Rev. John Gano, was born in Hopewell, N. J., July 22, 1727. His family was of French origin, and its name Gerneaux. Mr. Gano's father was a pious Presbyterian, and he felt inclined to follow in his father's religions footsteps, but an examination of the subject of baptism led him to take the Saviour's immersion in the Jordan as his model and to unite with the Baptist church of Hopewell. With a new heart, a Scriptural creed, and a call from Christ to preach the gospel, he was ordained May 29, 1754, and became pastor of the Scotch Plains church. He removed to the South after a two years' settlement at Scotch Plains, where he remained till 1760. In June,1762, the First Baptist church of New York was constituted, its members having received letters for this purpose from the parent church at Scotch Plains. Immediately after their organization they called Mr. Gano to be their pastor. He accepted the invitation, and held the position for twenty-six eventful years. His ministry was greatly blessed in New York, and the church that commenced its ecclesiastical life with twenty-seven members soon became a power in the future Empire City.
Mr. Gano was deeply interested in the Revolutionary struggle, and when fighting began he entered the army as chaplain to Gen. Clinton's New York brigade, and performed services which rendered him dear to the officers and men with whom he was associated. Nor did he ever shun the scene of danger, though his duties were entirely peaceful. Headley, in his "Chaplains and Clergy of the Revolution," says, "In the fierce conflict on Chatterton's Hill, Mr. Gano was continually under fire, and his cool and quiet courage in thus fearlessly exposing himself was afterwards commented on in the most glowing terms by the officers who stood near him." In speaking of his conduct on that occasion, he said, "My station in time of action I knew to be among the surgeons, but in this battle I somehow got in the front of the regiment, yet I durst not quit my place for fear of dampening the spirits of the soldiers, or of bringing on myself an imputation of cowardice." Headley states that when he "saw more than half the army flying from the sound of cannon, others abandoning their pieces without tiring a shot, and a brave band of six hundred maintaining a conflict with the whole British army, filled with chivalrous and patriotic sympathy for the valiant men that refused to run, he could not resist the strong desire to share their perils, and he eagerly pushed forward to the front." Any wonder that Washington should say of chaplains like Mr. Gano, and there were other Baptists of his spirit, that "Baptist chaplains were the most prominent and useful in the army"?
On the return of Mr. Gano to New York at the close of the war he could only find thirty-seven members of his church; these he gathered together again, and the Lord soon gave him and his people a gracious revival, which imparted strength and hope to his discouraged church. In May, 1788, he removed to Kentucky, and became pastor of the Town Fork church, near Lexington. He died in 1804.
Mr. Gano was the brother-in-law of Dr. Manning, the first president of Brown University, whose ordination sermon he preached. He was one of the earliest and most influential friends of Rhode Island College. He went everywhere to further Baptist interests. He had a fund of energy greater than most men, and an intellect which could grasp any subject. He was regarded in his day as "a star of the first magnitude," "a prince among the hosts of Israel," "a burning and a shining light, and many rejoiced in his light." One of his sons, Dr. Stephen Gano, was for thirty-six years the beloved pastor of the First Baptist church, Providence, R.I.
[Taken from William Cathcart, editor, The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881; rpt. 1988, pp. 433-434. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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