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Jehovah’s Witnesses


2014 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses


1915-1947 Early Days (Part 1)

1915-1947 Early Days (Part 1)

 The Light of Truth Begins to Shine

The good news reached Sierra Leone in 1915 when local residents returned from England bringing with them Bible-based literature. Around July of that year, the first baptized servant of Jehovah arrived in Freetown. His name was Alfred Joseph. He was 31 years old and a native of Guyana, South America. He had been baptized earlier that year in Barbados, West Indies, and had taken a work contract in Freetown as a locomotive engineer. Alfred settled into the railway compound in Cline Town, located about two miles (3.2 km) away from Freetown’s Cotton Tree. He immediately began sharing the Bible’s message with his workmates.

The following year, Alfred was joined by a former workmate from Barbados, Leonard Blackman, whose mother, Elvira Hewitt, had introduced Alfred to the truth. Leonard became Alfred’s next-door neighbor, and they met together regularly to discuss the Bible. They also distributed Bible literature to friends and other interested people.

Alfred and Leonard discovered that Freetown’s fields were “white for harvesting.” (John 4:35) In 1923, Alfred wrote to the world headquarters in New York, stating: “Many people here are interested in the Bible. Can you send someone to look after them and to help develop the preaching work in Sierra Leone?” He received the reply: “Someone will be sent!”

William “Bible” Brown and his wife, Antonia

 “Late one Saturday night, several months later, I received an unexpected phone call,” Alfred relates.

“‘Are you the person who wrote to the Watch Tower Society asking for preachers?’ a voice asked.

“‘Yes,’ I replied.

“‘Well, they’ve sent me,’ boomed the voice.

“The voice belonged to William R. Brown. He and his wife, Antonia, and their young daughter had arrived that day and were staying at the Gainford Hotel.

“The very next morning, Leonard and I were holding our weekly Bible study when an imposing figure appeared in the doorway. It was William R. Brown. He was so zealous for the truth that he wanted to give a public lecture the very next day. We promptly booked the largest hall in Freetown—Wilberforce Memorial Hall—and scheduled the first of four public lectures for the following Thursday evening.

 “Our little group got busy advertising the lectures by newspaper, handbills, and word of mouth. We wondered how the local people would respond, but we had no need to worry. About 500 people packed into the hall, including many of Freetown’s clergy. We were overjoyed!”

During the hour-long talk, Brother Brown quoted extensively from the Scriptures and used lantern slides to project Bible texts on a screen. Meanwhile, he repeatedly declared, “Not Brown says but the Bible says.” The audience was amazed, and they applauded point after point. It was, not Brother Brown’s commanding oratory that impressed them, but his powerful Scriptural proofs. As a young ecclesiastical student in the audience declared, “Mr. Brown knows his Bible!”


Brother Brown’s lectures roused the city, and people flocked to hear them. The following Sunday, another capacity audience heard the discourse “To Hell and Back—Who Are There?” The powerful truths Brother Brown presented that night prompted even prominent churchgoers to resign from their churches.

The fourth and final lecture in the series, “Millions Now Living Will Never Die,” drew such a large crowd that one Freetown resident later recalled, “The churches had to cancel their evening services because all their members were attending Brother Brown’s lecture.”

Because Brother Brown always used the Bible, pointing to it as the final authority, people began calling him “Bible” Brown. The nickname stuck and became well-known throughout West Africa. And until he finished his earthly course, William R. Brown wore that name with pride.