. T. Russell
C. T. Russell

[Original publication date: September 3, 2004]

According to proponents of Russell’s membership in freemasonry, the Russells, father and son, would have been particularly prominent Masons, the proof being that Russell would have built up a para-Masonic organization in order to support the claimed purpose of freemasonry: a plot to destroy Christianity.

In support of their thesis, however, these proponents cannot produce a single Masonic document proving the father and son’s Masonic membership. They take refuge behind their belief that because Masonic works are secretive, it is impossible to find anything at all. Therefore, they use indirect “proofs”: the use of famous Masonic symbols, the fact that the first Bible Students organized public meetings in Masonic temples, etc. …

There are numerous history books about Masonry which explain in detail the functioning of a Masonic hall, give the names of the main officers, even sometimes a list of all the members.

Allegheny County [PA], where Russell lived and organized his movement until 1909, also has its own books dealing with the local history of its Masons. If Russell had been a prominent member of this lodge, one would think that he could have left some traces in the records of the community.

The following book is about Allegheny’s Masonic Fund Society which oversaw the construction and maintenance of the city’s Masonic Temple:

“The history of the Masonic Fund Society for the county of Allegheny from the year 1847 to 1923; with biographical sketches of deceased members of the Board of Trustees …” by Hiram Schock, Pittsburgh, PA : 1923

You will find it on the net at this Link . . .

Besides the construction of the various temples over the years (1911, 1845, 1889, 1914), it describes the daily managment of these temples and supplies the names of the various Masons in charge at the time.

It can be immediately stated that at no time is any member of Russell’s family mentioned in the account. If the Russells, father and son, were Masons, they were only obscure members, not prominent masons in this city. Neither of these two men were considered worthy of being mentioned, not even a single line written about them.

So let’s consider an often raised point:

Because Russell gave speeches in Masonic Temples, it must be that he came to visit his Masonic brothers at the same time he came to deliver speeches to the public.

In fact, the history of the Allegheny Temple paints a different picture: to cover the costs of maintaining and renovating their temples, Masons rented out a room in their temple for public meetings, whether it be religious groups (YMCA, Baptist), plays or concerts.

On page 126 of the abovementioned document, for example, the author states:

“It is interesting to note the continued popularity of the Auditorium, or ‘Concert Hall’ of the Masonic Hall during that era as a gathering place for the meetings of a variety of organizations.”

On this same page, it is explained that the masons would rent the room daily to the local YMCA.

In the course of the book, other groups are shown to have used the Masonic Temple as a place of meeting:

Page 125: The Second Baptist Church rented the room for its religious meetings
Page 133: concerts and charity meetings of the ladies of Trinity Episcopal Church
Page 146: Here we learn that before the construction of the Opera house, the Masonic
Temple was the most popular cultural venue for theater performances and public
discourses.

So here is the reason why Russell gave his speeches in this kind of place: the Masons
rented their room to balance the books and pay for the overhead costs.

The book also contains a small error made by Springmeier, amateur conspiracy author, which error’s importance will be explained below:

There is no lodge number 223 in Pittsburgh, although there is one in Allegheny.

At a French Springmeier-like site it said:

“But then, did his father also belong to a lodge? In fact, his father was a master mason of Lodge No. 223 of Pittsburgh, on Jefferson Street, and of the Mizpah Lodge No. 288 in Allegheny. These lodges were in close proximity to his business. And it is likely that it was in one of these lodges that young Charles was “initiated” into that which we would like all to know.”

The Mizpah Lodge seems to have existed by 1913. But in 1897 it was not called Mizpah, but rather Jefferson Lodge at least that’s what one must conclude as there existed a Lodge No. 288. By 1913, Russell had already left Allegheny, and we do not know when Russell’s father died. But if Russell or his father belonged to Lodge 288, it was not called “Mizpah.”

There was (and may still be) a complete listing of all the Masonic Lodges in 1897, which you may be able to verify for yourself [link to online listing no longer exists].

Why is the identification of Lodge 223 so important?

There is a list of members of Lodge No. 223 of Allegheny in 1874. At this time, Russell’s father is still alive and is supposed to be an active mason in this same lodge as Mr. Leblanc’s site asserts. But there is no Russell on this list in 1874. And in 1874 young Mr. Russell does not seem to have been initiated.

This is only a small look at what you can find in all the digitized City of Pittsburgh archives.

Try a search there for “Joseph Russell,” in two days I did not find anything. And for “Charles Taze Russell?” I haven’t found anything yet, but I’m still searching. Nevertheless by making your own searches, you will find an incalculable number of biographies of prominent people in Pittsburgh and even in all of Allegheny County. In every biography, you will find that the Masonic membership of the person is highlighted as well as the Lodge to which he belonged.

If Russell was a Mason, he was not really recognized by his peers who forgot to mention it. In the same way, in the history of the city and the country, the Russells, father and son, did not stand out.

So, Russell an unnoticed Mason? Maybe not a Mason at all.

[Thanks to “Outnfree” for the transduction]

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