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Elder John Tanner
by Robert S. Duncan, 1882

     Elder John Tanner - was born and raised in the state of Virginia. We know nothing of his early life. He was a Baptist minister in the Kehukee Association as early as 1777, in which year the following incident occurred in connection with his ministry:

      "A certain woman, by the name of Dawson, in the town of Windsor, N. C., had reason to hope her soul was converted, saw baptism to be a duty for a believer to comply with, and expressed a great desire to join the church at Cashie, under the care of Eld. Dargan. Her husband, who was violently opposed to it, and a great persecutor, had threatened that if any man baptized his wife, he would shoot him. Accordingly, baptism was deferred for some time. At length Eld. Tanner was present at Eld. Dargan's meeting, and Mrs. Dawson applied to the church for baptism, expressing a desire to comply with her duty. She was received, and Eld. Dargan being an infirm man, when other ministers were present, would generally apply to them to administer the ordinance in his stead. He therefore requested Eld. Tanner to perform the duty of baptism at this time. Whether Eld. Tanner was apprized of Dawson's threat or not, or whether he thought it his duty to obey God rather than man, we are not informed; but, however it was, he baptized Mrs. Dawson. In

[p. 75]
the following June, in the year 1777, Eld. Tanner was expected to preach at Sandy Run Meeting-house, and Dawson, hearing of the appointment, came up from Windsor to Norfleet's Ferry on Roanoke, and lay in wait, near the banks of the river, and when Eld. Tanner (who was in company with Eld. Dargan) ascended the bank from the ferry landing, Dawson being a few yards from him, shot him with a large horseman's pistol. Seventeen shot went into his thigh, one of which was a large buckshot, that went through the limb and lodged in his clothes on the other side. In his wounded condition, Mr. Tanner was carried to the house of Mr. Elisha Williams, in Scotland Neck, where he lay for some weeks, his life being despaired of; but through the goodness of the Lord he recovered again. Dawson being somewhat frightened lest he should die, sent a doctor up to attend him. After Eld. Tanner's recovery he never attempted to seek any redress, but submitted to it patiently as persecution for Christ's sake." *

     John Tanner spent a few years in Kentucky, and removed to the territory of Missouri in a very early day - sometime prior to the earthquakes of 1811 - and settled in what is now New Madrid County, not far from the present town of New Madrid. In the winter of 1811-12, he was visited at his home in the "Low Country," by Eld. Wilson Thompson (a licentiate) and Thomas Bull, both members of Bethel Baptist Church, and found to be an old and infirm man.+

     In the spring of 1812 the earthquake had been so severe in the low lands about New Madrid, that he left and moved to the high lands of Cape Girardeau County, and settled in the neighborhood of Bethel Church,x and in April of that year he and Eld. Stilley, at the call of Bethel Church, ordained Wilson Thompson to the ministry, Eld. Tanner preaching the sermon on the occasion from the words: "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?"

     In the summer of 1812 or '13 his health became more feeble, and he was for some time confined to the house; soon after which be died.

     As a preacher, he was sound, Calvinistic, able, and a great favorite with the mother of the Hon. Henry Clay.



     * Burkitt and Reed's Church History, pp. 60-62.
     + Life of Elder Wilson Thompson, p. 175.
     x Ibid, p. 182.

[Robert S. Duncan, A History of the Baptists in Missouri, 1882; reprint, 1981, pp. 74-5.]

John Tanner's Son was Kidnapped by Indians

      John Tanner's son, with the same first name, was kidnapped as a nine year-old child by Shawnee Indians while the family was living in Boone County, Kentucky in 1789. He was taken to Michigan where he lived among the Indians for about thirty years. John, the father, and his family soon afterwards moved from northern Kentucky to central Kentucky and then to Missouri. John, the kidnapped son, wrote a journal of his life among the Indians that was first published in 1830 and published again in 1994 by Penquin Books (pb) under the title: The Falcon: A Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner.

More on John Tanner

      At the beginning of Book No. 2, we note that Boone's Creek Church was constituted on the second Lord's day (the 13th) of November, 1785, by the ministering help of John Tanner and John Taylor, fourteen members entering into the constitution of a regular Baptist church, to be known by the name of Boone's Creek Baptist Church. (p. 44.)

      Elder William Hickman says he was called there in 1786 to hold a meeting and that John Tanner was then pastor. p. 44

      Elder Tanner, like many other preachers at that period, suffered persecution in Old Virginia and North Carolina for preaching the Word of God and for baptizing a lady by the name of Dawson, in North Carolina, against the wishes of her husband. Mr. Dawson shot the preacher and for weeks his life was despaired of. He also suffered a term of imprisonment with six other preachers. (J. H. Spencer, History of Kentucky Baptists, Vol. 2.)


[S. J. Conkwright, History of the Churches of Boone's Creek Baptist Association of Kentucky, 1923. All documents scanned and formmated by Jim Duvall.]

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