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 William Henry Conley

William Henry Conley

Death 25 Jul 1897 (aged 57)
Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA
Burial Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA
Plot Section R
Memorial ID 62936475 · View Source
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William Henry Conley (11 June 1840 – 25 July 1897), was a Pittsburgh philanthropist and industrialist. He was married to Sarah Shaffer (1841-1908). Together, they provided organizational and financial support to religious institutions in the United States. William Conley was trained by his uncle in the printing business for ten years. Conley was co-owner of the Riter Conley Company, which provided steel and manufactured goods during the Second Industrial Revolution.

Bethel Home Mission

The Conleys frequently held prayer meetings and events in their home ministry. Adventist minister George Stetson lived for a time with the Conleys during a prolonged period of illness until his death. The Conley home was sometimes kept open for weeks at a time in support of religious and charity efforts. According to Zion's Watch Tower, annual celebrations of the Memorial of Christ's death were held at the Conleys' home. Conley's home mission was described as Bethel (literally, "house of God"). The first recorded mention of Bethel in association with Conley appeared in 1890, in reference to the missionary house of Miss Lucy Dunne, established by William and Sarah Conley in Jerusalem.

Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society

From 1881 until 1884, Conley was the first president of Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society. Charles Taze Russell, who initially served as the Society's secretary-treasurer, had been publisher and editor of the Society's flagship periodical, Zion's Watch Tower (now known as The Watchtower) since 1879, and later claimed that the Society was started in 1880 and had been functioning informally even before that. In December 1884, the Society was incorporated with Russell as president. In 1896, the Society was renamed Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, and later became associated with Jehovah's Witnesses.

Conley provided practical assistance to other religious publications, including the three-volume series, Theocratic Kingdom by George N. H. Peters; Peters dedicated the work partially to Conley, claiming to be "deeply indebted for sympathy and pecuniary aid in the prosecution and publication of the work."While Conley was still president of the Society, the May 1883 issue of Zion's Watch Tower criticized Peters' work, recommending that readers not purchase the title.

In 1894, Russell introduced a letter from Conley as written by "a member of the early Allegheny Bible Class" rather than the Society's first president. Following Conley's death in July 1897, Zion's Watch Tower provided no obituary, nor any statement of Conley's involvement with the Society.

In an obituary for Conley in the unrelated publication, The World's Hope of August 1897, Zion's Watch Tower correspondent J. H. Paton wrote of the Conley home, "I have shared the generous hospitality of that Christian home. Often has the spacious parlor been opened for the purposes of praise and prayer, and for the proclamation of the good tidings. It has been to many a Bethel—the house of God and the gate of heaven." The previous month, Zion's Watch Tower had used the phrase, "Bethel, House of God, a gate to heaven", in connection with the apostle Paul.

Christian and Missionary Alliance

Conley was a member of the board of managers of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA), and was instrumental in funding and organizing it at local, state and national levels through the International Missionary Alliance (IMA). In 1889, Conley funded and organized the CMA mission in Jerusalem under control of his home mission which would later come under the auspices of the IMA and eventually the CMA. In the same year, the International Missionary Alliance was legally incorporated with W. H. Conley's $5000 contribution. The Pittsburgh branch of the Christian and Missionary Alliance was formally established in 1894. Conley was elected president of both the Pittsburgh branch and at the state level, an office which he retained until his death in 1897.

Business and charitable interests

William Conley worked his way from bookkeeper to co-owner of the Riter Conley Company, a worldwide supplier to the drilling, mining, manufacturing, and marine industries. Conley was also director and a stockholder of the Third National Bank of Allegheny.

William and his wife were active in several Pittsburgh charities, including an orphanage and school for African-American children, as well as a local hospital.


William Henry Conley contracted influenza (indicated in one obituary as "La Grippe") early in 1897, from which he never fully recovered. His health was relatively stable until June, at which time he suffered a relapse, after which he seldom left his home. He became bedridden in the last week of his life; on the evening of July 25, 1897, his health rapidly declined, and he died at about 8:30pm. A funeral service was conducted at his home in Pittsburgh.

William Conley was survived by his wife Sarah. After a period of prolonged illness, Sarah Conley died October 1, 1908. In honor of her husband's memory, Mrs Conley left much of her estate—estimated at a value of nearly $500,000 (current equivalent, about $12.18 million)—to the Wylie Avenue Church and the Pittsburg Bible Institute.

- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 12/13/2010

Family Members




Gravesite Details




  • Created by: Sherlock(JW1983)
  • Added: 14 Dec 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 62936475
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for William Henry Conley (11 Jun 1840–25 Jul 1897), Find A Grave Memorial no. 62936475, citing Highwood Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Sherlock(JW1983) (contributor 47279431) .