John Asplund was a Swede by birth. Being devoted in early life to mercantile pursuits, for the purpose of obtaining business he visited England about 1775, and there, for an short time, obtained employment as a clerk. He then became connected with the British navy, and, while on the American coast, deserted and settled in North Carolina. There he became pious, and about 1782 was immersed by David Walsh, and united with Ballard's
Bridge Church, Chowan County. He afterwards removed to Southampton, Virginia, and commenced the ministry. In 1785 he returned to Europe, and visited England, Denmark, Finland, Lapland, and Germany. On his arrival in America, he traveled through the States, collecting statistical information concerning the Baptist denomination. In 1791 he published a small folio volume as the result of his efforts. It contains many valuable facts. Introducing this work to his readers, he remarks:"I have long been desirous, and have waited several years, to see a publication of the nature of the following. And though I was sensible I could publish nothing of the kind without the fatigue and expense of traveling over the greatest part of the continent, yet, at the request of many, I have been prevailed upon to make the tour of the Baptist churches, to obtain the necessary information. With a view to this, I have traveled about 7000 miles in about eighteen months, chiefly on foot, and have visited about two hundred and fifteen churches, and fifteen Associations. I am personally acquainted with two hundred and fifty ministers of our society, so that the Register may safely be depended upon in general, though after all, perhaps, a few churches and ministers may be omitted. It is probable, also, that the number of members in some churches may not be exact, as some do not associate; others who do, neglect to send forward their number; and some make conscience of numbering the people.
"Having been brought up with a view to the business of merchandise, I have been accustomed to keeping accounts; and I now prefer accounts of souls with their faces set Zionward, to those which only respect money or trade. I have a natural turn for traveling, and I am convinced I could not better spend my time than in itinerating to preach the gospel, and to collect materials which may assist the future historian; and though I have met with many discouragements from narrow-minded persons, whose illiberal souls are not concerned for the public welfare, I appeal to the Searcher of hearts, that my principal design is to make the Baptists better acquainted with each other, that union may more generally obtain among them.
JOHN ASPLUND, a Swede. SOUTHAMIPTON COUNTY, VIRGINIA, July 14, 1791."
He published another Register in 1794, when he traveled 10,000 miles, and became acquainted with 700 Baptist ministers. His talents as a speaker were quite plain, and, in this capacity, he was never distinguished. In the latter part of his life he was much injured by engaging in land speculations. Having removed to Maryland, he died suddenly, by drowning, in 1807.
[From James B. Taylor, Virginia Baptist Ministers, 1859, pp. 275-277. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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