135 — May 15 This Day in Baptist History


A Prison, a Pistol, and a Preacher


Elder John Tanner carried out an itinerant ministry which took him to Chesterfield County, Virginia, where he ran into conflict with the ecclesiastical and civil authorities. One such was a Colonel Archibald Cary who seemed to take pleasure in apprehending and imprisoning Baptist preachers. John Tanner on May 15, 1773, “did on his examination confess that he has divers times convened numbers of people in the County and more particular on this day did convene numbers and preach to them in this county, not being qualified by law so to do, which is contrary to law and tends to disturb the peace and good government of this colony.”



“A certain woman, by the name of Dawson, in the town of Windsor, N. C., had reason to hope her soul was converted, saw baptism to be a duty for a believer to comply with, and expressed a great desire to join the church at Cashie, under the care of Elder Dargan. Her husband, who was violently opposed to it, and a great persecutor, had threatened that if any man baptized his wife, he would shoot him. Accordingly, baptism was deferred for some time. At length Elder Tanner was present at Elder Dargan’s meeting, and Mrs. Dawson applied to the church for baptism, expressing a desire to comply with her duty. She was received, and Elder Dargan being an infirm man, He therefore requested Elder Tanner to perform the duty of baptism at this time, and he baptized Mrs. Dawson. In the following June, in the year 1777, Elder Tanner was expected to preach at Sandy Run Meeting-house, and Dawson, hearing of the appointment, came up from Windsor to Norfleet’s Ferry on Roanoke, and lay in wait, near the banks of the river, and when Elder Tanner (who was in company with Elder Dargan) ascended the bank from the ferry landing, Dawson being a few yards from him, shot him with a large horseman’s pistol. Seventeen shot went into his thigh, one of which was a large buckshot, that went through the limb and lodged in his clothes on the other side. In his wounded condition, Mr. Tanner was carried to the house of Mr. Elisha Williams, in Scotland Neck, where he lay for some weeks, his life being despaired of; but through the goodness of the Lord he recovered again. Dawson being somewhat frightened lest he should die, sent a doctor up to attend him. After Elder Tanner’s recovery he never attempted to seek any redress, but submitted to it patiently as persecution for Christ’s sake.”


Dr. Dale R. Hart: Adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I. (Thompson/Cummins) pp.198- 199



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