W.H. Conley
Email us at: [email protected]

 

This inter-link is referred to in the articles 1914 and Splinter Groups.

 

Many Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Charles Taze Russell was the first president of the Watchtower Society, while in reality the very first president was actually a man named William Henry Conley (Russell succeeded him). According to the Watchtower Society's own words:

Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society was formed on February 16, 1881, with W. H. Conley as president and C. T. Russell as secretary and treasurer. Arrangements were made for the printing to be done by commercial firms in various cities of Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio, as well as in Britain. In 1884, Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society was legally incorporated, with C. T. Russell as president, and its charter showed that it was more than a society that would direct publishing. (Jehovah's Witnesses -- Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, 1993, p.576)

Sparse information regarding Conley is given in older Watchtower Society literature. For example (underline ours):

[regarding the observance of Passover] "...It has for several years been the custom of many of us here in Pittsburgh to do this, i.e., remember the Passover, and eat the emblems of our Lord's body and blood, and it has ever been an occasion of solemn pleasure and communion, and was particularly so this year. We met on the night of March 24th, as usual, at the house of brother and sister Conley (it being the most commodius), and ate together the unleavened bread... (Zion's Watchtower, April 1880, p.94)

[again, regarding the observance of Passover] "We have so observed it here in Pittsburgh for some years and it has ever been a blessed occasion. We will celebrate it this year at the residence of brother W. H. Conley, No. 50 Fremont Street, Allegheny City, Pa. at 8 o'clock P.M. and cordially invite all who can do so, to be present and join with us...' (Zion's Watchtower, April 1881, p. 208)

[in a "letters from readers" section] Another brother who was a member of the early Allegheny Bible Class writes as follows: My Dear Brother in Christ, I have read carefully pages 92 to 119 of "A Conspiracy Exposed" and "Harvest Siftings" with special interest, and must say my recollection of events named by you are very much like your own; and while there are details in some cases, of which I know nothing, and hence cannot speak as to them, yet I do know there were such transactions as you name and at the dates given. I am quite coversant with some of the dealings, and I am surprised at the very merciful manner in which you speak of those with whom you were associated. "The servant is not greater than his Lord." "If they have done these things in a green tree, what will they do in the dry?" -- "Perils among false brethren", etc. etc. As to myself, you can rely on one thing, viz. All reports stating that I deny the ransom are absolutely false. the no-ransom people may talk but they "have nothing in me."As ever, Yours in Him, W. H. Conley, Massachussettes. (Zion's Watchtower, June 11, 1894, p. 1664)

Going by the all of the above information, it seems that Conley acted as President of the Watchtower Society for about three years. Because his home was described as "commodius", a.k.a. spacious, that indicates he had some measure of wealth. And, judging by his letter in the last citation, it seems that he and Russell continued communication after Russell became president. And, interestingly enough, Russell did not refer to the letter writer as the first president of the Watchtower Society, but instead simply referred to him as "another brother from the early Allegheny Bible Class."

It is notable that the 3rd volume of the set titled "The Theocratic Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ", authored by Russell associate George Peters, (1884) was dedicated to W. H. Conley. (Click here to see copies of these volumes online)

As of 2010, W.H. Conley is mentioned only once in the Watchtower Society's CD ROM library.