John Gano was a direct descendant, of the Huguenots of France, his grandfather, Francis, being obliged to fly from persecution in the Isle of Guernsey in consequence of the bloody edict revoking the Edict of Nantz. He settled in New Rochelle, in the State of New York. His son, Daniel, lived at Hopewell, N. J., and was the father of John, who was born at Hopewell, July 22d, 1727. While quite young John united with the Baptist Church there, and was ordained by that body May 29th, 1754, Isaac Eaton preaching the sermon. Before his ordination he had gone with Mr. Miller and Mr. Thomas on a tour into Virginia, and while there had followed what he believed to be a divine impulse to preach. On returning, his Church called him to account for such disorder, but before proceeding to condemn him, asked him to preach before them, hence his ordination; and at the next meeting of the Philadelphia Association he was sent on a mission to the South. There he traveled extensively as far as South Carolina. While in the back settlements of Virginia he lodged with a family and overheard one of them say: 'This man talks like one of the Joneses.' On inquiry he was told that they were a family living over twenty miles thence who did nothing but pray and talk about Jesus Christ. He said: 'I determined to make it my next day's ride and see my own likenesse." He found a large family, many of whom had been lately converted, engaged in worship. The sick father was lying before the fire groaning with pain, and Gano asked him how he did? He replied: 'Oh! I am in great pain.' 'I am glad of it,' said the young preacher. The old man demanded with spirit what he meant. He
answered: 'Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,' and the sick man fell in love with him.
On reaching North Carolina, in company with another young man, they arrived at a plantation where they were invited to stay all night. The planter asked him 'if he was a trader,' to which he answered 'yes.' He then asked him how he succeeded. Gano replied, not so well as he wished. Probably the goods did not suit. The preacher said that no one had complained of that. The planter suggested that he might be holding his goods too high, to which his friend replied that any one might have them below their own price. The man said that he would trade on these terms. Gano then asked him: 'If gold tried in the fire, yea, that which was better than the fine gold, wine and milk, durable riches and righteousness, without money and without price, would suit him?' 'O,' said the planter, 'I believe you are a minister,' and then he declared to him the freeness and fullness of grace.
On arriving at Charleston, he preached there for Mr. Hart; and in his account of the services Mr. Gano writes: 'When I arose to speak, the sight of so brilliant an audience, among whom were twelve ministers and one of whom was Mr. Whitefield, for a moment brought the fear of man upon me; but, blessed be the Lord! I was soon relieved from this embarrassment. The thought passed my mind, I had none to fear and obey but the Lord.' On his return to North Carolina, during the French War, he was informed that he was to be seized as a spy; but when he reached the place, instead of passing through secretly, he stopped at the public house and asked the landlord whether the people would come to hear a sermon on a week-day. The man replied that shortly there was to be a general muster there for the county, and Gano sent to the colonel who was to arrest him, to know if it would be pleasant to him to have a short sermon addressed to the regiment before military duty. They all paid profound attention but one man, to whom Gano said that he was ashamed of him and wondered that his officers would bear with him. The colonel thanked the preacher, rebuked the man, and the evangelist pushed on his way. On reaching the Blue Ridge he entered a house in a storm, the owner of which was alarmed and asked him if he was 'a press-master.' He replied that he was. In great alarm the man wished to know whether he 'took married men.' Gano told him that he surely did, that his Master's service was good, with high wages, and he wanted his wife and children to enlist also. The man was very uneasy, however, while he was exhorted to volunteer for Christ. On reaching New Jersey he first settled at Morristown for two years, and then at Yadkin, N. C., whence he was obliged to flee before the Cherokee Indians in the ravages of war. Shortly after this he took the New York pastorate, in which he remained five and twenty years with the most marked success, when he removed to Kentucky, where he died at Frankfort in 1804. We shall meet him again in the Revolutionary War. It is but needful to add here that he was one of the most remarkable men in America in all the resources which
native strength, sound judgment, wit, ingenuity, retentive memory, zeal and godliness furnish in times which try men's souls. The First Church prospered so largely under Mr. Gano's ministry that the meeting-house was enlarged in 1763; crowds flocked to hear him. The late Dr. Bowen, of the Episcopal Church in New York, says that his father, who was a clergyman in the city in those days, told him that 'Mr. Gano possessed the best pulpit talents of any man that he ever heard.' Till 1763 this Church numbered only forty-one members, and two years before that it was scarcely known at all, although the little meeting-house had been built. Morgan Edwards came from Wales in 1761, and tells this pleasant anecdote:'When I came to New York I landed in the morning and thought I would try if I could find any Baptists. I wandered up and down, looking at the place and, the people, and wondering who of all the people I met might be Baptists. At length I saw an old man, with a red cap on his head, sitting in the porch of a respectable looking house. Ah, thought I, now this is one of the old inhabitants who knows all about the city; this is the man to inquire of. I approached him and said: "Good-morning, sir! Can you tell me where any Baptists live in this city?" "Baptists! Baptists!" said the old man, musing as if ransacking all the corners of his memory; "Baptists! I really don't know as I ever heard of any body of that occupation in these parts."During the Revolutionary War the First Church was dispersed and its records suspended. No baptisms are recorded between that of Hannah Stillwell, April 28th, 1776, and that of Samuel Jones, afterward a deacon, on September 4th, 1784. The British forces occupied New York above seven years, during which time it was nearly ruined. No city in America was so long in the hands of the enemy and suffered so much. Its best inhabitants found shelter in other colonies, and the Tories made it their place of refuge. Pestilence and two great fires swept it, and the soldiery inflicted all the damage that they could. At the opening of the war there were nineteen churches in the city, but when it closed only nine of them could be used for worship. The Baptist meeting-house, having been used for a horse-stable, was almost in ruins. On his return to the city Gano found emptiness, desolation and ashes. The angels of God had not looked upon a more touching procession since that which united Calvary with Joseph's tomb, than that which solemnly moved into the wasted city from Harlem Heights. Washington and Clinton led it on horseback, followed by Knox with the remnant of the patriot army, some mounted and some on foot, with gaunt cheeks, weather-beaten, footsore and ragged, scarred and limping. Men who had left their bloody foot-prints upon the sharp frozen snows of Valley Forge were there, with the man at their head who had shivered with them through the dreariest winter of the war; the man who had carried them to God in prayer, night and morning, when anguish sat heavily on his camp and his own soul was struggling through the darkest days of life. John Gano soon followed and says: 'We collected of our Church about
thirty-seven members out of upward of two hundred, some being dead, and others scattered into almost every part of the Union.' But as soon as the sanctuary could be decently cleansed, he rallied his people and preached to them from Haggai 2:3: 'Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now?' Under his ministry the days of prosperity soon returned until he baptized his last convert April 5th, 1788, and left for Kentucky. During his pastorate he had baptized into the Church 297, and received 23 by letter. Amongst the first Regents of the University of New York we find the name of this heroic man, with this notice: 'Rev. John Gano, a clerical scholar of rare culture, pastor of the infant Baptist Church for sixteen years prior to the war; had been a chaplain in the army, and upon returning to the city with the establishment of peace, could find but thirty-seven out of his two hundred Church members.' His family raised a beautiful monument to his memory in Cincinnati. An altar-like pedestal bears an obelisk of much grace, with deep niches on each side. In every one of these there is an allegorical figure, while angels and rich wreaths of flowers adorn the various parts, the whole being crowned by an elaborate capital and a lambent urn. In the basso-relievo a shattered sepulcher is seen from which a family has risen from the dead. Six years were spent in executing this delicate piece of workmanship.
REV. JOHN GANO, who was a patriot of the best order, as well as a noble pastor. He began his services in the army in Clinton's New York Brigade, and was indefatigable in animating his regiment at the battle of Chattelton's Hill. The army was in something of a panic, and with cool courage he took his post in what seemed a forlorn hope. Many were abandoning their guns and flying without firing a shot, so that a mere handful were holding their ground when he sprang to the front. He states that he knew his station in time of action to be with the surgeons, and he half apologizes for his daring, saying: 'In this battle I somehow got to the front of the regiment, yet I durst not quit my place for fear of dampening the spirits of
the soldiers or bringing on myself an imputation of cowardice.' he was at Fort Montgomery when it was taken by storm, but knew nothing of fear. Webb, Warren, Hall and Washington were all his personal friends.
An interesting incident in his chaplaincy is related by Ruttenbeer, in His History of Newburg. News was 'received that hostilities had ceased and that the preliminary articles of peace were settled; and on April 19th, 1783, Washington proclaimed peace from the 'New Building,' and called on the chaplains with the several brigades to render thanks to God. Both banks of the Hudson were lined by the patriot hosts, with drum and fife, burnished arms and floating banners. At high noon thirteen guns from Fort Putnam awoke the echoes of the Highlands, and the army fired a volley. At that moment the hosts of freedom bowed before God in prayer, after which a hymn of thanksgiving; floated from all voices to the Eternal throne. This building was not Washington's headquarters, but was a large room for public assemblies, sometimes called the 'Temple,' located in New Windsor, between Newburg and West Point. Thatcher says in his 'Journal' that when this touching scene occurred the proclamation made from the steps was followed by three huzzas, then prayer was offered to the Almighty Ruler of the world by Rev. JOHN GANO, and an anthem was performed by voices and instruments. After these services the army returned to quarters and spent the day in suitable festivities. Then, at sundown, the signal gun of Fort Putnam called the soldiers to arms and another volley of joy rang all along the line. This was three times repeated, cannon discharges followed with the flashing of thousands of fire-arms, and the beacons from the hill-tops, no longer 'harbingers of danger,' lighted up the gloom and rolled on the tidings of peace through New England and shed their radiance on the blood-stained field of Lexington.* Every patriotic Christian heart in the nation joined in the thanksgiving to which this patriot Baptist pastor gave expression in the presence of his immortal Commander-in-chief.
* "Two Hundreth Annual Sermon," by Dr. Neale.
[From Thomas Armitge, A History of the Baptists, Vol. II, 1890, reprint, 1988. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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