B Stett & Carmilla

(Investigator 130, 2010 January)


A major split from Russellism, the cult that became Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs), occurred in 1908 and involved the cult's Australian office headed by Ernest C Henninges and Rose Ball.


Rose Ball (1869–1950) of Buffalo, New York, first encountered the religious cult of Charles T Russell in 1884.

She lived with Russell and his wife Maria in their apartment, 1889-1897, as their supposed foster daughter, and worked in their religious headquarters, "Bible House", in Allegheny-Pittsburgh, sorting mail.

Here is her first published poem which reflects the character-training the cult emphasized:


Renew a right spirit within me,
O Lord, is my prayer;
That only the perfect and holy
May find echo there.

The spirit of faith's adoration—
Devotion to thee;
No more should the world's senseless idols
Hold sway over me.

A spirit of humble submission
Of sweet, lasting peace—
That warring of earthly ambition
Forever may cease.

The spirit of Christ and his teaching—
Thy spirit divine—
Which finds in thy service its duty,
Its pleasure in thine.

A spirit of deep understanding,
Of wisdom and love;
As wise as the serpent, and harmless
And pure as the dove.

Renew a right spirit within me—
All gifts of thy grace;
That all who my character study
Thy likeness may trace.

Oh! Make me a living epistle—
Inscribed with thy name,
And sealed with the blood of the Saviour—
Thy love to proclaim.
R. J. BALL  (Zion's Watch Tower, December 1891)

Ernest Henninges (1871–1939) was a doctor's son. He met Rose at a convention of the cult, converted to Russellism, and joined the staff at Bible House all in 1891! The staff numbered about ten: "Our office force consists of eight brethren and sisters and two lads, besides Sister Russell and the Editor." (Watch Tower 1896, Dec. 15) 

Henninges and Rose married in 1897 when Henninges also became secretary/treasurer of the Watchtower Society (WTS). They went to England in 1900 and opened the first branch of the WTS outside the United States." (1973 Yearbook of JWs, pp 91-93)

In 1902 they managed the cult's office in Wuppertal, Germany. In 1903 they were sent to Australia and opened an office in Melbourne.


In 1908 Henninges and Rose defected along with 80 out of 100 Australian converts. The JW Yearbook 1983 claims: "While Jehovah prospered his organization, Henninges' group soon died out." (p40) Whether "Jehovah prospered" anything is not testable, but that Henninges' group did not die out is history.

Henninges and Rose founded the New Covenant Publishing Company, published The New Covenant Advocate (NCA) magazine, and produced many publications including the jointly-authored books:
•    Bible Talks For Heart and Mind (1909)
•    The Parables of Our Lord (1912)
•    The Church and Its Ceremonies (1914)
•    Daniel The Prophet (1920)
Their Bible group became the New Covenant Fellowship (NCF).

Henninges died at 67 and was buried in Melbourne's Burwood cemetery. Rose was buried at the same site but her name is not on the headstone. A photo of Henninges (taken in 1909) appears in the NCA 1939, February 1:


Russellism and its continuation JWs have made false predictions for about 30 dates, many resulting in major membership losses. The 1975 failure of Armageddon cost about 500,000 members! The Henninges schism, similarly, coincided with prophetic failure.

Russell predicted 1914 as the end point:
We see no reason for changing the figures... They are, we believe, God's dates, not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble. (Watchtower Reprints 1894 July 15, p1677)
For global paradise under God to start in 1914 required a weakening of the major nations before 1914 which Russell estimated for 1905-1907:
A great storm is near at hand. Though one may not know exactly when it will break forth, it seems reasonable to suppose it cannot be more than twelve of fourteen years yet future. (1893 June)
Therefore, when the Russia-Japan war erupted (1904) Russell suggested it would involve Europe. By 1908 this prophetic-scheme was disconfirmed. Furthermore, in 1904 Russell changed his end point of 1914 to "immediately after 1914". (Watchtower Reprints, p3389)

Although disconfirmed prophecy probably stimulated the schism, the actual theology argued over was the "new covenant".

In 1907 Russell reversed the established view that "the church" was under the New Covenant (Hebrews 8; Jeremiah 31) to the view that it wasn't. Russell's position which the defectors rejected was that:
•    The "new Covenant" did not apply to Christians but to Jews in the millennium;
•    The Christian Church had no mediator;
•    Israel would be restored in Palestine and rule the world.
Hence the name New Covenant Advocate — the defectors advocated that the "new covenant" applied to Christians. Many prominent members seceded including, in America, M L McPhail who founded the New Covenant Bible Students.

In the 1930s JWs reinstated the interpretation that Russell had discarded and also repudiated Russell's prophecy of Israel being restored, but without giving credit to those condemned in 1908. In 1966 The Watchtower admitted:
At that time [the 1920s] the Bible Students thought that the new covenant as foretold in Jeremiah 31:31-34 did not apply to the 144,000 spiritual Israelites but was to be made with the natural Jews after the battle of Armageddon. Lectures were given to large public audiences on "Jews Returning to Palestine," and in October of 1925 the book Comfort for the Jews was published. Under the subheading "The New Covenant," pages 97-103 discussed this covenant and reserved it for the natural Jews regathered to Palestine. (February 15, p117)
The defectors, therefore, won the theology debate.


Maria Russell left "Pastor" Russell in 1897 over religious differences. Russell, for example, remained stuck on prophetic date-setting whereas Maria in her book This Gospel of the Kingdom (1906) set no specific dates.

Maria identified Rose Ball as contributing to the marriage breakup. New York's Brooklyn Daily Eagle (October 29, 1911) reported:

Pittsburgh, October 27 - The suit for a separation brought by Martha (sic) F. Russell against Charles Taze Russell, her husband, popularly known as Pastor Russell, who has just entered a libel suit against The Brooklyn Eagle, is remembered here as one of the most sensational court proceedings in the history of Allegheny County…

The testimony which elicited the most comment concerned the relations of Pastor Russell with Rose Ball, a young woman stenographer employed by Pastor Russell in the Bible House on Arch Street. This testimony was given by Mrs. Russell on direct examination on Thursday, April 26, 1906. It was ruled out by the court on the ground that the incidents to which reference was made were said to have occurred on a date which precedes the dates mentioned in Mrs. Russell's bill of complaint. Pastor Russell recurred to the incidents when he went on the stand several days later, and gave his version of what had happened. Rose Ball was not called to the stand, as she left for Australia shortly before the case came to trial.

The verbatim record of this testimony taken from the official report of the case on file in the office of the Prothonotary of Allegheny County is as follows:

Q. I want you to tell us what your husband did in company with this woman Rose, in your presence and in your home…
A. One evening he spent the evening downstairs and our library and bedroom were next to each other upstairs on the second floor, and I spent the evening downstairs reading, and I went upstairs about 10 o'clock to my room, and I supposed that: he was either in the library or had retired, and when I went up there I found that he was in neither place, and I stepped out in the hall, and I found that he was in his night robe, sitting beside Miss Ball's bed and she was in bed. On other occasions I found him going in there and I found she called him in and said she wasn't well and wanted him in, and I objected to this, and I said that it was highly improper, and I said: "We have people about the house, and what kind of a name will be attached in this house if you do that sort of thing?" and he got angry…

Q. You state that you found him doing this at other times. How often after that?
A. I found him a number of times; I don't remember how often.

Q. In her room?
A. Yes, sir. And I found him in the servant girl's room as well. And I found him locked in the servant girl's room.

Q. Did he make any explanation why he was in the girl's room?
A. No. He did not; he just got angry.

Q. What did you say to him about this conduct and what did he say.
A. I said to him, "We have a great work on our hands," and I said, "In this work you and I have to walk very circumspectly before the world and if you are going to do things like this, what will happen? Suppose you are all right, don't you suppose people will talk about things like this?" and I said, "I am not satisfied with it," and he said he wasn't going to be ruled by me. But I felt distressed about that.

Q. What did Rose do at the Watch Tower.
A. She attended to the correspondence.

Q. Where was her desk with reference to the desk of Mr. Russell of the Watch Tower Society?
A. It wasn't near his; it was in the office.

Q. When would he go to the Watch Tower, in the morning?
A. I don't remember; he generally went down alone.

Q. Who would return with him?
A. She came with him in the evening and they came about 11 o'clock and the young men that were in the office — she was the only girl, and the young men would go home, and he wouldn't allow her to go home with them, and she must wait and always go with him.
(Objected to.)
Q. I want the mere fact, did this girl Rose go home with your husband?
A. Yes, Sir.

Q. What year was that?
A. In the fall of 1894…

A. She said one evening when she came home with him, just as she got inside the hall, it was late in the evening, about 11 o'clock, he put his arms around her and kissed her. This was in the vestibule before they entered the hall, and he called her his little wife, but she said "I am not your wife." and he said "I will call you daughter, and a daughter has nearly all the privileges of a wife."

Q. What other terms were used?
A. Then he said, "I am like a jellyfish. I float around here and there. I touch this one and that one, and if she responds I take her to me, and if not, I float on to others"; and she wrote that out so that I could remember it for sure when I would speak to him about it. And he confessed that he said those things.

Q. And the young men came home ahead of them?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. State to the court and jury…what you stated to your husband that Rose had said and his reply to you…

A. …I said, "Rose has told me that you have been intimate with her, that you have been in the habit of hugging and kissing her and having her sit on your knee and fondling each other, and she tells me you bid her under no account to tell me, but she couldn't keep it any longer. She said if I was distressed about it she felt that she would have to come and make a confession to me, and she has done that.

Q. What did he say?
A. He tried to make light of it at first and I said, "Husband, you can't do that. I know the whole thing. She has told me straight and I know it to be true." Well, he said he was sorry; it was true, but he was sorry. He said he didn't mean any harm. I said, "I don't see how you could do an act like that without meaning harm."

JW sources portray Rose Ball as 10 to 15 years old when she lived with the Russells:

"Rose" was quite childish in appearance, wore short dresses, and looked to Mr Russell to be about 13 years old. He did not know her age, but another who knew her guessed that she was then only 10 years old. She may have been older in 1888…

…it was mutually agreed that "Rose" thereafter should be considered and treated as an adopted daughter…and invited to spend her evenings in the large study and reading room with the Russells. This course was followed; and when "Rose" retired, usually at 9 p.m., Mrs. Russell kissed her good-night and told her to "pass the kiss along" to Mr. R. also… (The Watch Tower 1906, July 15)
…The girl in question came to the Russells in 1888 as an orphan about ten years old… Mrs. Russell testified that the alleged incident occurred in 1894, when this girl could not have been more than fifteen years old… Though Miss Ball was then living and Mrs. Russell knew where, she made no attempt to procure her as a witness and presented no statement from her. (Yearbook 1975, p69)
Regarding "no attempt to procure her" the fact is Rose was in Australia, sent there by Russell in 1903 when Maria filed for legal separation. Rose was probably glad to be far away as she never publicly mentioned her life as Russell's "daughter" or the fondling and kissing.


 Rose's Australian Certificate of Registration gives her birth-date as 19/3/1869. Maria Russell, in the Russell vs Russell transcript, states Rose, "was about 19 or 20 when she came to us…" (p67) Rose's death certificate gives her age at death as 81.

The Extra Edition of Zion's Watch Tower for April 25, 1894 titled A Conspiracy Exposed lists Rose Ball among the seven directors of the WTS! (p56) This alone proves she wasn't a child and that Russell knew it!  In 1894 when he "kissed…his little wife" she was 25 and he 42!

A Conspiracy Exposed was Russell's response to four elders who accused him of various "sins". The publication cites Rose Ball repeatedly including an affidavit by her (pp 53-54) and letters defending Russell (pp 31-34, 73-77).

Evidently Russell had bribed Rose's support by promoting her to the highest possible position the cult offered — into the top seven!

An Internet forum further revealed that Rose was not an orphan:
The death certificate also states that she was born in Buffalo, New York… In the 1880 census we see Rose Ball, the daughter of Catherine Ball, 10 years old, living in Buffalo, New York…

…both her father and mother were alive when she was married in 1897. I have their death certificates. Both died in 1911.

The 1910 census for Buffalo, New York…shows both of her parents alive living with their son Richard L. Ball and daughter Lillian M. Ball.
Considering the lies, concealment and bribery surrounding the Russell-Rose affair it's probable their private intimacies exceeded published admissions.


The Russells' marriage collapsed in 1897. Maria filed for legal separation in 1903 at the Court of Common Pleas at Pittsburgh; the case was heard in 1906.

What came out is that until 1897 the Russells lived in a business building. The Bible House workers previously lived there too but had all been removed — except Rose Ball who now acted as go-between, taking messages from Russell to Maria.

The Court heard of: "the utter desolation of her [Mrs Russell] house and the withdrawal of all support [which] to her mind pointed to one conclusion, namely, that he proposed to deal with upon the pretext of insanity." (Barbara Harrison, 1978, Visions of Glory, Chapter 2)

Mrs Russell was forcibly ejected from Bible House with the words "Get out of here, you blasphemer." Another time when she complained of having less rights than a dog Russell told her, "You have no rights at all that I am bound to respect." In a letter of July 1896, Russell wrote: "…under the circumstances it properly devolves upon you to make the advances on the line of social amenities between us. It would be improper for me to take the initiative in the matter of amenities such as, 'good morning,' 'good night,' etc."

When Maria had erysipelas in early 1897 Russell declared it God's judgment. Stephen Porter, attorney for Mrs Russell in 1906, questioned Russell:
Q. What did you say?
A. Miss Ball, who was her special friend, and who I knew would tell her, I told her in my opinion, this was a judgment from the Lord on her.
Q. And you intended Miss Ball to tell her that?
A. Yes, sir. I wished her to. I thought she ought to know it.
Q. (By the Court): Was that the time she had erysipelas?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did you believe that was the judgment of the Almighty?
A. I think so.
Russell also called secret meetings (September 4 & 5, 1897) of cult members at which he declared his wife weak minded and under Satan. He wrote letters to her relatives and friends warning against communicating with her.

Attorney Porter's summary said: "The atmosphere of this home from July, 1896, to the time when she withdrew from it in November, 1897, was filled with unbearable silence and utter neglect."

In November 1897 Maria finally fled, and moved in with relatives.

Rose and Henninges married about this time, and Henninges was appointed secretary/treasurer of Russell's Watch Tower Society. As mentioned, Russell sent them to Australia in 1903 where they defected in 1908.


Rose experienced a train accident in 1910 and received compensation, which rescued the NCF's flagging finances:
…Yet we have been greatly hampered by lack of capital to open out the publishing work… Mrs. Henninges and I were making this a matter of prayer…

On the evening of Monday, November 21st, 1910, we were returning together from a Bible Class held in a Melbourne suburb… When this train was within a few hundred yards of its destination it was run into by a locomotive which was running on a line diagonally crossing the one we were on. Our carriage was forced from the rails, and there was a sound of woodwork being wrenched and crunched as the colliding locomotive tore away the footboard from the carriage we were in; and when stopped, the colliding locomotive was just at our compartment… Mrs. Henninges has suffered from this much more than I, but is now, after seven months' incessant pain, making good progress… The Railway has awarded compensation that will be a help to us in the publishing work… (New Covenant Advocate, 1911 July, p60)
This input of funds exactly when "needed" was, Henninges claimed, "miraculous". The event, therefore, probably motivated an attempt in 1917 to repeat the "miracle".


The Commonwealth Law Reports (Volume 22, 1917, pp 481-485) reported an appeal in the High Court of Australia (Melbourne) brought by Rose Ball against the Victorian Railways Commissioners to recover damages for negligence.

Her case was previously brought in the Victorian County Court where she maintained that when a locomotive was linked to the train she was in, she fell off the seat and this made her "neurasthenia" worse.

The complaint Rose claimed was exacerbated, "Neurasthenia", is defined by Bailliere's Nurses' Dictionary (18th edition) as "an outdated term for a state of general debility, both physical and mental."

The County Court jury ruled against Rose and decided no negligence was involved. She appealed to the Supreme Court of Victoria for a retrial. This was granted by a single Justice who decided the jury was improperly instructed by the trial judge. However, the Victorian Railways Commissioners appealed to the High Court of Australia claiming the Supreme Court Justice had erred and that the jury was properly instructed. The High Court approved the appeal, making it clear Rose had received a fair trial and her claims were false. Page 483 says:
On the question of damage the plaintiff's case was that she was extremely ill for a long time suffering from neurasthenia, and, if that was so and the defendants were responsible for it, she was entitled to substantial damages. Medical evidence was called to support that view. Medical evidence was also called on the other side, which, if believed, would show that she was not really injured at all by the accident, and that either she was a conscious impostor or her story was unconsciously imaginative. It was for the jury to say which evidence they accepted… The jury saw her in Court, and one of the medical witnesses deposed that, having seen her behaviour in Court and having previously examined her, he was of opinion that her alleged condition was purely subjective and imaginary.


With Henninges' death in February 1939 the NCF's evangelizing efforts declined.

Rose edited the NCA from 1939 to 1944. After that she continued to evangelize via letters and poems, and received a positive write-up in the NCA (January 1, 1951) after her death.

Her writings, and positions of authority in two cults, suggest intelligence, competency and charisma. But in her intimacies with Russell and her attempted fraud against the Railways she failed the ethical standards advocated in her 1891 poem.

The New Covenant Fellowship now numbers under 100. They publish The New Covenant News and still hold meetings and summer camps.

The claim that Rose Ball was 15 or younger (when she was 25) is a Jehovah's Witness lie repeated for over 100 years.
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Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses at: