Robert B. (Robert Baylor) Semple.

A history of the rise and progress of the Baptists in Virginia online

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peaceful or orderly character. He was dismissed by let-
ter, with his wife, in September, 18 10, and removed to
Kentucky, where he finished his course in 1819. The
place of his ordination and scene of his principal labors
in the ministry was about three-quarters of a mile from
where the University of Virginia now stands.

Ambrose Dudley was born in Spotsylvania county
in 1750; served as a captain in the army of the Revolu-
tion ; preached a few years in Virginia, and in May,


1786, settled in the vicinity of Lexington, Ky. Here he
became pastor of Bryant's and David's Fork churches.
He was highly respected and honored, and became a
leader in Elkhorn, and subsequently in Licking Associa-
tion. For nearly forty years he pursued, in his adopted
State, a popular and useful ministry, unspotted with
worldly entanglements, and remarkable for fidelity to
truth and duty as well as punctuality in meeting ap-
pointments. He died January 27, 1825, having passed
his three-score years and ten. Among the numerous
children left by Elder Dudley were Dr. Benjamin W.
Dudley, an eminent surgeon, and Rev. Thomas P. Dud-
ley, who succeeded to the pastorate of Bryant's church
in 1825, and maintained it for nearly sixty years. Dr.
Richard M. Dudley, the late president of Georgetown
College, was a great-grandson of the subject of this

James Chiles is said to have possessed " a sturdy set
of limbs" and "a resolute spirit," which, prior to his
conversion, he sometimes employed "in bruising his
countrymen's faces." He was an early instrument in
planting the Gospel in the region of Blue Run church, in
Orange, and he was a pioneer laborer also in Albemarle.
He removed to South Carolina at an early day, where he
organized a large church. He is said to have had implicit
faith in signs and visions — a weakness which was more
than counterbalanced by his ardent zeal and large suc-
cess. Going to the house of a woman upon a certain
occasion, he informed her that God had said he must die
there that day. Despite her remonstrance, he reaffirmed
the certainty of the decree, and having so said, "he
stretched himself upon the bed and yielded up the ghost."


Elijah Baker was born in Lunenburg county in 1742.
He was converted to Christ under the preaching of Jere-
miah Walker, or rather received from him his first serious
religious impressions. In 1769 he was baptized by Elder
Samuel Harriss, and at once began to exhort. His
preaching in his native county was instrumental in gath-
ering several churches. About 1773, his itinerant labors
were extended to Henrico county, and thence down the
peninsula between the James and York rivers. In this
region he was abundantly blessed in the establishment
of churches. Having crossed thence into Gloucester, where
he labored a short time, he next set sail, in the spring of
1776, for the Eastern Shore. In this new field, amidst
much opposition and severe persecution, he founded no
less than ten churches. He was brother to Leonard
Baker, the pastor of Musterfield church, in Halifax
county, to whom in his last sickness he addressed an af-
fectionate letter, and who reached his bedside only in time
to see him die. His death occurred November 6, 1798, at
the residence of Dr. Lemon, where another pioneer Bap-
tist preacher — Philip Hughes — also breathed his last.

William Murphy belonged by birth to the southern
part of Virginia, and his earliest ministerial labors appear
to have been in the region of Halifax and Pittsylvania.
With his brother Joseph he traveled extensively, and
though neither of them possessed educational advantages
their ministry was popular and efTective. Samuel Harriss
was won to Christ through the ministry of William Mur-
phy. The two brothers — William and Joseph — after an
honorable career in Virginia, where they were widely
known as "the Murphy boys," removed, the former to the
West, and the latter to North Carolina, where he became
a leading figure in the Yadkin Association. The home


of the latter was Surry county, where he lived, highly
respected and esteemed, to a very old age.

Elder John Williams was born in Hanover county
in 1747, and probably soon afterwards was taken with his
parents to Lunenburg county, which became his subse-
quent home. Here, about 1769, he served as sheriff. The
year following he was baptized. In 1771 he accompanied
Jeremiah Walker to the first meeting of the General Asso-
ciation at Blue Run meeting-house. In November follow-
ing he became pastor of Meherrin church. In i785heunited
with Sandy Creek church, in Charlotte, becoming also
their pastor, and the next year he began to serve Blue
Stone church, in Mecklenburg. Meanwhile he was in-
strumental in organizing Allen's Creek church.

Elder Williams was marked for intellectual force, a
broadly catholic spirit, methodical habits, laborious dili-
gence in the ministry, and an ardent love for souls. He
was a prompt and regular attendant upon the meetings
of the General Association and the General Committee,
and in the labors and plans of the denomination in be-
half of religious liberty, education and the preservation of
their history he was a most prominent and efficient actor.
Not a few of the memorials and petitions in behalf of
religious rights, sent to the Assembly by the early Bap-
tists were committed to his hand, if they were not also
the products of his pen.

An accidental fall from a step in 1793 made him some-
what of a cripple for the remainder of his life. He
would yet hobble on crutches into the pulpit, and there,
seated in a chair, proclaim the Gospel that was so dear
to his heart. He died from an attack of pleurisy April

30. 1795-


John McGlamrk removed to Halifax county, N. C,
from one of the Northern States, where he was born
June 7, 1730. In the thirty-fourth year of his age he
became a subject of redeeming grace, and united with
Kehukee church, of which he was soon called to be the
pastor. He served here until 1772, making meanwhile
numerous preaching tours into Virginia with encourag-
ing success. He at length removed to Sussex county,
where Raccoon Swamp church was formed through his
instrumentality. Various other churches — Mill Swamp,
Black Creek, Seacock and High Hills — were brought
into being largely through his labors. For twenty years
or more he presided over the Kehukee Association as
moderator, and a similar respect was shown him when
the division occurred and he became a member of the
Portsmouth Association. His death occurred December
13, 1799, within a few hours of that of " the Father of
his Country."

Reuben Ford was probably a native of Goochland
county, where his long and laborious ministry was
chiefly spent. He was the principal agent in organizing
Goochland church in 1771, from which Dover church
sprang two years later. For more than thirty years
he served Dover Association as clerk, To him, more
than to any other of the early preachers in the days
that "tried men's souls," was the duty committed of
waiting on the General Assembly with petitions and
memorials respecting religious rights. He lived to an
advanced age, and towards the end of his life labored
under great bodily infirmity. He manifestly was one to
whom the inspired testimony applies : " The memory of
the just is blessed."


[Copy of warrant lor arrest of Elders Saunders and McClannahian, re-
ferred to on page 234. The original in the possession of Eev. James B.
Taylor, D. D.]


Whereas we have received information that Nathaniel
Saunders and William McClannahan, stiling themselves
Protestant dissenters, does teach and preach contrary to
the laws and usages of the Kingdom of Great Britain,
raising sedition and stirring up strife amongst His Ma-
jestie's leige people.

Therefore in His Majestie's name we require you, Sam-
uel Ferguson and John Lillard, to take Nathaniel Saun-
ders and William McClannahan and their abettors and
bring before some justice of the peace for the said county
to be examined touching the charge, and we do hereby
command all His Majestie's subjects to be aiding and as-
sisting in the due execution thereof.

Given under our hands this 21st day of August, i773-

John Slaughter,
George Wetherall.

To the Sheriff or any Constable of this county, or to Samuel Fer-
guson and John Lillard.

Executed : Pr Samuel Ferguson,
John Lillard.

[Letter written in Middlesex jail by Elder John Waller. Taken from Tay-
lor's Virginia Baptist Ministers,}

Urbanna Prison, Middlesex County,

August IS, 1771.
Dear Brother in the Lord :

At a meeting which was held at Brother McCan's, in
this county, last Saturday, while Brother William Web-


ber was addressing the congregation from James ii., i8,
there came running toward him, in a most furious rage,
Captain James Montague, a magistrate of the county, fol-
lowed by the parson of the parish and^ several others, who
seemed greatly exasperated. The magistrate and another
took hold of Brother Webber, and dragging him from the
stage, delivered him, with Brethren Wafford, Robert
Ware, Richard Faulkner, James Greenwood and myself,
into custody, and commanded that we should be brought
before him for trial. Brother WafFord was severely
scourged, and Brother Henry Street received one lash
from one of the persecutors, who was prevented from pro-
ceeding to further violence by his companions. To be
short, i may inform j'ou that we were carried before the
above-mentioned magistrate, who, with the parson and
some others, carried us one by one into a room and exam-
ined our pockets and wallets for fire-arms, &c., charging
us with carrying on a meeting against the authority of the
land. Finding none, we were asked if we had license to
preach in the county ; and learning we had not, it was
required of us to give bond and security not to preach any
more in this county, which we modestly refused to do;
whereupon, after dismissing Brother Wafford, with a
charge to make his escape out of the county by twelve
o'clock thp next day on pain of imprisonment, and dis-
missing Brother Faulkner, the rest of us were delivered
to the sheriff and sent to close jail, with a charge not to
let us walk in the air until court-day. Blessed be God,
the sheriff and jailer have treated us with as much kind-
ness as could have been expected from strangers. May
the Lord reward them for it ! Yesterday we had a large
number of people to hear us preach ; and among others,
many of the great ones of the land, who behaved well


while one of us discoursed on the new birth. We find
the Lord gracious and kind to us beyond expression in our
afflictions. We cannot tell how long we shall be kept in
bonds ; we therefore beseech, dear brother, that you and
the church supplicate night and day for us, our benefac-
tors and our persecutors.

I have to inform you that six of our brethren are con-
fined in Caroline jail, viz., Brethren Lewis Craig, John
Burrus, John Young, Edward Herndon, James Goolrick
and Bartholomew Choning. The most dreadful threat-
enings are raised in the neighboring counties against the
Lord's faithful and humble followers.

Excuse haste. Adieu. John Waller.

[The address of the above letter does not appear.]

[Letter to Elder N. Saunders, while in Culpeper jail, from David Thomas,
referred to on page 234.]

To Nathaniel Saunders, a Minister of Christ, now in prison in
Culpeper for preaching the Gospel there, by Mr. Eaton :

Dear Brother, — I hear you are put in prison for
preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you may
think it hard. But O, what honor has the Lord put upon
you ! I think you may be willing to suffer death now,
seeing you are counted worthy to enter a dungeon for
your Master's sake. Hold out, my dear brother ! Re-
member your Master — your royal, heavenly, divine Mas-
ter — was nailed to a cursed tree for us. O, to suffer
for Him is glory in the bud ! O, let it never be said that
a Baptist minister of Virginia ever wronged his con-
science to get liberty, not to please God, but himself!
O, your imprisonment (which I am satisfied is not from


any rash proceedings of your own) is not a punishment,
but a glory ! " If you suffer with Him you shall also
reign with him."

Dear brother, the bearer is waiting or I should have
enlarged. This is only to let you know that I can pray
for you with great freedom. Give my kind love to your
fellow-prisoner,* though I know him not. I hope he is
a dear child of God. Pray for me, for I need it. I re-
main, dear brother,

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

David Thomas.
Fauquier, September 26, 177S.
N. B. — Let me hear from you the first opportunity.

[The Address of the Committee ol the United Baptist Churches in Virginia
assembled in the city of Richmond, August 8, 1789.]

To the President of the United States of America ;

Sir, — Among the many shouts of congratulation that

you receive from cities, societies. States and the whole

*Thls "fellow-prisoner," we may assume, was William McClannahan,
named in the writ for Elder Saunders's arrest. William McClannahan was
one of the boldest and most enterprising of the early Baptist preachers of
Virginia. He was the first Baptist preacher to carry the new doctrine into •
the lower counties of the Northern Neck. Traces of his preaching there
are to be found prior to the year 1770. Perhaps the earliest convert in
Westmoreland county to the Baptist faith, wrote :

" McClannatfan I plainly see
Was Instrument in calling me ;
And Fristoe, that dear man I love.
Preached I was born of God."

Howe (Historical Collections, page 238) says of this brave soldier of Christ ,
who raised one of the companies of Culpeper minute -men for the Revolu-
tionary army : " Captain McClannahan was a Baptist clergyman and at first
regularly preached to his men. His recruits, were drawn principally from
his own denomination. . . . The Baptists were among the most strenu-
ous supporters of liberty."


world, we wish to take an active part in the universal
chorus by expressing our great satisfaction in your ap-
pointment to the first office in the nation. When America
on a former occasion was reduced to the necessity of ap -
pealing to arms to defend her natural and civil rights, a
Washington was found fully adequate to the exigencies
of the dangerous attempt, who by the philanthropy of
his heart and prudence of his head led forth her untu-
tored troops into the field of battle, and by the skillfulness
of his hands baffled the projects of the insulting foe and
pointed out the road to independence, even at a time
when the energy of the Cabinet was not sufficient to
bring into ac;tion the natural aid of the association from its
respective sources.

The grand object being obtained, the independence of
the States acknowledged, free from ambition and devoid
of a thirst for blood, our hero returned with those he
commanded and laid down his sword at the feet of those
who gave it to him. Suck an example to the world is new.
Like other nations, we experience that it requires as great
valor and wisdom to make an advantage of a conquest as
to gain one.

The want of efficacy in the confederation, the redun-
dancy of laws and their partial administration in . the
States, called aloud for a new arrangement of our system.
The wisdom of the States for that purpose was collected
in a grand convention, over which you, sir, had the honor
to preside. A national government in all its parts was
recommended as the only preservative of the Union,
which plan of government is now actually in operation.

When the Constitution first made its appearance in Vir-
ginia, we, as a society, had unusual stragglings of mind,
fearing that the liberty of conscience (dearer to us than


property and life) was not sufficiently secured ; perhaps
our jealousies were heightened on account of the usage
we received in Virginia under the British Government
when mobs, bonds, fines and prisons were our frequent

Convinced on the one hand that without an effective
national government the States would fall into disunion
and all the consequent evils ; on the other hand it was
feared we might be accessory to some religious oppres-
sion, should any one society in the Union preponderate
all the rest. But amidst all the inquietudes of mind, our
consolation arose from this consideration, the plan must
be good, for it bears the signature of a tried, t'^usty friend;
and if religious liberty is rather insecure in the Constitu-
tion, " the administration will prevent all oppression, for
a Washington will preside." According to our wishes
the unanimous voice of the Union has called you, sir,
from your beloved retreat, to launch forth again into the
faithless seas of human affairs, to guide the helm of the
States. Should the horrid evils that have been so pestif-
erous in Asia and Europe — faction, ambition, war, per-
fidy, fraud and persecutions for conscience sake — ever
approach the borders of our happy nation, may the name
and administration of our beloved President, like the ra-
diant source of day, scatter all those dark clouds from the
American hemisphere.

And while we speak freely the language of our own
hearts, we are satisfied that we express the sentiments of our
brethren whom we represent. The very name of Wash-
ington is music in our ears ; and although the great evil
in the States is the want of mutual confidence between
rulers and the people, yet we all have the utmost confi-
dence in the President of the States, and it is our fervent


prayer to Almighty God that the Federal Government
and the government of the respective States, without
rivalship, may so co-operate together as to make the nu-
merous people over whom you preside the happiest nation
on earth, and you, sir, the happiest man, in seeing the peo-
ple whom, by the smiles of Providence, you saved from
vassalage by your martial valor and made wise by your
maxims, sitting securely under their vines and fig trees
enjoying the perfection of human felicity. May God
long preserve your life and health for a blessing to the
world in general and the United States in particular ;
and when, like the sun, you have finished your course of
great and unparalleled services, and you go the way of
all the earth, may the Divine Being, who will reward
every man according to his works, grant unto you a glo-
rious admission into His everlasting kingdom through
Jesus Christ. This, great sir, is the prayer of your happy

By order of the committee.

Samuel Harriss, Chairman.
Reuben Ford, Clerk.

To the General Committee representing the United Baptist
Churches in Virginia :

Gentlemen, — I request that you will accept my best
acknowledgments for your congratulation on my appoint-
ment to the first office in the nation. The kind manner
in which you mention my past conduct equally claims
the expression of my gratitude. After we had, by the
smiles of Divine Providence on our exertions, obtained
the object for which we contended, I retired at the con-
clusion of the war with the idea that my country could


have no farther occasion for my services, and with the
intention of never entering again into public life ; but
when the exigencies of my country seemed to require me
once more to engage in public affairs, an honest convic-
tion of duty superseded my former resolution and became
my apology for deviating from the happy plan which I
had adopted.

If I could have entertained the slightest apprehension
that the Constitution framed in the convention where I
had the honor to preside might possibly endanger the
religious rights of any ecclesiastical society, certainly I
would never have placed my signature to it ; and if I
could now conceive that the General Government might
ever be so administered as to render the liberty of con-
science insecure, I beg you will be persuaded that no one
would be inore zealous than myself to establish effectual
barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny and
every species of religious persecution.

For you doubtless remember 1 have often expressed
my sentiments that every man conducting himself as a
good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his
religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping
the Deity according to the dictates of his own con-

While I recollect with satisfaction that the religious
society of which you are members have been throughout
America, uniformly and almost unaniinously, the firm
friends to civil liberty, and the persevering promoters of
our glorious revolution, I cannot hesitate to believe that
they will be faithful supporters of a free yet efficient
General Government. Under this pleasing expectation
I rejoice to assure them that they may rely upon my best
wishes and enc}eavors tQ advance their prosperity.


In the meantime be assured, gentlemen, that I enter-
tain a proper sense of your fervent supplication to God
for my temporal and eternal happiness.

I am, gentlemen, your most obedient servant,

George Washington.

[Extract from a manuscript journal of Elder John Williams, giving ac-
count of the first Separate Baptist Association. In the possession of Rev.
James B. Taylor, of Salem, Va.]

Went for the Association about i8 miles (Saturday
morning. May, 1771). Got to the Association about one
o'clock. Brother Hargitt was then about to preach to
about 1, 200 souls, from 40th chapter Isa., nth verse (" He
shall feed His flock like a shepherd ; He shall gather the
lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and
shall gently lead those that are with young.") Brother
Burruss got up immediately (after) and preached from Isa.,
ch. 55, 3d verse (" Incline your ear and come unto Me;
hear and your soul shall live ; and I will make an ever-
lasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of
David") with a good deal of liberty, set the Christians
all afire with the love of God ; Assembly praising God
with a loud voice ; Brother Waller exhorting till he got
spent ; Brethren Marshall and E. Craig both broke loose
together, the Christians shouting and they speaking for the
space of half an hour or more ; then ceased. Intermis-
sion for about one hour, then the delegates associated
themselves together ; a moderator chosen, which was
Brother Harriss ; clerk nominated, which was Brother
Waller. Then the letters from several churches were
read. Then concluded for that night. . . .


Sunday Morning : . . . Went to the meeting-
house ; Brother William Webber was about to preach from
Second Tim., zd ch., last clause of 19th verse (" The Lord
knoweth them that are His ") ; Brother Walker preached
immediately (after) from 5th Micah, 5th verse (" For now
shall He be great unto the ends of the earth ; and this
man shall be the peace.") Brother Lewis Craig exhorted.
Brother Harriss preached from 5th Isa., 5th verse (" And
now go to ; I will tell you what I will do to my vine-
yard. I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be
eaten up ; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall
be trodden down.") Brother Lewis (Craig) exhorted.
Brother William Marshall preached from 14th chapter
First Epistle to Corinthians. Present that day (supposed
to be) 4,000 or 5,000 souls. . . .

Monday Morning: Monday fast-day among us. The
brethren delegates met at the meeting-house by three
hours b' sun. Brother Lewis Craig opened Association
by divine service. Brother Harriss gave the delegates
a very warm and melting exhortation. Then proceeded
to business. We went on very well about one hour and
a half, then a dark cloud seemed to overshadow us con-
cerning a plan. Brother Walker for independency and
great part of the brethren against it. . . . Sermons
preached that day : Brother Lewis Craig preached first
from 8th chapter Romans, last clause 38th verse, &c.,
("For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor
angels, nor principalities," &c.) ; Brother John Young
preached from 14th chapter John, 6th verge ("I am the
way, the truth and the life ") ; Brother Nathaniel Saun-
ders, 3d chapter John's first Epistle, 13th verse (" Marvel
not, my brethren, if the world hate you ") ; Brother Reu-
ben Picket from Isa., 66th, 15th verse (" For behol^


Online LibraryRobert B. (Robert Baylor) SempleA history of the rise and progress of the Baptists in Virginia → online text (page 35 of 38)