Famous former neighbors - celbrity gravesites

San Diego Reader/September 28, 2008

Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1869-1942) was a member of a religious group called "International Bible Students," sometimes derisively referred to as Russellites by people who considered them heretics -- they eventually were known as Jehovah's Witnesses. He rose in the ranks to lead the group after the death of founder Charles T. Russell in 1916, becoming the second president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

"When Pastor Russell died, Rutherford became the president of the Bible Society which Russell had founded," says Eric D. Patterson, webmaster Pastor-Russell.com, the official CT Russell/Bible Student website. "This act resulted in a schism wherein seventy-five percent of the Bible Students had left by 1928 because he was instituting significant changes in the doctrinal and organizational platform that Russell was in favor of. It is very important that people understand the group now known as 'Jehovah's Witnesses' have no connection with Pastor Russell, and that they formed after the schism because it was Rutherford's intention to draw a clear line between those who supported Russell, and those who supported him. At that time, it was the minority, but over time the Witnesses have become the larger of the two groups, even though we Bible Students still exist."

Rutherford moved to San Diego in 1919 after contracting pneumonia, hoping the climate would improve his delicate health. Along the way, he decided to give himself the title of "judge."

In 1929, he commissioned construction of a lavish ten-room mansion on Braeburn Road in Kensington called Beth Sarim ("House of Princes" in Hebrew), deeded to none other than King David of Israel, Moses, Abraham, Gideon, Isaac, Barak, Joseph, Samson, Jacob, Jephthae, Samuel, and various other ancient Biblical figures mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11, all of whom Rutherford insisted would return from the dead to live at Beth Sarim.

The deed specified that Rutherford could live in the house until they arrived. Of course, the ancient prophets never showed up, and so Judge Rutherford resided in the mansion until his death, while his followers lived in poverty during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Jehovah's Witnesses quietly ceased teaching of the imminent return of their Hebrew heroes after the house was sold in 1948. According to some accounts, Judge Rutherford is said to have been illegally buried on the property, though this has frequently been disproven.

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