Editor's note: Of special interest is a portion of a letter written by James Manning telling why Gano left New York. -- Jim Duvall]
By Reuben A. Guild, 1897
. . . John Gano was regarded by Baptists in his day as a "star of the first magnitude," a "prince among the hosts of Israel." Possessed of superior natural talents and a great knowledge of human nature, he adapted himself with singular readiness to the varied circumstances of his eventful life. His ancestors were Huguenots. Francis
Gerneaux, as the name was originally spelled, was his great-grandfather. He escaped from the island of Guernsey during the bloody persecution that arose in consequence of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and, arriving in this country, settled at New Rochelle, where he died at the extraordinary age of one hundred and three years. John was born at Hopewell, New Jersey, July 22, 1727. He was therefore Manning's senior by eleven years and upwards. His parents were eminently pious, and from his earliest years he was faithfully instructed in the great principles of religion. At the age of twenty-eight he was united in marriage to Miss Sarah Stites, who proved to be a most agreeable companion, and an efficient auxiliary to his usefulness. Eleven children -- seven sons and four daughters -- were the fruits of this union; one of whom, Dr. Stephen Gano, was for a period of thirty-six years (1792-1828), the honored and efficient pastor of the First Baptist Church in Providence. In June, 1762, the First Baptist Church in New York, consisting of twenty-seven members dismissed for this purpose from the Scotch Plains Church, was organized, and Mr. Gano became its pastor. Here he continued for a quarter of a century, excepting the time he was absent from the city in consequence of the war. During his ministry the church was greatly prospered, receiving by baptism upwards of three hundred members.
Mr. Gano early espoused the cause of his country in the contest with Great Britain. At the commencement of the war he joined the standard of freedom in the capacity of Chaplain to General Clinton's New York brigade, and by his preaching and example contributed not a little to impart a determined spirit to the soldiers. Though his duties were peaceful he did not shun scenes of danger. [Joel Tyler] 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 this occasion he himself modestly says: -
"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 further states that when he "saw more than half the army flying from the sound of cannon, others abandoning their pieces without firing 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."
Mr. Gano continued in the army till the conclusion of the war. On the 19th of April, 1783, Washington proclaimed peace from the "New Building" at Newburg, and the patriotic Chaplain, in the presence of the Commander-in-Chief, offered up a prayer of thanksgiving and praise to the Almighty Ruler of the Universe.
In 1788 Mr. Gano left his Society in New York, and removed to Kentucky. He died at Frankfort, in 1804, in the seventy-eighth year of his age. Hon. Charles S. Todd, formerly Ambassador from the United States to Russia, in a communication to the Rev. Dr. Sprague, says: -- "Well do I remember the venerable and imposing appearance which he used to make, as he walked the streets, and how everybody respected him, both as a Christian gentleman and a minister of the Gospel."
"He was in person," says the Rev. Dr. Furman, "below the middle stature, and, when young, of a slender form; but of a vigorous constitution, well fitted for performing active services with ease, and for suffering labors and privations with constancy. In the more advanced stages of life his body tended to corpulency. His presence was manly, open, and engaging. His voice was strong and commanding, yet agreeable, and capable of all those inflections which are suited to express either the strong or tender emotions of an intelligent, feeling mind."
Memoirs of Mr. Gano, written principally by himself, were published in a small duodecimo form in 1806. Cathcart has a fine likeness of him in his Baptist Encyclopaedia.
Excerpts from James Manning's Letters Concerning John Gano
James Manning wrote on February 11, 1788: "The reason of Brother Gano's leaving New York, is want of an adequate support, which fails through the opposition of a certain Mr. Robbins and his adherents in that church, who wish to govern it in their own way." [p. 382]
James Manning wrote his friend Hezekiah Smith: "The last intelligence from Brother Gano is, that early this spring  his kitchen caught fire by accident, and consumed with it all their kitchen furniture, smoked meat, etc. Poor ill-fated man! He is not to have his portion here. Well, I believe he is secure of it above." [p. 418]
Mrs. Gano died in 1815. [p. 470]
Rev. John Gano served as chaplain during the war, and by his patriotic counsels and earnest prayers did very much to encourage the officers and privates of the American army. After the occupation of New York by the British, he retired with his family to a farm within five miles of Warwick, near the New Jersey line. Mr. Manning visited his family in May, 1779, as we learn from his diary or journal. [p. 486 fn.]
Rev. John Gano, his brother-in-law [of James Manning], pastor of the First Baptist Church in New York, but now engaged as chaplain in the army. His family resided here probably until the close of the war. In the summer of 1776 the British took possession of New York and its environs, which they evacuated Nov. 25, 1783. During this time most of the loyal or Whig families were away from the city.
[Reuben Aldridge Guild, Early History of Brown University, 1897. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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