A Baptist Mother in jail for her faith
October 15, 1752 – Mrs. Elizabeth Backus, the 54 year old widowed mother of Rev. Isaac Backus, was arrested from her home by the “collectors” about 9 o’clock, one dark rainy night in Norwich, Massachusetts for not paying the tax for the support of the Congregational pastor in her area. Many Baptist women as well as aged men were imprisoned for their refusal to conform in many of the colonies but the worse persecution was in Mass.
In a letter of Nov. 4, Mrs. Backus relates to her son Isaac some of the ordeal that she and others endured at that time. She said that her son Samuel “lay in prison 20 days.” She was there for 13 days and while she was there she endured much cruel mocking, laughter, and “was bound when cast into this furnace yet was loosed and found Jesus in the midst of a furnace with me…Now the prison looked like a palace to me. Oh the love flowed out to all mankind! Then I could forgive as I would desire to be forgiven, and love my neighbor as myself.
Deacon Griswold was put in prison the 8th of Oct;; and yesterday old brother Grover; and they are in pursuit of others, all which calls for humiliation. The Church has appointed the 13th of Nov. to be spent in prayer and fasting on that account…
In 1770 when the Baptists of Ashfield, Mass. refused to pay the tax for the support of the Congregational minister, 398 acres of their lands were seized, together with their homes, cattle, crops, and graveyards-from many families, and sold to pay the tax.
In year 1728, an Act was passed by the General Court of Mass., exempting Baptists from the tax; but as it relieved the persons only, but left the property it was of little service. That elderly men and women should suffer, such is our Baptist heritage.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 427-429.